Marie Pinkstone: Specialist Speech and Language Therapist, FRCSLT

CLEFT continues to focus on multidisciplinary and comprehensive care for all children, young people and adults affected by cleft. Speech and Language Therapist play a vital role in the delivery of multidisciplinary care and enable patients to achieve their potential.

As a specialist speech and language therapist previously working in the North Thames Cleft service and through extending my skills and teaching role by visiting a number of international cleft centres, I have seen the vital role we play in the joint decision making for patient care. Over the course of several years, I have had the privilege of visiting the Cleft Centre in Dhaka Bangladesh.


Left: Fairooz Maliha with Marie in February 2023. Right: Tawhida Jahan, Assistant Professor of Department of Communication Disorder, University of Dhaka. Banner image: Marie with colleague Amy Darters providing a lesson on assessing speech in patients with cleft in Bangladesh.

This opportunity has brought together the Speech and Language faculty from Dhaka University, and we have appointed speech and language therapist to the cleft team. To witness the multidisciplinary meam delivering high quality care to patients and families has been a privilege. It has also made me appreciate all the resources, access to education and support we have here in the UK. 

I have also been made to think differently and to appreciate other perspectives and opinion. We have supported the speech therapy department by providing books, journal articles, supervision and culturally appropriate toys. 

The role of a speech and language therapists is to access and treat speech difficulties related to a cleft. A tool we use to do this is to phonetically transcribe speech. This system uses phonetic symbols to identify speech sounds and for these to be identified in a universal way. The challenge in Dhaka was that we did not have a Bangla standardised speech assessment which we could use for the patients and so with the team and students from the Speech and Language department we have devised an assessment tool in Bangla. We must remember that all languages have their own sounds and so those of us where English is our first language had to listen to hear the different sounds in Bangla. This is an exciting project and one that would not have come to fruition without the support and drive from CLEFT.

We are continuing this work and are aiming to return to the centre to review the speech outcomes using this recently devised assessment tool as part of the outcome project. Sharing with families and patients the outcomes of the team is essential in ensuring the patients and families are at the heart of all decision making and care.

 Thank you for all your support of CLEFT as we continue to drive cleft care through research and international collaboration.

Article written for the December 2023 Newsletter by Marie Pinkstone