Developing speech therapy in Cambodia

Australian volunteer Danielle shares how her experience of working with OIC Cambodia to establish a local speech therapy clinic in Phnom Penh has impacted her professionally and personally.

Hands holding a piece of paper with a picture of a person. There is writing in Khmer and the person is making hand gestures.

In her words, Danielle shares her story of volunteering with OIC Cambodia to help establish speech therapy as a profession in Cambodia.

I’m comfortable with my speech therapy skills, however bringing them to Cambodia in a different context with different systems, culture and language has meant I’ve had to adapt and think about my skills in new ways. I have benefited immensely, both professionally and personally, from my experience.

My main project with OIC Cambodia has been to help set up a speech therapy clinic within Cambodia’s National Paediatric Hospital. It is the first government hospital to offer speech therapy for children as an outpatient service, which is very exciting.

The clinic provides direct speech therapy services for children, as well as observation opportunities, coaching and training. Currently, two National Paediatric health professionals are training to be speech therapy assistants. Many of the children we see have either a developmental delay, intellectual disability, physical impairment like cerebral palsy, autism, speech delay and / or difficulties swallowing.

'Our main aim is to build the skills of the family'

The speech therapy assistants conduct the sessions in Khmer, while I provide support through observation, assessment, goal setting, coaching and mentoring. I really enjoy working with my colleagues to problem solve, hear their insights and develop plans.

Our main aim is to build the skills of the family, as they are the experts on their child. As professionals, we understand communication, language and swallowing development, but it is by working together that we can have the best outcomes for children. 

We support the family to understand their child’s communication and share strategies they can use every day at home to support and strengthen the child’s ability to communicate.

The clinic is also collecting much needed data, developing Khmer specific resources and tracking child progress to demonstrate the need for, and importance of, the development of the speech therapy profession in Cambodia.

Meet the Director of OIC Cambodia, Chenda Net, in our short video.

A person is adjusting their glasses and smiling at a desk, with a laptop in the foreground.

'I have learnt a lot about myself'

Being able to live in Cambodia, while contributing to building the speech therapy profession, has been an incredible opportunity for me. Every day is exciting, interesting and stimulating.

I have learnt a lot about myself, and these learnings, growth and development have and will continue to positively influence my future.