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To Those Who Bullied Me Because of My Speech Impediment

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I was known in school as “the girl who talks weird.” My classmates in elementary through high school didn’t understand the cause of my speech impediments. I was born with cerebral palsy and was non-verbal until I was 4 and a half. I went through endless hours of speech therapy, from learning American Sign Language to learning how to form my tongue and mouth to produce sounds and eventually string together words.

It was hard; I just wanted to be what I saw as “normal.” Normal in the sense that I wouldn’t have a speech impediment. Normal in the sense that I didn’t want to still be having speech therapy at age 15. Normal in the sense that I thought because I “talked weird” people didn’t want to be my friend, and if I just talked like my peers I’d have friends.

If someone had just stopped and actually gotten to know me, they would’ve found out that we had some things in common. They would’ve gotten to know a girl who’d be by your side in good times and bad, a girl with a great sense of humor and a mean sense of fashion. They would’ve gotten to know a girl who enjoys musical theater, reading, writing, volunteering for those less fortunate, and is passionate about animal rescue.

Being bullied because of my speech has definitely made me a bit more wary of putting myself out there, but as I continue on with the rest of my 20s, I’ve come to the realization that people at college and work tend to be kinder. On those days where I’m feeling outgoing enough, I introduce myself to others. It’s a hard thing to do, as I’m someone who typically observes before gaining the courage to speak up, but it’s worked.

For the first time, I’m blessed to have a best friend named Amy, who also attends my college. We both have very similar personalities, as well as common interests. Finally one of my dreams from my younger years has come true. Amy doesn’t judge me because of my impediment, and we often joke when something I meant to say comes out sounding completely different. Because of Amy, I am now a little less wary of people. As I’ve found out through her, some of the best friendships happen when you least expect it.

Being bullied for such a long time was difficult and frustrating. Back in the late 90s and early 2000s, even until my high school graduation in 2012, reporting incidents about my bullies was pretty much pointless. All of my schools had zero tolerance policies regarding bullying, but rarely did I see those who teased me even get detentions. Because they received no consequences, it sometimes made things even worse. Thankfully now, after all the news about bullying and especially cyber bullying in recent years, there are anti-bullying laws in 49 states. In New York, schools have a resource officer to whom students can report any cases of discrimination, as well as some other laws and rules which vary district by district. These laws make it much easier for victims of bullying to have the confidence to speak up and see real changes.

Now are these laws going to stop bullying altogether? If I were to be naive, I’d say yes, but I like looking at things from a logical perspective. So I believe the answer is no, but it is definitely a right step towards the future. Unfortunately, I believe bullying will never stop, but I and others can try to educate the bullies.

So, to all those who bullied me because of the fact I didn’t talk like you, I have this to say: I hope me “killing you with kindness” all those years has helped shape you into a better, more compassionate adult.

Originally published: August 15, 2016
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