Raul believes in inclusivity

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For those who work with special needs children, inclusivity seems to be the new buzzword. For some, it’s just a word to be bandied about; for others, it is a way of life. Then there is Raul Mahendran, 11, who writes stories about inclusivity.

He takes some time to tell us about himself:

“I read and write a lot. My favourite books are Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Mr Mystery, Percy Jackson and football autobiographies. I have written several stories and comics on inclusion because it is my way of telling the world how important inclusion is. My stories are not published but I plan to publish them one day. I also think inclusion is a right and everyone should be exposed to it.

Although I don’t have any relatives with special needs, my cousin could not speak for two and a half weeks and it felt different because it was hard to talk to her.

My exposure to special needs is through the Inclusive Outdoor Classroom (IOC), run by my aunt. I have been participating for the past two years. To me, inclusion means everyone is on the same page and there is no discrimination between special needs children and typically-developing kids. I think we should be more inclusive as it will help raise awareness amongst school children and participants in events and activities.

Apart from writing, I also play football for a team called SJCSC (Subang Jaya Community Select Club). I usually play football in school and on weekends. I’m normally in left midfield but, if needed, I can also take on the role of striker. I like football because I have to run a lot and it keeps me active. My favourite teams are Liverpool FC and Barcelona FC, and my favourite footballers are Luis Suarez, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Philippe Coutinho and Malaysia’s own Thanabalan Nadarajah.

I first saw Thanabalan in action during the recent SEA Games when Malaysia played Laos in a group match. He is very good and very kind, too. He cares about his father who is paralysed from the waist down. I would really like to meet him one day.

My football ambition is to play for a professional football club and volunteer as a coach in the community football league that I play in. The first step towards coaching is being a volunteer with IOC. I have been volunteering as a junior coach in their football sessions for the past two years.

Apart from that, I have participated in two inclusion awareness events this year at Endah Parade. I was also involved in Unicef and Manchester United’s Disability Inclusion Campaign video.

Although I am a Liverpool fan, I did not mind wearing an MU jersey in the video. I was doing it to raise awareness so I feel proud. The best part is that I contributed to making an awareness advertisement and I also got to make many new friends.

I think the inclusion work I do makes me different from other kids my age because most kids don’t get involved in these kinds of activities.

Seeing the special needs kids not being able to do what typically-developing children can motivates me to become a better person. It helps me to be thankful for what I have been blessed with.

One day, I hope to become a doctor or maybe a speech therapist like my cousin. I want to change the world in any way I can.”