This is an interview on me too help other individuals who are planning on going into the special education field.
Niral Sheth is a kindhearted, witty, and expressive young man currently residing in Cleveland, Ohio. I had the pleasure of meeting Niral at a Christian summer camp, known as Joni and Friends and was able to get to know Niral’s fun personality a little bit better throughout the week. Niral strikes me as a man who is confident in himself—always talking to the ladies and cracking a joke whenever possible! He even did a comedic sketch at the talent show on the last night of our summer camp. While Niral is always goofy and fun to be around, he is also seriously committed to the Lord and desires for everyone he comes in contact with to better see Christ. Additionally, Niral is passionate about his friends and searches for rich, meaningful relationships with everyone he meets. He has been a wonderful friend and fellow brother in Christ to me over the years, so I chose him as the perfect candidate for this interview. I decided it would be most effective to interview Niral, as he is the individual with a disability, rather than a family member, because Niral is a 36-year-old working individual with a great perspective on disability. He is visually impaired with limited vision and relies on adaptive technologies such as braille, note-taker, and screen readers to assist him in his daily life. Additionally, Niral has Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, better known as ADHD. Niral currently lives with his parents, who are supportive of him in his disability and allow him the opportunity to embrace the life he has been given. Niral is currently a full time employee as a customer service representative for Marriot International, and is also highly active in his community and church ministries. I interviewed Niral on the 8th of December to discuss how living with a disability has impacted his life. His answers are recorded and modified below. 1. How did you learn that you had a disability? If you were giving advice to professionals who need to explain to a parent that his/her child has a special need, what would that advice be? Niral stated that because he was born with his disability, he was always aware of the fact that he could not see very well. However, because his parents are from India, a country that is not as accepting of disabilities, it was challenging for them to talk to Niral about his disability. Finally, Niral received more clarity on his disability in third grade when a public school resource teacher informed him that a tumor in his optic nerve had caused his visual impairment. Niral’s advice to parents who may have trouble confronting their child’s disability would be to find a social worker or professional who can guide the child in a better understanding of his or her disability. Niral believes it is important for the child to be fully aware of the challenges they may have related to their disability, so that they can embrace themselves fully and have a better understanding of themselves. 2. How did you feel when you received the diagnosis? Niral admitted that when he first realized the extent of his disability, it was difficult. Growing up, he desired to see as well as everyone else could, which led to social isolation. Niral felt that he never had enough friends or a good community of acceptance. He felt that being dealt a disability was unfair, as the life he was living seemed to have more difficulty. However, Niral was encouraged during his freshman year of high school when a guidance counselor adviced him not to let his disability get the best of him. Since then, Niral has taken charge and has refused to let his disability define how he lives. For the remainder of high school, Niral succeeded socially and became involved in many clubs. He was the class representative, president of the Key Club, a member of the culture diversity club, and was even elected the class clown in the school yearbook. 3. Have your feelings changed since the initial diagnosis? As Niral mentioned previously, during his freshman year of high school, his perspective was changed thanks to wonderful advice from his guidance counselor. Niral said that he is currently stagnant in his feelings toward his disability. He feels successful as he currently has a job, is heavily involved in the community, and has many supportive friends that he surrounds himself with. However, Niral did mention his desire to have a wife and children someday. Although he knows there is still potential to have his own family, he mentioned that he often feels discouraged in this area. He ended on a grateful note, suggesting that the current assistive technologies that are offered in the 21st century have significantly impacted his happiness in life. 4. What have been the positive aspects of having a disability? “If I did not have a disability, I would not have known the Lord,” Niral thoughtfully disclosed. I was very encouraged to see how having this disability has positively affected Niral’s spiritual life. He informed me that having a disability has been a key factor in his testimony, and he enjoys sharing how the Lord has used his disability to bring him closer to the Lord. 5. What have been the problems or challenges you have experienced having a disability? Niral admitted that the biggest challenge of being visually impaired is transportation. He informed me of the struggle it can be to get from place to place and it takes him significantly more planning and thought to get somewhere than it does the average individual. However, Niral ended with a hopeful note that he believes transportation will no longer be an issue for people with visual impairments in a matter of ten to twenty years. 6. How did your sister react to learning you had a disability? What impact have you had on them? Niral has an older sister who is currently residing in Oakland, California as an occupational therapist. As much as he loves and admires his sister, he admitted that sometimes he wished that she would be just his sister, rather than try to be his therapist. However, he does believe that having a sibling with a disability has opened her eyes to the world and given her a better perspective on life. 7. What kinds of support have been most helpful to you (family members, parent groups, neighbors, other)? How would you prioritize your family needs and the areas in which you feel that you need more assistance? The best support that helped Niral during his school years was his visual impairment teacher that worked with him from kindergarten until sixth grade. She then came to his high school and assisted Niral his junior and senior year. He told me how encouraging it was to have someone who worked with him when he was in kindergarten and then have her come back in his final years of school and witness him walking on graduation day. Niral said that this resource teacher was always there for both Niral and his family and fought for his rights in the school system. She was a huge supporter of Niral and believed in his success, which Niral felt most helped him throughout these years. 8. What have been your experiences in working with school personnel? What have they done that has been most helpful? What have they done that was least helpful or even harmful? Niral suggested that his experience within the school was overall positive. He said that the majority of school personnel were there for him whenever he needed assistance. He also disclosed that he always had access to whatever resources he needed whenever he needed them. One of the most harmful experiences he had in the school system, was when he reached the high school level and teachers were still treating him like a child. This was offensive to him and made him feel inferior, so he expressed how he wanted to be treated like an adult, as he should be. This helped remind his teachers that he was in high school and he wanted to be treated like a high-schooler. He said that after confronting them, everything changed and his teachers treated him age-appropriately. 9. How could/did the school help you transition to adulthood? Niral said that the best thing a school can do to help a child transition to the next stages after high school is to give the child freedom to decide what he or she wants to do. Although guiding these students is important, it is also important to not overstep their boundaries, Niral described. He believes that they no longer need to be treated like little children when they reach high school, and even encouraged that students be a part of their IEP meetings. Niral told me that he sat in on all of his IEP meetings starting junior year, and this helped him to feel included in the decision-making process. He believes that all children should be given this role when they are ready as well. 10. If I were to be your teacher next year, what advice would you want to give me so that you had an optimal learning experience? Niral’s advice was, “help me when I need help, be there for me when I need assistance, but don’t be involved in my personal and social life if not needed.” This advice is certainly helpful for me to know as I will soon be working with students similar to Niral. I think Niral was suggesting the importance of boundaries between a teacher and a student! 11. What would you want me to do/not do in terms of my interactions with you if I were your teacher? “The best advice I can give,” Niral stated, “is don’t treat them like they are a child, especially if they are in high school.” He continued by giving this piece of advice: “Ask the student if they get the material, but don’t force your help on them if it is not wanted or needed.” Niral really emphasized this several times throughout our interview, so it is clear that he desires and believes that all children deserve respect in the classroom, which I could not agree on more! 12. I am just learning about students with disabilities and how to work effectively with them in my classroom. What other information would you like me—and my classmates—to know about working with children with special needs? Niral gave me his website, http://www.niralsheth.net for more resources about his beliefs and information about his life as an adult with a disability. His last piece of advice was that, as teachers, we must encourage our students to get involved socially. Whether that be in a club, a sport, or the community, Niral believes that being involved will help students connect with their peers and give them the ability to interact in social environments.