Growing up with Down syndrome and facing the bullies

Growing up with Down syndrome, Susy was bullied at school. She shares her story to raise awareness that bullying needs to stop.

Growing up with Down syndrome meant that at times I had to face bullies. I want people to know that bullying is not normal and it needs to change – Susy.

When I was born I was so beautiful and special to everyone around me. I was really cute with thick black hair. I was also born with Down syndrome, a disability that means I sometimes have a hard time learning new things, have difficulty speaking, and am smaller than others.

There was good and bad in my childhood. My father left me and my mum when I was 1 ½, so my mum raised me by herself. I know my father loved me, but he didn’t show any emotion or pay any attention to me, and he wasn’t a large part of my life. My mum is amazing for what she did, and because of it we are best friends. My mum always has my back no matter what.

When I started school, I was in a special education class. I loved learning and even homework, I was the perfect student actually. I also had a group of friends who I spent lunch with including my best friend Crystal. But I didn’t love school because of how the bullies treated me which started when I was 12.

The bullies called me names like retard, loser, and baby. At the time I had a close friend who was in my class, and they would call us both lesbos. Being half Chinese, they would tell me to go back to my country and say other racist comments about my mum.

People also stared at me, watching every move I made. I hated the eyes on me, and I hated how they treated me so wrongly.

My friends would watch it happen, but they thought I had to fight for myself and stand up for myself.

In school I had a crush on two boys, but they didn’t notice me, and I didn’t tell them how I felt. I haven’t had a real date yet, but I know one day my dreams will come true and a prince on a white horse will sweep me off my feet.

Even today there are still people in my life who bully me and others around me. There are people who are rude, swear, lose their temper, and gossip about me and others behind our backs. The things they say about me, my friends, and even my mum are nasty and can affect my self-esteem such as calling me fat.

People can also think I look a bit odd to them, or sound odd, or do odd things. I used to talk to myself, and to some people that seemed a bit strange. They can’t see people who have a disability or Down syndrome as being ‘normal’, but we are.

When I catch the bus, people stare at me, and even act shocked because I have Down syndrome. When I am out with my friends, all eyes are on us. But when people do treat us as they would anybody else, it is amazing. Sometimes people talk to me and say, “Good morning Susy’, and ‘wow, you’re so beautiful’. It’s so nice, their smiles are amazing, and I feel blessed.

When I watch the bullying happening in front of me, it hurts my feelings and makes me very sad. I am just a person with true feelings trying to live my life and be happy. I’ve got so many talents, and a love for art and food. I draw everyday, bake, write recipes, and am even working on writing my own cookbook. I am an independent woman, I am meant to be every day of my beautiful life. I am no different to any of you, and my disability is not who I am.

My heart and my soul is in Aruma where I work in the Packaging business and where I get to meet all these lovely people. I am also part of the Employee Committee where we are working to raise awareness of bullying and violence.

I have three girlfriends outside of work who I have known since I was a baby, Josie, Beth and Annalise. This year mum is planning a big party for me for my birthday, it’s mostly a surprise, but I know it will be amazing. The dream is alive inside of me, and I know the dream to have a wonderful life with everyone around me will come true.

I want people to know bullying is not normal. I feel very deeply against bullying and violence, and the issue is very close to my heart. Something has got to happen to prevent bullying in schools, in the workplace, and in the community.

If you are being bullied, speak up! Tell a parent, or teacher, or advocate, or support worker. You can help to put a stop to it.

For others, I really hope in the future you will think about what I have said, and if you meet someone with a disability, or anyone really, you will treat them with respect.

If you need to talk to someone about mental illness or a crisis in your life, please consider calling Lifeline on 13 11 14, beyondblue on 1300 22 4636, or the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800.

Find out more about how we can help you to find a job with our employment supports for people with a disability.