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.
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.
Pediatric specialists in Cambodia
If you are unsure if your child’s development or behavior is normal, or you are concerned whether they are meeting the correct milestones for their age, a visit to a reputable pediatrician or GP is a good starting point.
Dr Kanae Yagi at Raffles Medical is a qualified Japanese pediatric specialist with a special interest in child development and developmental disorders. Dr Yagi is able to diagnose autism, ADHD, and other developmental issues, as well as provide referrals to specialist mental health and other therapeutic and support services.
Dr. Manabu Okawada , is a very popular pediatrician and pediatric surgeon based at the Sunrise Japan Hospital. He has a close relationship with many Phnom Penh families and provides medical checkups at preschools, so is well known for his gentle approach.
Unfortunately there are no neuro-pediatricians in Cambodia.
Mental health services for children in Cambodia
Mental health problems in children can include anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. Children with developmental, behavioral and physical disabilities may also be referred to mental health services. Mental health professionals include psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and trained therapists and counselors.
Serey Samchet at Bamboo Centre is a Cambodian clinical psychologist, arts therapist, EMDR therapist, and professional trainer in mental health. She comes highly recommended and is well qualified with a MA in Clinical Psychology from Singapore, and advanced training in arts therapy and EMDR therapy. She is particularly experienced in helping traumatized clients who have suffered sexual abuse, domestic violence, have HIV or disabilities.
The Beekeeper has foreign and Khmer psychologists and therapists who have extensive experience working with children with a wide range of common and more complex issues, including autism, family dynamics, behavioral and learning difficulties, trauma and grief. They offer a wide range of therapy and healing services including art therapy, CBT, family therapy and solution-focused therapy.
The Centre for Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CCAMH) provides comprehensive outpatient services and outreach programs for children with mental health issues, neurological disorders, developmental disorders, and physical or learning disabilities. Their team includes psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, occupational therapists, and speech therapists. CCAMH is supported by NGO Caritas Cambodia.
KCPS Counseling and Psycho-Education Services offers behavioral therapy and counseling with qualified psychologists for children and families. They are able to offer assistance for a range of mental health issues including depression, anxiety, stress, phobias, compulsive and obsessive behaviors. (Educational services can be found below).
Indradhanu Child and Adolescent Mental Health Clinic is a multi-disciplinary service that includes pediatricians, psychologists and special educators, founded by Dr. Kao Sambath. They treat children to age 18 for psychiatric and neuro-developmental issues, including emotional, behavioral and developmental difficulties. They offer individual therapy, family therapy, parent counseling and medication therapy in both Khmer and English.
SEN (Special Education Needs) and professional therapeutic services
Physiotherapy Phnom Penh comes highly recommended by several parents in Phnom Penh, having assisted children with cerebral palsy, autism (ASD), sensory processing issues, physical weaknesses and improving fine and gross motor skills. They specialize in occupational therapy, speech therapy and physiotherapy.
Speech-language pathologist and ABA therapist Greeshma Gireesh at Smilestones is well loved by the children and families she works with, and has helped a number of local and expat families better manage behavioral issues, and gain more understanding into their child’s developmental needs. Smilestones offers assessment services for children displaying developmental delays and behavioral issues, ABA therapy, as well as speech therapy for autism, Down’s syndrome, ADHD, hearing impairment, and several other conditions. The team at Smilestones collaborate closely with families and schools, aiming for the best outcome possible for each child.
Happy Kids Clinic offers occupational therapy and speech therapy to local and expat families living in Phnom Penh. As a social enterprise of OIC Cambodia, an NGO working to expand speech therapy in Cambodia, their profits are fed back into helping the community.
With an interdisciplinary healthcare team, Bright Minds offers speech and language therapy, hearing therapy, occupational therapy, feeding therapy, water therapy, educational psychology, and counseling. They specialize in autism (ASD) and other developmental, behavioral, and learning difficulties.
Unique Child Development Clinic is a private clinic that provides comprehensive services for children with autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders. Services include early intervention, screening and assessment, speech therapy, occupational therapy, parental counseling and guidance. The clinic specializes in ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder), with their TEACCH program that is designed to promote positive behavior, communication, and social skills in a small group setting.
Special education support and schools
Autism Services Cambodia is a school for children on the spectrum and autism training center. They offer therapeutic services including assessment, counseling, behavioral therapy, speech therapy, and occupational therapy.
KCPS Counseling and Psycho-Education Services was created in 2019 to meet the needs of children who were not able to access mainstream education. They offer half-day and full-day programs, as well as private support and tutoring sessions. KCPS can also work in collaboration with other schools to support external students.
The team at Learning Support Asia provide educational support to young people with a range of educational, social, or emotional difficulties, as well as provide diagnostic services. They offer small group and one-to-one tuition in a supportive learning environment and can also accommodate online learning.
Some international schools have dedicated special needs teams, provide staff training in special education needs, or work in conjunction with other clinics and therapists to assist students who require additional assistance. These include:
International School of Phnom Penh (ISPP) and Northbridge International School have Special Education Needs Teams.
Combi Plaza International Preschool can accommodate students with milder impairment through a collaborative approach involving parents, external therapists and additional teaching assistance). Teachers and Teachers assistants receive training in autism awareness and special education needs.
The Giving Tree International School has a dedicated Special Needs Coordinator.
Footprints International School has a Special Education Needs Team.
Dr Kanae Yagi at Raffles Medical
#161, Street 51, Boeung Raing, Daun Penh, Phnom Penh
Tel: +855 (0) 23 216 911
Sunrise Japan Hospital
#177E, Kola Loum Street (the Bay Road), Chroy Changvar, Phnom Penh
Tel:+855 (0)23 260 152
No. 17, Street 494, Toul Tom Poung, Phnom Penh
Tel: +855 (0)12 208 318
No.197 Street 19, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Tel: +855 (0) 7722 1010
Centre for Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CCAMH)
Chey Chumneas Hospital Takhmau, Kandal Province
Tel: +855 (0) 23 300 534
KCPS Counseling and Psycho-Education Services
#27, St. 470, Toul Tompong, Phnom Penh
Tel: +855 (0)96 735 173
Physiotherapy Phnom Penh
The Duplex Apartment, No. 478, 12BT, Boeung Tompung, Phnom Penh
Tel: +855 (0)23 996 344
#9a, Street 504, Psar Deum Tkov, Phnom Penh
Tel: +855 (0)77 715 578
Virya Residence, Street 348 (cnr 95), BKK3, Phnom Penh
Tel: +855 (0) 77 532 041 facebook.com/brightmindasia
Unique Child Development Clinic
#63H&65H, Street 369, Borey Vimean Phnom Penh
Autism Services Cambodia
Street 546, Toul Kork, Phnom Penh
Tel: +855 (0) 61 615 932
KCPS Counseling and Psycho-Education Services
#27, St. 470, Toul Tompong, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Tel: +855 (0) 96735173
Indradhanu Child and Adolescent Mental Health Clinic
567 National Road 5, Phum Mettapheap, Khan Russei Keo, Phnom Penh
Tel: +855 12 981 016
Learning Support Asia
68D Street 310, Toul Svay Prey 2, Boeung Keng Kang, Phnom Penh
Tel: +855 (0)93 480 727