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Speech therapists in great shortage

SHANGHAI lacks professional speech therapists who can help tens of thousands of local residents get rid of their communication disorder, especially children born with hearing loss, experts said yesterday.

So far, only two or three local hospitals provide speech-language training for children with hearing aids or artificial cochlea, and only one hospital offers post-surgery language training for children with cleft lip or palate.

"If given professional training, 80 percent of deaf children, the largest group that needs language training, can learn to speak like normal children," said Dr Huang Zhiwu, director of Xinhua Hospital's audiology center. "But no college in China teaches speech-language pathology and this profession is no recognized in China. Thus, there is a great storage of speech therapists."

Chen Zhongmin, a speech-language expert at Shanghai Fudan University, said education authorities should approve this discipline and the labor department should provide licenses for speech-therapy practitioners, and there should be a law to regulate the profession.

Shanghai needs 2,000 to 3,000 speech therapists and the city has at least 10,000 new patients each year. Experts suggest big cities like Shanghai take the lead to introduce the new medical profession.

Fudan University said it plans to offer the country's first post-graduate program in audiology and speech-language pathology to meet the social demand.


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