Today marks Neuro-Disabilities Awareness Day, hosted by the British Home charity for the last 30 years. Today is the day to raise awareness of the one in six people in the UK affected by a neurological condition or brain injury. We asked Jyoti Kainth-Evans, our Principal Clinical Psychologist at the Hunters Moor Neurorehabilitation Centre, to provide us with an insight into Neuro-disabilities, and how this can be seen as a hidden disability.
‘Neuro-disability is an umbrella term for individuals who have experienced damage to the brain or central nervous system. Individuals can be affected by a brain injury from the development process (e.g., conception or birth), but also through sustained, traumatic, or acquired damage. Common conditions are Epilepsy, Downs Syndrome, Stroke, Autism and Multiple Sclerosis to name a few. Each condition presents in a different way, and can affect cognitive, behavioural, emotional, and physical processes.
Not all of these disabilities are visible, and people with neuro-disabilities often talk about having a “hidden disability”. Hidden disabilities are difficult for a number of reasons, and can create further challenges and barriers, over and above those the individual already has in managing their condition and its symptoms. Individuals with a neuro disability could feel uncomfortable about telling others about their difficulties, and therefore, may be reluctant to ask for help. Furthermore, a lack of awareness from others can lead to incidents arising whereby others doubt there is a disability, or challenge or demand proof.
Each person who is affected, is affected in a different way. Treatment approaches require an ideographic stance, in that no two individuals with neuro disability will have the same needs. In order to avoid situations like this, where individuals are confronted for “not looking like” they have a disability, it is increasingly important to raise awareness of the issues around neuro disability.’
How can we make identifying hidden disabilities easier?
Education of the public and the individual into what neuro-disability looks like can be done through conferences, blogs, campaigns, and charity events. The It’s Everyone’s Journey campaign for equal access on public transport is a great movement that provides research, awareness, and guidance to ensure the safety and inclusivity of disabled people on public transport. Active Care Group recently sponsored Headway’s charity event Hats for Headway to raise awareness for Action for Brain Injury Week, we highly recommend getting your workplace involved with charity events throughout the year to circulate interest and acknowledgement of all disabilities.
Badges are a great way to signal to a hidden disability without direct communication. The Sunflower Lanyard Badge Scheme discreetly indicates that you may need additional support or help. The simple sunflower design on a green background is a subtle yet well-known sign to enable those around you to identify you have a hidden disability, as well as increasing awareness and curiosity in those who do not already know. Sainsbury’s have gone one step ahead and initiated the sunflower lanyards to be available to pick up and use throughout all of their stores, with colleague happy to provide extra support for those who need it. Similarly, the Blue Badges are also available to help you park closer to your destination if you are disabled. Go to your local council’s website for information about the scheme.
To learn more about Neuro-disabilities, please visit organisations such as Headway, Brain Injury Group, Brain Injury Matters, Mencap or MIND for further guidance and tools to identifying and overcoming hidden disabilities.