Cambodia, Volunteering

Clare’s Cambodian Diaries: Before and after – my major accomplishments at DDSP!

As my time at DDSP Cambodia comes to a close I thought I’d pop up a quick post about my major projects and accomplishments. I’ve been here for almost 4 months and I thought I’d get a lot more done than I did, however looking back I have actually done a fair amount considering I had to adapt to the culture, the way things work and attempt to learn the language. So here is a little summary in pictures of the things I’ve been up to! Obviously the list isn’t exhaustive as I don’t have pictures for everything but it gives you a general overview.

Classroom interventions:

Visual timetable
Both classrooms already had visual timetables in use however the older class had very old cards, some of which had become irrelevant. I made some new ones so that all activities were covered and also to give the teachers extra ideas of what they can do with the children! The timetable with the old cards are on the left, and a selection of the new cards is on the right.
Reward chart
They had an existing reward chart (left) but weren’t using it because they didn’t really understand it. So I changed it to have specific behaviours (matching the class rules) instead of days of the week, and also provided them with a whole bunch of smiley face cut outs so they can stick them on! I suggested using it weekly, so the children can aim to have their row filled out in smileys by the end of the week, and explained how it can be used in the classroom setting.
Class rules
On the left is the poster I made with some rules for the classroom. Through some miscommunication the teacher didn’t realise I was giving her a copy so she wrote it down and made her own! Better than nothing though.
My poster on the developmental steps of handwriting. Originally I was going to put it on the wall of the classrooms but instead I just gave it to the teachers as a reference – there was already so much on the walls and it wasn’t relevant for the kids anyway.
Quite a few of the children in the special education classes have difficulty speaking. Luckily in the resources I had been given by Heather (an OT) I had communication cards that had already been translated into Khmer! I picked out the pictures that were most relevant for school, made some extras that were more culturally relevant  and shortened the document down to an 8 page communication book – each class now has one to use.
Profiles display
This was my big project! It took so much longer to get together than it should have, however it took a while to negotiate with the teachers what to make and what to include in each child’s profiles. It then took a while to get the materials together and start making things! I had to leave it almost finished, so there’s 6 more profiles that need to be finished and put up as well as more decorations in the garden. The top photo is before, then during, then after!
I know you can’t actually read anything on the profile (it’s in Khmer), but this is the difference between the ones that were on the wall when I arrived (top) to what we made to replace them (bottom). The original ones had a picture, their name and their disability – I didn’t like them as they focussed so much on the disability. The new ones have a photo, their name, age, gender, disability, their current goal, likes, dislikes and their favourite thing to do at school. I didn’t really want the disability on there at all but the teachers did so I gave in!


MMK (physiotherapy) and Day Care interventions:

Progress notes
I re-designed the progress note form to have more useful headings than before by trying to incorporate SOAP notes and making it goal focussed. I also did a lot of work on explaining the importance of keeping progress notes as none had been completed for at least 18 months and some of the staff didn’t feel it was overly important.
HV progress notes
I created a progress note form for home visits as one staff member was using a form from his previous job and the others weren’t recording anything at all. I had the same difficulties as I had with the progress notes when trying to get this going – some of the staff just didn’t see it as very important.
My poster on the importance of doing exercises and therapy at home. The staff were having problems with parents not completing the required exercises with their children at home, so I tried to first help the staff to understand that they need to explain why this is important to each parent when they prescribe things, however I thought I would also follow it up with a new poster for the wall at the physio centre and the day care centre.


Training workshops:

I did four trainings over the course of my 4 months at DDSP – this photo was taken during a parent training on behaviour management.
training 2
This photo was taken at a parent training I did on play. I did about an hour of content then we spent an hour making toys out of things you can find around your house. The top photo is rattles (decorated obviously!), the middle photo is mobiles and the bottom photo is sock puppets.
This photo is from my last staff training on different disabilities. I taught them about Epilepsy, Spina Bifida, Fragile X Syndrome and Cri du Chat – I chose those disabilities because I have seen children who may have them at DDSP. I like to do plenty of activities to get the staff thinking so in this activity I gave the staff the ‘symptoms’ of Spina Bifida and they had to think of an intervention for each symptom.
As well as conducting formal training sessions, I also went through each assessment that DDSP uses step by step with all of the relevant staff members. I wanted to make sure that everyone understood how to use the assessments and why they were so important.

In addition to all of my small interventions, I also spent a lot of time doing on the job training, playing with the kids and enjoying myself! I always kept the children’s abilities in the back of my mind and often got out toys to play with that I thought would benefit them, however other times kids would come to me and just start talking and playing with me. Two of the biggest things I learned whilst working over here:
1) Kids don’t care that you can’t speak their language; and,

2) Lego solves everything!


Going through the food poster – he pointed and I said the food in English. He was also saying words so I assume they were the Khmer words but I actually have no idea…
Making the biggest lego tower in the world!
Having a race to see who could complete the puzzle first – look at those concentration faces!
Playing Bingo – the teacher continued my card so I could take some photos 😉

There you have it, a very basic overview of the things I’ve done at DDSP over the past 4 months! I’ve enjoyed every minute, learned a lot and gained a tonne of experience in both working in a developing country and working with children with disabilities. Although I’m leaving I’ll definitely be checking in on how everything is going and I’d love to see more occupational therapists volunteer there in the future!


P.S. If you’ve enjoyed following along with Clare’s Cambodian Diaries, follow us on Instagram where we’ll be posting daily with photos from my trip!

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