Youth Forward scholarship summer 2016 – An Exceptional Passion

Name: Caitlin Riley
From: Fayetteville, Georgia
Grade: College Sophomore
School: Clayton State University
Votes: 0

Caitlin Riley

Youth Forward

1 August 2016

An Exceptional Passion

When I was four years old, I was diagnosed with a neurological disorder known as
“Sensory Integration Dysfunction.” It caused me to walk on my
toes; an issue that the doctor said if not solved could cause me to
need ankle surgery. It also came with other symptoms such as a
limited ability to recognize objects in spaces, which caused a lot of
anxiety for me, especially as a child. I would be intolerant of
certain textures, as I was hyperaware of how they felt. I remember
having to go to both physical and occupational therapy every week as
a young child in order to improve my walking and in order to learn
how to overcome my irrational fears. I even remember having to learn
to write correctly. My greatest and most insecure memory of my
disorder took place when I was in kindergarten and I had to wear
little weights on my tennis shoes to help me walk correctly. I was
very self-conscious, and when other kids would ask me why I had them,
I barely knew what to say, as I was such a young child it was hard
for me to grasp exactly what was going on with me.

Later on, when I was in middle school, I received several additional diagnoses, all of
which were neurological, including Obsessive Compulsive Disorder,
Attention Deficit Disorder, and Depression. If I thought I had
struggled enough throughout my childhood, I didn’t know what was to
come. At least, that’s how I saw things at the time. However, by
the time I reached my junior year of high school, I began to see
things in a different light. I believe that there is always a reason
why we are given the personal struggles we face in our lives. There
was and still is a reason for me. That school year I began to
befriend many of the special education students at my school. I
instantly felt connected to them and began to form unique friendships
with each of them. My senior year, I entered an internship program,
which allows you to take a period out of the day to explore your
chosen career field. I had always known that I wanted to be a
teacher, but I didn’t just want to spend that time in any
classroom. I decided to intern in the special education classroom at
the high school about five hours a week, helping the students with
spelling and math skills, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve
ever made. I felt that it was my calling to help others who struggled
in some of the same ways that I had, and even though many of their
own struggles differed from mine, I truly believed that going through
what I went through helped me to better understand how these students felt.
That’s when I realized that we were more alike than I had ever

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