SJSU Grad’s Advice: Befriend Someone Different

Devdutt Srivastava graduated with a master’s in education with a concentration in special education, a preliminary teaching credential in mild to moderate disabilities and an autism certification from the Connie L. Lurie College of Education. Photo by Brandon Chew

Devdutt Srivastava graduated with a master’s in education with a concentration in special education, a preliminary teaching credential in mild to moderate disabilities and an autism certification from the Connie L. Lurie College of Education. Photo by Brandon Chew

Devdutt Srivastava celebrated the completion of his master’s in education with a concentration in special education, a preliminary teaching credential in mild to moderate disabilities and an autism certification May 22. A Bay Area native born in Hayward, he traveled to India with his mother and younger sister to visit grandparents when an accident changed the course of his life and led him to his chosen career.

“At 27 years of age, it is hard to imagine that around 23 years ago I experienced something incredibly close to death after falling from the second story of a terrace in India,” he said.

Srivastava suffered a traumatic brain injury that lead to five surgeries, intense physical and occupational therapy and special education services, including speech therapy. He is semi-paralyzed on the left side but has learned to work with this challenge over the years.

He began his education in a class for students in an early childhood special education setting after Challenger Preschool (a private preschool) took him out after being diagnosed with a disability after the accident. After he finished early childhood special education, he transitioned to a moderate-to-severe setting, which consisted of students with physical disabilities. He stayed in that class until the third grade before transitioning to a Core Support/Resource Class after repeating the third grade. Ninth grade was the last year he remained as a core support/resource student. By tenth grade, he was able to move into all general education classrooms by going on monitor. By going on monitor, Devdutt still had an individualized education program (IEP) and received accommodations (such as extensions on time). But he did not receive a period of Core Support/Resource like he previously did. Devdutt remained on monitor until he graduated Mission San Jose High School in 2011.

Devdutt Srivastava listens to speakers during the Connie L. Lurie College of Education commencement ceremony. Photo by Brandon Chew

Devdutt Srivastava listens to speakers during the Connie L. Lurie College of Education commencement ceremony. Photo by Brandon Chew

When he enrolled at San Jose State in 2011 he initially planned to be a computer science major, but decided to pursue a bachelor’s in child and adolescent development after his first year. While it was a challenge to compete and perform alongside typical developing students, he registered with the Accessible Education Center on campus and he spent a lot of time attending his professor’s office hours as well as emailing them to help clarify the content in his courses.

As a student teacher, he sees how much his presence impacts his students.

“I want to inspire students because a lot of times when I’m in these classes, I see students lose hope,” he said. “They’ll say, ‘I have a disability and there’s no hope for me,’ but I want to show them that I was in their place once, and if I can do it, so can you.”

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Today I graduate SJSU for the second time in my life with an M.A. in Education with a concentration in Special Education, a Preliminary Teaching Credential in Mild to Moderate Disabilities, and an Autism Certification. At 27 years of age, it is hard to imagine that around 23 years ago I experienced something incredibly close to death after falling from the second story terrace in India with the impact to the head. The accident (TBI) resulted in 5 surgeries, intense physical and occupational therapy, and special education (SPED) services for 15 years of which I spent the first 5 in speech therapy. Despite these obstacles, here I am in front of the world as a former SPED student who is now a trained SPED teacher. To my family, friends, classmates, and supporters, thank you for everyone’s immense support. There is a proverb which states that it takes a village to raise a child and you all were that village who made my success possible. Now as a trained SPED teacher, if there are any words of wisdom that I can embark upon to the world, they are: to those blessed with good looks, gifted intellect, strong body-build, popularity, wealth, or a life with mostly happy events, I encourage you all to befriend someone who has different circumstances than you and to embrace their differences rather than reject them. For those who have children or who plan on having children, I encourage you all to endorse your children to sit down or talk to someone different than them, especially with someone who has a disability. One will be surprised to learn things that he or she did not know about that person. To those who have a disability or to anyone who is or was enrolled in special education, never give up especially when labeled with a disability. Instead of giving up, use the resources available to your advantage so that you all can succeed in your goals and ambitions. Up next: finding a job as a SPED teacher and completing the induction program to earn permanent status. Afterwards, my plan is to join a Special Education (SPED) Ph.D program with a goal of becoming a CSU professor. For now, I am thrilled to be where I am in life. #SpartanUp. Onwards and upwards! #SpartanForLife. 🙂

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He challenges those “blessed with good looks, gifted intellect, strong body-build, popularity, wealth, or a life with mostly happy events” to befriend someone who has different circumstances and embrace their differences.

“For all those who have children or plan to have children, I encourage you to endorse your children to sit down or talk to someone different than them, especially with someone who has a disability,” he said.

Following graduation, Srivastava plans to take the Reading Instruction Competence Assessment (RICA) exam and will be looking for work as a middle school or high school teacher for students with mild to moderate disabilities. Though he hopes to teach for a few years, he’s not done with his own education. He has a few doctoral programs in special education in mind and hopes to someday become a California State University professor.

“The idea is to stay in school as long as I can and never stop learning,” he said. “There is always something new to learn.”