Arya is a recent high school graduate headed to Yale University in the fall. She is half Chinese, half Indian, born in Hong Kong, but mostly grew up in New York City. She also has spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), which causes pervasive physical weakness. Because of SMA, Arya has been in a powerchair since age five.
“In many ways I'm a typical teenager and in other ways I'm a little different,” said Arya. “I have 24/7 care and have been in the operating room around 20 times. While SMA has made me physically weaker, it has made me mentally stronger.”
Arya decided at an early age that she was not going to let being in a wheelchair keep her from excelling at the things she cared about. “I want to make a difference in the world,” said Arya. “I love learning, particularly history, and it's been important to me to excel in school because regardless of my disability, I can excel as a student and pursue my passions.”
In high school, Arya started a tutoring program and volunteers every Sunday to mentor, teach and support first-generation immigrant children in Queens. “My life motto is one that my father often told me when I was young. He would tell me what Ray Charles’ mother said to him – ‘You might not be able to do things like a person who can see. But there are always two ways to do everything. You've just got to find the other way,’” said Arya.
Arya is excited for the future and to attend Yale University in the fall. “I suspect I will be studying history,” said Arya. “I am also excited to take classes in subjects I never thought I was interested in and to learn from entirely new people with different experiences from my own. But maybe what I am most excited for is to build relationships and friendships with incredibly inspiring, passionate and motivated people.”
Arya knows that leaving the comforts of home will be challenging but necessary in order for her to peruse her dreams and passions. She said, “I will have to get used to navigating an entire college campus while being surrounded with new people. It’ll undoubtedly be difficult to not have my family to help and support me every single day.”
Luckily for Arya, her family won’t be too far away and she has a team of PT’s that help with her care. She also has Numotion to lean on too. “The SMA Clinical Research Center introduced me to Numotion and made the referral to help obtain a new power wheelchair,” said Arya. Mike, her ATP, and his entire team have made an impact on Arya. “Mike is truly incredible,” said Arya. “The team is astoundingly caring, knowledgeable, dedicated to patient care and personable. It is so clear that they care about making you feel comfortable, confident, and simply put, happy. I am so grateful to Mike and his team; without them, I wouldn’t be able to go through my life with such comfort and ease.”