Growing up, my parents never kept me from being involved in the community and at school as they were strong believers that inclusion needs to occur in all settings. Through this experience I had a great group of peer and adult support and was never a target for bullying. Yet it still brought challenges as on occasion as the resource room teachers didn’t quite understand why I was getting the extra attention from peers and teachers.
For example, when I started high school the people who I was closest to were the girls on the varsity soccer team with whom I had been close too in past years. This came from joining the cross-country team as I was able to reconnect with them before our practices in the locker room which our two teams happened to share. So at the start of high school, I had a great group of peers to connect with. Regretfully, the few students with a similar disability who had fewer connections than me faced a tremendous amount of bullying, so it was incredibly hard for my resource room teacher to understand why the soccer girls and other athletes chose only to support me. The truth was by being in sports others were able to see my true personality and understand my disability more so they could be there for me.
In addition, at lunch time on occasion the resource room staff would come by to make sure no students were sitting alone and often at least one was. Conversely I was always sitting with my soccer friends or with some cross-country teammates. Therefore it would bother the resource staff that I wouldn’t invite my classmate to join us as we had similar challenges. They thought I should have included them or at least I should sit with them rather than my regular group. To me, this was very frustrating as my friends and teammates knew me from sports and weren’t just singling me out to be nice to while ignoring my classmates.
In terms of my teachers and coaches my parents communicated with them by email or in- person ahead of time so they could understand me better. Often right away they knew how to build a connection with me and in so many cases we formed a great relationship. This led to me being a very engaged and dedicated individual in the classroom. Understandingly the other resource room students complained and our resource room teacher was a upset by this. However what they didn’t totally see was that by my parents reaching out my teachers and friends had a better understanding of how to support me.
One of the ways these situations can be solved is by having resource room teachers and counselors set up a lunch group or peer mentor system for your school as it is often hard for some to reach out on their own. Personally when I think back to the people who were friends with me they were a sincere group and if they were aware there were others looking for a peer support they probably would have reached out to them too. It just happened at the time I was pretty well known and accepted from my involvement in community and school programs and therefore I can’t stress enough how important it is to put yourself out there so you too can get connected.
In terms of connecting with adults, one of the first suggestions is to go to your teacher for extra help or if you are an athlete don’t leave practice right away, talk to your coach for a few minutes and let them get to know you as a person. Another suggestion is to have your parents set up a meeting with your teachers and coaches in the beginning of the year so they are aware of your NVLD and unique challenges you may face at times. Just like with connecting with your peers just showing up and doing the minimum makes it harder as others need to be able to see the real you to build relationships.
Overall I can’t stress enough about how being involved in school and community prevents social isolation and being bullied in and outside of school. As the truth is having peer and adult support prevents bullying as you are generally happier at school and present much more positive behaviors. Now if you are like I was and have great support remember to speak up for others who aren’t as fortunate as you it will help them tremendously.
I am a true believer in having connections.Share your own story