ELEVEN-year-old Danika Linton was born with a condition that prevents her from bending her limbs. But the plucky girl with the bright smile does not let her disability keep her back or dim her dreams of becoming a journalist or anything else.
Newsday Kids spoke with Danika and her mother, Danielle Skeete at their St James home last week.
Danika was born with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita, which means her joints are permanently fixed in a bent or straightened position. “My elbows and knees do not bend,” Danika explained. She was also born with a clubfoot and was taken abroad for surgery before she was two.
After she was born her mother left her job to take care of her. She later attended her grandmother’s preschool. Skeete said there was not really an adjustment phase. “To her she’s just a normal child.” Danika, who speaks clearly and confidently, said her parents taught her how to move around.
She attends Sacred Heart Girls’ RC school and is currently in Standard Four. Danika said in her first year of school she was very scared, but then she met her best friend Caia, who helped to take care of her.
Skeete said she applied for her daughter to receive a personal aide since preschool but she only received one in Standard Two; before that Caia would help her.
Danika said her aide, Ms Williams, assists her with moving up and down stairs, going to the bathroom and eating.
She has taught herself how to write, is able to move about on her own, can take things out of the fridge, can walk down steps but not up, and can use her tablet to take selfies. Her mother explained she has to manipulate her body to do what she has to do. She can also eat certain things for herself, like spaghetti and meatballs, pizza and fried chicken. Her father helps her with “Sunday food” like callaloo so she does not make a mess, and she also needs help to eat soup or meals with rice.
Despite her condition, Danika still plays at school and takes part in activities. She joined the drama club, and last week at NGC Sanfest she placed first in verse speaking in her category, performing a piece entitled What do you see?, written by her drama teacher.
She said she likes acting and likes to express herself.
In Standard Three Danika was a member of the 4H Club, where children help each other, but had to leave because she is a “senior” now. She said her teacher, Ms Reid-Alleyne, is very nice and is aware of her condition.
“She always looks out for me.”
Danika’s mother said her daughter’s goal is to attend St Joseph’s Convent, but she is also considering Bishop Anstey High School.
In 2015 Danika was featured on the CNC3 programme, Against the Odds. Back then her dream was to become a journalist. She told Newsday Kids becoming a journalist is just one of her career options, though her mother believes that is where she will end up.
In her spare time Danika likes to watch makeup tutorials on YouTube and to borrow her aunt’s makeup. She believes she is an inspiration for other disabled children.
Her advice to them is, “Just be yourself. Don’t let anybody make you feel you can’t do something because of how you are.”