Sometimes being seen as different affects how you are treated at school. This could be anything from hair colour to disability. But no one should be made to feel bad about themselves. Any kind of bullying, abusive or hurtful behaviour is not acceptable, especially if it’s because of a condition or impairment.
Dealing with bullies can be difficult and upsetting. Other people’s negative attitudes and unkind behaviour can make you feel excluded. It might also affect your confidence and self-esteem. But being bullied is not your fault.
Whether visible or invisible, your condition or impairment is a part of who you are. It can make you unique, resourceful, strong and determined, even when facing challenges feels hard. Difference is a good thing. Everyone is different in one way or another.
Being disabled means you face barriers. Lack of access or other people’s negative attitudes create these barriers, not you. It’s not your impairment that’s a ‘problem’. It’s other people’s attitudes. You have a right to be treated like everyone else.
Barriers could be:
the language people use, like 'sufferer' or 'wheelchair bound'
school policies that leave you out
not having hearing aid loops or information in Braille
It’s important to tell someone when you’re being bullied. This does not have to be a parent or teacher. It could be someone you trust and who can help you get the support you need, like another family member.
In school, this could be a:
teaching or learning support assistant
Telling a friend can help. But you should also report bullying to an adult who can support you to resolve the problem. If you’re not comfortable talking, you could write about it and give it to someone who can help.
Talking to your school about bullying
You have the right to be included and feel safe at school. You or your parents can talk to your school about being bullied and report any incidents. Every school must take action. They should have a policy they need to follow when dealing with bullying.
When you report any incident of bullying, you have the right to be believed and for the incident taken seriously. It’s not acceptable to be told that it’s “just one of those things that happen”. The bullying needs to stop. This should be about changing the bully’s behaviour towards you and not you changing what you do.
Working with your school to stop the bullying
Focus on what you want to happen so that the bullying stops. Ask to be involved in the process. Talk to your school about how to deal with the problem. This could be things like making sure that you are included in all classes or activities.
You could write what you want to say in a letter or email if you do not want to talk to your teachers or head of year in person.
If the school does not help you or fails to resolve the problem, you can follow your school’s complaint procedure.
They can talk to you about what you’re experiencing but they may also be able to offer advice on confidence, making friends and finding ways to make school more enjoyable. This could be joining a lunchtime club or activity.
Some people have found mindfulness or meditation helpful for dealing with difficult situations.