Hidden Disabilties

I cannot thank Connie Kennemer enough for the column she wrote on discrimination against people with hidden disabilities (Voices, Sept. 26). My mother died of multiple sclerosis last year, and for much of her life she appeared able-bodied although suffering greatly with this horrible disease. I have no doubt that she endured the same reactions Kennemer has.

I sustained a nerve injury in an auto accident, which caused varying amounts of difficulty depending on the weather and other factors. I was regularly questioned, interpreted and assumed to be faking or exaggerating because my level of dysfunction varied from day to day. I currently treat children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and their abilities vary from day to day, depending on their setting, activities, accommodations made to their condition and their progress in treatment. They are regularly assumed to be deliberately disobeying (no doubt this is true sometimes), seriously emotionally disturbed or just bad kids.

What these disabilities have in common is that they vary from day to day, are not always visible to the uninformed observer and are compounded by reactions of suspicion, denial and hostility.

A disability is not an excuse, and I encourage my patients to maximize their abilities within the limits of their potential. How much easier it would be if the negative assumptions and snap judgments stopped!



Los Angeles