Not all disabilities are visible

Today is International Day of People with Disabilities. The theme for 2020 is that ‘Not all Disabilities are Visible’ to spread awareness and understanding of disabilities that are not immediately apparent, such as mental illness, and learning disabilities.

According to the WHO World Report on Disability, 15 per cent of the world’s population, or more than 1 billion people, are living with disability. Of this number, it’s estimated 450 million are living with a mental or neurological condition— and two-thirds of these people will not seek professional medical help, largely due to stigma, discrimination and neglect. 

At Advance we support customers with a range of needs, which are not always visible.

Jason has Autism and a Learning Disability. He moved into one of our supported homes in 2017 after being in hospital with a heart infection and a condition known as psychogenic vomiting.  He just couldn't keep his food down and his weight was dangerously low at under 35kg.

Jason finds it difficult to communicate so the Positive Behaviour Support team, led by Michelle O'Neill, worked with him to create a Positive Behaviour Plan (PBP) with a range of strategies to help us understand his needs and how best to support him. This included teaching him new skills to promote independence and introducing Picture Exchange Communications System (PEC) to facilitate communication, which he now uses to communicate the activities he wants to do each day.

The team also implemented a manding programme, where they learned sign language that is tailored to Jason and his environment. They taught him five signs so he could tell them what he wanted, when he wanted it. Working with manding can help to reduce problem behaviours and it has worked well for Jason, whose confidence has increased along with his autonomy as he can sign when he wants to engage in an activity..

If you saw Jason on the street, you might not know he has complex needs. It’s important that we all remember not to judge others based on what we can see.

During the Coronavirus pandemic, some of our customers have had to deal with judgement from others who don’t understand why they’re not able to wear a face mask. By spreading awareness of invisible disabilities, and those that are not immediately apparent, we hope to help grow a society based on kindness and understanding.