By Kristen Broussard, Contributing Editor
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, a person with a disability is an individual with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Cognitive or hidden disabilities include a range of primarily neurological challenges and may not be immediately apparent. Many people with invisible disabilities choose not to disclose them due to a history of stigmatization. In the days of the pandemic, we’ve become accustomed to mask wearing but there are folks who might wear other types of masks to protect themselves from the pains of being different.
When individuals have hidden disabilities, there may be a disconnection of support and feelings of exclusion in learning and social environments. Conversely, providing access to resources can help empower individuals with hidden disabilities to contribute, succeed, and embrace their “ableness.” Explicitly, a collaborative culture where individuals are acknowledged and accepted for their uniqueness in every aspect of life foster and sustain self-determination, ultimately contributing to one’s life-long success.
To help achieve student success, educational leaders must create an environment that validates the diversity of thought, embracing others even when they think, learn, and communicate differently. First, leaders must expand their understanding of hidden disabilities from an asset-based approach to help students realize their “ableness.” By focusing on elevating an individual’s self-determination, they can help students through their journey in the realm of learning, working, and living to their highest potential.
Additionally, leaders can provide safe, social learning spaces that enable people with invisible disabilities to develop positive social identities. These spaces can cultivate norms of goal-directed, self-regulated, and autonomous behavior while reinforcing problem-solving and helping individuals make independent decisions about personal activities.
Table SALT Group is dedicated to assisting educational leaders in championing their students from strategies for educating staff on how best to create a sense of belonging to establishing programs that offer equal and authentic access to learning resources.
Contact us to find out more about how we can help your students succeed in their journey from a struggling learner to an empowered individual who embraces their “ableness.”
“When people go to work (or school) they shouldn’t have to leave their hearts at home” -Betty Bender