Tag Archives: Bullying in Schools

Being Bullied: The Effects that Can Last a Lifetime.

9 Oct

About two weeks ago, I randomly received an email from a woman who works at an elementary school in Asheville. She informed me she had received my contact information from the program director of Easter Seals in Asheville who spoke very highly of me. She then told me there is a book club at the elementary school, and in the book the children are reading, the main character has Cerebral Palsy. Based on the high remarks she received from the Asheville Easter Seals program director concerning me, she asked if I’d be willing to come speak to the third through fifth graders about my experiences with CP. Specifically, she asked if I could speak about my experiences of being bullied during my school years.

The email was completely out of the blue, and I was stunned. To have received this kind of opportunity without searching for it is incredible, and I am excited for such a wonderful opportunity. However, the tricky part comes with the focus of the talk: my bullying experiences in school.

It is safe to say my bullying experiences were the worst part of my childhood (excluding my intense surgeries and physical therapy, obviously). As a child, I could not understand why I was being targeted out of everyone in my class. I understand now that children are especially curious about those who are different from them. However, I didn’t know why it always had to be me. During those times, I also didn’t understand why I was so different. All I wanted was to fit in, and by getting bullied I stuck out even more.

I got my hair pulled in kindergarten because I had no way of running away, I got pelted with a dodge ball in middle school because I couldn’t move away from the ball fast enough, and every day in gym class, I was picked last. Though I know those experiences helped me to develop a thicker skin very early on in life, many of the experiences were just plain cruel. There is no other way to say it. They resulted in me coming home from elementary school crying to my parents on a daily basis. I cried over more than just the bullying though. I cried over hating I was so different. I cried over not being able to fit in because my experiences were so different from most of the other kids my age. I cried because it wasn’t fair. None of it was fair. I was a nice kid. I smiled at other kids, I laughed with them, and yet I still didn’t ever really fit in with them.

The complex social aspects of school are difficult for any kid. However, they are especially difficult for any kid who may be a tiny bit different from their peers. I only hope to try to convey this to the children I’ll speak to at the elementary school in Asheville. I don’t want to berate them or tell them to stop being mean. After all, they are kids. Kids are curious, especially regarding things they don’t fully understand. I only hope to explain how children with disabilities should be treated just like any other kid. Yes, they are different, but pointing out their differences and excluding them from activities because they are a little bit unique only makes it that much more difficult for them.

Despite growing a tougher skin due to being bullied, I have carried my bullying experiences with me ever since I was a kid. I remember the specific moments in detail. I remember who targeted me, and I remember exactly the way I felt when I came home and cried. I know now that many of my bullying experiences were not intentional. They were just moments of kids being kids. However, that does not mean I still don’t remember the feeling of walking into gym class with my fingers crossed, silently hoping I wouldn’t have to be pelted with a dodge ball by the one girl who always got so much satisfaction out of being the one to hit me.

Advertisements

Teaching “social graces” for physical disabilities in schools.

29 Aug

In my community psychology class, we have been asked to do a project on a societal problem. I’ve chosen the stigma of physical disabilities and the social consequences that are connected with physical disabilities. Obviously this topic hits home for me since I have a physical disability, and I’m excited to start researching. Plus, I feel like this project could provide me with some great material to possibly include in my memoir.

I feel like the social consequences of having a disability, physical or not, is something that isn’t brought to too much awareness. Other than my intense surgeries and intense physical therapy, being able to socially adapt is probably one of the hardest things that I’ve faced due to being someone with a physical disability. I learned very early on in life that I was going to have to be the one to initiate relationships with classmates and people in my community. Everyone wants friends and people to count on, but as I was growing up as someone who was “different,” it was the one thing I wanted more than anything. However, in a society where being different isn’t the norm, it makes things that much harder for those of us who are a bit unique.

Today when I was talking to two of my other classmates who are also interested in the topic of the stigma of physical disabilities, I mentioned that grade school and middle school were very hard for me socially. I was picked on, stared at and didn’t feel like I had a place where I fit. Today my classmates and I were trying to think of reasons why that might be so, or why the stigma of physical disabilities may be so high. One thing I pointed out was that many kids don’t automatically grow up around someone with a physical disability. Therefore, to them, seeing a student at school who is physically disabled is something that’s “different” and “not normal.” However, what would happen if we chose to implement a kind of program in schools that taught kids the “social graces” of dealing with disabilities, while also pointing out that it’s important to “empower” the individual with the physical disability so that they feel like they matter within the classroom? Though it may seem easier said than done, I feel like today’s kids are lacking the simple awareness of the presence of physical disabilities. Since they may not be around them on a regular basis, they don’t know how to react, so of course they are going to feel uncomfortable. That’s understandable. However, as well so many other societal problems we face today, maybe education is the first step.

Though it may seem far reached, having a type of class on social acceptance is needed in today’s schools. Not all of today’s parents are going to properly teach their kids to be acceptable of all types of people, so maybe it’s something that should be brought up in the school system. As well as decreasing the level that kids with disabilities are being teased, I feel like it would help broaden other kid’s views of their society as well as help those with physical disabilities realize that they have a place where they can not only voice their own opinion, but actually be heard by their peers.

Yes, the fact that I was picked on as a kid made me stronger. However, I didn’t get stronger because I was picked on. I got stronger because I learned how to deal with being teased. However, that shouldn’t be something that kids with physical disabilities need to learn. There needs to be a certain level of respect that exists towards kids with disabilities in today’s school system. Providing today’s middle school kids with an education of “social graces” when it comes to kids with physical disabilities doesn’t necessarily mean that those kids would need to immediately befriend those with physical disabilities. However, I feel like emphasizing that kids with physical disabilities should be treated the same as those kids without physical disabilities would decrease the amount of bullying, physical and emotional, that is present in today’s schools.

I, of course, am fully supportive of decreasing the amount of bullying that is present in schools today. From my own experience, I know how much bullying hurts, especially when you are being bullied for something that you are not able to control. I feel like providing a class of social acceptance would help decrease this issue, thus allowing future kids with physical disabilities to feel comfortable among their classmates. Though I know that my school experience would hopefully have been somewhat different if a social acceptance class was provided at my school as I was growing up, I am willing to accept that I faced lots of teasing if it means that I can help future kids not have to experience it to such a high degree, or better yet, not at all.