'I overcame obstacles for the Leaving, and so can you'
In my opinion... Alan Fay
My name is Alan Fay, I am 20-years-old and I have cerebral palsy. This means I am wheelchair-bound and I have limited gross and fine motor skills. I am a Leaving Cert Applied student in Trinity Comprehensive School, Ballymun, Dublin. For most of my school life I was educated at the Central Remedial Clinic School in Clontarf. This is a special needs school, which I attended from birth. This school was a very big part of my life; it's where I learned a lot of skills and I made a lot of great friends.
CRC school felt like a second home to me. All the staff helped me to develop as a person and helped me through my path in education and to reach my targets. The facilities in the CRC are second to none, and they had everything I needed. Without CRC I don't think I would be the person I am today.
As the years passed by I felt I wanted to go all the way to Leaving Cert level but, at the CRC it was only possible to go to Junior Cert.
I came to a time where I had to make a big decision - this was a big crossroads in my life: 'Do I go to a mainstream school to complete my Leaving Certificate, or do I stay in my comfort zone and continue in the CRC were I have been all my life?'
I decided I wanted to push myself to the next level and go on to complete my Leaving Cert.
I went to see my psychologist in the CRC and I had a chat about me moving on in education. She felt that I was well capable of doing my Leaving Cert, but I was very apprehensive about going to mainstream school as I was not used to the surroundings. Once I met my new principal, the school nurse and my special needs assistant (SNA), all my fears were alleviated.
My biggest fears were, would I get the facilities I needed in the mainstream school? For example, using the toilet, would I get a full- time SNA, help with eating, was the school building wheelchair-accessible, new teachers, would the students in my new school accept me as Alan and not 'Alan in the wheelchair'?
When I am out in society I feel that people tend to see my disability before they see me as a person. They assume I can't talk or communicate. They talk to me through the person that is with me.
This makes me feel overlooked and that I am invisible. I feel like shouting 'I am here', 'I am human'.
I have never felt like this in my new school. The students and the teachers see me for who I am, who I want to be and who I want to become.
I have been in Trinity Comprehensive for a year and a half now. I feel that I have been here all my life. The decision that I made about coming to mainstream school has fulfilled me on so many levels.
Yes, the challenges I face on a typical day in school are different to my peers. But, these challenges will never stop me from achieving my goals. The only limits in life are the ones you make.
I feel that the decision I made by coming to mainstream school has changed my outlook about my future. I never would have imagined that I would have had the opportunity to sit a Leaving Cert and further my education beyond Junior Cert level. Now that I am achieving this, I look forward with positivity and excitement to my future.
By writing this article, I hope to inspire others who are in my position. I want to shout, 'Go achieve your goals. Let nothing stand in your way. Believe in yourself. Anything is possible'.
Alan Fay is a Leaving Certificate Applied student at Trinity Comprehensive School, Ballymun, Dublin