A WEST Belfast mother is calling on the Education Authority to stop and think before they ‘rip’ her son away from the school he adores.
Poleglass mum Seána Murray was speaking after EA proposals to merge seven of Belfast’s special schools came to light last week.
Twelve-year-old Oisín Murray is a first year pupil in Fleming Fulton in the south of the city. Oisín has Athetoid cerebral palsy. During birth he was starved of oxygen which led to brain damage.
His heartbroken mother told the Andersonstown News that Oisín has been in tears since he learned that his beloved school could be in jeopardy.
Speaking to us from her home Seána said: “School is everything to Oisín, it’s the centre of his universe.
“Oisín’s disability is very much physical. Cognitively he’s like every other 12-year-old boy, he wants to be a sports writer, he wants to play sport. He loves ice hockey and hurling and goes to all the matches. He costs me a fortune in GAA tops.”
Thanks to the care and support of Fleming Fulton Oisín now has a computer attached to his wheelchair.
Oisín uses his eyes to spell out words on his computer, the computer then reads the words out, allowing Oisín to communicate with his friends, family and teachers.
Seána said: “When you first get a diagnosis it is heartbreaking and him not being able to speak really broke my heart but this computer gave my son a voice.
“Oisín loves a bit of banter and sometimes my heart is in my mouth wondering what’s about to come out of that computer, his sense of humour is brilliant. The computer has really brought out his personality, the people who asses him were amazed at how well he took to it.”
Seána says she is delighted with the progress Oisín has made in school and that her son continues to amaze her academically.
“Fleming has really helped Oisín, he is able to access the curriculum to the best of his ability. He is doing French and Home Economics now, you should see the stuff he brings home from Technology. He is also doing really well at English, I’m so proud of him.
“He goes Monday to Friday – 9am to 3pm. He gets all his therapy in school. He gets wheelchair therapy, orthopedic therapy, he sees the dietician and he receives physio therapy. The school is our support system, he gets everything he needs in the one place. He also has a counsellor in school who helps him with emotional issues.
“If he had to attend hospital for these appointments he would be missing several days a week, I cannot stress how important this school is to us.”
Seána says she has seen an improvement in Oisín since day one at Fleming.
“The school has opened Oisín’s eyes, they focus on what he can do not what he can’t do and through the school he is achieving his goals.
“I got an email regarding the proposed school mergers. I told Oisín and he was really upset, he kept saying ‘this is a joke mummy’. He wanted to know who will be changing his peg (feeding) tube and will they be properly trained. These are concerns that he shouldn’t need to be thinking about, he has enough to deal with in his we life. He doesn’t need this worry.
“My son requires intimate care, he needs catheters and nappies changed. He has built up trust with the people who do this for him in school.”
Seána says that the mixing of disabilities is a big concern.
“How will cognitive ability be taken into consideration, what size will the classes be? Will therapy and clinics still be provided.
“There is a trust in the school between the kids and the staff, that is not being taken into consideration here at all. You cannot rip these children away from their teachers, they love them.”