The Conversation Around Disability That We Need To Have Before 2022
By: Visakha, Diamond
Published On: December 11, 2021
The International Day for Disabled Persons, observed on the 3rd of December every year, has one large focus: to enable inclusion and to empower those with disabilities. It is a day that acknowledges those with any form of disability, physical or psychological, and celebrates their contribution to society.
Last week, on the occasion of International Day for Disabled Persons, we, at ImpactGuru, spoke to two young mental health advocates who presented two perspectives of the same coin. While Nafisa Diwan spoke from the viewpoint of a special children’s educator, Yash Sirohi presented his first-hand experiences and insight as a person with learning disabilities. Not only was it heartwarming to hear the two takes on mental disabilities and their role in what constitutes “disabilities”, but it was also immensely interesting and informative to learn about how one lives and deals with the same.
Nafisa Diwan: A young and determined educator of children with special needs
Nafisa’s story as a special child educator and skills trainer is one that inspires those in the field to take a step back and reflect on how they could be doing more for those who do not have the same resources that the rest of us do while growing up. As a teacher, she works largely with children living with psychological disabilities, such as ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), Down Syndrome, Autism and so on. On being asked about the challenges she faces as a person so closely knit to the special needs field, she says,
“I learn more from my students with disabilities than they could ever learn from me.”
On being asked about her techniques and methods of teaching each child with a different need, Nafisa told us how with every child, her approaches have to be adjusted. She says,
“I try to come up with effective overarching therapeutic interventions for children with special needs but it never works out because every child is so different and needs a separate form of care. While they may share the same diagnosis of mental disability, they still differ in unique ways from each other. This makes me want to put in more hard work and sincerity into my job so that I can make a positive difference in the lives of these special children.”
Nafisa’s job often requires her to work in close connection with the parents of children with special needs. On being asked how her experience has been so far with the parents, Nafisa had only one thing to say,
“I wish there was more positive and active media representation of children with mental disabilities.”
Media portrayal of psychological disorders can be a huge milestone in raising awareness and normalising mental disabilities amongst parents of such children. But, the lack thereof has influenced parents into believing that disorders such as ADHD, Down Syndrome are dangerous and damaging to their child - which isn’t actually the case at all.
Nafisa believes that a child with a mental disorder should never be reduced to that one single label. It’s just like any one of us - Who would want to be put in a box?
“Let us not say “autistic child.” Instead, let us say, “a child with Autism.” This can help the child understand that their mental disability is not their definition and that they are more than their diagnosis.”
Nafisa labels each day of her work life as “amazing,” and “uniquely different,” which makes one believe that in a field that is constantly undergoing research and new developments, there must not be a single monotonous day for the working professional!
Her goal as a special child educator is to empower young children in their most crucial stage of life - their childhood, so that they may never grow up to believe that they “lacked” anything and were any less normal than their peers.
Yash Sirohi: On living with learning disabilities
Yash’s story is one with first-hand insights into growing up with learning disabilities in a country that prizes and demands academic excellence. Yash is diagnosed with 3 learning disabilities - Dyslexia, defined by Oxford as “a general term for disorders that involve difficulty in learning to read or interpret words, letters, and other symbols;” Dyscalculia, defined as “severe difficulty in making arithmetical calculations,” and Dysgraphia, defined as “inability to write coherently.” Yash didn’t want these terms and phrases to dictate his life so he tried a different approach. He decided to take charge of his own narrative and focus on what he can do rather than what he cannot.
“I knew that while I might not be able to compete with my peers when it comes to academics, I sure can explore my potential in a field outside - in a field where there is equality, where I do not have to worry about how well I can read or write.”
Yash believes that no matter your shortcomings, the world is still your oyster. He chooses to not be limited to his diagnoses and to move beyond the same, to overcome the same, and to even take advantage of the same. He says that while schools are confined to theoretical learning which poses a difficulty to a person with learning disabilities, the world outside the school doors has infinite opportunities and advantages - and Yash’s goal was always to foster his talent and perfect himself outside of the classroom, and that he did.
“It’s good to be aware of your limitations, to acknowledge your disability, because only then can you know how to master them”
While growing up, Yash did not have the support of teachers as much as a child with learning disabilities can hope to have. This brings us back to the conversation of how educators have a very important and sensitive role to play in nurturing their students’ growth. It also highlights the need for the inclusion of children with special needs in institutions, to show them that they belong there as much as any of their peers.
Yash attributes a major portion of his academic development to his aunt as she was one of the few people who encouraged, supported, and taught him when he was growing up. Her patience and love is something that inspires Yash to this day.
Like Nafisa, Yash also works closely with children with special needs, and on being asked about how it feels to be a teacher, he said,
“I never really wanted to be a teacher at first, but now that I am one, my aim is to be the teacher that I wish I had when I was growing up. I want to ensure that no child living with any mental disability feels alone, excluded, or uncared for. Instead, I want to show them that the world is waiting for them to shine, that there is nothing they cannot achieve, and that their disabilities are not their definitions.”
Inclusion and empowerment
Amplifying voices and stories that need to be heard - is something that we, the writers at ImpactGuru, are privileged to work on. It was lovely talking to two such passionate and active advocates of learning disabilities. Like Nafisa and Yash, if you have something that you are passionate about, be it a social initiative or helping out someone you know, you can start a free fundraiser and make sure that your story is heard and that you receive the emotional and financial support that you may need to amplify the same. To create awareness, stand in solidarity and support causes close to your heart, consider donating to stories and fundraisers that inspire you here.
To know more about crowdfunding and what we do at ImpactGuru, visit here.