Specialist educational and therapeutic services for children in Cambodia

A child with special needs, or who has emotional, developmental, educational, or behavioral challenges can be difficult for parents at the best of time, but even more so for those who are living far from home. Finding assistance for children with special needs in Cambodia has proven to be incredibly difficult in the past, with most Cambodia-based families seeking help abroad in Thailand or Singapore. Luckily, a range of special-need services is slowly becoming more available in Cambodia.

Smilestones Cambodia

ABA and Speech Therapist, Greeshma Girish from Smilestones Cambodia, during a home-based therapy session.

Does your child have specialized needs or could use extra support?

While some physical disabilities are more visible, knowing whether your child is exhibiting signs of autism spectrum disorder, ADHD/ADD, or other developmental or learning difficulties can be difficult to determine. Sometimes parents are hesitant to seek help because of the stigma surrounding children with SEN (Special Education Needs), or resistance to their child being labelled. For others, not knowing what services and support is available, or hoping the child will just “grow out of it” means delayed treatment.

While some may argue that a clear diagnosis is vital in order to assist a child, and help the family move forward, lack of a formal diagnosis doesn’t necessarily have to prevent accessing early support in order to help your child. In fact the earlier the intervention, the better the long-term outcomes.

It’s also worth noting that there are a range of therapy options available in Cambodia, and parents are encouraged to research the methods used to fully make a decision about the best intervention for your child.

With the help of SENia Cambodia, a special needs network for professionals, parents, and teachers, I’ve compiled a list of some of the services available for children requiring extra support in Cambodia. Continue reading

In the Shadows of Utopia: Lachlan Peters on his Cambodian history podcast

To call Lachlan Peters’ excellent In the Shadows of Utopia a Khmer Rouge podcast is really an understatement. Like the best history podcasts it is far-reaching, covering a good 3,500 years before the Khmer Rouge came to power, starting with the rise and fall of the Khmer Empire. But it does so with the intention of explaining what happened, before, during, and after the infamous 1975-1979 period, and in a way that is detailed enough to keep old-time Cambodia watchers tuning in, while still being accessible to listeners who may not know about much more than the killing fields.

Lachlan Peters In the Shadows of Utopia Podcast

Lachlan Peters, the creator of the In the Shadows of Utopia podcast. Photo provided.

Episodes are sporadically released and three years in, In the Shadows of Utopia has “only” covered from 2000 BC to 1955, with bonus episodes from luminaries including David Chandler. All this to say, it’s a great time to start listening and get caught up on Cambodia history before the podcast gets to the Khmer Rouge period. I did a covid-friendly email interview with Lachlan, the creator of In the Shadows of Utopia, and at the end there are links to where you can listen and how you can support the podcast. Continue reading

Taking care of your mental health in Cambodia

Expat life brings a whole new set of challenges, now during the Covid-19 pandemic more than ever. No matter how much we love living in Cambodia, the physical distance from loved ones and cultural differences can at times lead to feelings of isolation, frustration, or uncertainty. The pandemic, school closures, and lockdowns, only serve to exacerbate those feelings. I talked to local clinics Living Well and Reach Counseling about how expats in Cambodia may be affected. In addition to general advice, at the end of this post there’s a list of mental health resources in Cambodia.

Cambodia mental health

Tips for looking after your mental health in Cambodia.

The extended isolation that many of us have experienced during the pandemic, combined with uncertainty of the situation, has made many of us more aware of our existing mental health problems. Others have developed new mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. As most of us are generally creatures of habit and appreciate routine and stability, it’s no wonder that a complete disruption of routine, often at short notice, can lead to stress.

Complicating things further are school closures and for many, job insecurity. While many expats have tried to make the best of a difficult situation by spending more time at home with family, for others the struggling economy and tourism restrictions have meant lost income, lost jobs, or income insecurity. With limited options to return to our home countries, it’s important to address our mental health issues here in Cambodia. Continue reading

Surviving COVID-19 school closures in Cambodia

After what felt like a millennium, in January schools reopened in Cambodia, and parents hoped it would usher in some level of normality. Unfortunately, 2021 isn’t panning out the way we hoped it would, and schools are closed again in the wake of the “February 20th incident.” So how can we survive another round of school closures and online learning? As a mother, teacher, and previous mental health counselor, here are some ideas that may help ease some of the tension in your household, and even see some positives in this unprecedented situation.

School at home

School closures don’t have to be a negative situation. Read on for tips on how to get through it.

Follow a regular schedule

In order to help the transition from school to home learning (and back again) it’s a wise idea to try to keep the same routine during at home study that you would on a normal school day. That means trying to follow a daily timetable — consistently waking the children up at the same time you usually would for school, have normal meal times, and complete homework or house chores at designated times. Of course this may not be easy, especially if you are also juggling working from home, or if the responsibility is in the hands of a nanny or relative, but it will also mean fewer tantrums, better learning outcomes, and less stress in the long run. Continue reading

Where to buy children’s books in Phnom Penh

As more and more things are moved online — from entertainment to education — there’s still no substitute for sinking down into a comfortable chair with a good book. For children there is great joy in cuddling up with a loved one and transforming the written words into what an imaginative four-year-old described to me as “a movie inside his head.” Luckily, there are several great options for buying books for the entire family, kids to adults, in Phnom Penh.

D's Books Phnom Penh

D’s Books in Phnom Penh has books for the whole family, including a great range of children’s books.

One of my favorite places to buy books in this great city is a hidden gem, and one of the longest operating book stores in Phnom Penh — D’s Books. Owned by female entrepreneur Vantha Douk (affectionately known as “Mom”), D’s Books is nestled in leafy Street 240, just behind the Royal Palace. Boasting an impressive range of over 50,000 new and pre-loved titles from practically any genre you can imagine, you’ll find everything from science fiction to comic books and history to romance.

Children are well catered for, with enough classic fairy tales, picture books, young reader novels and new box sets to delight any little bookworm, and despite their huge range, D’s Books are also happy to source and order in specific books for you. D’s offers straight to your door delivery, but you should definitely make time to visit the store and browse their range, while relaxing with a coffee, juice or smoothie. Continue reading

Buying your groceries online in Cambodia

Grocery shopping was always a hassle, particularly with an easily distracted child in tow. But in the wake of COVID-19, when every face-to-face encounter feels potentially dangerous, the allure of shopping online and avoiding the grocery store has been too much to ignore. Thankfully Phnom Penh offers several online grocery sites with fast and cheap delivery, while you shop from the comfort of your home. In this post I’ll cover the best online grocery shopping options in Cambodia. Most are in Phnom Penh, but there are even a few options in Siem Reap.

Phnom Penh groceries Aeon Mall

Now you can enjoy shopping at Aeon without having to go to the mall.

Leading the charge is Aeon Supermarket. With an extensive range of quality imported (particularly Japanese) and local grocery items, fresh produce, meat and seafood, Aeon Online is a tried and tested popular online grocery delivery service. They have a user-friendly app and website that lets you choose delivery from either Aeon 1 or Aeon 2 Supermarkets, and you can search for items by category and product. From experience, you may need to check in the most appropriate category yourself if the product doesn’t show up in a search. Continue reading

A morning with Siem Reap Food Tours

Whether you travel by moto, car, or tuk tuk, you can’t miss the delectable cooking aromas that greet you in every corner of Cambodia. But Cambodian food is not well known elsewhere in the world, and neither is Khmer, the local language. So both novice tourists and experienced travelers, seeing the daunting array of street food stalls and restaurants of all kinds and sizes, may wonder how to best sample the Kingdom of Wonder’s wonderful cuisine. Enter Siem Reap Food Tours.

Siem Reap Food Tours monks

Checking out the monks making their morning rounds with Siem Reap Food Tours.

If you are looking for help navigating the wealth of eating options Siem Reap, Siem Reap Food Tours offers vast knowledge of the town and the surrounding countryside, lots of tasty options, and a little bit of hand-holding as well if it’s needed. Continue reading

A day with Cambodia’s liberated wildlife at Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center

Looking for a fun activity for kids and adults that involves nature, animals and the happy knowledge that your money is helping to protect both? Then consider a visit to Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center. Just an hour south of Phnom Penh, Phnom Tamao is a government-run wildlife center supported by Wildlife Alliance that could use your support.

Lucky the elephant crossing the street at Phnom Tamao Wildlife Center

Lucky the elephant greeting the tour at Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center.

You don’t need me to tell you about the impact Covid-19 has had on tourism, and the communities and organizations that rely on those sweet sweet tourist dollars. Siem Reap is a ghost of its former self, while Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center has seen a dramatic drop in the visitors that provided much needed funding to rescue, house, and hopefully re-release some of the 100 or so species of trafficked, injured and rescued wild animals. Continue reading