"Aralynn" isn't her real name. The reason she wants anonymity will become clear. She was born with septo-optic dysplasia, which in her translates to her being completely blind in her right eye and nearly so in her left. With the left eye, she can't see beyond an arm's length. She is a friendly and engaging 16-year-old Missouri high school student who has gone through many trials.
"For one, I've been made fun of since I was in preschool," said Aralynn. "They would call me names like El Blindo. An eighth grader used to call me Blind S--t. Now it doesn't affect me at all. It used to hurt, but now I just don't feel the pain anymore."
In high school, she was in a bathroom stall once when someone stole her white cane, which she had placed in a corner near the bathroom door. Her friends later found the cane jammed into the school elevator at an odd angle. She didn't find any humor in the practical joke.
She said, "A lot of what I've been through with all this makes me kind of (verbally) blunt. I used to be more careful with my words, and now I realize you have to come out and tell the truth. My mom said you can't always bottle things in."
When Aralynn was 14, a predator in his 20s sexually abused her. She went to the police, they conducted an investigation and ultimately the predator went to prison. She said, "You get used to the fright and fear of the world, the sadness and hurt. You basically can't trust any guy in the world. You never know what they are going to do. I have this fear the same thing is going to happen to me again."
So making friends has been hard. She used to enjoy a local church youth group, where the leaders helped her feel comfortable. However, she stopped going recently when the few friends she had there left the area and the remaining youth weren't as accepting. Perhaps her greatest struggle has been with loneliness.
Aralynn has college plans to major in psychology and minor in music. She loves singing and playing the piano and virtually any kind of music, from country and oldies to hip-hop. She will be attending a seminar this summer designed to teach her the necessary skills to live independently.
For more stories of courage in disability, visit www.danieljvance.com or find them on Facebook at "Disabilities By Daniel J. Vance." LittleGiantFudge.com and Palmer Bus Service made this column possible.