Debra ‘Shines a light’

Debra McNeil named as Communication Champion at the Shine a Light Awards 2012
Debra McNeil named as Communication Champion at the Shine a Light Awards 2012

Derry mother of four, Debra McNeil, has been awarded a UK Communication Champion at the Shine a Light Awards.

The Shine a Light Awards 2012 are organised by the Communication Trust and Pearson Assessment to reward individuals, settings and teams for their work in supporting children’s speech, language and communication development. Mrs. McNeil was nominated by the Western Health and Social Care Trust after she established a speech therapy club for those primary school children affected by cut backs to speech therapy provision.

A delighted Debra, who works in the research and development sectin of Seagate, explained: “My wee boy, Joseph has speech and language difficulties and had been receiving speech therapy from age three. The service ended when he turned eight but I knew there was more to be done.”

The determined mother then opened up a Northwest chapter of speech therapy support group Afasic. “Joseph was having huge problems socialising due to his speech but the group, which has been going for one year, allows him to mix with others in a similar position. The kids really enjoy it. We have been lucky to have been helped by four different speech therapists since we opened. They volunteer their time to help the kids develop their language skills. The children genuinely love going. As do the parents, we also get a great deal from it. It’s a chance to exchange experiences, coping mechanisms and just generally realise that we are not isolated.

Asked about her own award Debra said: “I never thought I’d get it. It was nice to be nominated but when we were shortlisted I thought, ‘what’s this?’ Then I studied the criteria and didn’t think I matched it. I was shocked to learn we had won.”

The group meet at St. Anne’s School every Tuesday evening from 7pm. any one interested can contact the group on