Communicating an “Invisible Disability”

We are aware of the challenges of communicating an “invisible disability” with a teacher, administrator and even a relative.  What do we mean by “invisible disability?”  This refers to a disability other people can not easily see, and often times, they will unknowingly bear judgment towards the parent and/or child.  The disability may be ADD/ADHD, anxiety, Asperger’s Syndrome, Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Dyscalculia, etc.  Unfortunately, we may hear teachers or relatives imply the child needs more discipline or will offer an opinion about how to parent.   Usually there’s a “therefore…” thought that follows. People who don’t deal with invisible disabilities on a daily basis often want the child to perform to their expectations. Their individual awareness of what the child struggles with becomes apparent. If you pull back and look at the situation, often these statements from other adults are coming from a place of their personal awareness, social expectations and individual experiences they have had in their lives.  Often, as adults, we struggle seeing beyond our own personal experiences.

So, how do we communicate with people who do not “see” the disability? This is especially important if they have an influence in the child’s life (such as a relative or teacher).

As a parent, you are in the role of helping your child succeed.  First, you are gaining information about your child and his or her disability.  As you work with other professionals, attend classes, and build your child’s team, you are creating a shift of awareness within yourself.  Understanding where your child’s strengths and weaknesses lie and setting goals to further help your child will create a shift within your family.

As awareness increases you will be setting up expectations and goals at home.  What do you expect as a parent?  How do you communicate and help your child with these expectations at home?  What are your expectations and goals for yourself? A plan will begin to form based on your new knowledge. Your parenting style may change.

Hold true to your plan even if a grandparent, aunt or uncle can not understand it.  Remember, they have awareness based on their experiences.  You may choose to give information to a family member along the way, but we recommend doing so with an open heart instead of a goal of creating a shift in them.

When working with teachers and school staff, understand two things: one, they are working with your child from their experiences and training, and two they may see your child in a different light. Difficulties you experience at home may not be the same as what they are experiencing  at school. Share your knowledge; but listen to theirs as well.  Share evaluations and your home experiences but also remember to be open to  hearing about situations from school.  You both may have different perspectives, but work towards coming together for the benefit of your child.

With your child’s teacher, come up with a plan for school.  Be specific in your expectations.  Are you hoping to have your child’s teacher gain more awareness of how your child thinks socially?  Or are you wanting them to help your child experience more academic success?  We have found that you will have more success  communicating with your child’s school when you have one or two specific goals in mind.

In closing, we are aware that “invisible disabilities” are very real.  They affect our children differently in different environments.  The level of impact one of these disabilities has on a child can be significant in all areas of their life.  Ultimately, you are creating a shift in thinking within yourself, creating goals and expectations for your family, bridging a gap with your child’s school, and holding true to your plan when around extended family.  Although these areas can be challenging, consistency with your overall plan will reap the greatest reward.

With Appreciation,

Christina and Wendy

 

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