[Gist of Yojana December 2020] Invisible Disabilities

Mains Paper 2: Health
Prelims level: Not much
Mains level: Common Invisible Disabilities and stigma

Introduction:

• Invisible conditions are more difficult to detect by medical doctors. Many such conditions go undiagnosed or are misdiagnosed.

• The stigma surrounding a chronic disease or disorder and the realisation that a seemingly healthy child is having a condition which affects functional efficiency throughout life, may in many cases compel parents to conceal the disability in social settings.

Common Invisible Disabilities:

Some of the most common invisible disabilities in which people appear healthy and in control of their lives and bodies are:

• Minimal brain injury and developmental cognitive disorders which interfere with memory, motor skills planning, organisational abilities, cognition and communication. Children may find it difficult to perform higher level of academics, planning, and as adults they may make ‘mistakes’ in tasks which involve precision and multi-step processes such as digital transactions. Outwardly, they appear clumsy, distracted and disorganised.

• Learning Disabilities: Neurological disorders resulting in impairment in reading (dyslexia) writing (dysgraphia) or mathematics (dyscalculia), commonly associated with Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity disorder. Appearance: Lazy, distracted, intentionally avoiding work.

• Autism Spectrum Disorders: Neurodevelopment disorders beginning early in childhood and severely affecting the ability to communicate, learn social skills and social interaction, associated with rigid and repetitive behaviours. Appearance: Rude, undisciplined, fussy, stubborn, avoiding instructions, and not cooperating.

• Chronic diseases such as certain renal disorders as also Fibromyalgia which is a chronic rheumatic condition that causes widespread pain and throughout the soft tissue in the body, accompanied by fatigue. Appearance: Lazy and constantly avoiding work.

• Depression: Mental health and mood disorders involving persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness and loss of interest strong enough to affect normal functioning; commonly associated with anxiety disorders causing persistent feelings of worry and fear. Outwardly appearance: Being unnecessarily sensitive, exerting oneself to become cheerful and trying to adjust.

• Sensory Disorders: Children who have sensory issues may have an aversion to anything that triggers their senses, such as light, sound, touch, taste, or smell. Common symptoms of sensory processing issues may include avoidance or hyperactivity. Appearance: Too fussy, not cooperating, need for stem discipline.

Stigma:

• The stigma surrounding a chronic disease or disorder and the realisation that a seemingly healthy child is having a condition which affects functional efficiency throughout life, may in many cases compel parents to conceal the disability in social settings. Research shows that the burden of concealing a disability creates strain in social and work situations that might negatively affect health and well-being.

• Concealing also results in low self-esteem and related psychological personality problems. In contrast, disclosure relieves the strain of hiding the condition and increases the likelihood that the person will find and develop a social support network with others who might have similar conditions or experiences.

Way forward:

• Early Intervention can work wonders, when brain and body cells are most malleable and receptive to training and therapy. There is a need to provide parents with professional counselling when their child is diagnosed with a disability. The sooner we help a parent bridge the gap between denial and acceptance of a child’s disability, the better they will be able to help their child in the future.

• Counselling of parents in the potential strengths of a special needs child at an early age can go a long way in maximising functional adjustment to educational and vocational development required to fulfil adult social responsibility.

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