Wednesday 25 April 2018

Teen who was first student ever in her school with Down Syndrome crowned queen of her debs

Katie on the day of her debs
Katie on the day of her debs

Kathy Armstrong and Ryan O'Rourke

A girl who was recently crowned queen of her debs hopes her win proves that anything is possible for people with Down Syndrome.

Katie Flanagan (19) achieved the accolade at her debs ball in Tullamore, Co Offaly last week.

Katie, who is from Stradbally in Co Laois, told Independent.ie: "I couldn't believe it, I was stunned to the floor and I was just really happy.

"I was up all night dancing with my friends and I didn't want it to end."

Her proud mum Geraldine added: "On the night all the students voted for their king and queen of the event and they picked Katie and her date, who was her brother Aaron (16).

"She received a crown and a trophy and they got to sit on thrones, we're so happy for her, it's lovely."

The Flanagan family (L-R): Emily, Fergus, Katie, Aaron, Geraldine and Rachel
The Flanagan family (L-R): Emily, Fergus, Katie, Aaron, Geraldine and Rachel

Geraldine admits herself and Katie's father Fergus were initially unsure about whether to send Katie to a mainstream or a special needs school.

She said: "We were worried, absolutely. You never know what the other students would be like to her or whether it was the right choice but we thought we'd send her to a mainstream school and if it wasn't working we could pull her out but luckily she loved it.

"She went to a mainstream national and secondary school and from the start they were so good with making sure she was integrated.

"She blossomed and made a big group of friends, everyone was always open-minded."

Katie underwent hip operations in 2015 and last year but says she "never missed a day."

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Katie was the first ever pupil in her school who has Down Syndrome, where she earned an impressive six honours in her Junior Cert.

Katie and Aaron were crowned king and queen of the debs
Katie and Aaron were crowned king and queen of the debs

Her parents felt she might struggle during the Leaving Cert so they fought to have Leaving Cert Applied introduced in her school.

She completed LCA earlier this summer and will receive her results on August 16.

She says she is "not a bit nervous" and is planning to do a three year course with the National Learning Network, after that she is hoping to study childcare in either Trinity College or Carlow.

Geraldine - who is also mum to Aaron, Emily and Rachel - has spoken about how proud she is of Katie.

She said: "She had a tough start, Katie was born prematurely, she weighed just six pounds and she spent all but six weeks of the first year of her life in hospital.

"Any young couple who have a baby with Down Syndrome might worry, I know I did, but we always had faith that it would all work out.

"We never treated her any differently to her siblings.

"I have had people say to me they are so inspired after seeing Katie's debs pictures, we've always said that if we can help inspire one other person we'll be happy."

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