Caring professionals help the impaired talk it out
Some of the tools used by speech therapists to help people overcome speaking difficulties include playing specially designed games with patients and asking them to describe what they see.
Wong Chun-ho, external secretary of the Hong Kong Association of Speech Therapists, says professionals in the field are typically hired by hospitals, clinics and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Children and the elderly make up the majority of patients, he says.
"Some [children] have pronunciation problems, while others lack the social skills to communicate effectively."
Help is also extended to children with writing and reading difficulties, and elderly people who are rehabilitating following incidents such as strokes. Teachers or professionals who have to speak frequently in their jobs also seek assistance from speech therapists.
Excellent communication skills are essential. "The terms that I use in explaining a patient's conditions to his or her family are different from ones that I employ when speaking to other therapists," Wong says. "I have to be aware of the situation and choose the right words."
An undergraduate degree in speech and hearing science is the minimum requirement to become a speech therapist in Hong Kong. The University of Hong Kong is the only local institute that offers training in the field. Qualifications acquired in Australia and North America are also recognised locally.
Speech therapists are expected to upgrade their knowledge on a regular basis by enrolling in special courses.
Areas available for further study include learning more about stuttering, swallowing disorders or weak muscles around the mouth.
As their career progresses, some speech therapists will start their own practice, while others may pursue a doctorate and take up research or teaching positions at a university.
The starting salary of a speech therapist working for the government or an NGO is about HK$24,000 per month.
Income from private practices fluctuates.
- A caring personality
- An outgoing disposition
- Excellent language and communication skills