Inside Out 224: Hidden Disabilities
We all know a woman who has learned to manage her depression or a man who makes accommodation for his anxiety disorder. For many of us, though, the term “hidden disability” is new. According to today’s guest, every day 15-20% of the population works to accommodate a disability that isn’t obvious from the outside. These are the hidden disabilities. There’s no cane or wheelchair or assistance dog to tip off the rest of us to be a little more gracious and understanding in our interactions with people managing difficulties we can’t see.
I hope you’ll listen to the conversation between Shannon Royce and me. Shannon is the president & C.E.O. of ChosenFamilies.org, a charitable organization that provides information on hidden disabilities to parents, family members, religious leaders and the general public. Its goal is to help families living with hidden disabilities become fully incorporated into the Body of Christ.
Chosen Families works the kinds of disabilities that are rooted in brains that are wired differently than most others in the population. Shannon and I talk about the misunderstandings, stigma and isolation that accompanies a diagnosis of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Schizophrenia, Epilepsy and a host of other “hidden” neurological differences that affect every area of a person’s--and a family’s--life.
People with hidden disabilities work and play and live all around us, and we sometimes behave toward them in callous and impatient ways. Sometimes that’s because we are unaware, yes, but I’m guessing that it is also true that sometimes it’s because we are, by nature, pretty self-focused. Shannon challenges the church in this regard, asking us to “pause and pray . . . and ask God to give us the mind and heart to respond as He would respond.” People who follow Jesus Christ are, in fact, called His Body here on earth. He has a reason for that.
Even if I never meet another person with a hidden disability—but I will--I want to remember that I never know what another person is trying to manage in his or her life. Maybe it’s a hidden disability—maybe that mom is just trying to get through an especially trying day with her son who has Aspergers Syndrome, or that man is doing all he can just to avoid another seizure. Or maybe it’s not a hidden disability that is occupying all of that person’s energy. Maybe it’s the after-effects of chemotherapy, or grief at the loss of a grandparent. It’s likely that someone I’ll be talking with today will be dealing with something and I want to behave in accommodating and caring ways, but I so rarely do. May God give me the mind and heart to respond to each and every situation the way He responds.
To learn more about hidden disabilities, find support and read the blogs, connect with Chosen Families.org by logging on to http://chosenfamilies.org/