Unique, but not so different

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Unique, but not so different

"Unique Not Different" host, Shamla Maharaj

Some time ago, my friend Lisa, mother of a special needs daughter, Angel, posted something from a Facebook site called They call it Disabilities, I call it downright perfect.
She encouraged me to go to the page and indeed I was fascinated by the thoughts and sentiments expressed by parents, relatives, special needs persons themselves and many others.
I was particularly impressed by this one: “My Feet may look funny, my muscles may be weak, I may wobble and stumble, I may appear to be bleak. If you get to know me you will see my roaring strength. I am a fighter, one that will go to any length. One that shines ever so bright. So, see me for who I am and not this condition that I have to fight.”
These words came to life in a powerful way for me while viewing TTT’s NOW programme entitled ‘Unique Not Different’ with host Shamla Maharaj. Despite her condition, cerebral palsy, she handled her role with confidence, her “roaring strength” obvious as she interviewed Leo Henry and his son Javion. The topic of the discussion was ‘Survival through Fatherhood’.
Leo was involved in a motor vehicular accident on May 10, 2011 and left paralysed. His son Javion was seven months old at the time. Supported by friends and relatives, Leo was able to be the best father he could be to his young son.
This became evident when Shamla asked Javion what he prayed for where his relationship with his dad was concerned and his reply was the ability to continue doing everything he does with his dad. For Leo, he wished for the ability to continue being a good father to his son.
Though the session was a short one, I was fascinated by the way Shamla conducted the interview and how much she seemed to embody the words of the quotation.
In our society, those whom we consider ‘different’ are unfairly treated, marginalised and sometimes even ostracised. The reasons may be many, but heading the list is lack of knowledge, misinformation and taboo about those conditions which are referred to as challenges or special needs.
Continuing to view NOW on the TTT channel, I listened to Dionne Baptiste Clark, working at TTT’s news centre, and a contestant in Courts Agents of Change contest. She is the founder of Seizure Support Network and shared with viewers her challenges as one who suffered epileptic seizures, sometimes as many as 45 episodes in one day!
Taboo, Dionne shared, determined how society dealt with her condition, sometimes to the point of ostracising her from day-to-day activities. She is using herself as an example of the ability of seizure sufferers to function normally. The foundation aims to create safe spaces for persons who have seizures. This, with education and information should bring enlightenment to the wider society.
My friend Lisa’s daughter is also my goddaughter. Special needs yes, but she can function quite independently, with a quiet, loving nature which endears her to many.
I remember driving one day with her in the front passenger seat. I was going through a rough patch, so I was unusually quiet. Reaching for my free hand, Angel held it in hers, and with a little squeeze and a bright smile, my spirit was lifted. We went on to enjoy a beautiful afternoon.
As the NOW programme states, ‘Unique, not Different’! The episode was inspirational and uplifting. For Angel, Shamla, Dionne and others like them, “See them for who they are and not the condition they have to fight!”.

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