People with Disabilities

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Rosa Marcelino

Living as someone with a disability is not easy. Whether you were born with your disability or acquired it later in life, it is something you must live with everyday. These people are constantly discriminated against. From children who are starting out in school to adults looking for and trying to maintain a job. Another struggle is for the families and parents of children with disabilities. Every parent wants the best for their children and to ensure them a great life, but for some this is not always easy. Everyone has a right to equal opportunities. And those opportunities start in children and youth. Since the 1960s, there have been tons of federal legislation that relates directly or indirectly to individuals with disabilities, particularly children and youth. The IDEA or the Individual with Disabilities Education Act is one that plays and important role in those children’s lives. Eight years ago a little girl came into this world. Beautiful, intelligent, happy little Rosa. Rosa was diagnosed with Down syndrome. Down syndrome a genetic condition in which a person has 47 chromosomes instead of the usual 46. Rosa’s form of Down syndrome is called Trisomy 21, this is when there is an extra copy of chromosome 21, and the extra chromosome caused problems with the way the body and the brain develop. From when Rosa was a baby she looked different, and acted different as well. Her family from early on decided they were never going to treat her different though, and this to me is why she is one of the brightest kids I have ever known. Rosa and her family never had any issues until it was time for Rosa to go to school. She was always in special education programs and did things separate than the kids with out disabilities. When she was in first grade her parents were called to an IEP meeting and Rosa’s school. This was when everything changed. In special education there are eighteen different disability codes. These codes include emotional disturbance, visual impairment, hearing impairment, Deaf and Blindness, Autism, Language impairment, traumatic brain Injury and a few more. Before this meeting Rosa fell under the category of LD known as specific learning disabilities. But that afternoon the administrators of the school officially changed her disability code to MR, known as mental retardation. MR refers to significantly sub average general intellectual functioning existing concurrently with deficits in adaptive behavior manifested during the developmental period that adversely affects a child’s educational performance. Rosa’s parents were unaware of the other codes but when they heard that their daughter was classified as “mentally retarded” they were not happy. They decided that there needed to be a change. And this is how Rosa’s Law was started. I have had the opportunity to meet with and have their story told to me first hand and I am going to share parts of it. Rosa has one older brother Nick. And Nick had the opportunity to testify before the Maryland House Government and Health Operations Committee, and Rosa’s sisters were actively spreading the word by getting petitions signed at school and attending various advocacy group meetings. Here are some quotes from Nicks speech that stood out to me, “On any given day at school, at the mall, on a sports field, or in the movies, me and my sisters hear, “That’s so retarded, or you’re such a retard.” Even good kids use the word, not realizing that they’re talking about people like my sister.” I love how Nick pointed out that yes, even “good” kids use the word, and they do not realize the harm they are giving by doing so. Nick also says “We’re not allowed to use the words at my house, it would be just like saying a curse word. We’re also not allowed to use other words that are hurtful to minorities or people who are different. So when my mom told me that my sister’s school was using the words “Mentally Retarded” to describe Rosa, I couldn’t understand it....
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