boy and father with disability worker
Mai smiles as he plays a game with disability worker Somalai

For children like Mai, it’s a family affair

Nov 02, 2014

We all rely on our families, but seven-year-old Mai relies on his family more than most.

Mai has cerebral palsy, a disorder that means he can’t walk, speak or eat like the rest of us. Despite this, he has always been a cheerful child with a wide smile.

It has been difficult for his family to take care of him. They didn’t understand why he couldn’t swallow food normally, and had trouble understanding what he was saying.

That is changing, thanks to a pilot program run by OIC Cambodia. The program trains Cambodian disability workers on how to treat children with problems like those Mai faces.

“Where once he could only communicate through his enormous smile, Mai has now started to communicate like his peers,” says Weh Yeoh, OIC Managing Director. “It has been incredibly exciting for his family to be able to connect with him.”

Mai’s family has been involved with his therapy since it began a few years ago.

“It’s just as important to work with parents as with the child,” says Chhean, a disability worker. “It’s mainly the parents that stay with the kids everyday, we just visit an hour a week.”

Workers like Chhean teach families about preparing food and about sitting postures to make it easier to swallow. They also teach families mouth exercises that help children with communication and swallowing problems more clearly articulate sounds and improve their swallowing.

As with Mai, it’s ideal to begin working with children when they are six years old or younger. Young children face better prospects of improving to have full and happy childhoods, which lead to full and happy lives.

With the help of his family and workers like Chhean, and thanks to the influence of speech therapy, Mai’s future has never looked happier.