Woodlands Language Unit and Saint Canice’s Primary School, Dungiven pupil Conor Heavron has impressed a panel of judges in Parliament Buildings, Stormont, to become the 2012 Voice Box Champion.
Twenty pupils brought light relief to the Senate Chamber with their witty jokes and tales for the 2012 Voice Box Awards final.
One of Northern Ireland’s more familiar voices, Mr William Hay MLA, Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, hosted the second annual Voice Box Awards which attracted some of the best jokers from schools across the country.
The grand final was held in the Parliament Building’s historic Senate Chamber to highlight the importance of communication skills to young people and elected representatives as part of the UK wide Giving Voice campaign.
The event brought together pupils, parents, teachers, MLAs and speech and language therapists for a day of comedy.
Hosting the event, the Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly said: “As an institution in which speaking and communication play a huge part, I have been very keen that the Assembly should provide a platform to highlight the speech and language difficulties many people face. It is particularly important that we give all of our children and young people the support, encouragement and recognition they deserve.
“I often see in the Assembly chamber that humour can be an effective way in putting a point across so I hope this event will go some way to highlighting these challenges and the valuable work done by speech and language therapists in a fun and enjoyable way” said Mr. Hay.
Also taking part in the event was Education Minister John O’Dowd. Commenting, he said: “Communication is an integral part of a person’s identity and difficulty communicating can have many negative knock-on effects. The Voice Box Awards initiative encourages children and young people to overcome any obstacles they might experience when communicating verbally and instils a confidence in them that stays. I congratulate the organisers on delivering what is an excellent and fulfilling event and hope all the young people who took part enjoy positive benefits to their communication going forward.”
The need to act to address this problem has never been greater according to Heather Crawford MBE, RCSLT Northern Ireland Country Councillor, who explains the importance of the Voice Box Awards.
“We had such a wide range of abilities attending the final in Parliament Buildings and it was a joy to see so many children in the chamber laughing with their MLAs.
“Children with communication difficulties face so many barriers at school, in public and even at home which need to be addressed if they are to be happy and healthy. It is hoped that in running this competition for the second year in a row, we can highlight the importance of addressing speech, language and communication needs for children to ensure they make the most of their education and leisure experiences
“Through the RCSLT’s Giving Voice campaign, politicians and speech and language therapists and education professionals are working collaboratively to improve the life chances of children with speech and language difficulties across the whole of Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.”
“Identifying and treating communication disorders can change lives significantly and it is important that as the body representing speech and language therapists, we highlight the need for further provision for children, young people and adults across Northern Ireland.” said Heather.
For more information on speech and language therapy please visit www.rcslt.org and for the Giving Voice campaign please visit www.givingvoiceuk.org