The world was her oyster when Louisa Tan graduated from the National University of Singapore in 2014.
But to the surprise of her family and friends, Louisa traded her political science and business management degree for another — a Masters in Speech and Language Pathology.
“I knew a deskbound job was not for me, so I decided to explore more people-oriented career options,” she said. “Speech therapy appealed to me because I want to help people communicate and find their voice.”
Louisa was a 2014 recipient of the Ee Peng Liang Study Award, which was given to students pursuing careers as therapists or early intervention teachers in the community.
By attracting new talent and training skilled manpower, the programme aimed to build the capability of the special needs sector to serve people with physical, sensory and intellectual disabilities.
Louisa said: “There’s a labour crunch in the field because demand is growing but the talent pool isn’t growing as fast.
“With the Ee Peng Liang Study Award, the barriers to embarking on a career in the sector are lowered significantly. The fees for the course I took were fairly high, so the Study Award really helped me.”
As an SPD speech therapist, Louisa shuttles from kindergarten to kindergarten every day, conducting therapy sessions with children who encounter difficulties with pronunciation, understanding of language and expression of their ideas.
“I go through different activities with the children to teach them specific skills like where to place their tongue and lips to make a sound, or how to put words into sentences.
“I also find ways to turn daily routines into learning opportunities. When they wash their hands, I’ll ask ‘What can you say about your hands? Are they wet or dry?’ and encourage them to answer.”
Typically, Louisa spends 20 to 30 weeks alongside each child, giving her a first-hand opportunity to observe their breakthroughs. With every child who makes significant strides in their speech development, Louisa gains a newfound appreciation for her work.
“When it comes to developmental needs, it’s an exponential curve. The later we address them, the larger the gap becomes.
“If we bridge that gap earlier, we can improve not just the child’s learning, but also their emotional well-being.”
The pursuit of this progress fuels Louisa’s passion, which now burns brighter than ever.
“As a speech therapist, even a minute of my time can greatly impact a child’s future,” she said.
“The knowledge that I can make a difference in somebody’s life keeps me going.”
Under the Ee Peng Liang — Special Needs Building Capability Project, study awards are given to train skilled manpower like early intervention teachers and therapists to serve the special needs sector.
Number of Beneficiaries (2011 - 2014)
41 study awards given
(Article was first published in the Temasek Foundation Cares FY 18/19 Annual Report)