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To The Teachers Who Don't Understand My Hypotonia

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Dear Teacher,

I know your job is hard. Kids are a pain in the neck. And middle school and high school teachers, I know you have it harder, putting up with over 100 kids a day. The “normal” kids are annoying enough, so I know how frustrating it can be when you see “that kid” listed as your student.

You know who I mean, the kid who “makes excuses” and “lies” about pain to go to the nurse and get out of class. That kid who stays home because they’re “in too much pain.” That kid who claims they need to type most assignments because their “hands hurt too much.” That kid who claims they have “hypotonia,” yet tells you not to look it up because “the Internet will lie about it.”

Please hear me out. “That kid” is not lying. How do I know? I am “that kid.”

I have hypotonia, which makes all my muscles weaker. Academics are extremely important to me; I would never go to the nurse unless I’m in a lot of pain, and I mean a lot. I try to attend school as much as possible, but there are some days where I am in so much pain, it’s hard to breathe. I have to type all assignments longer than a medium-length paragraph or my hand will be cramping and spasming all day. And I seriously advise against looking up hypotonia because it will tell you lies about how “benign congenital hypotonia isn’t a diagnosis” and other junk.

It’s harder for those of us with hypotonia to get through the entire school day. For one thing, muscle weakness can mean that our muscles get tired out quickly. That means we can start experiencing muscle pain as early as second or third period. And as you probably already know, kids can say some horribly mean things. I have experienced multiple cases of bullying every year since kindergarten. The worst was in gym during our badminton unit. Kids were laughing at and mocking me. Even my partner was yelling at me. The worst part was, the teacher did nothing about it.

Please stand up for us. Sometimes we won’t be able to defend ourselves, so please step in. We need your help with a lot of things, but don’t talk down to us. Our needs and challenges may differ, but we deserve the same respect as other students.

And please, take the time to get to know us. What we lack in athleticism, we make up for in intelligence, creativity, compassion, and empathy. You are such a big part of our support team and our life in general. We may have bad days (otherwise known as days we have gym), but we really do care about you and your class!

Sincerely and truly,

A Hardworking Student With Hypotonia

Originally published: August 17, 2016
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