The curse of the hidden disability

Imagine a person in a wheelchair getting in trouble for not being able to walk or a blind person being asked to stand up in class and describe what they can see. Children with hidden disabilities are often asked to perform tasks that are incredibly hard for them on a daily basis. A dyslexic child feels nervous each day wondering if they are going to be chosen to read aloud to the class or whether friends are going to make fun of their spelling, especially as they get older when a lot more communication is done through written messages. For a child whose sensory system is not solid it is the lack of understanding in society as to why they are behaving in a certain way or why they aren’t as coordinated or organised as they should be for their age. Labels are sometimes placed on them as the “naughty child” and their parents can be judged for poor parenting.

Last weekend I experienced something upsetting with my son who has sensory processing issues and as a result was emotionally taken back to a time where I was really struggling with motherhood and often felt judged by others for his behaviour. I was reminded of that soul destroying feeling a parent can experience when they have a child acting out largely due to sensory or other diagnosed issues who is judged to just be behaving badly or inappropriately because they look and at times can act as society deems “normal”.

Having people around you who understand and support your child is such a special gift. A wonderful teacher once explained to my son’s class that just like some children needed glasses to help them read, my son needed to do activities each day to help regulate his energy levels. We were so incredibly lucky to have this teacher for two of his first three years at school and her understanding and loving nature made a huge difference to his happiness and success in those years.

People often don’t see the hours upon hours over many years of hard work that parents have put in to advocating, supporting and educating their child who doesn’t fit societal norms. Instead of happily playing with friends many young children are going from one therapist to the next. My oldest son spent every day for 12 weeks including time in his holidays working on a program to help improve his reading and writing. It paid off though as he is now receiving B’s in mainstream English which is an amazing accomplishment for him. Children with hidden disabilities often need to work so incredibly hard to fit in. There are even times when I get caught in the trap of expecting more of my children because everything seems so normal. I say to myself “he is old enough now so I shouldn’t still need to be helping him with his homework” or “he should know better than to react like that”.

 It is through talking about these hidden disabilities and educating others that these children can be better understood. There are many wonderful caring teachers out there who understand these hidden disabilities and want to help and support these amazing children. If you are lucky enough to have one of these teachers in your child’s life remember to thank them for the difference they are making not only for your child but also for you.


Written by 

Jo Larcom 
Counsellor & Author of 'Ben's School Daze'
Owner Motherhood & You
Co-Director Magnetic Moves


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