Parents worry about the psychological and physical abuse school bullies could have on their children. Unfortunately, these children who prey on their disadvantaged peers have little concern for the consequences of their actions - especially if the bullied child has an "invisible" condition.
Lauren Stribling is not like other bullied kids who can go home with a bruised eye or a knock in the chest. Due to her rare genetic disorder, the teenager from the UK could die from just a single knock in the playground.
Marfan syndrome, a life-threatening condition that makes the body extra stretchy, affects 1 in 3,000 people.
Lauren is already 5 ft 11 inches and wears eight and a half feet shoes. She was diagnosed with the genetic disorder at four months old, but symptoms appeared when she was seven.
Lauren's height is an indicator that she may suffer from this genetic disorder, but bullies at her school are certain she's "faking" her disability.
Lauren's aunt died at the age of 15 from the disorder, and now her mother is worried that her daughter is next.
"Lauren can't do any contact sports at all because a single knock of the head or blow to the chest could kill her," Cath said. "If Lauren got hit in the chest, because the valves in her heart are stretchy, blood could move the wrong way through her heart and kill her. She's also really prone to getting a collapsed lung."
Cath blames herself for wanting a child to "shower with unconditional love" when she knew there was a chance her daughter could inherit the genetic condition.
"Sometimes I feel like I had Lauren for selfish reasons. I knew there was a 50 per cent chance but I wanted my own family to pass on that love to," she said. "[My sister] died when she was just 15. Every day I am filled with worry that the same will happen to her."
But Cath doesn't want parents who have children with genetic conditions to feel this way, rather the threat facing her daughter means there is a lack of awareness about "invisible" disabilities and disorders like Marfan syndrome.
"No parent wants their child to be bullied but for me, one slap could be the end for Lauren. Now every morning when she goes to school I am terrified," she said.
Cath has reached out to her daughter's school, Oldershaw Academy, to find a solution to this issue, and hopes other schools can follow their example.
"The school have been brilliant. They've really worked hard to accommodate her condition. And as soon as I mentioned the bullying, they have been really helpful," Cath said. "But there just really needs to be more awareness out there. These kids were telling her she isn't really ill and that's not on. Parents need to be doing more to teach their kids about less obvious disabilities and disorders."
[Source: Daily Mail]