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Friday, May 22, 2015

Hidden Disabilities

I am writing this post to sensitise my dear readers about disabilities in people (here, I will stay with children, since this blog is about them) that are not obvious, but need attention all the same.

First of all, disabled people are also people. Just because a child is deaf, or visually challenged, does not mean he/she has no other aspects to his/her character; such a child can, and does, have emotional needs, ambitions, desires, etc. They still experience pain when hurt; they still laugh, cry, express anger, feel depressed, agonise, enjoy, and so on. We must look beyond the disability and express not just sympathy, but also try and understand what they need and how they must be integrated into society.

This post is about children whose disabilities belong to one of the following categories:

a) They are not routinely symptomatic, but can develop symptoms when stressed - e.g. a child with epilepsy, or one with allergy
b) A child who is physically normal but has neuro-developmental issues - e.g. a child with attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), or a child with behavioural issues related to a neurological disease (e.g. a child with sensory perception disorder (SPD)
c) A child with visible disability, but who is ignored or misunderstood - e.g. a dyslexic child is punished for getting poor grades because the teacher and parents think he is faking, or is naughty, or anti-social.

What is needed here is to understand that such children are all children with special needs. They need understanding of their condition. A sensitive healthcare policy at the national level, a sensitive person who is bearing the brunt of facing such a child, and a sensitive family are all important, nay, pivotal, to the well-being of such a child.

What such children can undergo are the following:

a) aggravation of their medical problem if they are not understood
b) violence and injury at the hands of disciplinarians, peers and parents
c) misdiagnosis leading to improper treatment
d) humiliation and ridicule - sometimes worse than physical violence
e) loss of opportunity/time/ etc. because the society has not begun to modify their environment for such children.

To prevent these from happening, let us all decide to try and be more empathetic towards children with hidden disabilities; let us be sensitive and non-judgemental towards them; let us be sincere and honest about our knowledge gaps and try and learn more about these problems; and, if we are caring for such children, let us be more caring and careful while dealing with them.

I welcome your comments. Thank you.

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Dr. Fuhrman