My Journey My Voice participants and partners win national Giving Voice Award

We are delighted that the nine My Journey My Voice participants have been presented with a joint Giving Voice Award alongside exhibition partners Disability Action, and the Northern Ireland Health and Social Care Board. Christine Birney attended the awards ceremony in London to accept the award on behalf of all the participants. 

Pictured centre - Christine Birney at the Giving Voice awards ceremony in London with her guests, Sharon McEvoy (L) and Kay Johnston (R).   

Pictured centre - Christine Birney at the Giving Voice awards ceremony in London with her guests, Sharon McEvoy (L) and Kay Johnston (R).  

The prestigious award, from the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT), recognises the group’s substantial efforts in raising awareness of people’s communication difficulties and the life-transforming and cost-saving impact that speech and language therapy has on the lives of many.

RCSLT CEO, Kamini Gadhok MBE, said: “Without these individuals and the considerable support and funding we’ve received from partner organisations, the My Journey My Voice exhibition may not have captured the public’s attention in the way that it has. They’ve changed people’s perceptions and influenced the media, legislation, policy and attitudes towards people with communication difficulties, which is why we’re delighted to recognise their collective achievements with a Giving Voice Award.”

Exhibition participant, Christine Birney, who spoke at the ceremony, said: “I’m proud to have been a part of this amazing project and delighted to have received a joint Giving Voice Award. Taking part in this exhibition has changed my life for the better and my confidence has grown so much because of it.” 

Fellow participant, Clodagh Dunlop, added: “It has been a tremendous privilege to take part in this exhibition and help highlight the issues around communication and to show that there are many ways of communicating – not just through the spoken word. I am delighted to have received a joint Giving Voice Award.”

Commenting on the Giving Voice Awards, Kevin Doherty, Chief Executive, Disability Action, said: “We’re delighted to have been able to work in partnership with the RCSLT on this project. What it demonstrates is what we believe, that everyone has a right to have their voice heard. What is important is that all of us listen to the incredibly powerful message that the exhibition has delivered.”


About the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists

The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) is the professional body for speech and language therapists in the UK, representing more than 16,000 members. It facilitates and promotes research into the field of speech and language therapy– the care for individuals with communication, swallowing, eating and drinking difficulties. It promotes better education and training of speech and language therapists and is responsible for setting and maintaining high standards in education, clinical practice and ethical conduct. The RCSLT’S Giving Voice campaign is highlighting the importance of speech and language therapy by sharing the life-changing stories of those who have benefited from treatment and by demonstrating evidence of speech and language therapists’ efficiency and value for money. For more information on RCSLT and Giving Voice visit and


Speech and language therapy…What’s that?

My journey My Voice was only made possible through the help of speech and language therapists throughout Northern Ireland. They took the idea into their hearts and invited their clients to think about taking part. In many cases our brilliant participants were supported to tell their stories by their therapists. Here Emer, a speech and language therapist from Northern Ireland, tells us more about what a speech and language therapist actually does and how they can change lives. 

"Speech and language therapy? What's that?" 

I get into a taxi at 8am and ask the driver to take me to a local health centre. The first question is always the same. "You a nurse love?" "No." I reply. "I'm a speech and language therapist." The taxi man jokingly responds, "Can you teach me how to talk right then?"

This happens more often than you would think. When I tell people I'm a speech and language therapist, most are unsure of what this means. Some ask if I give elocution lessons. Some think it's related to learning languages like French or Spanish.

A very small number of people will understand, having had a relative or friend who received speech therapy. But most say, "Speech and language therapy? What's that?" I think this is a sign that we need to proudly spread the word about what speech and language therapy is, and how it can change lives. 

As speech and language therapists, there is such a wide variety of people who can benefit from our services. We work with speech sounds, language skills, voices, swallowing difficulties, people with brain injury, people who have had a stroke; the list goes on. 

But how does that translate into real life? What does it mean? And what do speech therapists do?

A speech therapist will modify the diet of an elderly person with dementia so they can continue to have a cup of tea every night despite having swallowing difficulties. A speech therapist will help a 19 year old guy with a brain injury create a communication chart so he can still communicate with his friends when he's out at the weekend. A speech therapist will help a teacher who has lost her voice find it again so she can keep passing words of wisdom on to the next generation.

A speech therapist will provide a lady who has had her voice box removed due to cancer with a device that will allow her to speak artificially, so her children can hear her telling them she loves them again. A speech therapist will teach a seven year old how to produce sounds correctly to stop his dad worrying that his speech will hold him back from making friends.

A speech therapist will contact the teachers of a 10 year old girl with autism and provide them with strategies to help her thrive in her school environment, despite any difficulties she may be having. A speech therapist will refer a man who has been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease to a local support group when he says he’s been lonely since his wife died and would like to befriend people who have a similar experience with Parkinson's as him. In other words; a speech therapist aims to improve the quality of life of anyone in need of our service. 

Next time someone asks; don't be afraid to tell them exactly what a speech and language therapist is. With everything we do, you won't be stuck for words!

                                                                                          Emer, SLT, Northern Ireland. 

a speech therapist aims to improve the quality of life of anyone in need of our service.

Putting Communication disability in the frame - My Journey My Voice exhibits at Kilkeel library.

My Journey My Voice continues its tour of Northern Ireland with an exhibition at Kilkeel library from now until 29 September.  The exhibition is being hosted by Kilkeel Library as part of the the My Journey My Voice Libraries NI tour.  

 Joan White, Northern Trust speech and language therapy manager (centre) and Danelle McNulty, speech and language therapist (left) welcomed Margaret Ritchie MP to the exhibition.  





Minister for Communities launches Libraries NI Tour of My Journey My Voice at Lisburn City Library

Communities Minister, Paul Givan MLA launched a My Journey My Voice exhibition roadshow from Lisburn Library, Northern Ireland on 4 August 2016 to raise awareness of communication disability.

Minister Givan launches the Libraries NI tour of My Journey My Voice at Lisburn City Library on 4 August 2016.

The multimedia portraits and stories exhibition was commissioned by the RCSLT and is currently being hosted by Libraries NI.

Neill Birnie narrated a short passage he wrote for this exhibition and gave an insight into the barriers he faces on a daily basis. His listeners have been extremely moved by his stories which have included four Ministers, numerous MLAs, a lord mayor, a deputy lord mayor, health care professionals and numerous members of the general public.

His words have resonated, as a result he has now been asked to participate in regional work on developing hospital passports.  This is a particular issue for Neill as he has been the recipient of poor medical practice, which resulted in DNAR being written on his medical admission notes on more than one occasion.

Libraries NI tour of My Journey My Voice launches tomorrow in Lisburn City Library

RCSLT NI are getting very excited about the launch of the Libraries NI tour of My Journey My Voice tomorrow morning in Lisburn City Library. The Deputy Mayor Alderman Stephen Martin will be welcoming over 50 guests and some VIPs to see the exhibition and hear one of our participants Neill Birnie from Templepatrick recount his American adventure.

We will keep you updated with photos and comments from the event.

Award-winning project by a speech and language therapist and service user featured at recent health and social care conference

As many of our My Journey My Voice participants have experienced, having your voice heard as a patient or service user is often all the more challenging if you have a communication difficulty. However we are delighted to share Angela and John's story below, featured at a recent health and social care conference. It is a great example of just how much can be achieved by involving patients with communication difficulties and providing accessible information. 

Help Stop Choking is an awareness raising project by Angela Crocker, SLT, and John Toal, speech and language therapy service user. 

“I have a learning disability, epilepsy, Cerebral Palsy and swallowing difficulties.
I choked a few times and it scared me. I worked with Speech and Language
therapy to make changes to help reduce my risk of choking.
I haven’t choked since, I think my experience with Angela saved my life.
I want to share my story to help other people reduce their risk of choking.”
— John, Help Stop Choking

The Northern Ireland Confederation for health and social care, NICON, recently held their annual conference in Le Mon Hotel which was attended by the Minister for Health. One of the themes at the conference was the importance of personal and public involvement in health and social care. We are delighted that Angela and John were invited to give a talk about their innovative, award-winning project on choking awareness.  You can see their presentation slides here and view the You Tube video below for more information. 

A summary of the good ideas to help stop choking. This is 1 of 11 clips from an award winning DVD to help increase awareness of choking, promote safe eating strategies and reduce avoidable mortality and adverse harm effects from choking.

Neill makes moving speech at Making Communication Accessible Event

My Journey My Voice exhibition was very well received at the Making Communication Accessible Event.  Neill Birnie one of the exhibition participants made a wonderfully moving, funny and informative speech to the audience.  

As a result of Neill's speech, interest was expressed in working with him in the development of hospital passports for people with Speech Language and Communication difficulties.  Neill's voice was heard!

My Journey My Voice inspires visitors at Mossley Mill

My Journey My Voice has finished a two week stay at Mossley Mill in Newtownabbey where it was viewed by children and adults as part of their visit to the Mill. 

The Mayor of Newtownabbey, Cllr Thomas Hogg and local MLA Paula Bradley also came to view and exhibition and meet with participant Neill Birnie and his speech and language therapist, Cathy Magee, pictured below.

(L-R) Alison McCullough MBE, RCSLT; Janet McGookin, RCSLT; Cllr Thomas Hogg; Cathy Magee; Neill Birnie; Paula Bradley MLA.

(L-R) Alison McCullough MBE, RCSLT; Janet McGookin, RCSLT; Cllr Thomas Hogg; Cathy Magee; Neill Birnie; Paula Bradley MLA.

During a two week stay at Mossley Mill, visitors could view the full exhibition and listen to the audio recordings of every participant's story. This is how some of them reflected on their visit:  

My daughter has had verbal dyspraxia since birth. It is really inspiring to see this.
Really enjoyed this very inspiring and thought provoking exhibition.
Great to see an awareness being raised about something most of us take for granted.
Wet day made bright by this visit. Thank you.

RCSLT NI 'High 5' election manifesto asks

The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapy NI have been actively lobbying all the political parties here in the run up to the election on 5 May about the importance of supporting individuals in Northern Ireland who have speech, language and communication needs. The RCSLT NI election manifesto lists 'High 5' asks across five key areas of: health and social care workforce; children; young people; adults and communication disability. 

The participants of My Journey My Voice were integral to helping to inform, and provide case studies to support, these key asks which seek to ensure no one is left without a voice. You can the full text of RCSLT's High Five asks here

Election Manifesto Flyer (1)-page-001 (1).jpg







Christine speaks out about stammering

by Vivienne Fitzroy, RCSLT

Christine Birney, one of our participants in the My Journey My Voice exhibition has been out and about raising awareness about stammering with the help of her Speech and Language Therapist, Mary Coulter. They manned an information stand in their local hospital as part of International Stammering Awareness Day 2015 - well done ladies!

Christine has also talked openly about how her communication disability has affected her life and reflected upon her involvement in My Journey My Voice in a recent article for the British Stammering Association.

Did I ever think that I’d be in Parliament Buildings, Stormont, Belfast? Not a hope, but i was!

— The British Stammering Association, online article

 You can read Christine's account of her experiences in the full article here.