Filipino speech therapist helps light up kids’ brain with language

Writer: Yang Mei  |  Editor: Vincent Lin  |  From: Shenzhen Daily  |  Updated: 2022-04-18

When I first met Alexandra Uy for this interview April 1, I was impressed by her bright smile. As our conversation went on, it dawned on me that the speech pathologist’s smile reflected her deep passion for helping kids struggling with communication and lighting up their brain with language.

“Their brain needs to be bright, so they can see what I’m trying to guide them through and what I’m trying to teach them. The moment I can see the ‘light bulb’ is turned on, and that’s when I try to input information,” Uy said.

Alexandra Uy

Uy, raised and grew up in Shenzhen, arrived in the city with her parent from her home country the Philippines when she was a baby. Now, the 31-year-old woman has become a bilingual Speech and Language Pathologist Consultant who works at a private pediatric clinic in Shekou and in international schools. She helps children with difficulties in language abilities such as how to communicate, and feeding and swallowing. She also trains junior therapists, teachers and parents.

Speech pathologists study, diagnose and treat communication disorders, including difficulties with speaking, listening, understanding language, reading, writing, social skills, stuttering and using voice. They work with people who have difficulty communicating because of developmental delays, stroke, brain injuries, learning disability, intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, dementia and hearing loss, as well as other problems that can affect speech and language.

Uy graduated from the University of Newcastle, Australia with a bachelor’s degree in Speech and Language Pathology. She is a registered speech pathologist with the Speech Pathology Australia (SPA) and has four to five years of clinical experience.

Uy said that she mostly works with kids aged 2 or younger, 90% of whom are living with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Uy told Shenzhen Daily that helping kids clear communication barriers is a “fascinating and fulfilling” experience. “It’s very interesting because we use communication every day. When we look at each other and see how our bodies move, that’s communication and language. So, it’s fascinating to look at children and see how they process language and how their mind works,” Uy said.

Uy said she finds the job most fulfilling when she can connect with children and make a positive impact on their lives. “Most of the time, children with autism live in their own world. They don’t pay much attention to people around them. When a child looks at you with interest or even smile at you, it means that they are connected with you and that connection is every speech therapist’s dream,” she said.

Based on Uy’s clinical experience and observations, speech therapy is teamwork involving joint efforts of specialists in other fields, parents and teachers, among whom the role of parents is highlighted. “The real therapists are the parents and I’m the assistant therapist who gives assessment regarding the child’s needs, the parents’ goals and what type of therapy style we can do to implement to help kids and their families,” Uy said.

Uy said that the citywide COVID lockdown in March disrupted children’s therapy sessions but there was a silver lining that some children came back to the clinic with improved conditions as they communicated with their parents at home more. “It’s very important for parents to interact more and have connection with their children, particularly those with ASD, in such way that they can encourage more interests to communicate for language,” she said.