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Please Understand My Child Has Invisible Disabilities, He Is Not a 'Bad Kid'

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We know that kid.

The kid who is always holding the teacher’s hand, twirling in circles while the rest of the class is waiting patiently. The one who is always hitting, pushing or shoving. The kid other children seem to avoid because he is always rolling around on the carpet during circle time, flipping and flopping about. The one who always has wet shirt sleeves and throws a fit because the teacher put him at the finger-paint table instead of the block table. The kid who’s in your group on the class field trip, and just gives you a blank stare when you tell him to throw away his lunch trash, wash his hands and then join the others under the big oak tree. The kid who’s name is just barely legible on his valentines, and you can’t help but ask, “Don’t his parents work with him at all?” The kid others assume doesn’t have any rules at home.

You know that kid.

The kid you may be glad isn’t yours.

The “bad” kid.

Well, I am the parent of that kid.

You may think you know that  kid, but I am here to tell you that you don’t know my child at all.

Yes, you experience his “behavior” at pickup and drop off, on field trips, and you hear  the stories about him every day from your child. However, you don’t know him.

You don’t know that he is the sweetest little boy you would ever meet, that he often thinks with his heart and not his head. You don’t see the countless nights I spent awake researching every little thing I could find on his “behavior.” You don’t see the doctor’s visits, the evaluations, the lost hours of sleep spent trying to figure out his little mind.

See, my little guy is a complex guy. He comes with these “invisible” disabilities you can’t possibly suspect because on the outside he “looks normal.” (Which let’s be honest, what is “normal?” Let’s stop using “normal”). You don’t know we are evaluating him for dyslexia because letters are confusing to him, and no matter what he writes, the majority of his letters are backwards. You don’t see the proud smile from him, or the tears in the corner of my eye  when he finally semi-clearly writes his name. He worked so hard on those Valentines, he danced around our apartment singing, “I did it, I did it!”

We actually do work with him all the time.

You don’t know that he cries on his way home from school because he “tried to focus so hard,” but still got in trouble for not paying attention. You see, we suspect he has ADD and as much as he wants to focus on the teacher and learn, he can’t. He is just wired a little differently, but you can’t see that.

You don’t know he has sensory processing disorder, that he either experiences things with his senses too much, or not enough. He doesn’t realize he is leaning on your child, because his brain doesn’t receive the input that he is pushing on her. His shirt sleeves are constantly wet because he craves oral sensory input, and he freaks out over finger-paint because the cool wet texture of the paint is just too much for his senses.

I really am sorry about him not listening to you on the field trip, perhaps if you knew he had an auditory processing delay you would have broken down the directions for him, one step at a time. He heard you, I’m sure. We’ve had his hearing tested many times. However, While you were saying, “wash your hands and join your friends” he was still processing, “throw your lunch trash away.” He simply did not register all you said, and was confused. He’s a shy little soul and didn’t know how to explain that he didn’t get it all.

So you see, you don’t know him,  You see all the outside things, all of his behavior, all of these “invisible” disabilities. You don’t see the sweet little boy who is smart and funny. You don’t see the beautiful soul, or his heart that is overflowing with compassion. You don’t see how he cares so deeply for other people, and how he will often  put other people before himself.

I’m asking you, begging you, to see past these “invisible” disabilities. To see him, not his learning disabilities, not his behavior, not a bad kid, not that kid.

He is just a kid.

Originally published: July 21, 2018
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