Orient Speech Therapy (OST) is a daydream that turned into a reality. Prior to founding OST, Edward Yiu was a senior executive working for a listed company. By chance, he met a child with cerebral palsy who had been given no help to combat her speech issues. He was so inspired by the problem that in 2007 he co-founded OST with Cindy Cui. The company had one mission - to help children in China with speech problems.
In 2015, after many years of following the company and multiple meetings, Eight Roads China healthcare Partner, Rebecca Lin, participated in OSTs Series A funding round, alongside Eight Roads sister fund F-Prime. Both funds understood the problem that OST was trying to solve and shared the belief that OST could set the market standard for speech therapy in China.
Today, OST operates more than 40 speech centres in major cities across China and is continuing to grow. These themes show how the business has got to where it is today:
A fit for purpose solution: OST studied what was working in other countries and then localised to develop a set of systematic and tailored programmes to help children across China. Now almost 6,000 children receive treatment at OST centres daily.
Talent development: Speech therapy was a new area of specialty in China and there existed no vocational training when OST started. As a result, OST had to develop its own training modules to bring on new recruits. Co-founder, Cindy a certified rehabilitation psychologist, led this effort and in 2015 OST signed an agreement with the University of Newcastle to develop a certified international standard training programme for professional speech therapists in Chinese. OST also worked with other institutions, including The American Speech and Language Therapy Association and the University of Kent in the UK, to develop complete sets of equipment, teaching aids, materials and software to facilitate speech training specifically for children. OST sends its therapists overseas for training and has so far trained over 1,000 specialists.
Finding the right partners: Autism is one of the main causes of speech impediments, and in 2016 OST forged a strategic partnership with STAR Autism Support (Strategies for Teaching Based on Autism Research), in the US, to develop autism therapy in China. As a result, more than 10 OST-STAR centres with dedicated programmes for children with autism, have been set up and are now helping children to improve their learning abilities and day-to-day living skills.
While continuing to open speech centres nationwide, OST is also launching an online diagnosis and treatment platform to reach more children in need.