‘They took away the light within me, and I had no support from my school.’: Teen bullying victim with autism shares heartbreaking plea for change

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Disclaimer: This story includes details of bullying and self-harm.

“I was born in a happy family in 2004 with an older sibling. My grandmother always stated I was special, and my parents would say I was a gift from God. My mother had two more children after me. I was happy and felt protected within my family; our home was a happy environment. We also enjoyed celebrating special occasions with our extended family.  

Courtesy of Tayabah Yacoob
Courtesy of Tayabah Yacoob

I enjoyed attending play groups and nursery, but my bullying started early during Primary School. I attended two different Primary Schools, and I was targeted by bullies at both. In the beginning, I did not understand why they didn’t like me. My mother dressed me well, I looked presentable, and I was adored by my family. So, why was I not liked at school?

The children would ignore me, make faces at me, and say harsh words to me when we did activities. I just couldn’t understand why they picked on me. They called me ugly, said I couldn’t speak properly, and told me I was not normal.

‘Ew, what are you drooling for?’ This made me feel ugly constantly. Every time I looked in the mirror, I felt ugly and fat. To this day, I am still cautious about how I look because of the names I have been called.

They made an album of inappropriate images and hurtful comments towards me. This book was found by a staff member at school who was appalled at the contents this group of 8-year-old’s had created and the hostility they had presented towards me. 

This book was not shared with my parents because the Head Teacher was too embarrassed to show it to them, but stated it was unacceptable and they would deal with the matter. I was already suffering from bullying every day, and matters were not being dealt with as my parents attended school every morning to discuss their concerns with the Head Teacher.

Meanwhile, I was struggling in my schoolwork because I could not understand what was expected of me. I started to wear glasses because of my poor eyesight. The bullies started adding to the list of names they called me from before. I was drooling all the time and I was not aware of this; even today, my parents have to remind me to wipe my mouth. I have since been diagnosed with learning difficulties and autism. I was targeted for something I did not understand while my family was protective, constantly reassuring me constantly I was ‘normal.’

Courtesy of Tayabah Yacoob

I felt isolated and hurt. I started to peel off my cut or dried skin. It made me feel better, like I was peeling off the ugliness within me. My parents were very worried and made appointments to visit the school. The Head Teacher was very rude to my mother and stated I had to be tolerant towards other children. I did not say anything to the other children and only wanted friends. I did not understand why the school could not do anything about this.

My mother had a disagreement with the Head Teacher, he was not supportive, and my bullying only escalated. I could see this was making my family worried, and I stopped telling them I was getting bullied. I did not want to burden my family with my problems anymore. I believed I was ugly and shouldn’t be loved by anyone.

Courtesy of Tayabah Yacoob

I started to feel isolated. I tried to give gifts to some of the children. I would take items from home so the children would become my friends, but they would laugh and throw the items on the floor. They continued to bully me by throwing worms on my head, and they laughed and called me names as I jumped. I thought I was making them happy by jumping up and down, but I later realized I should have stopped and searched for a teacher. Either way, I was not supported at school, and the bullies did not stop bullying me.

An incident occurred where a child had taken my glasses off, threw them on the ground, and stomped on them while the other children were cheering them on. I began to feel scared. I was never chosen in groups by other children to participate in PE and Dance. The children in the class kept me isolated, they whispered constantly amongst each other about my clothing, drooling, and my physical appearance. 

By not discussing this with my parents and family members, I had no support from anyone. I was made to believe on several occasions they were my friends, but they would make me do things or play pranks on me and then say I was ugly and grotesque, and they were just joking about being my friend, and they could not stand me.

I was devastated. I again started to self-harm and self-isolate myself. At times, I would present challenging behavior towards my siblings by shouting at them or pushing them. I broke down easily, threw tantrums, and started to resent my family because I had no one else to blame.

Courtesy of Tayabah Yacoob

I hated going swimming. I was targeted because of my weight, but when I look at my pictures when I was 8, I was of normal size. The bullies made me feel ugly and overweight. I started to comfort eat and would hide snacks and take them into my bedroom and eat to feel happy. I still have an eating disorder today. I am receiving support for my health, but rely on support in eating healthy.

My bullying continued when I attended high school, as I was not assessed at Primary School in Special Needs. Instead, I was sent to a mainstream school. My nightmare became worse and I was targeted by bullies every day. My sister was attending the same school and while she was there, she would try to protect me. Some of her friends would support me if they were around at lunch time. I thought I would be treated better at high school, but that was not the case.

An incident occurred where a bully took my candy from my coat pocket, and then wrapped it back in the wrapper and placed it in my pocket. I was about to eat the sweet, unaware the bully had placed it in their mouth. I felt sick. During my time at high school I started experiencing blackouts; I could not be around shouting and crowds, but the bullies would find a way to corner me and intimidate me. I would collapse on the floor and my parents grew more worried. Staff members at school would not share incidents with my family and when I returned home, I’d disclose the incidents to my parents. Once again, they were frustrated the school didn’t inform them.

Courtesy of Tayabah Yacoob

I was under a psychologist and under CAMHS, which supported me, but still my bullying continued as no clear actions were in place and no one in a place of power was supportive towards me. I continued to self-harm, my confidence and trust at level zero. I stopped going into school a month ago due to being bullied by a group of females who stated they were my friends; they would laugh and knock my confidence many times by shouting in my face, asking for answers I did not understand and be intimidating. My mother was approached by a parent that was being defensive towards their child and, in that moment, I understood why bullying will never stop: because adults can be involved in influencing their child’s behavior towards bullying.

My parents stopped me from going into school due to on-going bullying, staff not recognizing my needs and not trying to attempt to understand a child who has special needs. I have been through a terrible journey in all my years of school. I continue to comfort eat, still hide food and eat in my room. I continue to isolate myself, but listen to music. This helps me a lot.

My parents and family members are caring and kind, and I feel safe and happy at home. Although I want to venture outdoors and live my dream, I am questioning if I will be accepted in the outside world; will I be able to live freely without being targeted? I did not choose to have special needs, but I am not ashamed to have special needs. I am special and I deserve to live my life happily and freely. As do others. I have endured bullying since I was a small child and still battle with anxiety, lack of confidence, lack of trust, mental health and other matters, but I want bullying to stop. As a victim, I can speak openly about this – it is a horrible place to be in, it makes you feel unloved and unaccepted by others. It takes away the light within you and takes over your life even when you leave school for the day or leave permanently.

I know I am special, and we are all special in our own way. There is Light Always, my Instagram page, states this. We are shooting stars that shine in the sky and we will continue to do so.

Courtesy of Tayabah Yacoob

Tay’s Mother:

We created There is Light Always due to Tay being bullied again by a female for several years. My sister Jannat created the page on Instagram and it became very popular. As a family we have endured pain, frustration and ignorance from the education system. We sent our children for education and social skills that will support them when venturing into the outside world. Tay has been protected and loved at home, but through attending school and the lack of them understanding her needs, Tay has been through so much turmoil within the start of her small life in education.

Courtesy of Tayabah Yacoob

She has no confidence in the work she was presented throughout school as she was not supported in her learning needs. Tay was diagnosed with Global Developmental Delay when she was age 7, and still was not provided with support at school in her learning needs. She was diagnosed with special needs in middle school in 2018, which is appalling. Her late diagnosis has caused her to miss out on attending a specialized school. Tay is scarred because of this. All children need to be positive and happy towards their journey in education and towards adulthood. 

We have struggled as a family in reassuring Tay and trying to find appropriate support for her. Tay is a helpful and loving child who has kept a lot of turmoil within herself as she does not want to worry her parents; she is a selfless person who will think of others before herself. Tay has never been understood at school and through this we as a family are supporting her. We are worried many families will not understand this due to language barriers, family dynamics. or a child is not disclosing they are being bullied at school or in their community.

Actions need to be placed where bullying is part of the curriculum and a subject to work on elementary school and onwards. An awareness in bullying and the affects this may cause on mental health matters. Support needs to exist for not only victims and their families, but bullies and their families. Robust plans need to be drawn and implemented nationwide and internationally.

Many children and young people today feel unworthy and have battled suicidal tendencies and low self-esteem, as Tay has. We will live safer knowing actions are put in place to make a difference. Tay is not one, she is many.”

Courtesy of Tayabah Yacoob

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Tayabah Yacoob. You can follow her journey on Instagram and Twitter. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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