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Teasing is an unfortunately common occurrence in schools, especially Elementary and Middle Schools.  Dealing with teasing is important in order to manage school emotionally, intellectually, and academically.  Coping strategies for it are important, so that teasing does not escalate into bullying.  That even makes me wonder: what is the difference between teasing and bullying and how do we stop both of them?

Image courtesy of koratmember

Because of having my own speech and visual disabilities (challenges), I know too well what it means to grow up being “different” from other children.  When I was 10 months old I had a head injury as a result of a car accident caused by a drunk driver.  As a result, I’ve dealt with speech, visual, coordination challenges and depression most of my life.  The speech is a little slow and slurred, my left eye is a lazy eye and only has a little peripheral vision.  The right eye does fortunately see well enough to drive.  As for coordination, the right side of my body is stronger than the left side.  Depression has followed me most of my life.

I have struggled most of my life with my challenges, and teasing and bullying has been a big part of that. Fortunately I have learned some coping strategies that have helped me in difficult situations.

1. Insist on Being Included

When I was in first grade I had to wear a patch over my right eye to try to strengthen the left eye.  It didn’t work.  I remember just a little about being teased then.  I was mainly left out of activities.  It’s important for the teacher to include all students in activities.  Let your teacher know this, and enlist the help of your parent if necessary to make sure the teacher follows through.

2. Focus on What You Do Well

Throughout school, including college, I got teased because of my voice.  That hurt me emotionally.  In high school and college I did more writing to show people how bright I really was.  Being graded poorly in P.E., art, and, handwriting in elementary school was hard.  I focused on what I could do well.  Making friends was a challenge.  In high school and college I did have adaptive P.E. to make it easier on me while continuing to excel in writing where I could show my strengths.

Image courtesy of Worakit Sirijinda

3. Remind People to Never Assume

People are too quick to assume that I’ve been in special ed.  They don’t realize that adaptive P.E. is non-academic.  Being teased for having a limp is unfair.  Kids need to realize that respecting people’s feelings is important in order to get away from teasing.  Just because my left eye wanders, don’t assume I am not paying attention.  It’s okay to remind people of this. They need to realize they should never assume to know the reason for a person’s behavior just because the person is different.

4. Humor Is a Good Coping Strategy

In college, by focusing on my capabilities, instead of my challenges, I began to realize that other people teasing, or even the next cruel step of bullying, was done because of being unaware and making fun of what they do not know.  Ignoring it, or even being humorous about a teasing situation is important.

5. Educate Others

Education is important in order to eradicate prejudice and teasing and bullying.  My purpose of educating others to become more informed of what people with physical/learning/emotional challenges can do, instead of what they can’t do, is an important goal. I frequently lecture at schools around California to help students understand that different is o.k.. Realize that we all have capabilities.  Let’s accentuate them.


My name is Carol Leish.  I pride myself on having been and continuing to be a Motivational Speaker about Disability Awareness from a personal perspective since 1997 because I feel better about myself and my own capabilities. I feel satisfaction in being able to educate others’ about the capabilities that people with disabilities have. I have also created and co-developed the Call me Capable™ Game, which is a fun discussion game about physical, learning, and emotional challenges, in order to help others to realize that we are all more similar than different.  I’ve been playing the game with various groups since it was published almost ten years ago in October 2002.  To purchase the game or contact me about speaking opportunities, please visit my website.