Bullying and Hydrocephalus


“Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Both kids who are bullied and who bully others may have serious, lasting problems.” (stopbullying.gov)

Bullying. We hold on to the 1950s image of the big kid on the playground taunting, name-calling, pushing, and intimidating other children. While that image is still valid, bullying is not exclusively dominated by boys, nor is it necessarily a single child bullying other children as stories of peer group bullying in the national media have shown. Even the landscape of bullying has changed.

According to StopBullying.Gov, bullying can occur during or after school hours. While most reported bullying happens in the school building, a significant percentage also happens in places like the playground or bus. It can also happen traveling to or from school, in the youth’s neighborhood, or on the internet.


Approximately 37% of youth between the ages of 12 and 17 have been bullied online. 30% have had it happen more than once.

For our community, this is an opportunity to listen to the unique stories that our teens and young adults share of being bullied for their hydrocephalus. We can give them the proper tools they need to respond effectively. It is a chance for us to learn, for parents of young children to prepare, and for all of us to support one another.


More than 160,000 students in the United States stay home from school each day for fear of being bullied. (Pacer Center).

Sara, age 19
People used to call me a “water head” from the time I was born through elementary school (even after I had my shunt placed at eleven days old). When I was a freshman in high school, the distal catheter in my neck broke. When I came back from having my first shunt revision after Christmas, some of my classmates made jokes about me because they thought that I had cancer, when really I had to have my head shaved due to the shunt revision. After my freshman year, people realized that I was just like any other high school student, but I had life-long limitations including cerebral palsy, hydrocephalus, and visual deficits. Now, I am a freshman in college, and people ask me questions (as they should) instead of bullying or staring and making me feel like an idiot.”

  • Bullying directly affects a student’s ability to learn. Students who are bullied often find it difficult to concentrate, show a decline in grades, and lose self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-worth. (Pacer Center)
  • Students who are bullied report more physical symptoms, such as headaches or stomach aches, and mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, than other students. (Pacer Center)
  • Other students can be especially effective in bullying intervention. More than 55% of bullying situations will stop when a peer intervenes. (Pacer Center)

Wyatt, age 17
The situation started when I was talking to one of my friends about my condition. I told my friend that I have somewhat of a bump on my head due to the shunt. The bully, when hearing this, called me a knobby-headed freak. This name-calling continued for several weeks, making me very upset. Then, [I spoke to my grandfather about the situation, and] he gave me the idea of talking to the bully and telling him how hard it is to live with hydrocephalus. After I explained everything, he stopped.”

In some cases, bullying has led to devastating consequences, such as school shootings and suicide. (Pacer Center)

Jennifer, age 32
“I was first diagnosed with hydrocephalus at the age of 10 and shunted at 11. Prior to heading in for surgery, another student stated, ‘I hope you die.’ At such a young age, it was shocking to hear another kid say those words.”

One of the best ways to begin to make a change is to provide the tools individuals and parents need to address bullying. Below is a list of organizations that provide suggestions, ideas, and advice for victims of bullying. Take a look! If you’re a parent, take some time this weekend and visit these sites with your child. Some of the sites are really interactive and engage kids through videos, petitions, and informational graphics.

Jasmin, early 20s
“It can happen at any age from my experience! And it was due to my having hydrocephalus. Personally, I have never told my employers off-the-bat that I had hydrocephalus because in the past I have had several problems with management and co-workers afterward. I had one manager at a job I worked for flat out mock me and make fun of me in front of co-workers and customers. Right after, I burst out into tears trying to explain to him I had a medical condition. Some people never grow up.”


General Information and Resources:

The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD)
American Academy of Children & Adolescents Psychiatry (AACAP)
PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center
30 Seconds: AAPD’s Campaign to Stop Bullying

Support and Resources for Kids:

PACER Center’s Kids Against Bullying
Anti Bullying Color Pages

Support and Resources for Teens and Young Adults:

PACER Center Teens Against Bullying
Teens Health
Do Something.org

Additional Sources:

NASP Resources
Make Beats, Not Beat Downs
Stop Cyber Bullying
Love to Know
New York State School Counselor Association
National Crime Prevention
Internet Safety 101
Stomp Out Bullying

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