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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 November 2006, 14:40 GMT
'Bullied because I was different'
As the government launches a drive to tackle prejudice-led bullying, Joshua Muggleton talks about how he was targeted because he was different.

As someone with Asperger syndrome,Joshua acknowledges that he "tends to show up on the social radar".

He looks like any other 17-year-old but his condition makes it difficult to make eye contact or read other social cues.

Joshua Muggleton
Joshua is now at a special college
The bullying started when I went into Year 2, so I must have been six or seven.

It probably doesn't sound much - I was just excluded more and more from games in the playground and when I was invited to join in it was only if I was the target, the object of fun.

It may not sound much but when it happens every day it does get to you.

By the time I got to Year 5, I was depressed. In Year 7, when I was 11 or 12, I very quickly became very depressed and was put on anti-depressants.

That's when I first became suicidal.

At primary school they didn't really do a huge amount to help. The people doing the bullying were reprimanded once which did help for a bit but it didn't stop it completely.

The main trouble was that it wasn't the accepted definition of bullying - there was no physical violence as such, no hitting or punching, but it was constant.

I think there's no doubt about it that I was picked on because I have Asperger's.

Shoved

Although I wasn't diagnosed until I was 15 I am still someone who will show up on the social radar as being different.

But the fact that I wasn't diagnosed - and therefore wasn't recognised as someone with special needs - shouldn't have made any difference to how the school reacted.

It was when I moved to secondary school that the bullying became more physical.

The school had really narrow corridors and when we moved between lessons I was forever being shoved - occasionally kicked - and always had name-calling.

I would try and seek refuge in the library and the bullies would come and deliberately annoy me.

The school didn't do anything. I would talk to people about it but nothing happened.

Breakdown

A teacher did once show me some pictures of pupils including some of those who were tormenting me and ask me to pick them out. I did but the file was just packed away.

In Year 10 I had a nervous breakdown and developed a phobia of school.

There were attempts to reintegrate me into the school system but eventually my psychiatrist decided that any more would do irreparable damage so I finally left in the January of my Year 11, just before my GCSEs.

I managed to scrape a handful of Cs and Bs in my GCSEs and there's no doubt my school experience affected my results.

When I was at school I was on the verge of a panic attack for most of the time so how could I possibly concentrate?

In the September of what would have been my Year 12, I attended the internet-based Satellite Virtual School and studied from home.

It's a great system and threw me a lifeline but it isn't the same as learning face-to-face.

Degree hope

So, after a year I did some research and found Farleigh Further Education College near Bath - about 100 miles away from my home in Guildford, Surrey.

It's a residential college providing support to "Aspies" and I'm doing my A-levels there now, with the fees paid by Surrey County Council.

Ideally I'd like to do a degree but my education has been so damaged that I'm having to review my GCSEs as well as do my A-levels and what happened at school has mentally scarred me.

I think the main trouble schools have is that they pride themselves on not having a bullying problem so they won't admit it and won't do anything about it.

I really think you need someone independent of the school that people can go to, to speak to about bullying.

Until schools acknowledge that it is a problem for them it will never be tackled.

A lot more needs to be done. Bullying really does destroy lives.



SEE ALSO
Muslim abuse 'rising in schools'
13 Nov 06 |  Education
Boost for bullying mentor scheme
20 Nov 06 |  Education
Tackling a culture of bullying
16 Nov 06 |  Education
Bullying 'a culture of silence'
16 Nov 06 |  Education

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