The Weight of Silence as Parents of Kids with Invisible Disabilities

by Apr 17, 2024Advocacy, Encouragement, Special Needs Parenting0 comments

Guest blogger Lisa Pelissier explains the weight of silence as parents of kids with invisible disabilities.

The weight of silence as parents of kids with disabilities is all too familiar to guest blogger Lisa Pelissier. In this post she explains why she and other parents don’t talk about what’s going on with their kids and why they might want to rethink that decision.

The world of special needs parenting is broad and diverse. Some of us are thrust into a world where we’re forced to wear the special needs banner day in and day out.

However, those of us whose children have invisible disorders—high functioning autism, ADHD, mental health issues, and more—have a choice about broadcasting our special need status. Do we choose to stay silent, to blend into the crowd, or do we choose to align ourselves with the special needs population?

3 Reasons We Stay Silent

There can be stigma associated with invisible disorders, especially mental health issues. Historically, people have regarded anxiety and depression as character flaws. They often are subject to comments like ‘If your child wasn’t weak, she wouldn’t be anxious.” Or “If you trusted God more, you wouldn’t be depressed.” There can be shunning that comes along with any invisible disorder. You’re different. You “ride the special bus”—used as a pejorative. As parents, we also receive blame. People say things like, “If your child has anxiety, it’s because you’ve been an abusive parent, or at the very least, a bad one.”

Who needs that? It’s easier to keep our mouths shut.

We don’t want our kids to label and therefore limit themselves. Autism doesn’t mean you can’t have friends. It doesn’t mean you can’t have empathy, we think. If my child wears his diagnosis like a name tag, he may use it as an excuse for why he doesn’t have to reach out to make friends, have to have compassion for others, or excel at his studies.

We want our kids to achieve their full potential. Why shout out diagnosis instead of ignoring it and hoping for the best?

A third reason we stay silent is because of our own denial of our children’s conditions. He’s not autistic, he’s just quirky. She’s not depressed, she’s just hormonal. It’s not ADHD, he’s just disobedient. Accepting a diagnosis comes as a blow to our hopes and dreams for our child.

Like the title of this website states, we have to find a “different dream”—something that can be difficult and painful to do.

2 Reasons We Shouldn’t Stay Silent

Invisible disorders are real. While it’s true that kids can be quirky, hormonal, and disobedient, it’s also true that kids can have real diagnoses of autism, depression, and ADHD, and those conditions can and do affect thinking and behavior. We do our kids a disservice when we deny their reality. Helping them learn about their condition and how it affects their thoughts, feelings, and behavior will give them the power to understand, learn, and grow—and to manage their health rather than pretend there isn’t a problem.

We can help others understand why our kids are different so they can be more accepting.

Many choose silence—until someone else speaks up. Being up front about depression, anxiety, OCD, ADHD, and other invisible disorders gives others permission to speak about their own difficulties. This can be especially true in the case of disorders we in the church may try fervently to hide because of shame and grief, such as in suicidal ideation. When you say, “this is my reality,” you find that others in your circle of acquaintance have been there too, even if they’re not ready to go public with it.

Where you expected to find condemnation and rejection, you find understanding, solidarity, and friendship.

As special needs parents, our burdens are heavy. Keeping them to ourselves not only deprives us of support, of someone to help us bear those burdens, it deprives others of the chance to grow in their own knowledge, understanding, and compassion.

You are not alone if your child is crippled by anxiety.
You are not alone if your child has attempted suicide.
You are not alone if your adult child who can “pass” for neurotypical can’t get their life together.
You are not alone if your child is too depressed to get out of bed in the morning.

But if you keep your troubles hidden, you’ll never know what kind of love and support you’re missing. You’ll never know if by speaking the truth, by freeing yourself from the weight of silence as parents of kids with invisible disabilities, you may give someone else a boost out of their own pit of silent despair.

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Photo by Kristina Flour on Unsplash

By Lisa Pelissier

Lisa Pelissier lives in Oregon where she is a homeschool mom and author of five middle-grade fiction novels, the second-grade Monsters series, and a YA fantasy novel. Lisa owns SneakerBlossom Books, offering Christian, classical homeschool Study Guides and curriculum. She blogs at Eleventh Willow, offering encouragement for Christians parenting the mentally ill. She also works as a freelance copy editor, copy writer, an artist, and a marketing editor. In her spare time Lisa enjoys playing the piano and fretting about things over which she has no control. 


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Meet Jolene

Jolene Philo is a published author, speaker, wife, and mother of a son with special needs.



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