Niall’s epilepsy as a child made learning extremely challenging. However, he recently graduated from Queen’s University Belfast with a Doctorate in Childhood studies. He did this all while getting married, becoming a father, and working full time.
Niall was diagnosed with epilepsy as a child and it took a while to find the right medication to control his seizures. His epilepsy and his medication affected his ability to learn. It severely affected his sleep and he often found that he would blank out in the middle of conversations.
“Trying to find the correct medication combination to control the seizures resulted in all sorts of changes in my behaviour, I missed some school, and had a number of hospital stays. Eventually they found the medication that controlled the seizures but it really affected my ability to learn. I started getting very behind at school, and it was recommended at one point that I transfer to a special school. This was an extremely difficult time for me, and also my parents.”
Niall and his parents worked with his consultant to wean him off medication while still keeping his seizures controlled. A family friend Deirdre Mulvenna, who studied special needs education, helped support Niall’s learning which saw his ability improve significantly. He said, “I then made up for the lost time in terms of school and went on to grammar school and then onto Queen’s.”
His epilepsy and challenges with learning gave Niall a desire to help other children, “My health condition as a child it has shaped my whole career. To date I have worked for the NI Children’s Commissioner and now the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland.”
Niall now lives in Moira in Northern Ireland with his wife and two children. He has an undergraduate degree, a Master’s degree, and now a Doctorate. He said, “I feel I was very lucky to have parents who believed in me and a family that helped me every step of the way, not everyone is that lucky and that’s why I think children’s rights are so vitally important.”
Epilepsy Society's confidential helpline is available for anyone affected by epilepsy. We welcome calls from people with epilepsy, their families and friends, as well as professionals such as doctors, nurses, care workers, teachers and employers.
Epilepsy is not just one condition, but a group of many different 'epilepsies' with one thing in common: a tendency to have seizures that start in the brain.