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close up of Simone Biles' smiling face

Olympic & Disability Champion Simone Biles Makes History While Mesmerizing Many

Simone Biles speaking at a podium wearing an orange blazer and white shirt

Simone Biles

Simone Biles is known widely as the Olympic champion who dominated the sport of gymnastics during the 2016 Rio Olympics. Biles has won four consecutive all around titles and is the first female to do so since the 1970’s. She also has competed and won 14 world championship medals.

At a young age, Biles was diagnosed with Attention Deficient Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). Confidential medical records were revealed to the public around the time she was competing in the 2016 Olympics. Since being vocal regarding her ADHD, many have classified her as a hero, especially those who have endured stigma from the disability. She has taken to Twitter vocalizing her disability and what she has been doing to treat her ADHD.

Biles was born on March 14, 1997 in Columbus, Ohio. She was raised and home-schooled by her grandparents in Houston, Texas. Since age six, Biles knew the field of gymnastics was her calling. While visiting a gymnastics center on a field trip, she was fascinated. While there, she began to imitate what she saw the gymnasts doing. The coach at the center noticed. Soon after the field trip, a letter was sent to her home from the gymnastics center, requesting she join tumbling or gymnastics.

She began officially training at age eight. Her first competition was held in Texas where she excelled on both the vault and balance beam. In 2013 she hit senior elite level as the all around winner, winning the U.S. P and G championships, becoming the first African American female to win 10 gold medals.

Her success continued to escalate, winning more titles and world championships. She became one of America’s top hopefuls for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Biles led the gymnastics team known as the “Final 5.” She became an Olympic star displaying her flexibility and creativity and succeeded, winning five Olympic medals, inspiring gymnasts all over the world.

One-in-five Americans has a disability, and polls show that most of them want to work. Yet 70 percent of working-age Americans with disabilities are outside of the workforce. There are 5.6 million African Americans with a disability in the United States. Only 28.7 percent of African Americans with disabilities are employed in the United States compared to 72 percent of African Americans without disabilities.

For many of the 1,199,743 black students (K-12) with disabilities in America today, the deck is stacked against them. Frequently “invisible disabilities” such as ADHD are not diagnosed and students do not get the supports they need to achieve. Frustrated, they can act out and become suspended. African American students with disabilities are disproportionately impacted by suspension in schools, with more than one in four boys of color with disabilities — and nearly one in five girls of color with disabilities — receiving an out-of-school suspension.

Studies show that when students miss too many days, either for being truant or just being absent, they get so far behind in class that it can lead to them dropping out of school. As documented in Disability and Criminal Justice Reform: Keys to Success, this can lead to the school-to-prison pipeline. Today there are more than 750,000 people with disabilities behind bars in America. Many of them do not have high school diplomas, are functionally illiterate and are people of color.

Overall, only 65 percent of students with disabilities graduate high school compared to 84 percent of students without disabilities. However, only 57 percent of black students with disabilities graduate high school compared to 74.6 percent of black students without disabilities.

Biles’ success in his field shows that people with disabilities are not only capable of doing great work, but also possess unique talents to bring to the table. She was chosen as sportswoman of the year by the Woman’s Sports Foundation and was recognized as the finalist in Time Magazine’s “person of the year.”

Biles is a role model for young female athletes. She excelled with hard work, determination and a positive attitude.

Meet the Author

Tameir Yeheyes

Tameir Yeheyes is passionate about serving the community, making a difference in the world and working hard on behalf of people with disabilities. Upon graduation, she hopes to go into either nonprofit work or government agency employment.

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