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Leung says speech therapy services are culture-bound, so it is critical to train local speech therapists instead of hiring them from overseas. Although the course content of overseas programmes may be the same as in Hong Kong, the language they are taught in and the case studies seen in clinics would be different. Leung adds that speech therapy requires practical studies so the linguistic component is very important. According to Leung, returning to practise in Hong Kong after studying overseas would also be less than ideal.

Unlike other medical qualifications, there is no standard registration system for speech therapists to be recognised by law. “Actually we [HKAST] are striving for it now and waiting for the opportunity to come. Everything is ready except the government’s approval,” says the Tuen Mun hospital speech therapist, Joshua, who is also a representative of HKAST.

Although HKAST is generally recognised as a benchmark in the industry, it is not a legal accrediting body. It was established by some speech therapists in the 1980s with the aim of upholding the professional standards of speech therapists in Hong Kong.

Professor Leung of PolyU says the issue of registration for speech therapists is one that needs to be handled with care and he believes it will take some time before a system can be established. “We have been talking about putting speech therapists under the paramedical ordinance alongside physiotherapists and occupational therapists,” says Leung. “But it is quite strange to have speech therapists registered under this ordinance because over two-thirds of the time speech therapists are not doing any medical-related treatment.”

A standard registration system for speech therapists may not be on the horizon but at least more tertiary institutions will be training new members of the profession. For those awaiting treatment, that can only be good news.

Edited by Natalie Cheng