For Niamh O’Donoghue, starting College proved trickier than she hoped, and it wasn’t just a busy timetable she had to contend with…
At the age of thirteen I was diagnosed with a rare skeletal disorder called idiopathic scoliosis, which causes the spinal cord to grow into an ‘s’ shape.
I had several operations, the last of which was in March, to try and correct the curve. These operations involved placing titanium rods in my spine and pelvis to support the curve.
Starting college, I wanted to put it all behind me, but this proved too difficult. I struggled carrying materials and lugging everything around and I had no one to help me around campus. I didn’t want the extra attention and didn’t want to go blabbing about my issues. Everyone has their own problems, I didn’t want to make a big deal of mine.
I missed a lot of college due to medical appointments and such, but it was when I started failing my exams and then my repeats that it really became an issue.
I knew I had to take action and went to my Students’ Union for advice and to talk about my options. The SU is a fantastic resource for information and and they are usually all very approachable.
They informed me about the different services available. Some didn't suit me but the disability service was excellent.
I nervously met with an officer from the disability service who calmly talked me through a plan to get me back on top of my classes. They organised emails for all my lecturers, to ensure we were all on the same page and that they were made aware of my circumstances.
Sometimes it’s daunting having to explain yourself to total strangers!
In order to receive help from the service I had to register myself as a “disabled” person in the college. I was a bit apprehensive about branding myself as “disabled”, maybe because I didn’t fully understand the term.
To me, a disabled person was someone who was wheelchair-bound or deaf, etc. I soon realised this was my ignorance. Once registered, the service provided me with longer book loans, funding towards printing costs, and extra time in exams which truly helped me.
I have just returned to college after eight months of absence (while passing all my exams, too), which would not have been possible without the continuous help from the disability service.
Whether you are disabled, dyslexic, or suffer an illness, there are always services available to you and the people working for them are totally approachable. T
hese services are here to help you. There is absolutely no stigma about reaching out and asking for help. I am now registered as a “disabled” person, but that does not make me any less able, mentally anyway. Physically, I will always struggle through college, but knowing that I have a strong support system is half the battle.
Courtesy of www.campus.ie