Text reads: Children and young people with disability.

A Fish Climbing Trees

black and white illustration of a tree with lbranches and leaves, leaving towards a river and a jumping fish.



A reflection and artwork about inclusive education by CYDA’s Youth Council member, Emily Unity.

My Relationship with School

I used to think I hated learning. At school, everything felt like an uphill battle. I remember being confused about why there were always “right” and “wrong” ways to communicate, sit, listen, and learn. However, it turned out that I didn’t hate learning – I hated the way school force me to learn. 

After I graduated, I discovered that I loved learning, but I preferred to do it in my own way. I learned that I loved practising things, rather than reading them. I loved communicating non-verbally, often with pictures rather than words. I love being able to choose what I wanted to learn, rather than following what someone else had decided.

Realising I was a fish

I was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and ADHD when I was 20. I had no idea I was disabled before and it was a bittersweet realisation. I realised that I could have had more support when I was younger, especially during my time at school.

I wanted to learn more about my disability and I came across a concept called “Inclusive Education.” This concept advocated for more inclusive ways of learning in schools, rather than only catering to certain learning styles or abilities. 

In learning about Inclusive Education, I soon discovered one of my all-time favourite quotes by Albert Einstein, “Everybody is a genius… But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” It was then that I started realising that maybe I was a fish – maybe I wasn’t the problem, but rather that my education wasn’t inclusive for someone like me.

Finding more fish

I started joining some advocacy groups about youth disability. I met other disabled young people who understood my experience because they had experienced it too. I now work in disability advocacy, fighting alongside my peers in breaking down barriers for people just like us. If you are reading this and you relate to my experience, please know that you are not alone. You are not the problem, but you can help be a part of the solution!