Changing the Lives of Children and Young People across the UK with Speech, Language and Communication Difficulties

News - 02 Apr 2019

Winners of the seventh annual Shine a Light Awards revealed by British comic actress and writer, Sally Phillips with special performance from Britain’s Got Talent winner, Lee Ridley (Lost Voice Guy)

Sixteen-year old neurodiversity advocate Siena Castellon from London, who is challenging negative perceptions about special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) drawing on her personal experience of living with autism, dyslexia, ADHD and dyspraxia, has won the Child/Young Person of the Year coveted accolade at the UK-wide Shine a Light 2019 Awards organised by learning company Pearson, in partnership with The Communication Trust. 

As well as developing her successful mentoring and support website, QL Mentoring, Siena has launched her own neurodiversity celebration school campaign and aims to have every school in the UK take part in her campaign week, which will take place between 13-17 May 2019. Joining Siena was Jules Whicher; an inspiring and empowering mother to Charlie, who lives with Angelman Syndrome and has complex needs. Jules won the Communication Champion of the Year Award and was crowned winner of the prestigious Pearson Outstanding Achievement of the Year Award.

Jules is a pillar of support for hundreds of families whose children use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices, and has developed a range of bespoke communication books and created her own ‘hangry’, ‘floss’ and ‘micdrop’ symbols that are now available globally. Jules has organised a range of social outings in Nottingham and is now planning an educational AAC and Literacy camp for young people across the UK.

The Shine a Light Awards, which took place at Pearson’s headquarters in London, celebrate innovative work and excellent practice in supporting children and young people’s speech, language and communication development. They also recognise the hard work and determination of children and young people who have some form of long-term and persistent speech, language and communication needs (SLCN).

In total, 11 winners across 12 categories were recognised for their incredible contributions across the UK with one also receiving the Pearson Outstanding Achievement of the Year Award. In addition, ten finalists received Highly Commended accolades. The awards were hosted by British comic actress and writer, Sally Phillips, whose eldest son, Olly, was born with Down’s Syndrome and was the inspiration for her acclaimed documentary A World Without Down’s Syndrome?

Sally Phillips, Host of the 2019 Shine a Light Awards, said: “As a nation, it is vital that we ensure that all children have the opportunity to express themselves, particularly when this ability has a profound impact on our future life chances. The amazing winners and highly commended finalists of the Shine a Light Awards prove what a difference we can make if we become informed, impassioned and engaged in the speech language and communication needs of those around us.

“These inspiring individuals and teams don’t just change the lives of one person, their tireless work impacts entire communities in their region, across the UK and for some, across the world. I have seen for myself the huge difference expert intervention and support provides for children, like my son Olly particularly at a time where we face a nationwide shortage of speech and language therapists.”

Sally was joined by Britain’s Got Talent Winner, Lee Ridley (known as Lost Voice Guy) who performed at the ceremony. Lee has cerebral palsy and uses AAC, via voice software on his iPad, to communicate and express himself.

Lee Ridley (known as Lost Voice Guy), who performed at the 2019 Shine a Light Awards, said: “I may not be able to speak but I most certainly have a voice. I know first-hand that with support, determination and a sense of humour you can achieve what others may think is impossible.

“I was thrilled to perform at the 2019 Shine a Light Awards and to meet inspirational children and young people who like me don’t let their disability or challenges rule their life and define them. We take for granted in this country our ability to talk and express ourselves but for many it’s not easy. With different strategies, technology and support available, children and young people can realise their dreams. It is heart-warming to know there are so many teams and individuals across the country that are dedicated to ensuring children and young people’s voices are heard and I am pleased they were recognised at the Awards.”

Robert Reilly-Craig, Head of Clinical Assessment at Pearson, said: “We are proud that the Shine a Light Awards have become a key event in the speech, language and communication communities’ calendar. Pearson has supported these Awards for seven years to ensure that recognition and accolade is given to a sector that does not enjoy the same public recognition as other issues, such as literacy or numeracy.

“It is critical that we understand the challenges faced by those who have speech, language and communication needs, as well as the solutions that can help them. These Awards enable us to showcase best practice and inspire others to improve their practice.”

Maxine Burns, Speech and Language Advisor at The Communication Trust, a coalition of over 50 organisations dedicated to supporting children and young people's speech, language and communication, said: “Congratulations to all the inspiring and incredible winners and highly commended finalists at the Shine a Light 2019 Awards. We partner with Pearson annually on these awards to ensure there is a powerful platform available that can showcase best practice and innovative work in the field of speech, language and communication.

“This fundamentally matters as the Bercow Ten Years On review on the state of provision for children’s SLCN in England showed that we still need to tackle poor understanding of SLCN and insufficient resourcing impacting children and young people’s educational outcomes.”

One in 10 children and young people in the UK have a long-term speech, language and communication need (SLCN). This can impact on their academic progress, social skills and future job prospects however with the correct support, children and young people can flourish.

For further information about the Shine a Light winners and highly-commended finalists, visit and follow us on Twitter #awards_SAL.

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