My Cerebral Palsy and Bullying
[Caption] The first time I fully realized what my disability (cerebral palsy) meant was my first day of school
[Image] Outside the entrance to a school. Balloons and a sign saying “Welcome to Kindergarten” indicate that it is the first day of school. A parent and child are entering the building, and various children and adults are milling around on the sidewalk. In the center, a mother is adjusting a boy’s shoes.
[Image] A young boy wearing a backpack, holding a woman’s hand and walking.
[Caption] It was the furthest walk I’d been on…
[Image] The boy, still holding the woman’s hand, and facing another woman. He looks nervous. He is wearing leg braces.
[Caption] But it was okay…
[Image] The second woman’s hand gently rests on the boy’s backpack, which he is still wearing. Her other hand is opening the door in front of the two of them.
[Caption] …I was anxious to make friends.
[Image] The boy, standing in the doorway of a full children’s classroom. All the children in the room are looking at him. One is pointing right at him.
Superimposed on this classroom image are three other images. On the left, a new boy looking up from his paper and crayon, looking upset. In the middle, a closeup of the boy with the backpack, looking concerned. And on the right, a girl pointing at the boy with the leg braces, looking scared.
[Caption] But then I noticed something.
[Caption] I decided to try to hide it by not walking at all.
[Image] A bird’s eye view of the schoolyard. Some children are playing with a soccer ball. Two others are drawing on the sidewalk. A few more are playing jump rope. On the side, sitting alone against the wall of the school, is the boy with the leg braces.
[Caption] It also meant I couldn’t make friends.
[Image] The boy with leg braces, still sitting against the school wall. Two other boys carrying a soccer ball approach him. He is looking up hopefully.
[Image] The boys with the soccer ball pointing and laughing. The boy sitting against the wall looks upset.
[SFX] ha ha ha ha ha
[Image] Several children from the playground. Most are laughing. One is mocking the boy with leg braces by making a face with his tongue out and eyes crossed. His fingers are stiffened and his legs deliberately crooked.
[SFX] ha ha ha ha ha ha ha
[Image] The boy with leg braces running away from the other children, who are pointing at him
[Image] The boy’s foot – brace clearly visible – tripping over another child’s outstretched foot.
[Image] The boy with leg braces falling face-forward on to the ground. He looks embarrassed and very upset. Above him other children are still laughing.
[Image] A closeup of the boy’s face, tears in his eyes. He is still on the ground, surrounded by the feet of the other children. He looks devastated.
[Image] The boy, standing, alone, and drawn very small, taking up a small part of the panel. He looks very sad, and is looking sad.
[Caption] This was just the beginning. I would be made fun of, forced to show my legs against my protest. I was a freak, a monster. It went on like this for a few years. Every day. I would feel hurt in my heart on the bus ride home. I realized I had to persevere, to not give up. I had to think positively and not worry about all the misery of my life. It was critical to my own mental health.
In my early years of childhood, I lived a very sheltered life, knowing nothing more than the walls of my home. I was a small child, and I had severe separation anxiety at the time, so I would rarely ever leave my parents, and I almost never left home because of my physical handicap.
The first time I fully realized what my handicap meant was my first day of school.
I got to school with no trouble, but the walk to school had been the furthest walk I had been on since I was born. I was taken into my kindergarten class. I was afraid of all the people and adults. The teacher was an authority figure and that frightened me. We were introduced to the classroom environment and all of its pleasures and then it was time for recess. I was anxious to make friends but I didn’t know how to, so I just wandered aimlessly. I was lost, unable to think of how to start, or even where to start. I just kept wandering around.
But something about my physical handicap was new and interesting to my kindergarten classmates.
As I was wandering, I noticed that they were all staring at me and whispering to each other as I walked by. I knew I walked differently because of my handicap. The attention I was getting made me uncomfortable, so I decided to try and hide my handicap by sitting on a window ledge and not walking at all. Nobody came to talk to me; I was alone, until one kid, amused by my disability, started to imitate my clumsy walk. The other kids, thinking this was funny, started laughing and pointing at me. I ran away afraid. As I was running I was tripped, and I hit the ground hard.
This action took the laughter to an even higher level; I had never been more frightened in all my life. All the noise drew in an even greater crowd of children, most of them on the ground rolling with laughter. I didn’t want them to laugh at me; I was scared and afraid, and my heart was beating. It took all my strength to prevent myself from crying.
When the bell rang and they all ran into line, I got up dusting myself off. The teacher had trouble organizing the children, as they were still excited by the novelty of my cerebral palsy. I still saw most of them staring down at my legs, so I didn’t venture back inside until the teacher came out to get me.
This was just the beginning; when gym class came around I couldn’t play football or soccer with the other children. I couldn’t play and the other children would always wonder why. They would ask me, but I was too ashamed to answer them so other kids would give the reply, “He’s crippled.”
The children were curious and wanted to have look at my feet and the plastic casts that kept them in place. Day after day, people would walk up to me and I would hide my legs, but the children would force me to show them my legs no matter how strong my protest. The children would look at my legs with interest and touch my feet as if they had a life of their own. They would look at my legs and at me like I was a monster, a freak, until the teacher came around.
It went on like this for a few years. Every day I would feel hurt in my heart on the bus ride home.
I had gained a huge capacity for perseverance from my torture in the very beginning. I had grown attached to my father and mother, never once taking for granted any of the loving warmth that they would give me as I came home every day. And every morning, I would wake up, get ready for school, put on my casts and see my handicap. I had to suffer the unfairness that life had granted me at birth, whether I liked it or not.
Eventually, my handicap didn’t interest many people anymore. It was just like another boy’s red hair or blue eyes. I had learned to accept my difference and to deal with it. I realized that there are some things in life you had to accept. I realized that I had to persevere, to not give up. I had to think positively and not worry about all the misery of my life. It was critical to my own mental health.
I push myself every day, determined to prove the fact that I can do everything by myself, and that I can do anything I set my mind to. My every thought, my every action, has been directed towards that singular purpose. I do this so that one day I can face my fellow peers and feel truly accepted and equal.