Bullying and Syndactyly
About a month ago we sent out a letter asking for volunteer stories about bullying. We are so grateful for our followers and group members to share their personal stories with us, not matter how overwhelming the stories may be – we know that these hurtful recounts may be very difficult to pen. We received a story that really got our attention; this story was from an adult with syndactyly who requested anonymity in order to share their experience. This is their story:
“Growing up I felt very alone and unwanted. My parents treated me differently because I was born with syndactyly. At the time I knew nothing of what it was or why I was different than other children. They used to tease me that I was worthless, deformed and when they had other children who were normal (as I know it now), my brothers and sisters used to tease me too. My fingers were fused together, I had very limited range of motion with my fingers and so growing up there were certain things I could not do. It was not treated while I was a child. I used to get beatings for not being able to complete my chores like my brother and sister. They would punish me by sitting me in a corner and called me names; both my parents and my siblings. When I asked my parents why I was different than other children, I would get no answers. I was told it was because I was a bad child and that was that.
When I reached school age, children would laugh at me and call me all kinds of names. My parents told me the children were right, I was no good. Many times I was sent to my room without being able to join the family for activities because I was different and unwanted. When I would talk with my teachers, they did nothing.
When I reached high school, because of my hands being as they were I could not do certain gym activities. One of them was bowling. I could not spread my hand to reach into the finger holes. For this I received an “F” on my report card and my father beat me pretty badly for getting the “F.” It left long term damage to my ears.
When I went out on my own I began to do research to find out what I had. I learned it was syndactyly and began talking with surgeons on what could be done. Since I was an adult now and my hands were well developed it made it more difficult to correct but what could be done was done.
I wish there had been groups around when I was of the age that I could talk with someone and learn more. I wish that my teachers knew more and could realize I was being mistreated at home and at school like they do now. But when I was growing up with syndactyly. This was how it was, it was hush hush. So I grew up with the feeling of being worthless. Today I still struggle with some issues, but I know what it is and I have learned to deal with it.
Now I can encourage others to speak up. Get the treatments or at least tell your child what it is and why there was no surgery for them, so they don’t grow up as I did wondering why? And dealing with abuse. I am in my 50’s and wish I knew then what I know now. Speak up and ask questions until you feel satisfied.”
Let this story be a reminder that bullying doesn’t always happen on the playground or in the classroom. It can happen at home. It is without a doubt, one of the most demeaning and shameful things that can be done to anyone. Talking with your child about their syndactyly and bullying is the first step a parent can take to address bullying, even before it happens.
What types of things should you discuss with your child who has syndactyly or surgical scars from syndactyly? Using the key points listed below; initiate the conversation with your child. Encourage them to talk with you, your spouse, their teacher, their principle or an adult; should any of these issues arise so they can be addressed.
Types of Bullying
What is bullying? What determines if a statement or action determines whether or not it is bullying?
There are three types of bullying:
- Verbal bullying is saying or writing mean things. Verbal bullying includes:
- Inappropriate sexual comments
- Threatening to cause harm
- Social bullying, sometimes referred to as relational bullying, involves hurting someone’s reputation or relationships. Social bullying includes:
- Leaving someone out on purpose
- Telling other children not to be friends with someone
- Spreading rumors about someone
- Embarrassing someone in public
- Physical bullying involves hurting a person’s body or possessions. Physical bullying includes:
- Taking or breaking someone’s things
- Making mean or rude hand gestures
If you have a personal story centered around syndactyly that you’d like to share, please send your article to FamilySupport@nfsus.org so that we may share it (on your behalf) with our group members and followers through our website and social media outlets. Thank you.
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