Melissa and daighters

To Tell or Not to Tell

Every August, my kids get excited about going back to school. Don’t get me wrong, as a parent of four children, I’m thrilled when back-to-school time approaches! However, one part of this time of year makes me anxious. That is, trying to decide whether to tell my daughter’s teacher that she has Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).

Sometimes also referred to as Sensory Integration Dysfunction (SID), children with SPD can become easily overstimulated or understimulated by the world around them. My daughter is usually understimulated, and often seeks stimuli from physical activities that others may find strange or odd. The most noticeable is rocking and constant jumping to increase stimuli input.

Sensory Processing Disorder is a somewhat controversial diagnosis. It’s not listed as its own diagnosis in DSM-5, instead it’s a criterion for an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnosis.

Schools don’t typically give kids with just SPD an Individualized Education Program (IEP), but I have heard of some students with SPD receiving accommodations under the less rigorous 504 Plan.

In previous years, I have not told my daughter’s teachers about her challenges. It has mostly worked out fine. Last year, I decided to tell my daughter’s first year teacher in advance about her SPD. It could just be a coincidence, but my daughter had her worst year ever.

Perhaps it was my imagination, but after that conversation, I started hearing about “math issues” and some minor behavioral challenges surrounding my daughter’s ability to keep her hands to herself. I couldn’t help but think that these newly identified concerns might stem from the information the teacher received but didn’t quite know how to deal with.

Sadly, when you have a disability, deciding whether to tell others about it will never go away.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in five adults has a disability in the United States. That’s about 53 million people.  Research from the Brookings Institute reports that only 35% of those adults have employment. But a recent survey by the Arc puts that figure much lower, finding that only 15% of adults with disabilities have employment.

One primary reason for the high levels of unemployment among people with disabilities could be unconscious bias.  Researchers at Rutgers University suggest that adults who choose to self-disclose their disability might not have the same opportunities as those without a disability.

In their field study, researchers sent fictional job applications for more than 6,000 accounting positions. Two-thirds of the job seekers disclosed their disabilities—a spinal cord injury or Asperger’s Syndrome—in their cover letters, while one-third didn’t mention a disability. Even though the applicants were equally qualified and their disabilities wouldn’t interfere with the accounting work, those who self-disclosed their disabilities received 26% fewer responses from employers.

Even those with disabilities who find employment face significant barriers in the workplace, including lower-paying jobs, fewer benefits, lack of career growth, workplace stigma, and fewer educational or training opportunities.

We’re trying to change that. That’s why we created ONEder Academy’s Transition Curriculum. Our eight courses are designed for students ages 14 to 21 who are transitioning to life after high school.  Each course focuses on the interpersonal skills everyone needs to be successful in any workplace.  Courses cover topics such as work ethic, giving and receiving feedback, and communicating with confidence. With these courses, students can gain the skills they need to be successful contributors in a dynamic and diverse workplace. Our mission at ONEder is to improve the outcomes for all students.

We’d love to hear your comments and feedback on this topic.  Please feel free to comment below or contact me at I look forward to continuing the discussion on this issue!

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