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Empathy and Support for People Living With Invisible Disabilities

3 min read

Invisible disabilities may not be immediately apparent, but they impact millions of lives daily. These conditions range from metabolic and neurological disorders to chronic pain syndromes and respiratory diseases. However, just because someone’s disability can’t be seen doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. This makes it vital to treat people with invisible disabilities with the same level of understanding and empathy as you offer to people with visible impairments.

Proper education helps to foster this emphatic understanding, equipping caregivers and the community to better support people living with invisible impairments.

Empathy Through Education

Understanding the impact of invisible disabilities on individuals and their families can be significantly improved through support coordination training. This education equips caregivers and professionals with the knowledge to recognise and appropriately respond to the unique challenges faced by people living with conditions such as Type 1 Diabetes, Haemophilia, Asthma, Crohn’s Disease, and Migraines. Each of these conditions can severely disrupt an individual’s daily life, yet it’s not often they receive the same attention or understanding as more visible disabilities.

Here is a quick overview of the five invisible impairments mentioned above and how they impact people living with these issues.

Type 1 Diabetes: This is a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin. To prevent complications, people must manage their blood sugar levels through insulin injections, diet, and lifestyle changes.

Haemophilia: This is a genetic disorder that impairs the blood’s ability to clot, resulting in excessive bleeding and bruising from even minor injuries. Treatment generally involves regular infusions of clotting factors to help prevent or manage bleeding episodes.

Asthma: Asthma is a respiratory condition marked by spasms in the bronchi of the lungs, which can cause difficulty breathing. Triggers, such as allergens, cold air, or exercise, can provoke these symptoms, which vary greatly in severity among individuals.

Crohn’s Disease: A chronic inflammatory bowel disease that can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract. Symptoms include severe abdominal pain, diarrhoea, fatigue, weight loss, and malnutrition. Treatment focuses on reducing inflammation, managing symptoms, and maintaining remission, often requiring medication and sometimes surgery.

Migraines: Characterised by intense, debilitating headaches often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. Migraines can last for hours or days and be so severe that they interfere with a person’s ability to function.

Beyond Visibility

The struggles of living with an invisible disability are real and profound. Unlike visible disabilities, the lack of physical signs can often lead to misunderstandings, misjudgments, and stigma. Society’s frequent failure to acknowledge these hidden challenges only compounds the difficulties faced by people who live with them.

It’s crucial that, as support coordinators, we recognise and validate the experiences of people with invisible disabilities. Support can make a significant difference in their lives, whether through understanding, providing appropriate accommodation, or simply recognising their challenges.

Greater Understanding – Better Support

The journey toward empathy and support for people with invisible disabilities begins by acknowledging the legitimacy of their experiences. When we expand our understanding and shift our perceptions, we create a more inclusive and supportive environment. Training in support coordination, awareness campaigns, and education play a pivotal role in building a community that respects and values every individual, regardless of the visibility of their condition.