The Sheng Kung Hui Macau Social Services Coordination Office on Thursday launched a special bus taking its speech therapy team around the city to provide parents in different districts easy access to information on child and language development and its consultation service.
This new programme titled “Ü CARE Moving Care and Service Shuttle” is sponsored by MGM, and a launch ceremony took place on Thursday at Sheng Kung Hui Choi Kou School Macau. According to a member of the Anglican charity, the umlaut on top of the U aims to resemble a “smiley face”.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the ceremony, the office’s service coordinator Carol Sam Lai Seong said that this was the first mobile therapy vehicle in the 11-city Greater Bay Area (GBA) to promote speech development in children, and she hopes parents find the service helpful.
According to Sam, from the charity’s training and research so far, it found that parents are generally quite worried when their child needs to do a speech development evaluation at the hospital as they are scared that there could be something wrong with their child or that their child has an illness.
“From our service, we can give parents information to soothe their worries; they’d feel secure because there’s someone to tell them what to do and how to help their children,” Sam said, adding that with a better understanding of speech development at an early stage, early diagnosis, early intervention or even prevention can be done.
“Because of limited resources in Macao, it’s not easy to have a physical centre for this service, so we thought of using a bus that could move around because parents from each district have their needs and so with the bus we can reach the parents and let parents reach us easily,” Sam said.
Sam also said she hoped the office could partner with organisations and schools to reach more parents and children as the bus travels around the city, disseminating information about child and speech development, its consulting service, case referrals, and educational groups on language development.
According to Sam, there are about 30 speech therapists in Macao and her office has a team of therapists who are working with children with therapy needs, adding that the team has helped about 500 children so far.
Although there are no official statistics, Sam said from their research 5 to 10 per cent of local children need speech therapy or special education, and there could be more, as there are cases that have not been identified yet.
Sam said that while there is still a need for language therapists in Macao, she praised the government for introducing a four-year bachelor’s degree programme in speech and language therapy at the Macao Polytechnic Institute (IPM) a few years ago so that when the students graduate next year, they are qualified practitioners to join the service, although she pointed out most graduates were expected to opt for further studies before working as therapists.
Sheng Kung Hui (SKH) is the Cantonese name of the Anglican Church in Hong Kong and Macao.