Meeting your teachers, eating lunch together, having play dates after school, having classes together, and sharing daily struggles are all things that your average child should experience when going to school. However, for people like me who have been homeschooled their whole life, we never had the chance to witness any of it… Until now!
For six years, the teachers from my school district came to my house and taught me for two hours a day. We had one-on-one classes and had to fit seven hours of work into two. The only friends I had were my friends that I’ve known since childhood, and they are like my family! The problem was, I only got to see them on the weekends, because they lived further away and didn’t go to the same school. I was sad that I didn’t get to experience anything that my friends experienced, but I understood that my immune system was too weak for me to attend school. I knew what it was like to be in the hospital with pneumonia every other month! So, for me to stay healthy and not get sick meant giving up the chance to attend school.
Fast forward to September 2019! After six years of homeschooling, I was finally cleared by my doctors to start middle school!! It felt like I was starting preschool as an 11-year-old. I was so nervous and scared about everything, also but extremely excited! I did my research and was still confused as to how I was going to accomplish attending middle school. I had so many questions! Was it going to be like the school day they show on television, filled with drama? Was I going to get lost on my first day? Was the school going to be accessible for my power wheelchair? Would the kids be nice to me? And most important of all, could my immune system handle being in school and would I get sick?
My first day of school, I didn’t know anybody and the only real friends I made were my teachers. I got lost quite a bit and my stomach was in butterflies the entire day. But I was determined to conquer the halls of middle school! That night, I told my parents about my day and we talked about everything. They made me feel so much better. I used FaceTime to talk with my friends and shared everything that happened with them. They just laughed and said, “Girl, we’ve all been through the same exact thing!” Once I heard that, I was ready to face the world!
The next week was better and I learned to navigate the halls and even started making some friends. The highlight of the following week was when I received my new Quantum Edge 3 wheelchair with iLevel®. My wheelchair is raspberry pink and white and totally stands out! I never thought the day would come when people would come up to me and say, “Cool wheelchair!” At iLevel, I am now able to go up and down the hallways at a much faster speed. No more 8th grade butts in my face when everyone is trying to get through the hallway between classes in three minutes. I feel so empowered being at the same level as them!
During lunch, I would sit in the corner by myself and wait for lunch to be over, but now when I see someone I want to sit with, I pull right up and park next to them at their level. With my new wheelchair, I am a part of everything and things just keep getting better and better. I memorized my class schedule, started talking to more kids, and eventually found my way!
It’s now January and I’m still trying to make some friends, but I’m much more confident about being in school. Those that are homeschooled would understand how much I appreciate the opportunity to go to school, and I wake up each day looking forward to the next adventure in middle school!
About Sakina Shamsi: Sakina lives in New Jersey with her parents and brother. Although she has spinal muscular atrophy type II, Sakina lives a full and independent lifestyle. She is active in the disability community and enjoys horseback riding, baking and crafting. Click here to learn more about Sakina.