Just looking at me you don’t know that I am different

"But what you don’t see is that I am disabled. I have an invisible disability."

By Keegan Williams - Moran | November 22, 2021
A young man in a blue button down shirt with a yellow and blue medal, and colored tie shows off a paper award

 

This guest blog is by Keegan Williams - Moran. He is a current high school student from California. When he was 12, he decided he wanted to be a psychologist or psychiatrist. That is still his goal. 

I Am a Student

As you sit here today looking at me, you can see that I am a boy, I am a teen, and I am a student, here at The Met Sacramento. But what you don’t see is that I am disabled. I have an invisible disability, from just looking at me you don’t know that I am different.

When you think of people with disabilities you may think of Mary from Little House on the Prairie who was blind, or Tiny Tim who was crippled. These are examples of visible disabilities. In simple terms, an invisible disability is a physical, mental or neurological condition that is not visible from the outside, yet can limit or challenge a person’s movements, senses, or activities. Unfortunately, the very fact that these symptoms are invisible can lead to misunderstandings, false perceptions, and judgments. Dyslexia is a disability. ADHD is a disability. Autism Spectrum Disorder is a disability. Depression is a disability. Anxiety is a disability. I have all of them. How about you? Yet just like you I am a Student. I am a student with dyslexia and you may not know that often people with dyslexia are also more likely to have ADHD and anxiety. When you are first learning to love learning and you struggle with how words look, it wears on your self esteem. The perception that you can’t do a task is a reality to your anxiety, even if you are actually able to perform that task. The anxiety takes over your body and brain, telling you to “FREEZE”. Like a deer in headlights, you freeze both physically and mentally. I want you to know that more often than not for people with anxiety, the stressors win, and “we” lose because we are incapacitated by the percieved threat. Just like me you may have perceived a threat that isn’t real. And just like you I am a student.

I am a student with ADHD and most people think that means you can’t sit still and are impulsive. However ADHD can look quite different depending on what type you have. I have the “combo” so I am not only inattentive - which used to be called daydreaming - I also am hyperactive which means I need to move a lot. I don’t know what it is like to not have ADHD. To me, ADHD is normal. I started taking medication for ADHD when I was in 3rd grade, I can tell when the medication is wearing off. I have to force myself to eat, and if I wait too late to do homework I can’t focus enough to complete it. In reality I can see that ADHD is not really a lack of focus but an over-stimulated brain that tries to focus on too much at one time. I can completely focus on something I love to do and then I hyperfocus. For you it might be playing a video game or learning all the latest dance moves. Just like me you may find it hard to pay attention at times but can hyperfocus on something you love. And just like you I am a student.

I am a student who is on the autism spectrum. You may not know that all people with autism spectrum disorder are not the same. One thing that people with ASD do seem to have in common is that it takes us longer to process languages. When I was younger it took me 9 minutes to answer a question when I was asked. Who is going to sit there and patiently wait 9 minutes for me to answer? No one. It wasn’t that I didn’t know the answer, it was that I needed that time to get the words out. I don’t always understand facial expressions and sarcasm. I think it is a form of discrimination when all autistic, ADHD or dyslexic students are made to sit at the same table. Often people lump us all together because they think, “oh, they can work together”, but its still discrimination. We are not all the same. Just like me, you may have felt discriminated against. And just like you I am a student. I am a student who has depression.

Everyone has felt sad before, we all know what it is like to feel sad. But depression is so much more than just sad. It isn’t just a bad mood or the feeling you have when a pet dies. It is a lingering feeling of helplessness that can last for months. It can make it so you can’t even do normal everyday things. When you are in the middle of a depression cycle it can feel like there is no good in the world, so why even try to do anything. I understand intellectually that my depression is just a chemical imbalance in my brain, but that doesn’t make the feelings any less real. Just like me you may feel like this too. And just like you I am a student. You may not see me, I am often just a student just like you. But if you look deeper at what my life is like you can see that I have hidden disabilities. Those disabilities make my journey harder - but not impossible. And just like you I am a student.

Autism Speaks does not provide medical or legal advice or services. Rather, Autism Speaks provides general information about autism as a service to the community. The information provided on our website is not a recommendation, referral or endorsement of any resource, therapeutic method, or service provider and does not replace the advice of medical, legal or educational professionals. Autism Speaks has not validated and is not responsible for any information, events, or services provided by third parties. The views and opinions expressed in blogs on our website do not necessarily reflect the views of Autism Speaks.

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