Caoimhe Darcy pictured with her classmates, school principal Ann Meehan and Jody McGroarty SNA at St Eunan's National School, Laghey on Wednesday Picture Thomas Gallagher
It was one small step for Caoimhe last Friday when she walked to the door of St Eunan's National School, Laghey for the first time in ten years ...and one giant leap for the school as they rejoiced with her on a new part of a journey to independence.
Caoimhe was dropped off at school around 9.30am last Friday morning Her classmates provided a guard of honour and clapped and cheered to celebrate and indeed share her success in reaching such a milestone.
Her teacher, Ms Anne Meehan said this was a brilliant day for everyone at the school. She has been Caoimhe's special education teacher since she was an infant and watched her development and growth to date.
"Caoimhe is one of the most determined and hard-working children that I have had the pleasure to teach. She is an amazing little pupil who is very determined in everything she puts her mind to and she always works to her full potential.
“Personality-wise, she is also a very witty little girl with a great sense of fun and adventure and she loves coming to school every day."
She said when Caoimhe started school in 2018 as a junior infant and a wheelchair user with a hearing loss with cochlear implants, no one thought she would get to the stage of achieving independence by being able to walk a certain distance by herself.
"She has really blossomed this year and is really thriving. But she has always overcome every obstacle that has been put in her way. We have a great team in the school between teachers and SNAs and we have always endeavoured to include her in as much as we possibly could. She has made great progress over the years and as a school, we've always tried to promote inclusion."
Ms Meehan explains that during a recent GAA Disability Programme event in Ballintra Hall with former GAA county goalkeeper, Paul Callaghan, Caoimhe took part in wheelchair football and basketball.
"Things took a change for Caoimhe when her family got in touch with Swim Lab International. They did intensive swimming and physiotherapy with her and it meant she went to Lanzarote a few times this academic year. They immediately saw her potential. She took to the water like a duck. She still kept her schoolwork up even when she was away."
She added pupils and staff rejoiced last Friday when Caoimhe (above) walked into the school for the first time ever.
"Last Friday was just a fabulous day. It was so special when Caoimhe walked into our school for the first time using her kaye walker. She has worked so hard over the years to achieve her success and for us, it has been a privilege to be able to watch her progress.
"Her classmates and the whole staff are absolutely delighted for her. We all wanted to help her as best we could. She is on a very special journey to independence and we know this is only the beginning of a new chapter for her.
"Caoimhe herself was beaming with pride but not only that, on Monday morning she was again beaming with pride when she reported to the class that she walked up the aisle to receive her First Holy Communion in Ballintra church on Sunday morning. To her that was massive."
Ms Meehan said she has been teaching for 28 years and last Friday was a very special day in her career for her.
"I've always valued the holistic development of children. Academics are important but to me the building up of a child's self-esteem and confidence is paramount. When a child is happy and secure in school the learning will happen.
"For Caoimhe, because she has progressed so well physically, this has had a great impact on her emotional wellbeing and health. Everything has fallen into place for her because she gained the confidence in managing her kafo (leg brace) and is able to walk within the school at certain times, which has given her a completely new sense of confidence.
"For the staff, it was very emotional to watch her last Friday because we were just so genuinely happy and proud for her. Her ability to walk has given her a massive sense of accomplishment."
Ms Meehan said it had been a team effort at the school to support the 10-year-old. She paid tribute to her SNAs over the year who worked so closely with her as well as her current SNA, Jody McGroarty.
"They have all been so supportive. There is no doubt Caoimhe's sense of determination has come from her family.
“Last Friday Caoimhe became the teacher because there is no doubt, she taught us to believe in our dreams. She taught us to work hard to achieve our goals and I think she also taught us not to put limitations on ourselves.
"It's onwards and upwards for Caoimhe. We have no doubt that when she puts her mind to something, she will accomplish it."
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