MODESTO — When people hear that a child is in special education or has special needs, many first think that the child is "dumb" and "incapable." Many are afraid to interact with the child, or even go near him or her.
At my school, kids with mental and physical disabilities walk around school alone, apparently ostracized. It is extremely difficult for them to make lasting friendships friendships that so-called normal people can easily make.
As I witness this sad event, I wanted to give a glimpse into a typical day that my sister, Divya, experiences.
When Divya was born, she was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, a physical and mental disability that affects movement, learning, vision, thinking and hearing. Now that she is 10 years old and in fifth grade, she has made a few friends, but not as many as a typical kid her age.
When she wakes up at 7 a.m. to go to school, she reluctantly climbs out of bed like any other person, brushes her teeth and takes a shower. She holds the railing on the staircase as she comes down in a halting manner and slowly goes to eat her breakfast, unaware that she has to hurry to get on the bus.
Because of her poor balance and coordination, Divya has to wear leg braces to help her walk. She has trouble communicating, but eventually she packs her backpack and goes to school. When she returns from school and gets off the bus, she sees me and asks, "How your day?" I tell her my day was good and she walks inside the house to watch "iCarly," her favorite TV show.
As the day proceeds, my mom helps her do her homework, and while I am in my room doing my work, Divya will come upstairs and tell me dinner is ready. (Sometimes, she'll bring the dinner plate to me, along with a cup of water that is half spilled along the way.) I appreciate her effort and see the love that my sister has, and by the time 9 o'clock comes around, Divya will get ready to go to sleep, getting ready for the next day.
Divya is my only sibling, and I couldn't ask for a better sister. We enjoy spending time together listening to music, watching TV, going out with the rest of my family and cousins, and talking to each other.
One thing that really impresses me about Divya is her persistence and tenacity to learn. While she does have learning delays, I find her at the table downstairs, working diligently on math, reading or some other subject. Despite her setbacks, she loves to learn and work hard, and that impresses me the most about her. Sometimes I see kids in my high school not working up to their full potential, and that makes me think that if Divya did not have learning delays, she would be extremely academically successful in life.
Another challenge Divya rises to meet is the leg braces she has to wear every day. The braces are noticeable, and despite the discrimination she receives from wearing them at school, she still loves to walk and run.
It's unfortunate that Divya is ostracized because of her speech, learning and movement difficulties. She really is the most loving and caring girl I know.
My family and I have watched the progress Divya has made, and it makes us cherish those achievements. She has excelled so much over the past several years, and will hopefully keep excelling for her entire life.
The accomplishments made by special-needs kids come with the support of family, friends and organizations such as the Society for Handicapped Children & Adults, United Cerebral Palsy and Special Olympics. These groups give children such as Divya a chance to let go of stress and pressures and just truly have fun. As my sister is involved in the activities Special Olympics provides, such as running track and field, I see her forgetting about the obstacles she perseveres through on a daily basis.
I am grateful for the programs these organizations conduct and the time their leaders and volunteers dedicate to the world of special-needs kids and adults.
Having a special-needs sister has definitely led me to be kind and tolerant to the world around me. Seeing the difficulties my sister overcomes makes me see the world in a different light. Yes, it can be frustrating to interact with her, such as when she hits me to get my attention because she can't communicate effectively. But I become wistful when I think about what the future holds for Divya and other special-needs kids. I truly hope the world can learn to treat them without discrimination and help them as much as it can.
These kids have huge hearts, a place in society and want to make lasting friendships, just as all of us do.
Vasu Tadimeti is a junior at Modesto High School and a member of The Bee's Teens in the Newsroom Program.