'If anyone says anything, it's their problem, not mine'

29th June 2007 at 01:00
Until she started school, it had not occurred to Emily White that she was different from other children. The 15-year-old has had alopecia since the age of two, when she lost her hair, eyebrows and eyelashes.

"I just thought I was a normal person, going to school," she says. "I didn't think anything of it. But the other pupils did."

At primary, some pupils would ask her what her head felt like and want to touch it. Others teased her and called her "baldy".

When, eventually, she fought back, she immediately got into trouble for fighting.

Her secondary school experience, at Queen Eleanor technology college in Stamford, Lincolnshire, has been more positive. Teachers have made an effort to learn about her condition and allow her to wear a hat during lessons.

As her classmates grow older, they have become more supportive. But Emily finds the girls' increasing preoccupation with hair difficult.

Equally, she finds it hard when occasionally people make unthinking reference to hair loss. Once her science teacher, complimented on his hair by a pupil, said: "I don't think I could cope without hair."

And, twice, supply teachers have asked Emily to remove her hat.

However, she has always had a teacher to talk to when she is upset.

"I had a bad patch at the end of last year," she says. "But whenever I've had a hard time, I could talk to my tutor-mentor or my head of year.

They've given me advice and basically helped me through.

"Now, if anyone says anything, I think it's their problem, not mine.

"But it makes it so much easier if someone cares and will listen to what you think."

* Emily has set up an online support group for young people with alopecia: www.chipsunite.org.uk

Photograph: Steve Hill

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today