EDITING : 2022.10.31 월 21:10
The Gachon Herald
For a Better Future of Developmental DisabilitiesCheon Woong and Jang Yu-rim, speech therapists
Cho Eun-Seon  |  eunseon1873@gmail.com
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Updated : 2022.06.28  12:48:54
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 Recently, an education divide caused by COVID-19 has emerged as a major problem. Although social distancing has been lifted and the whole world is gradually moving toward the end of COVID-19, the education divide once widened is not easily narrowed again. Especially in case of children with slow language development, their natural ability to understand and communicate is limited, which makes it more disadvantageous to narrow the learning gap. In this situation, how can speech therapists who guide children with speech development disabilities solve these difficulties they face? Let's listen to Jeongwoon and Jang Yu-rim, speech therapists.
 
1. I wonder what the Korean Language Rehabilitation Association is and what kind of work they do.
 The Korean Language Rehabilitation Association is a corporation and has branches nationwide. Just as there are doctors' associations and pharmacists' associations, all therapists have associations. They mainly educate and issue speech therapist certifications belonging to the branch. Speech therapists are instructed by the association because they need to be educated for a set amount of time each year to maintain their qualifications. In addition, it sets rules to follow during work or solves the difficulties of therapists. It can be said that it does almost everything to manage and assist speech therapists.
 
2. What kind of efforts does it take to become a speech therapist? What other activities would be helpful besides obtaining certificates?
 First of all, language therapists have to go through regular college or graduate courses and obtain national certificates, but recently, only people who graduated from graduate schools have passed. Other than that, it is helpful to do a lot of volunteer work. Since language therapists usually meet many disabled children, people who want to work for here should have no resistance when dealing with the disabled and be able to understand them. It would be nice to do a lot of related volunteer works since college and please check if this job is suitable for you.
 
3. Parents would be very worried if their children are left behind in language development. What should they do in this case? Is there anything they can do before they meet an expert?
 That question is that speech therapists get most often. First of all, the worst way is to search on the Internet before looking for an expert. Developmental disability are not all the same and the spectrum varies from child to child. Therefore, even if parents search for information, it is difficult to determine whether this applies to their children. Instead of searching on the Internet, it is the best to consult a kindergarten or school teachers who spend most of their time with children after parents.
 In addition, Koreans can receive free medical checkups at hospitals from the time of birth, and not only general medical checkups, but also physical development, language development, and cognitive development. It is found that most children with developmental disabilities have poor development in infant checkups at the age of two or three, and they often miss the appropriate treatment period because they think, "Let's wait a little longer because they're still young." Therefore, it is better for parents to ask experts for help as soon as possible rather than doing something.
 
4. What is your most memorable episode while working?
 Since the children have disabilities, many of them remain in kindergarten for cognitive ability even if they become middle and high school students. Therefore, they like us more than their parents sometimes. They cry because they don't want to go home, or they insist on living with us. It's difficult when that happens, but on the other hand, I'm proud because it means that they trust us.
 
5. What are the changes in work or difficulties since the pandemic?
 The biggest problem is wearing mask. In early language development, sight is the second most important thing after hearing. This is because children learn to interact with others by imitating what they see with their eyes. However, since it is impossible to follow the mouth moving, language development is inevitably delayed. Children who develop normally can be taught through other media, but it is not easy for children with disabilities.
 In addition, disabled children are often annoyed by wearing masks because they are highly sensitive. They can't concentrate on classes because of the mask rubbing against their skin, or they don't want to talk.
 
6. In your opinion, which of the current welfare systems should be improved the most?
 In Korea, there is also a system to provide medical expenses to families with children with developmental disabilities. However, the problem is that the amount of support is too small, and the conditions are still difficult. Only those with a standard median income of less than 120% or those with the basic living recipients can be supported, and even the maximum amount is 220,000 won. 220,000 won is far from enough to receive language therapy.
 It is also a problem that they can’t use two services at once. This voucher system is implemented by various organizations such as the Ministry of Health and Welfare, the Office of Education, and local governments, and if they have already received subsidies from the city, they can’t get subsidies from the Office of Education at the same time. I think if these restrictions are removed and entry barriers becomes lower, it will be of greater help for families with children with developmental disabilities.
 
7. I am also curious about the level of welfare system in our country compared to other countries.
 Compared to overseas, Korean welfare system is still in its infancy. In the United States, like health teachers, there are language therapists in each school. The public education institutions provide treatment, so its costs can also be supported by more than 90%. Due to this environment, it is rather difficult to find a private treatment center in the United States. In Korea, it would be nice if the environment is created in which parents can treat children without feeling any financial burden.
 
8. What is the most important part of speech therapy that you care about?
 People often think that language therapy is "teaching speech to children who can't speak," and of course, it's similar, but it's a little different. "Teaching" normal developing children is to make them do better than before, but children with developmental disabilities have a limited range of development from the beginning. For example, if a seven-year-old child has a cognitive level of four, the child can only speak a language of up to four years of age. In that case, speech therapists help them live in harmony with their peers, even at the language level of a four-year-old. In short, it is most important to help children adapt well without being alienated from society within the maximum limits possible.
 
9. Please give advice to college students who have similar dreams to you.
 To tell you a realistic story, I wish that you not to try to be a speech therapist based on your the benefits side of the job. It is certainly a big advantage that it is a specialized job, a stable salary, and flexible working hours. If you are a woman, you can easily return to work after maternity leave and childcare leave. But there are many difficulties. It is often mentally painful because we have to meet parents and children who are emotionally hurt while working every day. Compared to this intensity of labor, I sometimes feel that I earn less money. Therefore, rather than choosing a job based on stability, I want you to think about whether you really like meeting children and will feel rewarded.
 
10. Lastly, what values or beliefs do you think are the most important?
 It is the point that "Let's live well together." I always look around and try to help others. It's not unconditional commitment, it's only helping others in the way we can. Also, I care about my surroundings, but I try not to say anything to others. I think it's a necessary mindset for this job.

 So far, we have heard the stories of two speech therapists. Currently, COVID-19 is moving toward end, but efforts at the government level are essential to solve the sluggish learning of children with developmental disabilities caused by COVID-19. Earlier, the welfare system of the United States was mentioned, and it is said that there is an active movement in Korea to enact a law that mandates the mandatory placement of language therapists in schools like the United States. If you read this article, I hope you to get interested in these problems and create a world where you can live with the disabled.
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