Invisible Differences - Need for Invisible Differences
Why Do We Need the "Invisible Differences" Program?Today, more of our children globally have been diagnosed with special needs than any generation before them. And while there is some debate, most health care professionals believe these diagnoses are due to a true increase in the incidence of the special needs and not just better diagnostics. To date, they don’t know why.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the number of people diagnosed with these types of disorders is rising at an alarming rate each year — 16% of children ages 4-17 have been diagnosed with one of these invisible differences. It is estimated that 3-5% of the current workforce have ADHD and 10% of the current and potential workforce have a learning disability.
One especially challenging aspect of these disabilities is that they are invisible. Also, because many of the children are intellectually average or even have superior intellect, they often lack credibility when they ask for accommodations. They may be perceived as lazy or oppositional or having a bad attitude. Parents know differently. Our children’s disabilities are truly debilitating and without help, it becomes difficult for them to function. This is true now, while they are children, and will likely continue into adulthood.
Children with special needs are legally entitled to the same rights as people who have other disabilities and they are currently receiving support from their schools, to a greater or lesser degree depending on the school, during the K-12 years. Everything changes once they reach college. What services will they receive in college to enable them to be successful and graduate? What will they need to be effective and productive at work?
As a society, we will face a crossroads in the not too distant future. Our children are capable of being working, productive, tax-paying citizens. In fact, some of them will be the intellectual and innovative giants of the next generation. They will not, however, achieve their potential if the environments in which they are expected to work remain as homogenous and inflexible as they are today. Instead, the almost 20% of today’s children with special needs will become a burden on the society that will need to care for them if they are unable to work.
In addition, it’s not just those with special needs that are impacted — it’s also their caregivers, primarily parents. In a World Online Consumer Panel screening 60,000 working adults, almost 5,500 or 9% of participants were parents of at least one child with special needs. These caregivers face many problems themselves, such as health problems, emotional strain, mental health issues and financial insecurity.
- Provide resources and support to parents of special needs children
- Encourage and support educators and administrators of programs designated for special needs children and adults in providing ready-to-work training—not just how to do the work, but how to interact effectively with managers and co-workers
- Present a “business case” to employers on why it is critical to provide supportive work climates for parents of special needs children and those special needs adult as they enter the workforce
Enable employers to leverage the talents and exceptional abilities of the new workforce
- Educate employers to provide a work environment that is inclusive of all employees
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