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Adaptive Golf Coming to Westchester Thanks to Simon Yu

Adaptive GolfingGolf This Spring, a group founded at Scarsdale High School in 2018, works to bring Adaptive Golf to Westchester County, New York. The group was originally started to help their classmate with cerebral palsy, Simon, fulfill his dream of playing golf, but then realized the need that all of Westchester has for an Adaptive Golf Device. The closest Adaptive Golf Course is in Connecticut - a long journey from Westchester. Their goal is to help purchase a Paramobile, a device that allows people with disabilities to play golf, for Saxon Woods Golf Course in Scarsdale, NY.

The group interviewed Simon to gain insight into his experiences living with cerebral palsy.

Tell us a little about who you are.
I recently moved to Scarsdale last August from my homeland--a beautiful island city set in Southern China. I have cerebral palsy--a disorder that causes mobility difficulties, which includes trouble walking, speaking, and coordination among my body parts, so I use a wheelchair.

Why did you come to the US?
My daily life at the Chinese school was not very comfortable. China’s infrastructure isn’t adequate for people with disabilities. Transportation between school buildings was hard because most of them did not have elevators. I had to climb more stairs as I got older. My favorite subjects, music and art, were taken in the same classroom. They required me to travel between buildings--it was a long journey that took 10 minutes to travel under extreme weather conditions during the summer. I wasted so much time on transportation. The school did not take any action to build elevators for me because they did not want to spend the money, even though my parents offered to donate the money to build better infrastructure for me.

What are some other difficulties that hindered you from learning properly in class in China?
The bathrooms were not accessible for me. There was only one bathroom on the other side of the hallway, and the bathrooms were in bad shape, as well. The worst issue was that students could only stand when using the bathroom. I would fall and could barely stand up! Furthermore, I was not allowed to use the bathroom during class, which meant that I had to rush through the crowded hallways between periods (which was only about 10 minutes). Being late to class was embarrassing--I could not endure the 46 pairs of eyes focusing on me. The core part of the school - academics - was also an obstacle for me. I cannot control my hands well, so I write slowly. Therefore, I could not write as fast as the teacher and meet the homework deadlines--I had to work late at night and get up early. Furthermore, it was unhealthy to sit for a long time without any movement. I had no time for exercise, which is not good for people with cerebral palsy because they will lose functions of their body. The hardest component of school were the tests. Major tests were limited to 2 hours. I had to take a Chinese Subject Final Test, which included a lot of memory-writing, word analysis and reading. I had an essay that needed to be at least 800 characters. The usage of computers and extra time was not allowed. I could not complete my tests and had unreliable grades. In fact, one of the main reasons why I moved was that I was facing the final exam of middle school. If I did not finish the test, I would get a low score, and that test would decide what high school I would go to. I could not bear thinking about what the effects of doing poorly on that test would have on my future.

What were your relationships like with your former peers?
The relationships I had with my former classmates was somewhat abnormal. They were mostly good people with the exception of a certain few. Although my mom and I had told them to “ treat me like a normal person,” they still did not want to interact with me besides for academic topics, even though I tried to be active in the class. I do not think they wanted to avoid socially interacting with me, but I think they did not know how to. Hence, I felt lonely at times. It was very upsetting when people mocked me. And although this mocking did not happen too often, I was hurt. When a teacher told us to do group work, one girl said, “Every group has 4 people except for us. We only have 3 and half people. Simon is not considered a complete person but only a half-person”.

How is your impression of SHS?
It’s a great school! When first I arrived at SHS in June, a junior led us throughout the campus. She was very brave, in my view, to introduce the whole campus to an entire stranger. I was thinking that I would have big achievements because the school would encourage me to show myself and not be shy. Furthermore, people in this school are all nice and patient. I don’t feel so distant when talking to teachers - unlike some poker-faced teachers in China.

Do you feel better after having moved to Scarsdale?
Definitely. Because the infrastructure system is more usable here, I have a comfortable life. The bathrooms are much more accessible for me - I am able to use them without assistance from others. My mom never has to worry about me when I am using bathrooms in the US because she knows I am safe.

What are the some of your personal interests?
I love to play golf, and my team and I are putting effort into bringing Adaptive Golf, a way that people with disabilities can play golf, to Westchester County. Out goal is to play golf in Westchester this spring! We will be making use of a device called the paramobile, but the paramobile is unavailable in the county yet. Additionally, I started to learn how to play piano last October with both of my hands, which I had never imagined I could do before. Recently, I just performed in my first recital on March 24th. I also enjoy and will continue fishing, which I have been doing for five years in China.

The safest machine for playing golf for Simon and other challenged athletes is the Paramobile, and we need your help to fund bringing this device to Westchester, NY. All donations are welcome, from one to five digits, and they are tax deductible. Checks may be made out to: Stand Up and Play Foundation, with "Saxon Woods" written on the Memo line. They may be mailed to: Maggie Favretti, c/o Scarsdale High School, 1057 Post Road, Scarsdale, NY 10583. To learn more about Golf This Spring and adaptive golfing in Westchester, click here.

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