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Meet Han Hui Hee, the First LSL Specialist in East Malaysia

Han Hui Hee is the first certified Listening and Spoken Language Specialist (LSLS) in East Malaysia and works in the Malaysian Civil Service.


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By Lisa A. Goldstein

Han Hui Hee is the first certified Listening and Spoken Language Specialist (LSLS) in East Malaysia (the first LSL Specialist in Malaysia was certified a year before her), and works in the Malaysian Civil Service.

Hee’s career began as the only full-time speech therapist at MED-EL Malaysia. The challenges of traveling across various clinics in Malaysia made her realize that her education fell short. During this period, Donna Sperandio, head of rehabilitation at MED-EL, extended an offer to mentor her. Recognizing the potential to enhance her skills, Hee embraced the opportunity.

Hee was certified in February 2020, just before the global upheaval of COVID. The certification process spanned four years, during which she navigated a job transition. In the early stages of her LSL journey, with no specialists in the region, Trudy Smith became her mentor. Hee says her guidance was instrumental in navigating the certification process and COVID-related challenges.

Post-certification, avenues for professional networking expanded significantly. Hee was able to establish connections with Mandarin-speaking LSL Specialists and engage in discussion groups. She also received more inquiries from parents and professionals, initiating meaningful dialogues on LSL.

“Acquiring skills to guide and coach parents from this journey facilitated more effective communication across various domains – from mentoring parents to interacting with professionals and speech students,” says Hee.

Hee currently works at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Kota Kinabulu, East Malaysia, though she is on study leave to pursue her master’s degree. The hospital is a public cochlear implant satellite hospital, where she is the key speech therapist. There, she is actively engaged in helping individuals with hearing loss learn to listen and talk.

This involves coordinating programs with various professionals such as surgeons, audiologists, occupational therapists, and teachers to ensure a holistic approach. Hee also contributes to the creation of the Cochlear Implant Operational Policy for the Malaysia Ministry of Health. Her responsibilities include developing aural rehabilitation materials and mentorship for audiologists and speech therapists for their professional development.

Health literacy regarding deafness is low in Malaysia, Hee says, and the public often holds professional-centered views on rehabilitation. “Creating awareness about the importance of continuous guidance for parents, who are primary facilitators for their children, is critical,” she says. “The absence of ongoing support, especially after children attend mainstream schools, poses a challenge. We strive to equip children with advocacy skills and ensure periodic therapy schedules.”

One of Hee’s early clients faced numerous challenges due to congenital rubella syndrome, including a heart condition, developmental delay, microencephaly, and eyesight issues. Due to distance and poor internet connectivity, they could only meet once a month. Collaborative goal-setting with the parents, consistent communication, and open discussions led to remarkable progress.

“Despite a slow start, with perseverance and the support of professionals, the child developed spoken language, eventually attending a mainstream private school with the assistance of a shadow aide teacher,” Hee says. “This experience reinforced the importance of keeping parents informed and involved in all aspects, emphasizing that guiding and coaching parents are key to success.”

Lisa A. Goldstein is a freelance journalist with a Master’s in journalism from UC Berkeley. She has been a member of AG Bell since 1982 and has a cochlear implant and digital hearing aid.

Han Hui Hee: primer especialista en LSL de Malasia Oriental

Han Hui Hee es el primer especialista certificado en Escucha y Lenguaje Hablado (LSLS) de Malasia Oriental (el primer especialista en LSL de Malasia recibió la certificación un año antes que ella), y trabaja en la Administración Pública de Malasia.

La carrera profesional de Hee empezó siendo el único logopeda a tiempo completo en MED-EL Malasia. Con los retos de desplazarse por varias clínicas de Malasia se dio cuenta de que su formación era insuficiente. Durante este periodo, Donna Sperandio, responsable de rehabilitación de MED-EL, se ofreció a ser su mentora. Reconociendo el potencial de mejorar sus habilidades, no dudó en aprovechar la oportunidad.

Hee recibió la certificación en febrero de 2020, justo antes de la pandemia de COVID mundial. El proceso de certificación duró cuatro años, durante los que pasó por una transición laboral. Al principio de su andadura en LSL, sin especialistas en la región, Trudy Smith se convirtió en su mentora. Hee afirma que su orientación fue decisiva para superar el proceso de certificación y los retos relacionados con el COVID.

«La adquisición de habilidades para orientar y entrenar a los padres a partir de este itinerario facilitó una comunicación más eficaz en diversos ámbitos, desde la tutoría a la interacción con profesionales y estudiantes de logopedia», explica Hee.

Hee trabaja actualmente en el Hospital Queen Elizabeth de Kota Kinabulu (Malasia Oriental), aunque tiene un permiso de estudios para cursar un máster. El centro es un hospital satélite público de implantes cocleares, donde es la logopeda principal. Se dedica activamente a ayudar a las personas con pérdida auditiva a que aprendan a escuchar y hablar.

Esta tarea implica coordinar programas con diversos profesionales, como cirujanos, audiólogos, terapeutas ocupacionales y maestros, para garantizar un enfoque holístico. Hee también contribuye a la creación de la Política operativa de implantes cocleares para el Ministerio de Sanidad de Malasia. Sus responsabilidades incluyen el desarrollo de materiales de rehabilitación auditiva, y la mentoría de audiólogos y logopedas para su desarrollo profesional.

Los conocimientos sanitarios sobre la sordera son escasos en Malasia, señala Hee, y el público suele tener una visión de la rehabilitación centrada en los profesionales. «Es fundamental concienciar sobre la importancia de la orientación continua de los padres, que son los principales facilitadores de sus hijos», explica. «La falta de apoyo continuo, especialmente después de que los niños empiecen a estudiar en escuelas del sistema ordinario, plantea un gran reto. Nos esforzamos en que los niños adquieran habilidades de defensa de sus propios intereses y en que existan programas de terapia periódicos».

Uno de los primeros clientes de Hee se enfrentaba a numerosas dificultades debido al síndrome de rubéola congénita, además de afección cardíaca, retraso del desarrollo, microencefalia y problemas de visión. Debido a la distancia y a la mala conexión a Internet, solo se podían reunir una vez al mes. Con el establecimiento de objetivos en colaboración con los padres, la comunicación constante y las discusiones abiertas se consiguieron progresos notables.

«A pesar de un comienzo lento, con perseverancia y el apoyo de profesionales, el niño desarrolló el lenguaje hablado y acabó asistiendo a un colegio privado ordinario con la ayuda de un maestro asistente», añade Hee. «Esta experiencia refuerza la importancia de mantener a los padres informados e implicados en todos los aspectos, haciendo hincapié en que su orientación y entrenamiento es clave para lograr el éxito».

Lisa A. Goldstein es periodista independiente con Maestría en Periodismo de la UC Berkeley. Ha sido miembro de AG Bell desde 1982 y tiene una coclear implante y audífono digital.

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