A Picture of Courage
Nandi says Special Olympics has helped her gain confidence. Through the years, she's built on her many accomplishments and learned valuable skills. Today, she lives independently and even owns her own business.
Proving Them Wrong
When Nandi Isaac was born, doctors told her parents their child would probably never talk, walk or even be toilet-trained. But Nandi has courage and perseverance – and has come very far indeed, in more ways than one.
Nanditha "Nandi" Isaac is legally blind and has Down syndrome. She was born in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. She and her family eventually moved to the U.S., and now live in Georgia, where Nandi attended and graduated from the Georgia Academy for the Blind.
Nandi has been part of Special Olympics for nearly 20 years – starting out in swimming when she was nine years old. As her mom, Nalini Isaac, says, "It really helped her then -- and has made such a difference ever since." Nandi developed skills and confidence as she was able to accomplish more and more, sport by sport – including track and field, roller skating, sailing, equestrian, ice skating, hockey and even basketball. "She can shoot a mean basketball," reports her mom. "I don’t know how she does it."
Nandi was 9 when she started competing in aquatics, before taking on even more sports and more challenges. Here, she poses with a teammate from Special Olympics Virginia.
A New World of Opportunity
When the family moved to Georgia, they had to leave all their friends behind. "But we got right into Special Olympics activities and that got us keyed right in," says Nandi’s mom. It also opened a new world up for Nandi. As she wrote in her journal, "After I came to Special Olympics, I don’t feel lonely anymore."
The Isaac family is originally from India and, even in the U.S.A., they ran up against cultural attitudes that locked Nandi out of making friends. Nandi’s mom says, "The most you can expect from the adults is pity. And the children wouldn’t spend time with someone who is disabled – mostly because they hadn’t known anyone who was disabled."
Nandi recalls the fun and feeling of belonging she found after joining Special Olympics. As she wrote in her journal, "I don’t feel lonely anymore."
Turning a Negative Into a Positive
Nandi has taken every negative attitude and turned it upside down. Now 29 years old, she has become a spokesperson and advocate for people with disabilities. On Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day, Nandi spoke to more than 200 people at a statewide meeting in Macon, Georgia. She spoke about sports and explained how Special Olympics has taught her so much.
She moved out of her parents’ home a few years ago and lives independently with support. Nandi also owns a small scanning business, called SCANwithNAN. Nandi says that "Special Olympics gave me strength, courage and most of all confidence."
It’s hard to imagine what that first doctor – who made such dire predictions -- would think seeing Nandi now. By her many accomplishments , she is changing attitudes and educating others about people with intellectual disabilities every day. Nandi especially tries to talk to parents of children with intellectual disabilities, who are often amazed when they see all her abilities, despite any disabilities. This comforting sight can provoke strong emotions in those who had believed the worst – and now see the positive possibilities ahead. Her mother says, "I can hear her talking to them, 'Don't cry: My mom says I’m a blessing – and your child will be a blessing, too.'"
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