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Disabilities Make for Opportunities
I walk up to you with a slight limp, shake your right hand with my left and cock my head to hear you better. My right side is all tight and my left side is my stronger side. I have a shunt implanted in the right side of my head and I always wonder, is my shunt going to break down today? My shunt is a plastic object that is connected to a tube that reaches from the right side of my head to my stomach. It circulates the fluid away from my brain as my ventricles are blocked, and when my shunt breaks down the fluid clogs up and I can’t function. Growing up, the fact that couldn't’t walk with both feet planted on the ground drove my parents crazy. I was constantly reminded to put my right foot down and forced to do therapy to strengthen my right side.
When I was four years old, I had my first head block since I was born. I went into the Children’s Hospital in Denver and I was scared. I was so young and all the big machines seemed like monsters to me. When I stepped into the x-ray room, a huge machine stood like an endless tunnel. But couldn't’t dare myself to go into the tube. I wouldn’t let go of my mom and I cried for so long, I felt like I was drowning in my own pool of tears. Each time I went in and out of the machine, I felt like I was on a roller coaster. It was the scariest time of my life. Howeverr, I didn’t know what epic event would come around six years later.
Sitting on my couch, I stare at the television. I gaze at the magic moving pictures, my mind blank as I think about nothing. In a blink of an eye, I find myself spacing out and my eyes are rolling. My hand clenched and my cheek moving like a heart beat. I’m frozen.
Later that day, my shocked parents took me to the hospital to find out I was prone to seizures. I was ten years old.
Now, I am on a Special Olympics team called the “Roaring Fork Mountain Niños.” Without my challenges caused bcerebralal palsy, I wouldn’t be able to participate with this team in so many sports like bowling, snowshoeing, skiing, swimming and track and field. All the kids on our team have some disability and because we all have this in common, we’re able to fit together like a perfect puzzle. We are best friends who always support each other. We’ve overcome our differences together and we embrace the circumstances that have brought us all to a place where we can have fun and be strong as a team.
Although I had to overcome shyness initially, after being on the team for four years, I am able to help younger teammates like our newest member, Alexia. She started bowling with us this year and it’s a new and different experience for her. She’s still learning how to bowl, and at our regional competition, I helped her out, letting her know when to bowl, and which ball to use. It made me feel good to see another teammate smiling, having a good time, and that I was able contribute to their accomplishment.
People with disabilities are often teased and judged because not everyone understands what they have gone through. Sometimes, even though I have a disability, I have judged others because they aren’t what people would call “normal” but really, everyone is unique. Being on my Special Olympics team, I have learned not to “judge a book by its cover.” Everyone on my team has special qualities that make them fun to be around. They all have the ability to overcome challenges and be successful. They are kind people who often surprise you.
In addition, I greatly appreciate my two coaches who have dedicated so much time and effort to creating opportunities for my team; from organizing seasonal sports to fundraising. They give so much of their time to enrich the lives of others. It inspires me and I want to be just as helpful and give back to my community. To start, my friend Abbey and I created the Facebook page, Disabilities Unmasked, to show people that those with disabilities shouldn’t go unrecognized.
From all that I have been through, I’ve realized that having a disability has opened my world, instead of slowing me down. I have excelled way beyond expectations, grown to accept my disability and embrace the fact that I am different. Overcoming a disability can bring out a person’s personality.
All these experiences, good and bad, have made me the person I am today. I have learnt that disabilities provide for opportunities. At college, I want to study writing and communications so that I can help others with disabilities succeed.