Only 5.59 per cent of 650,000 people in Thailand with intellectual disabilities have access to health services, Boonruang Triruangworawat, director-general of the Mental Health Department, said on Tuesday.
Speaking at an international conference in Bangkok, Boonruang said the sooner the disability is identified and treated, the larger the improvement on the future lives of sufferers.
“Children who have received special care for their intellectual disabilities can grow up into quality citizens,” he said.
He said about 123,300 intellectually-challenged Thais are aged between five and 19 years old.
He was speaking at the 4th Asia-Pacific Regional Congress of the International Association for the Scientific Study of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IASSIDD).
The conference has encouraged the exchange of knowledge and research to prepare efficient care for people with disabilities.
Former prime minister Anand Panyarachun recommended that all sectors of society join forces in taking care of intellectually challenged individuals and help them achieve self-reliance.
“It’s necessary that we provide them with access to opportunities including job opportunities,” he said.
Professor Bundhit Eua-arporn, president of Chulalongkorn University, said intellectually challenged people should have access to education as well as lifelong learning just like other people in the society.
The conference, which ends tomorrow, has attracted more than 600 participants from 29 countries.
IASSIDD president Dr Philip Davidson said there were several innovations to improve the quality of life of intellectually-challenged people, many in the form of social enterprises
“Employment for the intellectually challenged should not be just about paying wages, but also giving opportunities for them to acquire skills that society recognises. Such opportunities will help improve their relationships with others,” he said.
Several research projects have also highlighted the need for holistic family-centric support, as siblings of the physically challenged also feel estranged and suffer from stress.