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Dungarvan teen calls for further allowances in state exams for students with disabilities

Dungarvan teen calls for further allowances in state exams for students with disabilities Dungarvan teen calls for further allowances in state exams for students with disabilities
Mary O'Neill

A 15 year old student from Dungarvan is calling on the Department of Education to make further allowances for students with disabilities.

Niamh Kilcawley was diagnosed with a non-cancerous brain tumour at eight years of age, causing her to lose her sight. She then underwent 18 months of chemotherapy, which meant she missed out on a lot of primary school.

"It was a very tough journey," she told Damien on Déise Today, adding that she didn't really understand what a brain tumour was back then. Niamh explained that losing her sight was both unexpected and frightening, but she learned to adapt.

Due to the fact that Niamh is blind, she was assigned a scribe for every Junior Cert exam, as well as a special centre in which to do them.

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As a result of the Pandemic, Niamh's one-to-one Braille lessons were cancelled. While she had access to a small number of virtual classes, it meant that she missed out on advancing with the skill. As a result, Niamh has to do every subject in her head, including Maths.

For every hour in the exam hall, Niamh is assigned an extra ten minutes. "Some people might think that's a lot of time, but for my scribe to even read it (the paper) out to me, that ten minutes is gone," she told Damien.

The Ardscoil na nDéise student said that while it varies from exam to exam, she believes overall that for every hour, a student with additional needs should get an extra half hour.

Niamh was joined in studio by her Mam, Sinead, who said she doesn't understand how the extra 10 minutes per hour was decided upon, and that she'd like to get to the root of that.

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Sinead said that she and the family are "so proud" of Niamh, and that she's "so passionate about fighting for her every step of the way so that she can do the same as everybody else, but differently. And there are occasions where we need to acknowledge that she's blind and support her."

You can listen to Niamh and Sinead's full conversation with Damien on Déise Today. 

And for all Déise Today podcasts, click here.

 

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