This is part of a talk that I would present to High School and Uni Students after I finally completed year 12.
My primary school years were spent at the State School for Spastic Children. Because of my severe disability, much of the school day was spent having Physiotherapy, Speech Therapy and Occupational Therapy. Without this therapy I would not be much more than the “rag doll” that I was as a baby. Unfortunately, there is only as many hours in the day and my academic learning was pushed aside, so that by the time I left school at 18 I had really only learned the basics of Maths and English. During that period of my life I also did a couple of subjects through the Correspondence School.
When I left that school I attended the Vocational Education Unit (V.E.U) which was a section of the Queensland Spastic Welfare League. Attending V.E.U. was the time for me to set goals and to decide what direction I wanted my life to take. When you start at V.E.U. you have a meeting with a staff member who becomes your Case Co-ordinator. A program is worked out based on your needs and goals. When my turn came around to say what I wanted out of life I said that I would like to be able to try to find a job in open employment as I wasn’t interested in just working in a workshop situation if I could help it. During the next few months we investigated the possibilities with carious trips to the career reference centre. I realised that I had no hope of gaining employment anywhere with what little education I had and that I would have to have recognised education level before I could begin looking for a job. So I talked to my case co-ordinator again and this is where all the fun began.
My whole program changed. Most of the days after that were centered around educational activities. Staff, family, friends and I started thinking of courses that would be best suited to my and after weeks of investigation possible option such as: Correspondence School, Night schools, Tafe and mainstream High Schools I decided to investigate the possibility of my entry into a High School as a mature-aged student. I was given the names of three high schools on the Northside which were wheelchair accessible. I wrote to all three asking for an interview with the Principal.
The supervisor and the tutor of V.E.U. accompanied mum and I to the first interview. Being the first real firm step towards my entrance into a school everyone had high expectation but these hopes were dampened a little when the principal pointed out all the difficulties that would confront me such as choosing suitable subjects and the fact that a lot of the classrooms were not accessible.
We reassessed the situation and after we thought we had addressed all the problems we set off to the next interview with renewed confidence. This next interview was too unbelievable to be printed on paper. I didn’t want to hear anything regarding my wonderful idea of furthering my education for the next few days and as for my mother, well, she just wanted to give up right then and there and went into a three day depression. So much for thinking that I was as entitled as everyone else to an education.
Finally, it came time for the last interview. V.E.U. staff, mum and I were not really ready emotionally for another interview but we attended the last one. This time no problem was seen by the principal to be insurmountable and we were over the moon when he said to ring the week before school started to finalise details. When my mother rang as instructed she discovered that the principal we had seen had been transferred and the new principal had never heard of me so we thought we were back to square one but after a lot of phone calls and more interviews the principal eventually got everything straightened out and I was able to commence school at Bray Park State High School.
From the day I was accepted both staff and students have shown continual support and encouragement. There were difficulties along the way at Bray Park but nothing that leaving homework and having a few early nights couldn’t fix!