Breaking barriers to shine
For the first time, I felt like my family was no longer ashamed of me.
I am the eldest of four children in my family. When I was born, my skin appeared bluish.
This was due to the fact that I had ingested my mother’s amniotic fluid, which later affected my growth.
At the age of four, I was diagnosed with an intellectual disability. My condition became very pronounced when I started studying at a local kindergarten. One of my teachers advised my parents to place me in a special school because of my poor communication skills and delayed sensory motor function. I kept to myself and struggled to socialize with other children.
I was very quiet and passive. I have a younger brother and sister, both of whom were also born with intellectual disabilities. My family shied away from others because of our conditions.
It was not easy for my parents. My father did not earn much as a state policeman, and my mother would help supplement the household income by selling food and handicraft goods.
I used to constantly look up at the sky, hoping for something to change and for someone to hear my prayers.
Perhaps someone did. In 2016 when I was still in high school, one of my teachers introduced me to the sport bocce. It was a turning point in my life. I fell in love with bocce. It never failed to put a smile on my face.
My coaches noticed a significant change in me since I started training. I was focused and cheerful whenever I played bocce. My love of the sport became an impetus for me to strive and be a winner. Although I did experience losses in the beginning, I never let it get me down. I was determined to train even harder, and win.
In 2017, I finally reaped the fruits of my efforts. I won a bronze medal in bocce at the National Student Olympics, and a gold medal at the Regional Student Games Week. I also won a bronze in the doubles category at the same Games.
Winning gave me the energy and drive to continue on this sporting journey, to fulfil my fullest potential. At the 2018 Special Olympics National Games in Riau, I won two silver medals in bocce in the singles and doubles categories. It felt extraordinary to achieve success at the national level.
When I brought my medals home, my parents welcomed me with open arms. As they held me in a tight embrace, I could feel their warmth, pride and love, something that I have been yearning to feel. I felt so proud to have brought them such joy.
In December 2018, I was invited to attend the Special Olympics Indonesia National Athlete and Youth Summit with my unified partner, Dina Fuji Utami, and my mentor, Septi Aryanti. It was a wonderful experience to sit alongside other athletes and youth leaders from across the country, both with and without intellectual disabilities, to exchange ideas and best practices on promoting inclusion in Indonesia.
Meeting new people was not easy as I’m generally an introvert. But I’m grateful towards Dina, who encouraged and motivated me throughout the event to share my ideas. I am now able to deliver a speech, and present my ideas with confidence in front of a huge crowd. I am no longer shy and afraid to speak up.
Since then, I have been looking forward to more public speaking opportunities. In March 2019, I will be attending the Special Olympics Global Youth Summit at the World Summer Games in Abu Dhabi, where I will represent my country and the Asia Pacific region to share my ideas on how to promote inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities worldwide.
Being part of Special Olympics has been an amazing experience for me. If not for this movement, I can imagine myself just sitting idle at home most of the time, and not doing anything meaningful with my life. If I can overcome all these barriers and shine, I believe others with intellectual disabilities like myself will be able to do so too.
Septia will join youth leaders from 35 countries to share her ideas for inclusion at the Global Youth Summit, held in conjunction with the upcoming 2019 Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi. Over 7,500 athletes from more than 190 nations will come together to compete across 24 Olympic sports at the Games.