Raising Awareness of Invisible Disabilities in Education

Raising Awareness

       
Approximately 15% of the world’s population lives with a disability. Disabilities are not always visible, and that is why many students with invisible disabilities are not supported or provided with resources and strategies to succeed in school. Parents may be aware that something is just not right with their child, but hide the fact that their child has a disability for fear of their child being discriminated against, labeled or marginalized in society. 


Children  with physical disabilities that are acquired, hereditary or congenital like blindness, deaf and hard of hearing, paralysis, cerebral palsy, amputations, muscular dystrophy, brain injuries, epilepsy are now beginning to receive necessary support required to be successful in education through educational government policies for special needs. These policies are meant to enable students with disabilities to benefit from educational programs. Unfortunately, most of these policies target students with visible disabilities. Some examples of visible disabilities in children that impact their ability to learn include language impairment, language processing disorder (challenges processing spoken language impacting their ability to understand and express their thoughts), auditory processing disorder (difficulty processing sounds), dyslexia (difficulty decoding words or with phonological awareness, identifying individual sounds within words), dysgraphia (Problems translating thoughts into writing), dyscalculia (struggling with math concepts, numbers and reasoning).


Students with invisible disabilities often fall through the cracks in education and are labeled as “dense, unintelligent or slow learners”. It is also difficult for teachers to identify a student with an invisible disability if they are not trained in special education. Special education should be mandatory in the curriculum  of all teacher training colleges or institutions, so that teachers are able to better meet the needs of these students through differentiating their instruction based on student needs, strengths, and learning styles. In addition, students with invisible disabilities will have access to work systems, resources and strategies that will enable them to be engaged in learning and improve their chances of future success in the workforce. 
Schools are strongly encouraged to prioritize access to professional development in the area of special education for teachers to support students with various disabilities. Article 26 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone has a right to education and this includes our students with visible and invisible disabilities.


What can parents and teachers do since many schools lack resources and trained teachers to support our students with special needs? 

  • Provide your child with positive reinforcement to build up their confidence and determination to succeed regardless of the daily challenges they face in education. 
  • Give your child social and emotional tools to work through challenges so that their resilience is strengthened. 
  • Become your own expert by researching and keeping abreast of new developments in the area of special education.
  • Be a proactive parent by advocating for your child at school and with your healthcare practitioner.
  • Focus on what works for your child by understanding how they learn (movement, hands on, audio-visually) and what supports they require to support their learning. 
  • Set manageable  and reasonable goals for your child and avoid comparing them with other children. 
  • Teach your child to persevere regardless of challenges and make a big deal of praising them for small steps of improvement rather than the outcome of a task or assignment.  
  • Communicate with your member of parliament to push for positive change in the area of special education at all school levels.


Look out for more 21st Century teaching strategies in our next issue, and visit our website at www.teachingforsuccess.ca to access our resources, workshops, and consultancy services. 


Teaching For Success provides extensive training in professional development and consultancy services in the education sector, for primary and secondary schools, and tertiary colleges. Our aim is to equip educators through professional development, to cognitively engage students in their learning, to prepare them to compete in the 21st century global economy.


Free Resources: 
Helping Children with Learning Disabilities
https://www.helpguide.org/articles/autism-learning-disabilities/helping-children-with-learning-disabilities.htm


Learning Disabilities & Differences: What Parents Need To Know
https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/learning-disabilities/Pages/Learning-Disabilities-What-Parents-Need-To-Know.aspx

Approximately 15% of the world’s population lives with a disability. Disabilities are not always visible, and that is why many students with invisible disabilities are not supported or provided with resources and strategies to succeed in school. Parents may be aware that something is just not right with their child, but hide the fact that their child has a disability for fear of their child being discriminated against, labeled or marginalized in society.