Sticks and Stones…

Marina

Bullying is awful for any child. But for a child with limb abnormalities, bullying is even worse. My childhood was extremely difficult – in fact, preschool, elementary, and middle school were the most difficult periods in my life. Therefore, I’m sharing my insight regarding how to deal with it.

People often make assumptions or impose indirect aggression towards kids with disabilities.

Unfortunately, some people have odd beliefs about those with disabilities. Some of these can be internal and unintentional, while others can be intentional and hostile.

When I started preschool, the school district placed me in a special education class because they thought that I had an intellectual disability – just because my disability was physical. However, a year later, I was placed in regular classes with the rest of the kids. The school officials saw that I didn’t belong in a special education class, and that they had made a mistake.

I’ve experienced other similar situations where people were surprised that I was excelling in school or that I was going on fieldtrips with friends.

books

It’s important to break these assumptions and show people what you’re capable of.

Tell them that you worked hard. Tell them that you deserved that award. After all, you’ve probably worked twice as hard as anyone else to get where you are.

Even now, people make assumptions about me. For example, some people assume that I don’t drive. Instead of being ashamed of what people may think, I’ll correct their beliefs. I’ll show them my car and my hand-controls or even drive them around. I’ll show them that I’m capable, and that people with disabilities drive all the time. It’s important to correct these indirect aggressions in order to stop the cycle.

My family always defended me and pushed me to work hard in school. They constantly told me that they were proud of me and to ignore all of the negative comments.

My family attended all of my awards ceremonies, parent-teacher conferences, open house days, and other activities. Their involvement in school taught me to be proud of who I was, not shameful. And in the end, this involvement is what helped me develop into the strong woman I am today.

swing“God made you special, not different.”

In school, I was constantly called names. Kids would point at me and call me weird or freaky. I was even called a “robot.” I still remember being really affected by the name calling. Honestly, I would cry a lot because I felt like I was a loser at school.

My parents always told me that they didn’t know any better. They even inspired me to tell people that I wear artificial legs, and that’s because God allowed me to be born without real ones.

I took their advice, and I ended up making friends who accepted me for who I was. This allowed me to be more social in school, not shy away from situations, and speak up in class. Eventually, in high school and college, I became a “social butterfly.” I don’t think I could’ve gotten where I am now if I had let the bullying dictate my life.

It’s easy to become shy and not speak up, but I enjoy the fact that people like talking to me, see past my physical appearance, and appreciate me for who I really am.

motherMy mom always stood up for me and provided me with endless support when people were staring.

Growing up with limb abnormalities, I’ve always experienced unwanted attention. It would make me feel really uncomfortable, but my mom always stood up for me and provided me with endless support. Anytime she would catch someone staring at me, she’d ask them what they were looking at. She’d also tell them to stop staring and that there was nothing wrong with me. It simply wasn’t their business.

Although I didn’t fully understand everything when I was younger, I now know that the way she shielded and protected me truly made a difference in my life. Because of her, I learned to ignore the staring and not let it bother me. As a result, I’m never ashamed to go out in public. In addition, I’m comfortable taking off my prosthetic legs for certain events or in front of people I don’t know very well.

I’ve learned that there really isn’t anything “wrong” with me, and that some people are just curious and do it by instinct. Having an amazing family and support system can help disabled kids be more comfortable with who they are, as well as encourage them to do their best in school despite what others say.

Special treatment? Not in my family.

My parents didn’t just tell me that I was like everyone else. They also treated me like everyone else. Growing up, they assigned chores for me, made sure I did all of my homework, punished me if I did something bad, and rewarded me for my good grades.

Some people disagreed with the way my parents raised me. They told them that they should be easier on me. However, my parents disagreed. They said that I was like everyone else, and that I had to be responsible. Because of the way I was raised, I am very independent now. I do my chores, buy groceries, go to school, and drive. If my parents had been too lenient, I would’ve been much more dependent and relying on everyone to do things for me instead of doing things for myself.

Explain the disability to your child.

Growing up, I didn’t know what an amputation was. Instead, my parents told me that I was born missing the lower half of my legs, and that I wear fake legs (prostheses). This allowed me to understand my own disability and accept who I was.

When I was a little bit older, they explained what an amputation was. They told me that I was in fact born with legs, but that I had to have an amputation so that I could be able to walk later on. Nonetheless, acceptance played a huge role in the way I dealt with bullying. After all, if you don’t accept yourself, how can you expect others to accept you?

Overall Tips and Advice

Fortunately, I was not bullied to the extent of threats and physical aggression, but other kids may experience this.

I believe that it is essential for parents and family to be a strong support system for their kids throughout these difficult years.

Encourage your kids no matter what.

Tell your kids that they are special.

Come to their defense if you see anyone bothering them.

Always listen and actually pay attention to what they have to say.

If the bullying becomes very serious (thankfully in my case, it didn’t), contact school officials and report it.

Be sure that your child is safe.

Last but not least, unconditional love is crucial.

 

When a physically disabled child feels accepted and loved for who they are, it makes all the difference!

 

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Jeff Tiessen says:

    Hi Marina… so eloquently put. Your article is such a great resource for parents… especially those just beginning the journey of being a parent of a child with a disability. As a double-arm amp from an injury at age 11, my parents searched for this kind of info. I’m a publisher now, and would love to publish your blog in the “Parental Guidance” section of thrive magazine (www.thrivemag.ca) for the Canadian amputee community. Is this ok with you?

    Like

    1. Marina Nakhla says:

      Dear Jeff,
      Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment! It means a lot to me. I definitely agree with you, there is not enough information out there about this. Yes most definitely – it is my honor to have my blog published in your magazine. I just sent you an email!
      I look forward to hearing from you soon!

      Like

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