THOUSANDS of young people around the country collected their Junior Certificate results this week but for one 16-year-old, it was a day she and her family were not sure they would ever see.
An elated Nicole Norton collected her results from St Flannan’s College in Ennis on Wednesday afternoon. The Barefield teenager, who has cerebral palsy, achieved five honours after sitting exams in maths, English, geography, religion and CSPE in June.
“I am so proud. People told us that they couldn’t see a day when Nicole would sit a State exam and now she has three As and two Bs,” Nicole’s mother Ann beamed.
“Nicole is completely reliant on people. She has very little movement. She is in a wheelchair. Her right side is slightly better than her left but she doesn’t have a huge amount of control of her body. She uses a laptop and types with one finger. She is visually impaired and she has a speech impairment. In the exams she had a scribe and a Special Needs Assistant in the room with her. She answered the questions verbally and the scribe took down what she said,” she explained.
Speaking to The Clare Champion, Nicole said she was thrilled with her results and put them down to lots of study, dedication and “a lot of support”.
As well as studying in St Flannan’s College, Nicole received home tuition in the run up to her exams. Before that, she attended mainstream education in Barefield National School.
“We always felt mainstream was important, more for the stimulation than anything else. When we got to fifth class in Barefield, Nicole went to the Central Remedial Clinic for an educational assessment and the decision was made that mainstream would be the best way for her. At the time there was a question mark around Nicole ever sitting a State exam because she has so many different types of disability but we felt it was important that she tried and gave it her best shot and went to second level,” Ann recalled.
“Nicole did five subjects because with her medical history she missed a lot of school, particularly in second year. She also had five surgeries in third year so we felt with the amount of time she missed, five subjects seemed enough,” she added.
For Ann, her daughter’s Junior Cert exams were hugely stressful but Wednesday’s results and her daughter’s joy made it worthwhile.
“I was very nervous because Nicole had a lot of surgeries around the exams and the fact we were never sure if she would sit a State exam. I was nervous for her that she wouldn’t be able to do it because of the physical tiredness around it. I was nervous about the scribe not understanding what she was saying when she was answering the questions. I was nervous of the possibility that Nicole would get frustrated if she wasn’t getting her point across. That was what was going on in my head. The amazing part about it was that Nicole kept saying ‘I have the work done, I will be fine’,” Ann said.
“I think it is so important that you believe in your child and I am a firm believer that anything is possible and you have to put the time and effort in. Everything I have done for the last 16 years with Nicole, all the fighting and energy to get her to this stage, today I am the proudest mother. I am so proud of Nicole. Regardless of the situation you are in, disability should not stop you from achieving your goals,” she said.
“This shows every parent out there that, whether their child has a physical disability or an intellectual disability, things can be done and others like Nicole can achieve their goals,” Ann concluded.