September 19, 2017

The first time I had to advocate for myself

I never thought I was different until I reached Elementary School. When I was in the first grade and transitioning into a bigger public school, I finally learned that I was different than everyone else. I would get picked on and bullied by younger because of my size, getting called “baby” and getting asked ignorant questions on the playground like, “Can you read?” “Can you write?” “Can you talk?” “You’re just a baby!” I immediately learned at young age that I had to defend myself, but it was my mom who helped me achieve this skill. I remember one day I was playing with my friends on the playground, minding my own business when two girls who were probably one to two years younger than I (I was seven at the time), started harassing me, yelling at me, “You can’t be up on the equipment!” and whispering loudly to each other, “She’s just a baby. She can’t be up there. Why is she up there?” Something inside of me switched on because suddenly, I yelled, “You can’t tell me what to do! I’m minding my own business with my friends so just leave me alone!”

The girls were shocked, my friends were shocked. I had never spoken up like that before. I am normally really quiet, but this time, I couldn’t take the harassment. I wasn’t doing anything to anyone. One of the girls whispered to the other, “I told her we shouldn’t have said anything,” and they both walked off. My mom and my friends’ moms all cheered me on, and that was the first time I felt empowered. I had a voice. I did not have to accept any of those comments.

“She’s just a baby…”

That was my first experience advocating for myself. I didn’t realize how much more advocating
I would have in the future. I’ve experienced instances where I’d be walking by a group of students and they would begin the usual pointing and staring, but their teacher (who knew me well) did not correct them. My mom and I were faced with pushback from the principal and vice principal of my Elementary School to stop the harassment, with their excuse being, “That’s normal. They’re just kids.” That’s when we both realized how important it is to educate the youth about people with differences and disability issues. Because once they are educated, then they can share that knowledge with their parents and with world. Once they realize I’m just like everyone else, they stop asking questions and accept me for who I am.

Looking back now, I never expected I would be sharing my voice with the world through video advocacy. But I realize that finding your voice and sharing your story is the best way to educate the world. I hope my story inspires others who are Little like me, or who have other obstacles to overcome to find their voice and be that empowered person

Childhood Photos