Mum-of-four Debra hailed for communication work

A LONDONDERRY mother-of-four who set up a language enrichment group at St Anne’s Primary School after her second son Joseph received help from a speech and language therapist has been name a Communication Champion at the Shine a Light Awards 2012.

Debra McNeil was nominated by the Western Health and Social Care Trust’s (Western Trust) Speech and Language Therapist, Jill Borland who said: “I nominated Debra for the award for setting up and maintaining a language enrichment group for children with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN).

“I believe Debra was inspired to set up the group after her second son Joseph received help from a Speech and Language Therapist (SLT) after being diagnosed with a complex SLCN and attended group sessions for a short period.

“She saw the benefits Joseph received from these sessions and decided to set up a group for children across Derry/Londonderry.”

Judges in the Communication Champion category praised Debra for her incredible passion and enthusiasm in establishing the group, but also for investing her time and energy into sustaining it.

She secured the use of a local school classroom for free and arranged for recently-graduated Speech and Language Therapists to volunteer their time.

Debra said: “The group has been a real success. The children genuinely love going, they have made firm friends and have even had a few fun outings.

“We, as parents, also have got a great deal out of it, with a chance to exchange experiences, coping mechanisms and just generally realise that we are not isolated.

“I am hopeful that this award will raise the profile of the group and also the need for further support for the 8-plus age group experiencing the loneliness that language and communication issues bring and help our children reach their full potential.

“I would like to dedicate this award to the children in the group and to the voluntary speech therapists, who give up their own time and finance their travelling expenses in order to provide valuable therapy to the children weekly, without them the group would not be the success it is today.”

Lisa Morgan, Professional Director for The Communication Trust and a judge in this category, said: “Debra is receiving this award for her contribution to supporting children with communication needs in her local community, as well as supporting their families. The group has been successful on many levels – providing somewhere for newly-qualified SLTs to gain valuable experience and somewhere for children with language impairment to practice talking in a safe environment. It also raises awareness of communication issues locally, while empowering parents and widening their support network.”

The group which Debra is a part of is based at St Anne’s a local school in Londonderry and if anyone is anyone interested in bringing their child please do get in touch with Debra on