Tag Archives: school

Bullied for being disabled, but we turned it into a positive – Anti Bullying Week

Rosie and Glen were both bullied at school because of their impairments. In this blog they talk about how they moved forward with their lives and want to spread awareness about the bullying many disabled people face. 

Rosie’s story

“Being bullied made me determined to raise awareness about invisible disabilities”.

Being dyspraxic meant at school I always stood out like a sore thumb compared to others.

From the way I walk and move in a clumsy uncoordinated way which was different to others, always falling or bumping into others or other things.

To it’s made me socially anxious and struggle to maintain friendships. I always had and probably will have different interests to people my own age. I’ve always been seen as disorganised, chaotic, messy and a bit all over the place.

Being so different made me an easy target for being at the receiving end of some awful bullying. Words can have such an impact on your life and how you see and perceive yourself. It made me lose what little confidence I had to begin with and really struggle with my mental health and I would hear the words of what people were saying constantly. I thought I must really be stupid as it was constantly being said to me.

I put a lot of the bullying due to lack of awareness to what dyspraxia is, the fact that dyspraxia is invisible to the eye and negative assumptions of what I could or couldn’t achieve. As an adult I still struggle with anxiety and will never be a naturally confident person.

But my experiences made me decide that nobody should have to go through what myself or my family had been through and I was determined that more awareness needed to be raised about issues invisible to the eye.

Rosie 1 edited square

The bullying I experienced has taught me the power of words and why I choose mine so carefully and not make judgements and assumptions about others.

I work as a learning support as a college and know the value of time, patience and empathy can have on students who may be struggling. I have also been able to prove the people wrong who said I wouldn’t achieve anything.

Words have the power to encourage, destroy, make someone loose confidence in themselves or make someone feel hopeful. We can all try and help people feel hopeful.

Glen’s story

“I’m still a little bit shy and probably always will be, but I’m far more positive now”.

I first went to a mainstream school, but it didn’t go well. The teachers didn’t know how to help, and I was bullied by other kids because of my sight loss. So I was removed very quickly, and transferred to a school for the visually impaired that my parents discovered.

Of course, my confidence had been shattered, so I was very shy. Which led to some of the kids at my new school bullying me as well. Not because of my sight, as they were in the same boat, but because they realised they could wind me up easily.

Glen wearing a suit in a park

However, I made good friends, and the teachers were extremely supportive, so my confidence gradually improved over the years. And I even became friends with the kids who had teased me at first. Partly because I was being more successful than them, but I also got to learn more about them, which helped me understand their behaviour and put it into context. We learnt a lot from each other.

So things turned out well in the end. I came away with great friends, fond memories and good results, and got myself a degree and a job. I’m still a little bit shy today, and probably always will be, but I’m far more positive and confident than I would have been if I hadn’t moved schools when I did.

This is an extract from Glen’s blog Well Eye Never. You can read Glen’s full post about bullying here. 

If you have a story you would like to share, contact Scope’s stories team.

Do you need someone to talk to?

ChildLine – 0800 11 11

ChildLine is a free, confidential support service for children and young people. Their staff speak to thousands of young people every day – you are not alone. Phone 0800 11 11 or visit the ChildLine website.

My children and I have a condition that makes words move on the page – #100days100stories

Sinéad and her children have Irlen syndrome, a condition that affects the way the brain processes visual information. It’s a common condition – many people don’t realise they have it.  Sinéad has shared her story as part of our 100 days, 100 stories campaign

My two children and I have a condition that makes words move on the page. When I sit in front of a computer the screen seems to shakSinead, with dark hair and glassese in front of me. My son says the whole world is like a plate of wobbly jelly.

The most common name for this condition is Irlen syndrome but it also goes by Meares-Irlen syndrome, visual stress and scotopic sensitivity. It can exist as a condition by itself or alongside dyslexia.

Common difficulties include problems with reading and writing, over-sensitivity to light, problems differentiating between background and foreground in the environment, and a range of different physical effects caused by dealing with this, such as headaches, nausea, exhaustion.

Our experience of Irlen syndrome

My two children and myself all have Irlen symptoms. They affect us to different extents and in different ways.

My 10-year-old daughter finds the contrast between text and page the most difficult to manage.When she started using a coloured plastic sheet over the pages of her books, she went up three reading levels at school within a term. She also has coloured workbooks provided by the school, which she uses for her schoolwork.

Things that help upload

My eight-year-old son reads very well but likes to use a coloured sheet when there are harsh lighting conditions. He also finds writing on coloured workbooks much more comfortable.

The children respond differently to environmental conditions as well. My son says he has no problems with the class smartboard (a large interactive ‘board’ projected onto the wall of the classroom). However, he howls with pain if the general lighting conditions are too bright.

My daughter doesn’t seem to be too bothered by light, but he needs the background of the board changed so it isn’t white. This is easily done, and most of the children prefer the jollier colour.

I have terrible handwriting; not many people know this. I experience environmental symptoms the most – sensitivity to light, and movement in my vision between the foreground and background.

This means that for me, my tinted Irlen glasses provide the best relief. However, the lenses are a dark turquoise colour and I don’t like to use them too much in the office as my colleagues cannot see my eyes.glasses

On most occasions I actually use a green computer filter over my screen. This reduces headaches and makes it much easier for me to concentrate.

What can be done to help?

There are lots of adaptations that can be made, and many of them are free or readily available. For example:

  • Changing the background colour of the interactive whiteboard in the classroom
  • Using the minimum amount of artificial light in the classroom or workplace
  • Using computers and social media  to communicate instead of handwriting
  • Coloured or tinted exercise books, overlays, reading rulers and tinted wipe-boards

None of these adaptations are that expensive – many could be implemented in every school in the UK tomorrow at no additional cost.

Changing the background of the interactive whiteboard is as simple as changing the colour of a Word document. If budget allowed, they could even have a stack of coloured paper for the children who chose to use it.

I would ask every teacher parent, school governor, MP and councillor reading this article to go into your local school tomorrow and ask them to do at least two of these three things.

It’s likely to improve academic performance – and it could just save the school life of many undiagnosed children sitting and suffering in silence.

Have you experienced any of these symptoms yourself? Are there any other ideas you would recommend? Talk about it on Scope’s online community.

Find out more about 100 days, 100 stories, and read the rest of the stories so far. 

What the teachers told me about Dominic reduced me to tears

Guest post from Caroline White, a writer and speaker. Caroline’s son Seb made headlines when he became the first model with Down’s syndrome to star in a major UK TV ad. For National Sibling Day she’s written for us about Seb’s relationship with his brother Dominic.

The week that Seb was born is a bit of a blur to me. I can remember snippets but it was so fraught with emotions that it is hard to recall it with much clarity.

One thing I do remember very clearly is saying to Simon, my husband, how I wanted us to have more children. One of the reasons, I am ashamed to admit, was because I was feeling sad about Seb’s diagnosis of Down’s syndrome and the thought of going on to have a “normal” experience helped soften the blow. I also felt that having more children around would benefit Seb and I had visions of a busy bustling house. It helped me see the future a little brighter.

Falling more and more in love with Seb

I went on to fall pregnant fairly quickly. It was for all the wrong reasons and I look back and feel so sad that I was so desperate to have another baby instead of enjoying the precious one I already had.

I lost the baby at 11 weeks. I am not negating how tough it is for the many women who miscarry their pregnancies, and at the time I was devastated, but it turned out to be a positive thing. My body was emotionally and physically wrecked, not only from becoming a new mother, but also from the emotional turmoil and shock that came with the diagnosis. A few months later I lost another at about the same number of weeks.

Over time, Seb’s diagnosis became a much smaller part of him and I became less fixated about having another baby. I began to realise that I would be every bit fulfilled and enriched as a mother if Seb was the only child I ever had, although I did still like the idea of Seb having siblings around him. And that’s when I fell pregnant with his baby brother.

Along came Dominic

The day we brought Dominic home from hospital I remember thinking how enormous Seb had suddenly become. Two and a half years older, Seb’s little face looked so vulnerable and confused. I also carried with me guilt that I had felt so euphoric at Dominic’s birth, something that was missing with Seb.

I had the usual maternal worries – would they get on? Would Seb be jealous? The worries were magnified too. Would Dominic grow up to resent Seb? Would he be embarrassed of him? Would Dominic be bullied? I worried about the “burden” of Seb on Dominic’s little shoulders. I would never want Dominic to feel his wings were clipped or that he was responsible for Seb but at the same time I hoped he would feel a certain amount of responsibility and care about what he is up to. I worried (and still do) about when Simon and I are no longer here and Dominic would have no immediate family to talk things through or make joint decisions with.

And so, it seemed, overnight…..along came Polly. Seb’s little sister.
And from the minute he set eyes on her, he was besotted. I will never forget the first night she had with us at home, he crept out of bed in his pyjamas and I found him sitting next to her bouncy chair, tenderly reading a Peppa Pig book to her (whilst she was asleep).

Becoming great friends

Dominic, Seb and PollyAll three children are very close, particularly Seb and Dom. Just the other day someone said to me “they’re such great friends aren’t they?” and yes, they really are.

Far from resenting Seb, Dominic has the utmost respect for him. He looks up to him, he sees him as his big brother. He wants to include him in everything he does and misses him when he is not with him. If he makes anything at pre-school his first thought is how he wants to share it with Seb. Often he will say he can’t wait to tell Seb something about his day and when Seb has been told off he will sneak off to keep him company – even if the telling off is because he has been mean to Dominic. On a recent shopping trip, Seb was refusing to come with us and we pretended to go off without him – Dominic shrieked and refused to move too. He was visibly upset and stayed put with Seb.

There have been so many occasions too when Dominic has had to be very mature for his age. Seb has a tendency to run or scoot off – he seems to live in the here and now with no thought of consequence. It happened several times when Polly was a newborn baby. Post c-section, I was faced with asking a 2 year old Dominic to stand in charge of his little baby sister whilst I raced after Seb. He has never complained about it and just got on with it. There was also a trip to Longleat when Seb vanished. It is a long story, but 45 minutes of hysterical mother, like a scene from Eastenders, all witnessed by Dom – thankfully with a happy ending. It is something Dominic remembers today and, as a result, he always has his eyes fixed on Seb and will tell me as soon as it looks like he might be wandering off.

The “biggest heart”

A Dominic and Sethfew months ago it was Dominic’s pre-school parents evening. I was exhausted and almost didn’t go. It is not easy to park, it was dark and cold, I didn’t think they would tell me anything groundbreaking and I had a million reasons why I couldn’t face it. I made the effort to go though, because Dominic IS always overlooked. What the teachers told me completely took me aback.

They told me that his empathy levels are incredibly mature for a four-year-old. They said he will always stop and help anyone who needs it, that he cares about his peers and that he has the “biggest heart” in a four-year-old that they have ever seen. He always thinks of others and wants to share his experiences and belongings with everyone. The feedback reduced me to tears.

Dominic has seen me care for Seb and as a result he now looks out and cares for others too. I have unintentionally set a good example and I couldn’t be more proud.

Will Seb’s siblings grow to resent the extra attention that Seb naturally commands?

Seth and DominicWe have never told Dominic that Seb has Down’s syndrome. Unless he asks me, I don’t see we have any reason to tell him. Down’s syndrome is a medical diagnosis and, whilst it is useful in preparing health care and educational plans, I want Seb’s siblings to just see him as Seb. No pre-conceived ideas or assumptions. Just Seb.

I am not naïve enough to think that the “differences” between them won’t always go unnoticed and Dominic did take me aback a few months ago in the kitchen when he said “Seb talks funny, doesn’t he?”. Stumped for a response, I said “well, we are all different aren’t we? Some of us are good at running, like Seb, and some of us are good at talking, like you” and he turned to me and said “Maybe he was talking in Spanish, he’s good at Spanish”.

I think it all boils down to inclusion AGAIN.

By being included in our typical family unit, Dominic gets to see that Seb is a person, not a condition. He sees the bright, witty, bundle of energy that Seb is. A hard working, older brother with a fantastic sense of humour and an obsession with football. A person of equal value, that brings as much to our family as any of us. An important and key component in all our lives, that is human and real and not a paragraph in a text book or a group of outdated stereotypes.

And so it seems, yet again, my unnecessary fears about the future that stemmed from a diagnosis of Down’s syndrome have not become a reality. Seb continues to teach us all about life and equality, humanity and priorities, and see the whole world differently. Not one of us in this family, least of all his siblings, would swap a single thing about him.

You can follow Caroline on Twitter.

I never felt like my childhood was unusual – #100days100stories

Anne’s twin brother has cerebral palsy. Today is National Siblings Day, and Anne is sharing her story as part of our 100 days, 100 stories campaign.

My twin brother, Jack, has cerebral palsy and can’t walk or talk. Having a disabled sibling feels completely normal, because I’ve never known anything different.

There were resources offered in school for young carers but I never felt they were applicable to me, as I’ve never felt that I go beyond the call of duty in taking care of him.

My parents, social services and carers feed, wash and change him, and I read to him and entertain him. I never felt like my childhood was unusual, and my parents always made sure that I didn’t feel left out.

No references

Even though I feel like I’ve had the best possible experience of having a disabled brother, there were still limited examples growing up of people in the same situation.

None of my friends had disabled siblings, and although I read a couple of children’s books on the subject I didn’t feel they were reflective of my experience.

In one book I read the disabled brother died, and in another a girl was ashamed to invite friends over because of her disabled sister. The first book, while realistic, was too depressing, and the second felt dated. It had never occurred to me to feel nervous about introducing my friends to Jack. They had grown up around him and were used to him.

In both books the main characters were bullied because of their disabled siblings, but that has never happened to me. I might be more easily offended than others by certain words, but the thought of anyone specifically making fun of Jack seems absurd.

Being jealous

While I never felt that different from my friends, I could get really angry when I saw them fighting with their brothers and sisters.

Although I understand now that it’s completely normal, at the time I felt that they were not making the most of having an able-bodied sibling to talk to and play with.

I was jealous of them, but I was never particularly lonely or miserable because I could play with school friends or next-door neighbours. In many ways I feel that my childhood was better and richer than if I had been an only child.

Jack is healthy most of the time, and the few times he has been seriously ill I was either too young to understand or deliberately kept away from what was happening.

A different kind of family

My family often behave strangely because of Jack, and I don’t realise that we’re unusual until someone else is visiting and comments on it. We play mealtime word games to entertain him, often roping in guests and visiting relatives.

Jack has to be fed, so our lunch takes twice as long as usual so both he and the person feeding him can eat. Sometimes I’m forced to recite nursery rhymes and times tables at the dinner table for his entertainment, but if mild embarrassment in front of guests is the worst thing about my experience then I can’t really complain.

I’m uncomfortable whenever I tell people about Jack and they react with pity, because I feel like I’ve been luckier than most people in similar situations. Jack is happy and well, so the rest of us are happy too.

Find out more about 100 days, 100 stories, and read the rest of the stories so far.  

My dream is to be accepted at school – #100days100stories

Guest post from Chloe, a secondary school student who has mild cerebral palsy which affects the left side of her body. She has shared her story as part of our 100 days, 100 stories campaign

When you are at school it can be hard to know what to say to people. People react to my medical list – which includes mild cerebral palsy – very differently, but this is what I want them all to know.

chloe
Chloe’s splint that helps her walk

The worst thing about having a disability is that people see it before they see you – before they get the chance to know you. I haven’t even opened my mouth yet and I know they have preconceived ideas about me. But that’s okay. I guess if you have something different from others then it is bound to happen. I mean, the stares, they are normal. It’s not every day you see a splint. That’s part of human nature, I can live with that.

It’s the glares of disbelief  that are upsetting. What you see is a tiny part of me. A tiny part of what makes me and my personality but also a tiny part of my medical list. Pain. Pain is invisible to the outside world, but perfectly visible to me on a daily basis.  I’m a part-time wheelchair user. A reluctant part-time wheelchair user at that. I may joke and say “Oh, it’s because I’m lazy” but that’s probably because it’s easier. It’s easier than saying you are in chronic pain, no one wants to hear that, people just want to know things are getting better.

Can I just say, I hate using my chair. It’s the last resort. For me it traps me and can leave me out of control, shows I have given up and can’t go on. If I am in my chair it doesn’t mean that I can no longer walk. It means the pain has become too much to manage – like someone screaming in your ears. Yet I’m still expected to concentrate in lessons and work. It means that fatigue is swallowing me up and not letting go.

Throughout high school my dream was to be accepted because I didn’t see the point in changing for anyone. I believe I am very close to it and for that I am eternally grateful. However another one of my dreams has been to dance in the school show – something I am yet to fulfill. You see, I used to dance, before the diagnosis list got out of hand. In my earlier years I was shy and reserved, something that doesn’t really fit my personality anymore. But now the barriers include my pain, fatigue and reduced mobility. I guess it’s something else I need to come to terms with.

I am constantly reminded about how positive and smiley I am. I’d agree, I am. Although a smile can hide anything you want. It can also make things easier to deal with. Being happy is a lot more fun in my opinion, it also makes others believe that things are all good.  I believe 100 percent that things could be worse. For me everything is normal. Normal is whatever you are used to. I also know it’s possible to live in pain and not just survive. It is possible to create the most amazing memories and achieve the highest possible.

Read more posts from Chloe on her blog.

Find out more about our campaign and read our 100 stories so far.

Summer Fete at Orchard Manor

Flowers

The blossom’s on the trees, blue skies above and that means only one thing at Meldreth – summer fete time is approaching fast!

New this year, in the absence of the traditional AGM, will be a Meet and Greet session from 1 – 2 p.m in the Grand Marquee. Come along and meet Scope Executive Director of Services Carol Tozer and other Senior Scope Managers including Central Area Manager, Carrie Irvine.

Orchard Manor parents will be given a label with their child’s name and photo, residential flat number and funding authority. This is your opportunity to talk to each other, meet your child’s friends’ parents, discuss transition and move on possibilities and learn more about Scope’s strategy, over tea and cakes…

Resident and staff teams across the Meldreth site have been working hard in preparation for this year’s Annual Meldreth and Orchard Manor Fete to be held on Saturday 22 June. Fete opening is at 2pm.

The organising committee ensure there are games and activities for everyone to enjoy. This year we see a return a of the Driver Taster sessions in the main car park for ages 14 and up, then for the first time we have a Pet Dog Show with all kinds of classifications and prizes up for grabs. There will be the main raffle, bar and café and cakes galore!