A Child's Lifelong Emotional
The "Hidden" Disability from
by Dolly Lee
I am writing about a subject that has received national
attention in the past. A subject that most people in western Wisconsin
feel is not a problem in our quiet, rural area. I am writing to tell you
it is here and it is a big problem. It is in our cities, small towns and
peaceful countries. It is in our parks, playgrounds, schools, and homes.
Our children know it is here. It has been here for years. It is time adults
realize it is here also.
Bullying. One word the nation has become familiar
with, but a word still taken too lightly in many areas. According to
the dictionary “bully” means; A person who habitually intimidates
weaker people. This definition of bullying is way too brief in my opinion.
To the victims and their families bullying means; discrimination,
verbal and physical harassment, rumors, false accusations, threats and
gangs. These terms are all too familiar in our home. Our son is a victim
Our son was diagnosed with a non-curable congenital heart
condition at the age of 5. He has undergone palliative open-heart surgery,
heart catharizations, and numerous other procedures. He also has a miniature
heart defibrillator implanted in his chest to shock his heart should it
stop. Due to his heart condition he has been banned form all exertive and
physical contact sports. This includes football, hockey, soccer, basketball,
baseball, wrestling, karate, weightlifting, track, etc. He takes daily
medication to hopefully slow down the progression of his ultimate heart
failure. Our son has a hidden disability.
Let me give a few examples of our personal definition
Discrimination. We thought letting our son’s peers
know about his heart condition would be beneficial. We thought it would
help them understand why he can’t physically do what “normal” healthy children
do. Instead it brought discrimination against our son. Even in the early
years of elementary school discrimination is present among children. We
feel our son has been discriminated against by way of verbal and physical
harassment from peers.
Our son has been teased for years in relation to his disability.
He is teased about not being able to run as fast or as far as his peers.
He is teased about not being able to participate fully in phy-ed. He is
teased about not being able to participate in any of the popular sports.
He is even teased about having a “disease”. He is often told by his peers
not to touch them or their belongings because they don’t want “disease
Teasing or harassment? In my opinion they are the same.
The verbal harassment eventually turned into physical
harassment. Our son has been hit, tripped, pushed down, and kicked.
Normal childhood play? Not when it turns into being held down while knee
slammed in the chest, having basketballs slammed into your head, being
body slammed to the ground, punched in the face and punched in the chest.
This has not happened “on occasion” It has happened on a regular
basis for years. Recently we have had to seek medical attention for our
son after a peer punched him in the ribs. Thankfully this time he was only
diagnosed with bruised ribs and not fractures. Also, thankfully this time
there was no damage to his heart or defibrillator.
Would a child paralyzed in a wheelchair be harassed about
not being able to run and play like the others? Would they be harassed
because they are paralyzed? Would they be pushed over, kicked and punched?
Why is it acceptable to harass a child with a “hidden” disability?
On to two more of our personal definitions of bullying.
and false accusations. Whispering and stretching the story are indeed
a normal part of childhood. Kids being kids. Most kids have done it including
my own. However, the innocence of kids being kids has been lost in some
of today’s generation of children. Instead of innocent whispering and tall
tales, some children have resorted to spreading vicious, completely
fabricated rumors and false accusations.
I will give you one example that recently happened to
my son, but I assure you this is only one of many my son has been the victim
of. It is also an example of how serious today’s bullying has become. For
whatever reason a child decided to fabricate a serious accusation against
my son. Without getting into details I will just say it was a sexual
accusation that could have had some life long, serious consequences
with the court system for my son. One child started it, and several others
helped spread it. It was carried into homes and told to parents. A parent
went to the school and complained about it. An investigation occurred and
it was found to be a completely fabricated story started to hurt my son.
The child who fabricated it admitted he made the whole story up. I have
very mixed emotions about this whole incident. The child guilty of starting
this false accusation did something seriously wrong. Yet this child also
did something seriously right by admitting they fabricated the whole story.
What I hope was explained to this child and the others involved is the
serious consequences this could have caused an innocent child! The guilty
child got equivalent to a slap on the hand. However, if they had not told
the truth my son would have been in court and suffering some serious consequences
for something he was completely innocent of. Is this an example of kids
being kids by simply whispering about peers and stretching the story? Or
is it more appropriate to call it false accusations?
And finally my mention of threats and gangs. We
are all aware of the following story: A child who is told they will lose
their lunch money if they didn’t do what the bully wanted. Or the little
girls who always teased other girls about their clothes. Again, a normal
part of growing up. Yesterday’s typical school yard bullies. Now picture
today’s scene: Groups of 10, 15, and even more, bullies. Groups who inform
a child they just physically injured that if they tell anyone they will
get beat worse tomorrow. Or a group so large and so tight they will
believe anything another member says and stand by each other no matter
what. Groups that support each other even when they don’t know the
facts for sure, and worse yet, even when they know for sure the truth is
not being told. Groups that intimidate in numbers. Is this typical school
yard bullies? Or are we now seeing gangs form in elementary schools? You
Something I have noticed through the years is how groups
like this pull in members. Even “decent” children are being drawn into
these groups. Why? I am not a professional in this area and have no concrete
answers. But I am a parent who has witnessed this through the years and
I have an opinion about it. Would a child rather support one or two
children who are being bullied and risk being bullied themselves? Or would
it be safer to join a group of 10, 15, or more? Some of these groups
have become so large children are afraid to stand up to them or disagree
with them. It is safer to join them then to stand up to them. The problem
is not just boys either. Girls are now a major part of bullying.
My son’s physical injuries from bullying heal. However
his emotional injuries suffered the past 5 years are deep. He doesn’t have
emotional scars. He has lifelong emotional wounds. He now has another “hidden”
disability. He has been diagnosed with an emotional disorder. The cause
for emotional disorders varies, but it doesn’t take a professional to figure
out what caused my son’s.
Parents or guardians need to talk to their children
about disabilities and discrimination. They need to explain it is OK
for a child to be different. As in my son’s case, children need to know
his heart condition is not “catchy”. He can not give them a bad heart through
his germs. My son’s condition was not caused by something he did wrong,
or something his parents did wrong. It is congenital. Just like some kids
are born with blue eyes, my son was born with a sick heart. Children need
to know what it is like to be a child with a disability. My son would
give anything in this world to be “normal”. To be able to play football
and hockey. He would give anything not to have to suffer through endless
procedures and surgeries. He dreams of not having a body full of scars.
He worries about each day being his last. Children need to understand disabilities,
but they need guidance in understanding it. That is our job as parents
Parents and guardians also have to talk to their child
about standing up for other children who are being bullied. Don’t
let the bullies take over our schools!
My child is not perfect. We have had those dreaded school
meetings. He has had to write letters of apology. He has sat in the principal’s
office. The difference is, we accept when he has done something wrong,
We discipline and apply consequences for incorrect actions. We seek professional
help when necessary. We do this because we love our child and want to do
everything in our power to teach him the difference between right and wrong!
I realize some children will take the wrong path despite everything we
do to help them. But most children will benefit from our hard work.
I beg parents/guardians to come forward and take charge.
Don’t let our State make worldwide news like Colorado did! If your child
is a victim speak up. We need to make our communities aware of this problem.
If your child is a bully seek help for them. I am sure deep inside they
don’t feel good about it and are silently asking for help. All children
need guidance as they struggle to grow up. Today more then ever they need
extra guidance! Don’t sweep this problem under the rug. Don’t pretend
it is not in your community. It is here. It is real. And it is serious!
Whether your child is a victim or a bully, we need to come together as
adults and take charge. This problem won’t disappear unless we all work