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Thursday 21 November 2019
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A special election campaign

There is a whole generation of young special needs advocates who are waiting to be included in the political discourse. -
There is a whole generation of young special needs advocates who are waiting to be included in the political discourse. -

DR RADICA MAHASE

Hi everyone, my name is Akeel and I am 21 years old. I am on the autism spectrum, on the higher functioning end. I attended secondary school and with much difficulty I managed to get my 5 O-Level passes.

My uncle has a woodwork business so when I finished school I started working with him. He keeps an eye on my while I am at work. I wanted to work in another business but my parents are worried about sending me out there with strangers; they know I am safe with my uncle and his workers. And I enjoy working with him. I am the youngest and all the uncles look out for me and teach me new things.

I don’t like to read or write or do anything like school stuff but I am fascinated with crime and police. I love to watch police movies and crime series such as Blindspot. Oh, and I love anything to do with the government. I just binge watched Designated Survivor because I am fascinated with the US government. It is my dream to visit Washington DC one day.

I follow politics here in TT now. I look at the news every day with my dad and we discuss what’s going on with TT. I tell my dad that one day I want to be a politician and he smiles and says one day, you never know.

I wasn’t old enough to vote in the last election but he took me to some of the rallies and big meetings because he knows I am interested in that. This time I can vote and I am looking forward to it. The local government candidates have started passing around in my area and I have to tell you, none of them impresses me so far.

I asked my dad why is it that no one ever mentions anything to do with special needs in their campaign. He said that’s because the candidates don’t even know about special needs. In fact, dad said that politicians don’t really care about special needs because most don’t think that individuals with special needs can really impact their campaign. He said that young adults like me don’t really matter to them because they think I am not bright enough to know what they’re talking about or I just don’t know what politics is about.

I want the politicians who are campaigning for local elections to understand that that is not so. Young persons with special needs like me need to feel included too. Please, at least get to know us and understand what we need in our community and start talking about things that will help us. We are part of the community too. For the ones who will be campaigning for general elections soon, at least know about special needs and try to incorporate our issues into your campaign.

Individuals like Navin and others with special needs also comprise the voting population. -

We may be a minority group but politicians need to understand that we are capable to thinking for ourselves, that we listen and we make decisions for ourselves. Many of us can function well in society it’s just that society discriminates against us. Most politicians think that we are just a small insignificant group because we don’t socialise, etc. But really politicians should not underestimate us. If they are running after every single vote then they should think about us.

My dad says that most politicians are not in politics because they really want to help people; they’re there for the fame and glory and to get rich quickly. He said that I should not expect them to talk about special needs. If dad is correct, then that’s really sad because at least some of them should care for the people who they want to vote for them.

I am not asking them for anything, I just want them to understand that individuals like me are not just photo ops, we have thoughts and feelings and we are intelligent and we want to know that there are leaders who care about us, how we thinking and feel and the life that we live. And we can only have that when they actually make a genuine effort to get to know us, to understand what we need to contribute to society. I know my family will vote for someone who has my interest. I wish politicians would understand that I am important too.

Dr Radica Mahase is founder/director, Support Autism T&T

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