Derry schoolgirl Christina Beckett who attends Woodlands has visited Stormont to showcase the benefits of speech and language therapy at a public speaking and joke telling competition.
The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) held the first ‘Voice Box Awards’ in the historic Senate Chamber to highlight the importance of communication skills to young people as part of the UK wide Giving Voice campaign.
The event, hosted by the Speaker of the Assembly, William Hay, brought together pupils, parents, teachers, MLAs and speech and language therapists using comedy. Pupils were shortlisted from entries received from across Northern Ireland and the finalists were invited to tell their jokes in front of the audience and a select judging panel.
Christina got the chance to have a tour of the Assembly, tell her joke in front of the audience and meet with local MLAs including William Hay, Mark H Durkan and David McClarty.
Commending Christina on being shortlisted for the Voice Box finals, MLA Mark Durkan said: “It was a great event, and it is always good to see children up in Stormont. I was amazed to see how confident and competent they were at telling jokes. It really was great fun! I would be very supportive of this group and any of their further initiatives.”
Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, William Hay MLA said: “It is easy in the modern world to rely on technology as a means of communication, however it will never remove the importance of being able to speak to one another. While this event encouraged laughter, it also had a serious message that many young people in Northern Ireland find being able to do something as simple as telling a joke a massive challenge. As speaking forms a major part of our activity within the Assembly, I am keen to highlight the important work that is done to address speech, language and communication difficulties where they exist. I often think that within the Chamber serious points can be put across effectively with a bit of wit and banter so hopefully this event will go some way to highlighting such a vital service in a fun and enjoyable way” said Mr. Hay.
With approximately 7,600 school children across Northern Ireland identified as having speech, language and communication difficulties in the school year 2009/2010, the need to act to address this problem has never been greater, according to Alison McCullough MBE, RCSLT Northern Ireland Policy Officer.
Commenting on the reasons behind holding the event, Alison said: “School teachers are telling us that communication difficulties are the most common problem for children entering school. Having a speech, language or communication need has huge implications for the pupil’s education, personal and social development.
“Experience has clearly shown that collaboration provides the best supportive environment for children and adults with speech, language and communication needs.
“Through the RCSLT’s Giving Voice campaign, politicians and speech and language therapists are working more closely together making a difference to improve the lives of speech and language sufferers across the whole of Northern Ireland and the rest of United Kingdom.”
“Identifying and treating these conditions can change lives significantly and it is important that as the body representing the speech and language therapists, we highlight the need for further provision for children, young people and adults across Northern Ireland. By holding the inaugural Voice Box Awards we not only brought some cheer and good humour to the Assembly, we also highlighted how important it is for everyone, and especially for children to be able to communicate clearly and effectively” said Alison.
For more information on speech and language therapy please visit www.rcslt.org and for the Giving Voice campaign please visit www.givingvoice.org