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Speech Pathology in Malaysia

Malaysia is a fast developing country located in Southeast Asia. It has a population of 30 million people who come from many different ethnic groups. There has been a tremendous boom in healthcare services in Malaysia over the past two decades.

The field of speech language pathology in Malaysia has also grown rapidly over the past two decades. In the 1980s and early 1990s, there were fewer than 10 speech language pathologist (SLPs), who had completed their training abroad, providing services in the country. In 2014, there were 250 SLPs providing services to a population of 30 million people, with the majority of the professionals trained locally.

Most of the SLPs trained in Malaysia practise with an undergraduate degree from one of the two local higher education institutions offering the program. This undergraduate degree is a 4-year entry level qualification. Malaysian SLP’s caseload consists mostly of paediatric cases. This caseload characteristic signifies the high possibility that Malaysian SLPs would be involved in the management of children with speech and language disorder/ delay (SLD).

In recent years, with an increase in public awareness about SLD among children, there has been an amplified demand for speech and language services in Malaysia. This in turn calls for improved services that are keeping pace with professional trends. Currently, there are no statutory licencing requirements for SLPs to practise in Malaysia, and neither is there a professional body that sets professional standards, oversees the quality of services provided, or promotes better education and training of SLPs.

With the slow but steady increase of SLPs in the country, most of whom are trained locally, there is a need to explore their practises with different populations, especially children, given that they are one of the largest populations served. In recent years, little research has been undertaken exploring the practises of Malaysian SLPs with children.

The field of speech-language pathology in Malaysia is influenced by the literature and practises from western countries. Hence, it is reasonable to predict that Malaysian SLPs’ practises would follow those that are recommended in western literature or clinical guidelines. However, there are different external factors that influence the profession and, thus, the provision of services by SLPs in different societies. There are several factors that have been reported to influence practises of SLPs in Malaysia, which include limited resources, small numbers of professionals, large caseloads and workplace limitations.

Over time, it is hoped that service delivery practices will improve, perhaps with an increase in the number of SLPs in the country and also in the availability of resources.

[1] This is a heavily edited version of an article by Susheel Joginder Singh, Min Yen Chan, and Yazmin Ahmad Rusli, “Practise patterns of Malaysian speech-language pathologists in managing children with speech and language delay/disorder”, International Journal Of Speech-Language Pathology, Vol. 18, Iss. 6, 2016