Hidden disabilities and why they need to be seen

When we encounter a child with a physical disability of any kind we will do anything we can to help them succeed alongside their able-bodied peers, and rightly so.

We purchase and accommodate glasses, push them in a wheelchair, strive to communicate with them by learning sign language, give them additional time to perform tasks and ask them what else we can do to help them more.

Why is it then that when we encounter children with neurodivergent traits – those whose difficulties may not be visible straight away, but may struggle to sit still, or follow instructions to learn, or have difficulty relating to other children, those who need constant reassurance to do those things their peers manage easily or can relate their ideas fluently in a conversation but not write them down for assessment- why is it with these children that we don’t always do everything to help them succeed?

Why do we not often ask them how we can help them more?

Why do we label them as attention-seeking, berate them for challenging behaviour or as lazy and unmotivated, for not doing what we think a child of their age should be able to do?

Let’s change our perspective and begin to see hidden disabilities as real ‘dis’ abilities – not excuses, not bad behaviour, not a bad attitude but a real need, a neurological difference, that deserves accommodations to allow for a true reflection of abilities.

I know that the term disability can be controversial when talking about neurodivergence – many people have different opinions on this. I talk, about a disability and think of a ‘dis’ ability – not to erase strengths but definitely as something that can challenge a person’s ability in doing certain things; nothing shameful or limiting and certainly something that with the right understanding, accommodations and support, does not prevent or exclude, but allows for an individual’s true potential to be fulfilled!