As able as anyone else

Malleshwaram:  “We have cerebral palsy, so what? We can walk, but may be often slow and awkward, don’t stare at us. We can write as well as any of you, but may be slow and need more time, give us a helping hand and not your pity, give us a level-playing field, not a dingy corner. We demand our place under the sunshine. We are the beloved children of our parents, admired students of our teachers. Some of us have become doctors, lawyers, teachers, poets and managers.”

Did you hear them, the voice of those innocent children, you the so-called “educated”, elite and “normal” people who label them as “different”?

When you cannot label a heart patient, when you can sympathise with a cancer patient, why do you label a person suffering from a brain disorder? Why don’t you understand that brain, like any other part of the body, can be prone  to diseases, and when a person has a “brain disorder”, it is our duty to get them treated, help them to come out of the “shock” and the “trauma” they have undergone, and not criticize them or offend them.

Meet Prassanna, the little boy who could win anybody’s heart with his smile. He was born with cerebral palsy besides being a premature baby. He has suffered 20 percent brain damage. He cannot walk or speak. But you cannot make out those deformities in him. And so was that little girl who was in her wheelchair. They might be bound to their wheelchairs, or they may not be able to move on their own, but they are free from prejudices and biases that “normal” people have. They are happy in their own beautiful world where there are no differences.

I have a word to the parents of differently abled children. Please do not lose hope on your child, for he/she will slowly but surely win. Want evidence? Here I am, Ashwini, a hydrocephalus survivor. All through my childhood, I was referred to by m teachers as an abnormal girl, and my principal always thought I was a mentally retarded, and that her prestigious school had no place for someone like me. I never used to interact with my classmates and I used to stay away from others. I never spoke to my classmates for I believed they were far more “intelligent” than me, or they were all “normal” kids, and I was different. I always hoped that someday somebody would pat my back and say “You are a genius” and that day did come: one man finally agreed that I was a genius. He said: “you are a genius, you must be that eighth wonder that god has created”. I wanted to jump with joy that day, but could not for I was in the hospital and could hardly move. That was, Dr. Thimappa Hegde, well-known neurosurgeon.

If a senior doctor could “discover” a genius I me, there will be many like him who could identify the talents of “autistic” children, without calling them special or differently abled. My sincere thanks to the Spastics Society of India for its yeomen service to children who need attention and help. The society believes that “inclusion is changing the minds of the game so that everybody can play and everybody can win…”

It’s time that we accepted the “special child” as part of the mainstream and worked for improving their condition instead of pitying or criticizing them.

Ashwini Nagaraja

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