Reading Evening Post, 27/3/07 (Nisai online learning)

Virtual school gives Lorna reason in life

A YEAR ago teenage ME sufferer Lorna Woodman was stuck in her bedroom wondering if she would ever get a chance to study again.

Now the 18-year-old is about to take her first round of AS-levels after signing up to an online school that allows her to study from home and at her own pace

Lorna, of Queensway, Emmer Green, was forced to drop out of school when she was diagnosed with myalgic encephalopathy – commonly known as ME – in September 2005.

But the determined teenager refused to give up on her studies and looked around for an alternative – eventually finding the Nisai Virtual Academy, one of the country’s few online schools.

Now every day Lorna and her new schoolmates have lessons in English literature and information and communications technology (ICT) with real teachers via their computers.

“I want to let people know that there’s something out there,” Lorna told the Evening Post.

“It’s like being back at school and it’s a fun way to learn.

“I have also made friends through this, and it’s nice to be able to talk to people in the same situation.”

She continued: “I am a lot happier and my confidence has grown, especially since I have to use a microphone and talk during the lessons.

“I do not feel so isolated any more. I have friends I can talk to outside lessons.”

Brave Lorna, who has six GCSEs, originally tried to continue her A-level studies at Ranelagh School in Bracknell after she was diagnosed with ME.

She said: “It became too much. It was quite a long way away and I ended up relapsing with my ME,” she said.

“We thought we would try a nearer school, so I went to Highdown but then after 10 weeks I relapsed again. I would do half a day at school and then I had to take the rest of the week off.

“Here if I miss a lesson they record it so I can take it later.”

Lorna found out about the online school through a specialist ME magazine – and this year her studies were funded by the Tymes Trust.

However, her grant might not be available next year and Lorna is looking for prospective sponsors.

Mum Jan, who works as a child minder, said: “I’m so proud of Lorna because she did not give up.

“If you had seen Lorna last year and you see her now, she is alive, and she has a purpose in life.”

Lorna’s achievements and tenacity will be highlighted in a speech at the House of Lords in London tomorrow.

The speech is organised by the school and ME support charity Tymes Trust to raise awareness of the condition and funds to help young sufferers.

Lorna will also receive a certificate recognising her efforts to learn against the odds from Lady Elizabeth Anson, the Queen’s cousin who also suffers from ME, during a virtual ceremony.

ME CONNECT HELPLINE

0344 576 5326

Available every day of the week between these times: 10am - 12noon, 2pm - 4pm and 7pm - 9pm.

Calls cost the same as other standard landline numbers (starting 01 or 02). If you have a call package for your landline or mobile phone then calls will normally come out of your inclusive minutes.