A 12-year-old girl says she spent “hundreds of hours” studying so she could sit this year's Leaving Cert maths exam in aid of autism awareness.
Tipperary schoolgirl Cara Darmody has raised tens of thousands of euros as part of her campaign to help families of autistic children.
Last year, she sat the Junior Cert Maths paper and this year, she went a step further by sitting the Leaving Cert six years ahead of time – and raising more than €50,000 in the process.
Cara’s campaign was inspired by her two younger brothers Neil (10) and John (5), who are both autistic and non-verbal and were not assessed in a timely manner.
She told Newstalk Breakfast she spent all year preparing for this year’s exam with her father Mark.
“We did it all together,” she said. “We spent a couple of hundred hours in total trying to learn all the maths.
“Look, it’s very hard to understand it because you probably remember yourself doing the Leaving Cert – it is very hard to understand some of it.
“Obviously, my dad’s not a teacher so we learn it together and we had a lot of fun doing it together. We spent every day doing the maths – it was a lot of hard work and it was very hard.
“I think now the big question is, can the little squirt pass the exam?”
Cara said the exam experience was “fair tough”, noting that Paper One was “definitely the hardest paper in years”.
“Paper Two was also quite tough,” she said. “Now it was a little bit easier but Paper One was definitely the hardest.
“I suppose I can’t really complain because I am only a 12-year-old little squirt, and they were asking me about mortgages and stuff like that and I don’t even own a house yet.”
Cara said her campaign aims to raise awareness of the “disgraceful autism and disability discrimination going on in Ireland”.
“We’re trying to raise awareness about the 218,000 special needs children who are left to rot on a HSE waiting list,” she said.
Cara said the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has “agreed to a meeting in principle” as she continues to push for action on Ireland’s special needs assessment delays.
“Leo the lion was missing in action there for a while, but I’m glad they have finally found him once again so if he is listening to this then I am calling for a meeting urgently,” she said.
“If he is not listening, then someone better tell him to go and wake up and listen to Cara Darmody on Newstalk because I am on the radio once again.”
Cara is meeting the President Michael D. Higgins as part of her campaign on Saturday June 24th.
The 12-year-old has already raised nearly €53,000 by sitting this year’s Leaving Cert and you can donate to her ‘Extraordinary Maths Challenge’ here.
“If you have a few spare euros in the back of your car could you please donate to my fundraiser if you want to because every single cent and euro that goes to my fundraiser will go towards helping people who can’t fight for themselves,” she said.
“It’s about helping people who can’t fight back.”