My name is Emma and I am going to share my experience of having additional needs as a student in NUI Galway. To start off, I am a proud Irish traveller and the youngest of my family. I am also the only person in my family to sit my Leaving Certificate and to go to college. I have two medical conditions, one of which is a genetic blood disorder called Hurler’s syndrome. When I was 9 months old, I had to have a bone-marrow transplant and this made my immune system very weak. Therefore, throughout my childhood I was prone to any sickness, and due to this condition I am currently in a wheelchair waiting for a double hip replacement. Alongside this, I have scoliosis. Scoliosis is a curvature of the spine and in my case, I had a 96 degree curve. When I was 7, I had surgery to place metal rods in my back and until I was 12, I had multiple surgeries. I had to spend a lot of time in hospital but despite that I loved education, especially reading. I was always reading and writing my own fiction stories. When I learnt what the Leaving Certificate was and what going to college could do, it became my goal to complete the Leaving Certificate and go to college.
I was always told that even though I have a disability, I could do anything I want if I put my mind to it. My parents never held me back, they just gave me the support I needed and I know that my disability doesn’t define me. Thanks to my old occupational therapist, I found the college for me at NUI Galway. She gave my family and I so much support in finding this course. I found the Access course in NUI Galway. It’s a foundational course that gives students the base of learning in a college setting for a year. I am currently doing it part-time and if I pass all my modules I will be able to get into Arts with Global Media or Journalism.
When I got accepted into NUI Galway I was told about the DSS (Disability Support Services). I instantly got in touch with them and funnily enough, the person I got speaking with the first day was the woman who was speaking to me and my occupational therapist about the course in the first place. She put me in touch with the main person in charge and from there I was assessed and assigned with my own disability advisor. I spoke to them about getting a personal assistant and someone to write notes for me as I find that difficult and thankfully, within a few days, I was assigned a note taker. They also granted me a taxi service to bring me on campus and bring me home. This was a massive relief for my family and I as we all were nervous about me going to college. This was a new experience for all of us. My note taker is absolutely amazing. She’s genuinely one of the nicest people and really supportive of me. She always makes sure I am happy with the way my notes are and she takes time to actually speak with me. I cannot praise the DSS enough, they’re amazing in my opinion. They listen to me and if I have any concerns, they are eager to resolve them as quickly as they can. Another thing that I have appreciated is the unbelievable amount of support I have received from my tutors and course co-ordinator. They all understand my needs for each lecture and they help make them more accessible when they can.
I also love the support people can get from societies. As I previously mentioned I am a proud Irish Traveller and a member of the NUI Galway Minceir Whiden Society. I am currently the Public Relations Officer for them and I really enjoy doing that, but I also love the support each member gives one another. I actually met my mentor through that society and they have given me so much support with my studies and with achieving my goals. With the support of the Academic Tutors, the DSS and my mentor I just can’t praise NUI Galway enough. In my opinion it was the best decision I have made regarding my education to enrol here.
If you’re a student in NUI Galway with additional needs I would strongly suggest that you get in touch with the DSS. They will try their hardest to help you and to accommodate your needs.
Also if you’re a student with additional needs considering applying to NUI Galway, I cannot recommend it highly enough. For me, I know that you will be looked after amazingly by the DSS if you get accepted.
Thank you for reading.