volunteer helps boy write

From choking to man of the house

Jan 16, 2017

It’s the last stop on my trip to the countryside in Siem Reap where I’m visiting some children who have received speech therapy. We are greeted by a confident young man, 14-year-old Thoeun Thiv, in basic English but with a great big smile.

Contrast this to two years ago and Thiv has made huge strides. Born with cerebral palsy, he uses a wheelchair and two years ago could not swallow safely due to muscle weakness. He often choked when eating.

Many people do not immediately associate speech therapy as a method of treatment for these problems. However, swallowing difficulties can be extremely dangerous and treating them is one of the most crucial ways in which our disability workers help children and their families.

Thiv shows the fantastic progress made possible by speech therapy. Simorn, his disability support worker, describes how “before our support no-one except his parents understood him, but now most people do.”

Simorn tells me how there is a ramp at school and he is there and flourishing four days a week. His parents are not around when we get there, which is surprising, but mostly good news. Previously Thiv’s parents could not work as they had to provide full-time care for him. Now they are able to provide a sustainable income and Thiv is thriving under his new responsibilities at home and in school.

A remarkable change in two years showing the effectiveness of speech therapy first-hand.

Independence is one of the most important aspects of life in which speech therapy can make a difference. His younger siblings clearly look up to him when we are there. It is fantastic to see how Thiv is becoming more and more independent and progressing at school.

Simorn believes that in the future Thiv will not need any support from our disability workers as, with the help of the skills his family are being taught, he will be fully independent apart from occasionally needing help when moving around.

The story of Thiv highlights the importance and impact of speech therapy. There are three ways in which our disability workers provide support through speech therapy. They help medically by preventing illness such as pneumonia that can arise from swallowing difficulties. They improve communication skills increasing interaction with and participation in society and education. Lastly, the skills that our disability workers use to achieve these aims are passed on to families and teachers so that the children we help, like Thiv, become independent, contributing members of society.

Thiv’s development into the man of the house, so his parents can work, is the perfect illustration of these three aims.

by Laurie Mcgeoghegan