I recently traveled with my daughter, Hannah, on a class trip to China. We expected to visit and learn about the iconic landmarks on our itinerary—Great Wall of China, Forbidden City, Olympic Village. What we didn’t expect was to learn about speech-language pathology and rehabilitation during our tour. However, a visit to a clinic in Chengdu taught us that the field of speech-language pathology is relatively new to China.
China only officially recognized communication disorders starting in 1980. The first speech-language pathology department was established in 1985 at Beijing’s Rehabilitation Center of China. The Chinese International Speech, Language and Hearing Association (CISHA) was established in 2014. As of last year, approximately 10,000 speech-language pathologists practice throughout the country. China’s estimated population of 1.3 billion means only one SLP exists to serve approximately 130,000 people. Obviously, there’s a significant shortage of SLPs in China.
An SLP volunteers to help launch a communication sciences and disorders training program at the University of Guyana.
As an SLP working in rehabilitation for more than 20 years, I found this information intriguing. My daughter—who spent her entire life watching me advocate for speech, language and swallowing services for my patients—knew immediately she’d found her required capstone project. (She’s in an international studies program including advanced foreign language and study of international issues.)
During our time in China, my daughter and I also enjoyed the unique opportunity to meet with friend and colleague, Edna Elisabeth Nyang. Nyang works for an organization in China that provides speech, language, feeding and swallowing intervention in orphanages across the country. LIH Olivia’s Place provides multidisciplinary treatment to children of all abilities and ages. Seeing the need for high-quality services in China, Olivia’s parents reached out to SLPs and other therapists around the world, inviting them to help with their vision of making treatment for children with special needs universally available in China.
Once home, my daughter planned what to do for her capstone project based on what we experienced and learned visiting the clinic in Chengdu and talking with my friend about her organization’s goals. My daughter decided to merge her passion for art with her new desire to raise awareness about the need for speech-language treatment in China.
She ended up curating a gallery show exclusively featuring artists’ renderings about what communication means to them. The proceeds from the opening were donated to the organization in China to help support the mission of improving pediatric habilitation and rehabilitation services.
On May 28, my daughter’s show, called “The Art of Communication,” debuted at Yellow Door Art Studio in Leonardtown, Maryland. It was an overwhelming success. Many local artists and children shared works describing what communication and speech-language treatment meant to them. She raised $125 for LIH Olivia’s Place and spread the word about the need for speech-language services and other treatments for kids with special needs in China.
Yvette McCoy, MS, CCC-SLP, BCS-S, specializes in adult neurological rehabilitation with a special interest in dysphagia and stroke rehabilitation. In practice for more than 22 years, she is the owner of Speak Well Solutions in Leonardtown, Maryland. She is also an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Group 13, Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders. firstname.lastname@example.org