- Instant Reader
- October 10, 2018, 9:57 am
When inclusive education and disability-friendly infrastructures are discussed, what people immediately picture in their minds are individuals with obvious conditions and infirmities. When you get on a bus or a jeep, the first-row seats would have stickers over them showing an image of a person on a wheelchair indicating the seats are reserved for people with disabilities. The same image appears at certain spaces in public comfort rooms, parking lots, mall counters, etc.
But disabilities are not always visible. Disabled people are not always in wheelchairs, and they may even appear perfectly healthy.
Hidden or invisible disabilities are those that are not immediately evident. When it comes to such conditions, the saying “What you don’t know can’t hurt you” just doesn’t apply. In fact, studies show that children with hidden difficulties, particularly those with dyslexia, hearing loss, allergies, anxieties, ADHD, speech impairments, and autism spectrum disorders, are especially vulnerable to getting bullied (Adams, 2016).
Protect your Child from Bullying
Any person who interacts with the world may at one time or another-- for various reasons-- receive mean looks and comments and get offended. Children with disabilities are especially prone to bullying. Furthermore, when people have conditions others do not have a clear understanding of (e.g., dyslexia), others will have tendencies to label them and call them names (e.g., illiterate, slow, dumb) which could inflict lasting mental and emotional wounds.
Schools and parents have crucial roles to play not only in addressing but also in preventing bullying. If you observe your child showing signs of an invisible disability, let his pediatrician and teachers know. If his/her teacher approaches you and shares observations indicating there might be something going on with your kid, listen. Pay attention to your child’s behaviors. Provide the necessary support to help him develop areas he/she may be weak at. Work with his teachers in building his strengths. This way, his weaknesses become a lesser concern while his strengths slowly build his self-esteem and self-efficacy.
Protect your Child from Yourself
Some parents are also guilty of bullying their own children. This may be especially true for those who expect kids to know or be able to do certain things because of their age or to eventually and automatically outgrow the difficulties they have. When a child has an invisible disability and parents or close relatives are not aware of it, the child becomes vulnerable to being judged, labeled, lashed out, and even neglected. Educate yourself and your family. Seek help. There are tons of resources online, through support groups or health professionals, on better parenting and providing appropriate care for your child.
Protect your Child from Himself
Without proper guidance, a child internalizes everything he is told. If he is often called weak or dumb, there is a real danger he will eventually believe that he is. While hidden disabilities don’t immediately show themselves, they will later manifest along with other conditions like anxiety, anger, depression, and social withdrawal if left unaddressed.
Consult an Expert
Early identification and intervention are crucial in making sure your child develops at the optimal level and to the best of his potential. Nowadays, there are a number developmental pediatricians in almost every city or town who can help screen and monitor a child as he grows.
Help and support for children with reading difficulties are also more easily reached these days. Dyslexia-screening is made accessible and affordable in the Philippines through the help of Teacher Vicki Quintana-Arioder, holder of a Diploma in Dyslexia from the Blackford Centre for Dyslexia in UK, London and founder of Instant Reader™ which exists to help kids overcome their reading difficulties and do better both in school and in life. Currently, Instant Reader™ serves in several areas in the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Myanmar.