- Posted February 24, 2013 by
Team iReport featured this story
This iReport is part of an assignment:
'The Bully Effect': Making it stop
Bullying of Special Needs Kids
- hhanks, CNN iReport producer
A story for you to consider discussing with your children!
This is a story about a lesson in Compassion,understanding and empathy for others. Compassion and empathy for the special needs kids at school with your kids. Last week on Valentines Day my son was so excited to go to school because he knew I was bringing in a special snack for him to share with his class. You see, they are the big 6th graders so no party but they were allowed a snack and to exchange cards. The teacher gave the rules... You give to one you give to all! Too bad the children and the parents didn't enforce that rule. My son got “1” Valentine... Just 1. Why? Because the kids followed the rules in the classroom and only 1 child passed out cards. My son came home crushed, why? Because the kids were exchanging cards in the classroom before school started officially and the teacher was yet to enter the room, they were exchanging on the bus and they were exchanging cards and goody bags in the cafeteria at lunch. My son asked if he could have one. The reply was "No, no one likes you".( from at least one classmate). My son, who generally has the biggest and brightest spirit of most kids was broken. He came home so sad and depressed that he didn't want to talk, to play,and even to go back to school on Friday.
Parents... This is not okay. We have somehow moved away from teaching our kids about empathy, compassion, respect. We've moved far away from teaching kids that just because someone is different it does not mean that we get a free ticket to bully them and make fun of them. We need to take a lesson in civility and human decency. Talk to our kids about why some kids are different and answer any questions that they have openly and honestly.... Then maybe there would be some happier healthier kids at school and less bullying.
I would love to be able to say that this was an isolated incident but of course it was not. Just the following week he got to sit on the school bus while kids spewed nasty names to him. He wont defend himself, in a way he "cant" defend himself. You see, my son has a TBI (traumatic brain injury) Part of the way he is, is that he thinks that everyone is his friend and when the kids make fun of him.. .he gets confused because he does not see that he is different from anyone else.
The bullying has gone on for years. He has been bullied by teachers, bullied by fellow students and even recently bullied by the parents of kids that he goes to school with. This behavior is not okay. I dont know how we have moved so far away from the goal of raising our children to respect one another. To value our differences and be compassionate and empathetic towards others... no matter what the disability. Now, I realize that not only special needs kids are bullied but I am writing from their point of view because that is the world that I live in.
I live with an amazing 11 year old boy who has the biggest kindest heart of anyone I have ever met. He has survived and grown through things medically that would make some grown-ups I know cringe and hide under the covers. So why is it that he can work so hard to overcome all his medical issues only to go to school and be told by a fellow 6th grade girl that he is "pathetic, that he will be miserable for the rest of his life"because of the way he is. Why are our children speaking to each other like this, thinking that it is okay? Again, where is the empathy and compassion for others that we are supposed to be teaching our children.
You see Valentines Day was just the breaking point for our son. He for the first time did not want to go back to school on Friday. He loves school. He has spent years wishing it was year round... why??? Because he thinks every one is his friend and he wants to see them. It is not the learning part...that is a significant challenge for him but none the less he wants to go to school all the time just to see the kids. Maybe if the kids actually played with him outside of school he would feel differently... but they don't.
Because of the hurt that my son felt on Valentines Day, feeling unloved, feeling like life would be better if he was born "normal"... What is normal anyway! Because of the hurt in his eyes we started a Facebook page dedicated to our son. (Letters of Love for Eric).
People all around the world are writing letters of love to Eric, words of love and encouragement. I am "friends" with people on Facebook that know my son personally, not many of them have taken the time to write notes of encouragement to him. Strangers all around the world have taken the time to write to him, to encourage him, to help him feel loved. To remind him that even though he is different there is nothing wrong with him. I cant begin to tell you over the years how many parents have come up to me and asked "Whats wrong with Eric? Why is he like that?" My answer has always been.. "Nothing is wrong with Eric...do you think there is something wrong with him?
I know he is different, but no, there is not anything "wrong" with him. He may be forgetful, he repeats questions even if you have just answered him. He has specific bathroom needs and has a 8 inch tube sticking out of his stomach which aids his bathroom use. He has Adaptive PE because his mobility is decreased, he cant run anymore because of the pain caused by the tube. He has difficulty picking things up that fall on the floor. These are things that Eric deals with every day. But they are not what defines him. What defines him is his love for every single person on Earth. He has more compassion then any other child I have ever met. What defines him in that he will stop at nothing to help someone who is sad, who is hurting. His TBI and multitude of medical problems do not define him. His empathy, thoughfulness, love and compassion for others defines him!
All his struggles and more set him apart from his peers and it is really heart breaking to watch the kids ignore him, poke fun at him, laugh at him right in front of him, refuse to help him when he drops something. Sit behind him in class and make barking noises at him the weeks that followed his dog passing away. Watch him drop something and roll under their desk and refuse to move or help him pick it up. Sit there and watch him struggle to get down to his hands and knees and crawl around their feet to pick up a pencil.
Maybe if we as parents brought the focus back to teaching our kids to be tolerant of one another. That having different abilities does not mean that you are any less "cool" or important than anyone else. Maybe then the child with a TBI, with Autism, with Down Syndrome, With Cerebral Palsy.... with anything that makes them "different" maybe then they could go to school like everyone else and not fear being picked on, made fun of, maybe they would not feel alone and isolated all the time. Maybe if one "typically developing" kid took the time to include our kids in an after school activity, in a weekend play date....gosh forbid actually invite them to a birthday party... Maybe then we would be teaching our kids that being "different" does not make them any less worthy. In 11 years my son has been invited to 5 birthday parties.... 5.Thats it. How sad is that.
Again I say that, maybe one day when we go back to raising our kids with empathy, compassion and respect for others with the bullying of Special Needs Kids start to end!
Eric's Facebook Page created to bring knowledge to the trials and struggles he has gone through and continues to go through is: