In honour of World Speech Day, I found the time to sit down with Dayna Clarke – a Senior Speech and Language Therapist at Inspire Malta. She manages her independent practice – Malta Speech Therapy at Anici pharmacy, and Medical centre. Additionally she trained at the world class University of Reading and worked for the prestigious Priory Group before moving to Malta. When she’s not painting scenes of Malta or walking the dog, we managed to catch her for a few moments to find out more about the role, dispel some myths, and learn more about the upcoming world speech therapy day.

WHAT EXACTLY IS SPEECH AND LANGUAGE THERAPY? DO YOU TEACH PEOPLE HOW TO SPEAK PROPERLY?

Speech and language therapy is such a diverse field – speech and language therapist assess, diagnose, and provide therapy for children and adults with difficulties in the following key areas: understanding of language, spoken language, social skills and behaviour as well as the production of speech itself. This entails working on speech sounds, creating awareness of sounds, phonation (voice), fluency and oral motor skills (The ability to use your tongue and the muscles required for speech and language). We also look at swallowing and feeding difficulties, as well as devices to help people speak. We form a part of a big multidisciplinary team including doctors, nurses, psychologists, psychiatrists, dietitians, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, teachers and LSA’s.

Regarding your question, it’s a very common myth that I can teach people how to speak Queen’s English – we actually take a look at the bigger picture of communication as a whole, including non-verbal communication!

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A SPEECH THERAPIST AND A SPEECH PATHOLOGIST?

Absolutely nothing! In some parts of the world we tend to use one terminology more than the other.

WHAT’S THE BEST PART ABOUT YOUR JOB?

I work mostly with children and it’s the best feeling in the world when they meet their goals. Some children I have followed continuously for the three years I have been here – you develop a very close relationship with the families you see week in and week out. You always want to do your best for them. No two days are ever the same as a therapist – the same as no two children are the same, it is incredibly varied and never boring! I also get to play games all day long!

IT’S QUITE AN UNUSUAL CAREER CHOICE, WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO BECOME A SPEECH THERAPIST?

I had never heard of speech therapy until unfortunately one fateful night when I was 17 my father endured a devastating stroke which left him completely paralysed and requiring 24-hour care from myself and my family. It was during this time I became aware of the role when I saw a therapist assess him drinking water and decide if it was safe for him to drink or not.

At that time, I had already studied fashion textiles at an art college as well as working as a support worker for learning disabilities – I wasn’t really sure what career path to take. I instantly knew which route I wanted to follow, so went back to college to get the right qualifications for a degree in speech therapy.

WHAT DID YOU HAVE TO DO TO BECOME A SPEECH THERAPIST?

In the UK, and Malta, you have to follow a four year undergraduate degree in Bsc Speech and Language therapy, it’s a very competitive course so I had to ensure I had plenty of experience prior to applying. After graduating once you have a few years of clinical experience under your belt, but many speech therapists continue studying to specialise further. In the UK I worked for the prestigious Priory Group and gained invaluable experience there, as well as attending regular professional development courses. In Malta there is a fantastic body called the Association of Speech and Language Pathologists (ASLP) who organise lots of events.

WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO COME TO MALTA?

In 2014 I made the leap to Malta after falling in love with the island and its people. It’s such a beautiful island and the way of life (and food!) is much better in my eyes than London! I was really fortunate that Inspire Malta took me on and gave me chance to progress, for which I am very grateful for. Later that year I was fortunate enough to be selected for a Masters Research Programme, involving looking at the way that bilingual Maltese care givers speak to their children vs monolingual British caregivers. In 2016, I was awarded a scholarship from the European Society of Swallowing Disorders to continue further Postgraduate work in the area of ‘’dysphagia’’ (swallowing disorders). In 2017, I set up independent practice Malta Speech Therapy based at Anici pharmacy and medical centre in Qormi. In Malta you also have to be fully insured and registered with the health professions council.

WOW! YOU HAVE AN IMPRESSIVE HISTORY! WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?

I wish to remain supporting individuals at Inspire as well as training and educating others. Inspire have given me a fantastic platform for training others. Last year I was a lecturer on MQF Understanding and Supporting Children and adults with Diverse Needs-adopting positive approaches. I also plan to continue my Postgraduate work and research in Malta and internationally. I’ve been really lucky to go to Barcelona and study more there. Furthermore, I set up Malta Speech Therapy in order to support individuals for therapy, as well as raise the awareness of the profession, as many people have no idea what we do!

IS IT AN ART OR A SCIENCE?

This is a tough question! I would have to say a combination of the two! You have to be highly creative to engage anyone in to therapy and adapt according to the individuals needs on that day. You also need to be very analytical and have a very good medical understanding of neurology and anatomy. My initial degree was a combination of medical lectures, English linguistics, and psychology, but great therapy is an ongoing craft that takes years and years to perfect.

AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST, WHAT IS SPEECH THERAPY DAY?

In 2004 CPLOL created this European Day in order to increase the awareness of the SLT profession across Europe. It was considered essential to develop public awareness about communication disorders, their effect on human health, the rights of patients with communication disorders and ways to help them. The message of European Day is that communication disorders may gain awareness by sharing knowledge and experience throughout Europe.

Here in Malta, The Association of Speech and Language therapists (ASLP Malta) in collaboration with the department of Speech and Language Therapy, are organising a seminar to celebrate European Speech and Language Therapy day on the 6th of March 2018. This seminar will be for professionals and caregivers alike, as well as the Department of Education, The focus this year will be on AAC (Alternative and Augmentative Communication), it looks set to be very interesting so make sure you book a place!

If you have any questions about language development do not hesitate to get In touch with Dayna on WWW.MALTASPEECHTHERAPY.COM or facebook.com/maltaspeechtherapy

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