My Story by Rita Nugent – 2016

free womanMy name is Rita, I was born in 1961.  I was born in St. James’s Hospital.  I have two brothers and one sister and we all get on great together.  They’re very good to me and I’m very good to them.

My story begins: I want to tell you about my story growing up as a child.  I was quite late walking.  I didn’t walk until the age of five.  So one day, I said to my mum and dad, “Why am I different?  Why am I not going to Siobhan’s school?”

My mum and dad sat me down and explained when I was young, I was very slow to walk.  My mum told me that when I was six months old, she knew there was something wrong.  I was not sitting up in my pram.  I was brought to a couple of hospitals to get tests done and the doctors told my parents that I was just a lazy baby that I would come on.  They let it go a couple of more months, I think it was about nine months.

Second opinion: I was taken back to the hospital and again they told my parents I was a lazy baby, but this time they did not accept it.  My parents went to get another opinion.  My parents took me to Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin, again looking for answers.  The doctor carried out tests and told my mum and dad that I did have something and they thought it was like Cerebral Palsy – so this is the name they gave my disability.

I used to go to the hospital three times a week for speech therapy and to learn how to walk.  I attended the hospital until I was two or three for this therapy.  But then the hospital suggested to my parents to put me in a boarding school for children with disabilities.  Mum and dad said, “No, this is not for Rita, we want her home every day.”  The doctors accepted my parents decision but advised them that if they were to have any more children then Rita must be treated the same as all the other children, the doctor said, “Don’t treat her any different.”

Not being different: My mum and dad made sure they taught me right from wrong and treated me the same as my brothers and sister.  When I was walking, I was kind of off balance.  If anyone tipped against me, I would fall and when I did fall, people used to run to pick me up.  My dad wanted to make me independent and he used to say, “No, leave her, let her get up herself.  If she wants to get up, she’ll get up.”  The people watching used to think that my dad was very cruel.  He wasn’t cruel, he just wanted me to do things for myself.

Closing thoughts:

I just want to leave you with these thought…….

If there are people out there, young people today and they have children and then they find out that their son or daughter has a learning disability or Cerebral Palsy or other things, don’t molly coddle them, treat them like other children and they will come on in life.

Never look down on people.  There are some people out there and they look down on us.  We don’t want people to be looking down on us because we are just like ordinary people, just like the person across the road, we can see, we can smell, we can touch.

So just treat us like you treat every other person.  Thank you.