Wheelchair bound Magherafelt teen had to fight for help to stay at school

Marc and Marina Lupari with James McCann from Magherafelt District Advice Service
Marc and Marina Lupari with James McCann from Magherafelt District Advice Service

A Magherafelt mother wants Education authorities to do more for those with special needs after her son was denied a classroom assistant because he will soon be 19.

Marina Lupari’s son Marc, a student at St Pius X College Magherafelt, has been offered a place at University of Ulster, Coleraine to study Computer Games Development.

John O'Dowd said there is 'an alternative to conflict'

John O'Dowd said there is 'an alternative to conflict'

But as he has both Muscular Dystrophy and mild Asperger’s syndrome, the wheelchair bound genius needs round-the-clock care for his deteriorating health - making the move unthinkable.

But rather than condemning Marc to a life of TV gazing, his mother would like him to stay at school and get the help he needs - something he would be entitled if he took his place at university.

“He has the option to do Games Development at Coleraine, but he is just not well enough to do it,” Marina explained.

“This is when the school came up with the idea that they would give him a place at St Pius’ so that he could continue on to do A-levels. At least then he would be studying and that would give him a sense and a purpose.”

Our problem with education is that they pigeon hole kids because they have physical disabilities - Marina Lupari

Something that is important to both her and her son, as against all the odds, Marc has earned As and Bs in eight GCSEs and AS Levels in ICT and History, while battling his condition.

“Our problem with education is that they pigeon hole kids because they have physical disabilities,” Marina went on.

She explained how Marc has had to move school three times, first of all to meet his physical needs and then because he was too clever to stay at “special school”.

“When Marc first went into his wheelchair he moved from integrated school to special school because they could work with him best as regards to his physical needs,” Marina explained. Whenever he was nine he had a reading age of 17... so they said that Marc had to go back into mainstream school because he was too bright to stay in any of the special schools.”

Thankfully, after much persuasion, the Department of Education has agreed to fund Marc’s classroom assistant next year.

Now, they just want other families to know their story so “other kids can get the same opportunity”.

“With regards to life expectancy, you can’t pigeon hole people,” Marina added, “you have to give them a choice with regards to education because if Marc didn’t do this the alternative is that he will sit at home all day watching TV.”

The Department of Education and North Eastern Education and Library Board first told the Luparis Marc would not be entitled to a classroom assistant as he will be 19 in August and no longer meets the definition of a child.

A decision that James McCann at Magherafelt District Advice Service helped them to overturn.

Marc allowed to return to school

Department of Education are to allow Marc a classroom assistant.

A spokesperson said: “Current special education legislation allows the Education Authority to maintain a statement of special educational needs until the end of the term following the young person’s 19th birthday. DE has therefore discussed the matter of Marc’s return to St Pius X College with the EA’s North Eastern Region [NER] and the NER has confirmed that it is in order for Marc to return to school in September 2015. Officials from the NER will be in contact with the school in order to discuss the appropriate level of support to meet Marc’s educational needs, as outlined in his statement, when he returns to school.”