My name is Alirio Magana. I am a twenty-three-year-old man of El Salvadorian descent. Family is very important to me and I love the relationships I have with my twin brother, my baby sister and my mom. This is the story of me; and how growing up with a developmental disability has affected my life. Although I have a developmental disability… I am not my developmental disability.
Having a disability has never defined me, but it has shaped my daily life experiences. I am reliant on others for assistance and I work twice as hard as able-bodied individuals. I am proud to share my struggles as someone who has Spastic Quadriplegia and Cerebral Palsy.
When I was seven months old, my mom was told that I would not be able to walk. As a toddler, it wasn’t too difficult to get around because my family pushed me in my stroller. When I was 10 years old, I received my first wheelchair. I was happy to be out of the stroller and finally in my own wheelchair, however, it was difficult to get around because at that time, many places were not handicapped accessible. Many times, I had to wait in the car with a family member when we went to places that had a lot of steps and no elevator. These types of barriers prevented me and our family from activities that we wanted to do together. Up until the 7th grade, I had to use a manual wheelchair. I relied on family members or my aide in school to take me to where I wanted to go. My family had requested a powerchair for many years, The request took a very long time due to the challenges of the approval process.
During the summer before 8th grade, I received my first power chair which was electric blue. It was not easy to learn how to use my new powerchair. It was difficult to maneuver the joystick and be able to move in the right direction. I bumped into a lot of doorways and hallways but thankfully, never another person. While it was difficult, I was determined. My power chair gave me more independence. I worked really hard for an entire year to master my power chair and to become as independent as possible.
The time came to become a North Rockland High School student. I was glad to have mastered my wheelchair before entering this new chapter for me. Going to North Rockland High school had its challenges because there was only one other student in a wheelchair besides me. A lot of people viewed me as different. They were not used to interacting with someone in a wheelchair. Although I had friends, it took awhile for students to get used to talking to me and realizing how great I am. My favorite part of the school day was being able to talk to my friends at the lunch table. We spent hours talking about sports and where we wanted to go to college. Although I do not see or speak to my high school friends as much anymore, I still cherish our friendships that were created at North Rockland.
It has been difficult for me to see my friends moving on with their lives and go off to college. I knew I wanted more for myself. I graduated from North Rockland High School in 2015. In 2018, I made a decision to move out of my mom’s house and give myself more independence.
It was a big adjustment for me moving to Salmon since I had been living at home with my family for my entire life. I was excited to have this new independence and go out into the community. Since I have moved to Salmon, I have been given more freedom to meet new people out in the community. I was unable to do this at home so much because it was hard for my mom to take me out and sometimes the car was broken. Since moving to Salmon, I have been able to go out into the community by myself. Usually when I am out in the community with others, it is sometimes difficult because people will speak to whomever I am with instead of talking to me directly. When this occurs, I start talking to people directly and it works!
The good part of being out by myself is that I am happy when some people see that I may need help opening a door that may be broken or if the handicapped button isn’t working at the mall. At times, these situations makes me feel good and bad because they are strangers and I always hope that nothing bad will happen. However, going to the mall is important to me because it gives me an opportunity to get out of the house and spend time alone. Spending time alone is very important to me. Sometimes I feel stressed out with all of the homework I have. Very simply, I can do what I want. Going out into the community, gives me a chance to meet new people and get together with my friends.
I am proud of my accomplishments and the many goals I have set for myself including going to school, getting a seasonal job for the holidays and currently searching for a new job. I enjoy work. I have worked two seasonal holidays for the Salvation Army which was great for me to meet and greet people as a bell ringer at the Palisades Mall. I enjoyed collecting donations for families who couldn’t afford holiday gifts. Working with the Salvation Army has taught me to help other people in need because they may be struggling with their own life situations.
And as far as my future, I made a decision not to attend RCC because I found that I could not stay on track or focus as well as I would like even though it’s hard to admit, I am now excited for the future because I am now applying for the fall computer program at BOCES. I want to work with computers because the new technology offers faster ways of communication with others.
As you can read, I have had a lot of great experiences so far in my life. I am proud that I finished high school and that I challenged myself at Rockland Community College. I am thankful I had an opportunity to move into Salmon and for all the new people I have met in the past few years. I am very optimistic about my future and what it has in store for me. One day, I would also like to have my own apartment to further the independence I have now. I know I must work to increase my skills to live by myself, but I am hopeful that with all of my hard work, I will accomplish whatever I set my mind to. Who knows, maybe one day I will be able to get my own car and go wherever I want.
We provide care for thousands of children and adults with special needs each year.
Jawonio is a registered 501c3 organization and the premier provider of lifespan services in the Hudson Valley of New York State for individuals with developmental disabilities, behavioral health challenges, and chronic medical conditions.
Jawonio is dedicated to advancing the independence, well-being, and equality of people with disabilities and special needs.