Bristol Benjamin Meaker Distinguished Visiting Professor Sharynne McLeod, Charles Sturt University, Australia

Sharynne McLeod

Children born with cleft palate: Intelligibility and participation

20 April - 26 May 2024


Sharynne McLeod, PhD is a speech-language pathologist and professor of speech and language acquisition at Charles Sturt University, Australia. She is a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia and the Royal Society of New South Wales. She has received Honors of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, Life Membership of Speech Pathology Australia and has been an Australian Research Council Future Fellow.

The Australian Newspaper named her Australia’s Research Field Leader in Audiology, Speech and Language Pathology (2018, 2019, 2020, 2022) and Best in the World based on the “quality, volume and impact” of research in the field (2019, 2023). This achievement reflects her legacy of leading interdisciplinary teams to undertake impactful international research into multilingual children’s speech and communication rights and to build world-class research capacity. Professor McLeod and her team have championed the cause of communication rights, promoted multicultural issues and demonstrated respect and value for people of differing backgrounds, cultures and languages. Her Multilingual Children’s Speech website has resources in over 60 languages:

Professor McLeod has co-authored 13 books and 250+ peer reviewed journal articles and chapters primarily focusing on children’s speech development, speech sound disorders, and multilingualism. In 2019, she presented a speech about communication rights at the United Nations. She has won Editors’ Awards from the US journals Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing: Speech (2018), American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology (2019), and Topics in Language Disorders (2020). She served as editor-in-chief of International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology. She is a Board Certified Member of the American Board of Child Language and Language Disorders, Chair of the Child Speech Committee of the International Association of Communication Sciences and Disorders (IALP), and served as Vice President of the International Clinical Linguistics and Phonetics Association.

Research Summary

Up to 1 million people in the UK have a communication disability which affects their ability to express themselves or to understand others. Our ability to communicate is impacted by our intelligibility and if we cannot make ourselves understood, then we will struggle to function in society. In particular, the impact on activities and participation, as defined by the World Health Organization can be significantly diminished, leading to social isolation and the potential for an impact on wellbeing and mental health, educational and occupational outcomes. Rarely will a clinician be aware of these difficulties as individuals can become quite adept at hiding their difficulties. Professor McLeod’s work has helped to draw attention to communication rights of all people with communication impairment and the difficulties that children with speech sound disorder in particular face in terms of everyday life as a child.

Children born with cleft palate are at particular risk of communication disability as a consequence of problems with intelligibility. Using data from The Cleft Collective, the large-scale national cohort study of over 10,000 participants led by Dr Yvonne Wren at Bristol Dental School, Professor McLeod and Dr Wren will explore intelligibility in affected children using the Intelligibility in Context Scale. The Scale was developed by Professor McLeod and has now been translated in over 60 languages and is used worldwide. The outputs will provide unique reference data for children born with cleft, taking into account additional factors such as cleft subtype and syndromic status. Further analysis will enable us to determine the impact that differences in intelligibility in this population has on children’s levels of activity and participation.

During her visit and through her planned talks, Prof McLeod will raise awareness of communication disability and highlight additional challenges and benefits when working with multilingual individuals.

Professor McLeod is hosted by Dr Yvonne Wren from the Bristol Dental School.

Planned lectures and seminars include:

The details for these lectures and seminars are listed on our Events page. You can also contact Prof McLeod's host, Prof Yvonne Wren, for further information.