Looking Back, Never Forgetting, and Moving Forward! An Interview with Rosanna “Rosie” Ryan

by | Apr 23, 2024 | All, Content Types, News

Image of Rosie sitting in a chair and smiling.Please share with us your experience as a person with a disability in the school system.
It was not that long ago that I was in school, and I want to share my journey. It is important to understand where we have been and where we need to go. I want the world to know what happened and that it is not ok. There are sensitive topics I will not share here, but I know they are common experiences for others as well. I am the baby of the family, and I attended school in Oregon. I was in special education. I am a social person and have always wanted to be included. Instead of being included, I was targeted and bullied constantly. The things said and done to me hurt and always will. The way I was treated was harmful and made me feel alone. Other students would say to me, get back in your cage!

What did support look like for you on campus and at home? 
When I was in school, it was acceptable for children to treat their peers with a disability badly. We did have school counselors, but I do not remember being supported. School did not feel safe or comfortable for me. I would say my experience was negative. My family did not know about how I was treated. There were no calls home, or meetings held, and I was ashamed to tell my parents about what was happening. I wanted to be included, not made to feel different.

Did being bullied affect your academics?
Yes, my schoolwork did suffer. I was not happy and did not have friends.

What are some improvements in schools that give you hope? 
Schools are less restrictive, and adults are more aware. Special education has improved, and that is a good thing. Students in special education feel more included. I like that some schools have animals on campus to help students feel safe. It would have helped me to have an animal on campus to comfort me.

Is there anything else you would like to share? 
I am a governor-appointed self-advocate to the California State Council on Developmental Disabilities. I have a lot of friends and support. I am involved in People First, an organization by and for people with developmental disabilities. I speak up for myself and others. I am proud that People First is celebrating 50 years in 2024. The theme of the Region 2 People First Conference is, “People First Ohana, We Are One!” I attend church regularly and sing in the choir. My days are full of fun activities with people who love and support me. I do wish this was how I felt growing up and during my years in school. I want to see more improvements happen within the school system. We must move forward!