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How Bullying Has Shaped My Life

AshleyCarter102AshleyCarter102 Member Posts: 1 Listener
edited July 2019 in Guest blogs

Ashley (18) was born with Treacher Collins syndrome, a condition that affects his face. After being bullied most of his life, he has become an anti-bullying campaigner and shares his experiences in the hope of raising awareness.

The syndrome affects my face: I was born with no ears, no cheekbones and a receding jaw. I have had over thirty operations including three jaw distractions and cochlear implants. When I was a baby, I had to have a tracheostomy fitted as I swallowed my tongue and went blue, this was the only way the doctors could save me.


Growing up was amazing because I had my family. However, this changed when I started primary school. It was the toughest and most emotional part of my life. I ended up attending two different primary schools as a result. Within a week or two of starting the second school, the bullying began. It started with things getting thrown at me (bottle lids, food, etc.) but it got worse as the months went on, to the point where they would physically pin me up against the wall. They also tripped me up in corridors and in the playground, which upset me a lot. 

I remember cycling to a friend’s house that was about five minutes away, as soon as I entered my friend’s street the two bullies saw me and started to chase me home. This chase led to me nearly getting run over and I put myself in danger multiple times to escape them. They took over my life and I didn't fully open up to anyone until much later on, with it affecting both my confidence and mental health. I used to come home every day from school crying to my parents and seeing my mum get upset and tearful about the situation only made it worse. The school did nothing to begin with, their solution was to move me into another class. Why should I be moved and not them? This was the question my family and I couldn’t help but ask. I started to enjoy it in the other class, but when I went out into the playground I still was faced with the bullies. They still had control over certain elements of my life.

Secondary school was not as bad. I still had the stares, points, and things thrown at me, but it was better. In 2016, I became a volunteer at a local charity shop which I loved, and then I became a waiter at a pub. People allowed me to join their team and I got to show them what I could do. I didn't want my syndrome to be the front of me, I wanted them to look past the condition and see the abilities and skills I had. ​

​Then there was an exciting change. In early 2017, I contacted a charity called Fixers who work with young people aged between sixteen and twenty-five who want to use their past to fix the future. This allowed me to share my personal experience of being bullied as someone with a facial disfigurement. It was amazing to finally be able to feel brave and open up about this as I was really shy before sharing my story.​ ​My campaign video was aired on ITV News, I was invited to do some press work and I took part in multiple radio interviews. The feedback and response from this have been fantastic!

My future goals are to continue to share my story and raise awareness. I want to write a book, and perhaps work within the TV industry. Since doing my campaign, my life has changed for the better. We are all different, but we should be treated the same and be given the chance to celebrate those differences. I hope together we can stop bullying!

You can follow Ashley’s journey on Twitter at Carterashley13

Have you ever experienced something negative because of your disability? What awareness do you believe would eliminate bullying?

Replies

  • Ami2301Ami2301 Community champion Posts: 6,908 Disability Gamechanger
    You are absolutely incredible Ashley! Keep doing what you're doing, you're making a huge difference in today's society! :)
    Community Champion
    Disability Gamechanger - 2019
  • Hart86Hart86 Member Posts: 394 Pioneering
    I always wonder the same, it always seems as though the victim of bullying is the one that gets punished. Moved class, put in isolation “for their protection”. I saw a news article recently about bullies that were released from school early so they wouldn’t hassle other children, how would they see this as anything other than a reward??
  • April2018momApril2018mom Member - under moderation Posts: 2,882 Member - under moderation
    You are incredible Ashley. I was at work today and my dyslexic friend was talking about how she was not diagnosed until 07. She learned ways to work around it. She too experienced bullying even after diagnosis. She was attending a mainstream school. We have to continue to spread awareness and bust myths as much as we can. 
  • AilsAils Community champion Posts: 2,268 Disability Gamechanger
    Thank you for sharing your brave and inspiring story with us, Ashley.  It is so unfair what you have went through with people bullying you, but good for you for rising above it all and turning what was a negative point in your life to such a positive part of your life now.  The world needs more people like you to show these bullies that they will never win.  I am so glad that you have had such great feedback from all the fantastic work you are doing.  Good luck with your future ventures.  :smiley:
    Winner of the Scope New Volunteer Award 2019.   :)
  • NailligemroNailligemro Member Posts: 1 Listener
    I am so glad that your life has turned around Ashley, confidence and self worth should be nurtured in everyone. My daughter is 31 and has Down's Syndrome, she progressed really well at primary school but the bullying was merciless at senior school culminating in sexual abuse when she was 13. We removed her from the school and taught her at home where she learnt the skills that she needed. After a few months she really began to enjoy her life again but since her mid 20's her mental health has deteriorated badly, (PTSD), she self harms, mainly to her mouth and face as she feels that the Down's is the problem. She has no self esteem and appears to have become a lost soul, even more so since her father passed away in April. She hasalso had 5 admissions to mental health units for learning difficulties. Sadly, it is an uphill battle trying to get the support and therapy imput that she needs. Sorry, a long story, what I wanted to ask was do you know of any similar organisation to Fixers that work with over 25's. Any information would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks and all the best  you.
  • BloomsburyLadyBloomsburyLady Member Posts: 1 Listener

    Nailligemro - I was so moved to hear about your daughter and her self-harming. Have you tried showing your daughter some photos and articles about famous women with Down's Syndrome, like Sarah Gordy and Kate Grant? It might help her to see these beautiful, strong role models.

    Sarah Gordy: https://sarahgordy.com/

    Kate Grant: https://metro.co.uk/2019/01/10/model-with-downs-syndrome-becomes-brand-ambassador-for-benefit-cosmetics-8330233/

    Madeline Stuart: http://www.madelinestuartmodel.com/

  • Grumpy1954Grumpy1954 Member Posts: 46 Courageous
    Inspiring story, Ashley. I was bullied at primary school partly because I had severe asthma and couldn't keep up in games of fight back for long. The cub scouts helped me with physical fitness, swimming helped the asthma and I stopped being a problem when I became able to defend myself.
    In later life, I became disabled, with osteoarthritus in both knees, lower back and starting in hands. At a previous address, I stubbornly decided I was going to walk to the post box to post a letter, and got mugged by a gang on 10 yr olds. Quickly realised fight or flight wasn't an option, I couldn't move fast enough, so I turtled up facing a wall and waited for them to leave. They got caught on CCTV, but were all already on Asbo's, no more could be done. It made me realise how vulnerable I had become. 
    Later I found shopping in Telford Centre was an ordeal, people seeing me unsteady on my feet and view me as a convenient target or victim, pushing past me to pay or get to an item, sometimes knocking me over. I tried a motobility scooter, but they walked into that and blamed me for not levitating out of their way I found not carrying cash, and having my phone secured with Pin, password, and now fingerprint, was the safest way to proceed. Having a disability some places is taken as a weakness to be exploited.
  • YorkshireLass01YorkshireLass01 Member Posts: 21 Courageous
    Have a Google for help in your area for your daughter, or ring Scope and ask. I know that in my local area there are support groups where people learn skills and make friends, all based around the things they like to do like gardening, baking, arts and crafts etc. Local hospices offer things like that, they're not just a place to go die, I was amazed at what was on offer for people and their families when my dad was a patient at ours. Social Services or your GP should be able to point you in the right direction.
    Where there isn't it, you can't expect it.
  • YorkshireLass01YorkshireLass01 Member Posts: 21 Courageous
    I'm 59 years old and was bullied throughout my middle and grammar school years, both my daughters were bullied too, not because of disabilities then though, just for merely being different. But I have also been bullied on social media, because I'm outspoken and freely give my opinion on things I feel strongly about. One woman that I have known for over 40 years told me that I "use my disability as a weapon" when I was talking about people without blue badges using disabled spaces at my grandson's school. She hadn't seen me for 30 years but is friends with my brother, who is one of life's "professional hypochondriac's" but manages to persuade the medical profession that he really does have all these serious conditions he gets hospitalised for, and he had been telling her that I have nothing wrong with me. That snowballed into people I had known all my life (literally, not just a figure of speech) believing him and spreading rumours about me, so much so, that I was reported to the DWP for benefit fraud. I had 7 years of hell from that and am only just coming out of the other side. People can be so vicious with their tongue or fingers on a keyboard, all it takes is one wrong word in their ear and they pounce.
    Where there isn't it, you can't expect it.
  • Grumpy1954Grumpy1954 Member Posts: 46 Courageous
    Yorkshire lass01, I know what you mean. My ex, who had custody of the 3 children from the marriage (I fought it but got told "mother wants, mother gets) I'm 64 now, back then I was newly disabled. With no other relatives within 100 miles we were asked to take care of the children while she was in hospital for an extended stay. We already had one teenager living with us, and bewteen them they were at 3 different schools at the other end of Telford to us.
    I was told I was not to park on the school grounds in the disabled space "as the taxis needed it to turn around in". Then a group of women (we knew them as the Coven) objected to us bringing the children to school, I was stopped one afternoon leaving the grounds with them, told to await the police as I'd been reported for reversing over a child. I asked where the child and the ambulance was, as if I'd reversed over him with a 2 ton vehicle he would need medical attention, to be told child and mother had left the grounds, obviously not run over. Same woman, on Sports Day, put a child in a buggy right up agains. my car exhaust, then when I started the engine to leave, hammered on the bodywork and glass screaming I was trying to kill her child. We've also been reported twice for benefit fraud, the first time (my wife breeds and shows rabbits) for "rabbit rustling", the investigator checked with the police, who told him there was no such offence (when they'd stopped laughing) Second time it was for making thousands of pounds a week undeclared selling rabbits at a small pet shop 15 miles away. The investigator dealt with that over the phone, we explained rabbits don't actually breed as in legend, and what pet shops pay would not cover our fuel costs taking them to that shop, even if they weren't specifically bred to show.
  • YorkshireLass01YorkshireLass01 Member Posts: 21 Courageous
    Yorkshire lass01, I know what you mean. My ex, who had custody of the 3 children from the marriage (I fought it but got told "mother wants, mother gets) I'm 64 now, back then I was newly disabled. With no other relatives within 100 miles we were asked to take care of the children while she was in hospital for an extended stay. We already had one teenager living with us, and bewteen them they were at 3 different schools at the other end of Telford to us.
    I was told I was not to park on the school grounds in the disabled space "as the taxis needed it to turn around in". Then a group of women (we knew them as the Coven) objected to us bringing the children to school, I was stopped one afternoon leaving the grounds with them, told to await the police as I'd been reported for reversing over a child. I asked where the child and the ambulance was, as if I'd reversed over him with a 2 ton vehicle he would need medical attention, to be told child and mother had left the grounds, obviously not run over. Same woman, on Sports Day, put a child in a buggy right up agains. my car exhaust, then when I started the engine to leave, hammered on the bodywork and glass screaming I was trying to kill her child. We've also been reported twice for benefit fraud, the first time (my wife breeds and shows rabbits) for "rabbit rustling", the investigator checked with the police, who told him there was no such offence (when they'd stopped laughing) Second time it was for making thousands of pounds a week undeclared selling rabbits at a small pet shop 15 miles away. The investigator dealt with that over the phone, we explained rabbits don't actually breed as in legend, and what pet shops pay would not cover our fuel costs taking them to that shop, even if they weren't specifically bred to show.
    I think these people exist at every school in the land purely to gang up on those who don't fit in. It's pathetic!
    Where there isn't it, you can't expect it.
  • Adrian_ScopeAdrian_Scope Administrator Posts: 7,597 Scope community team
    Thanks for sharing this @AshleyCarter102. And I'm so glad things are improving for you. Please keep us updated on what you do next!
    Senior Community Partner
    Scope

    If you have a few minutes to spare, we'd appreciate your feedback on our online community.
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