Health

Teenage carer bullied over having 'small' family

Ethan
Image caption Ethan is practising to become a DJ and hopes to put the bullying behind him

Fourteen-year-old Ethan has a tough time helping care for his younger brother and his mother who have a form of dwarfism called skeletal dysplasia.

"The best thing about being smaller than everyone else is that you can fit down the back of the sofa, and it's handy for when you're playing hide and seek and things, because you can hide where everyone else can't," said 10-year-old Aidan.

Ethan's little brother Aidan has a genetic condition which means his bones did not develop properly, affecting his height and movement. He inherited it from his mother, Michelle, and it means Aidan often has to use a wheelchair.

Michelle said: "It affects all our joints and it's a curvature of the spine, which Aidan has had corrected, and also all the long bones are curved as well."

Aidan and Ethan, who are from Cambridge, have a unique relationship.

While their father Lee, who is a support worker for adults with disabilities, is at work, Ethan helps get Aidan dressed and takes him to school, as well as help his mother cook dinner and with housework.

Image caption Ethan and his father Lee both help look after his mother and brother

Ethan said: "Sometimes I get annoyed, but that's life and you just have to get on with it."

But sometimes helping his brother can cause friction between the pair.

Aidan said: "It can be a bit frustrating when I want to do something myself and Ethan comes in and helps.

"(But) Sometimes it can be good because you don't have to do everything when you can't sort of do it yourself."

Ethan has found that the toughest thing to cope with was bullying, which has been so bad he has been forced to move schools.

"People at my old school used to take the Mick - like calling my mum a midget and oompa loompa," he said.

"I've found not to tell anyone at school. Over the years I've had quite a bit of bullying.

"In my old school, how it started was they'd ask why my mum was small and I'd tell them that she was born with a bone condition and they just thought it was funny."

At the height of the bullying, Ethan was walking home from a party with his mother when he was attacked in the street by a stranger.

"A boy just walked up to us and started shouting he then pushed me off my bike, and I hurt my knee and my hand, and he started hitting me and kicking me, asking me who I was.

"I didn't reply and he retaliated more. I managed to get away on my bike and he threw a glass bottle at me and it hit me in the back."

He reported the assault to the police, and his attacker was sentenced to 80 hours of community service.

He said: "The advice I'd give someone who's getting bullied is to tell someone and not suffer in silence."

Living with limited movement also means Aidan has to face daily challenges.

Image caption Aidan is facing a difficult process to improve his mobility

He was desperate to regain his independence and walk up stairs by himself, and after an operation to straighten his legs, he underwent intensive therapy to build up his strength.

The 10-year-old needed hydrotherapy treatment, but feared water, as earlier in life he had had a breathing tube.

But after some initial fears, he embraced the pool.

"When I got in the pool for the first time, I was very wobbly. But then afterwards I didn't want to get out again," Aidan said.

But he already has set himself a new challenge: "I'd like to play football next."

Ethan has also set himself a challenge, to become a DJ. After studying the craft in music lessons with his friends, he played in front of his school friends at a school disco for the first time.

He wanted Aidan to share the experience, and got him on stage with him. And that brotherly support meant he had the confidence to perform.

"It's quite scary but once Aidan came on I really enjoyed it. It really helped when I was helping him."

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