Long Island Teen Raising Awareness for Students with Learning Disabilities


Disabled children, including those with learning disabilities, are about 20 percent more likely to report being bullied than other students, according to a 2016 study published in the Exceptional Children Journal. One Long Island teen has experienced this first hand and is determined to buck the bullying.

“I have had dyslexia since I was in second grade and I struggle with it to this day,” said Long Beach High School sophomore Sydney Brett. “I was a victim of bullying both physically and verbally by my peers and teachers with comments about how I was dumb and comparing me to animals.”

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Not wanting other children to feel as she did, Brett founded Sydney’s Smiles Inc. in December 2016. The nonprofit is dedicated to equipping kids with the tools they need to end bullying in their immediate environment.

“I have been going to Girl Scout troops and talking to them about how to prevent bullying at an early age and teaching them how to be an upstander rather than a bystander.”

Through self-advocacy and empathy techniques, the message seems to be getting through. At a recent Daisy Troop event, Brett started by giving all the girls blank puzzle pieces with directions to draw a picture of themselves or things that represent them. By the end, each girl had to individually explain their piece to the rest of the group and then join the pieces with their neighbors’.

“This showed [all the girls] how they are unique and special individuals, and when they come together they are one, which is why if they see a friend getting bullied or made fun of they should try and stop it.”

To raise further awareness for the charity, Brett will host a fashion show Sunday, June 4 at Towers on the Green. Pouran Clothing Boutique and Pouran Beauty Salon will supply clothing and hair and makeup assistance to models who are close friends of Brett. Guests can walk away with gift bags with sunglasses and makeup from Sunglasses LA, Beauty for Real and Beauty Bakerie. Brett will use the proceeds to continue to supply kids with tools and workshops through Sydney’s Smiles, Inc.

“I know bullying will never go away, not just for me but so many others. I think the next best thing is to raise awareness because things can get better.”