The Painful Truths About Invisible Childhood Illnesses

This is part 5 of the series “Invisible Illnesses.” To read the previous post, click here.

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Parenting is tough.

It’ll chew you up and spit you back out. It’ll wring your heart out until it’s dry. It taxes the mind, burdens the heart, and dominates your prayers—all while demanding constant creativity. You become a strategist, investigator, and commander, as well as a comforter, counselor, and coach. You must be fair, patient, willing to be inconvenienced, diligent in training, and protective of your child’s innocence.

Every decision has major consequences—from how you give birth to how you choose to educate. To survive, you develop a thick skin against both tears and tantrums while bearing up under the scathing criticism of everyone—from your own family to the irritable lady at the grocery store.

Are you ready for the hardest part of this gig?

These kids have free will.

You could do everything “right” and they might still choose wrong.

Parenting is a challenge under the best circumstances.

Now, throw in some three- and four-letter word disorders and you’ve just added both a labyrinth and a minotaur into the mix. Apart from the obvious problem of poor diagnoses and limited treatment options, the parent has to deal with the fact that most people believe these disorders are fabricated.

Fun, huh?

I bring this up as part of our series because Christians—just as much as non-Christians—tend to exact criticism on children and parents in ignorance of possible mental disorders. The parents of these children *might* be lazy or poor at parenting just as much as parents of “normal” children. On the other hand, they might be doing everything in their power to fix the problem… and getting nowhere.

And then, there’s the children…

Kids with disorders struggle. They cope with ostracism. They deal with the normal challenges of “growing up” while grappling with difficulties most people cannot comprehend. Teachers label them “bad kids” or give them the one-eyebrow stare. Parents get exasperated and impatient. Kids avoid them. Doctors slap them with labels and pump them full of chemicals. Instead of being treated like a precious soul, they are viewed as an inconvenient problem.

We must learn to be compassionate while also training them up properly—a challenge of Everest-like proportions.

Let’s talk about three of these disorders that sound like expletives, shall we?

ADHD/ADD
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder/Attention Deficit Disorder.

This is one of the most commonly diagnosed behavioral disorders.

Symptoms of this disorder include:

  • inattention
  • trouble concentrating
  • does not seem to listen when spoken to directly
  • often struggles to follow directions completely
  • difficulty organizing tasks
  • frequently losing things
  • fidgety
  • runs or climbs when inappropriate
  • talks excessively
  • has trouble waiting
  • may interrupt or blurt out frequently

Sometimes, people rush to label kids as ADHD who are just being kids in need of simple, straight-up discipline. If you suspect that your child or a child in your care has ADHD because they manifest these symptoms, consult with a specialist.

Note: While I am not a doctor, I do have experience as a parent dealing with disorders. I do not recommend accepting a blanket diagnosis from a General Practioner or Pediatrician. These doctors are excellent at what they do and a great source for recommending specialists, but their knowledge tends to be of a generalized nature and could lead to misdiagnosis. For a disorder of this kind, it is best to consult specialists with the resources to perform focused testing and evaluations. Do not hesitate to get a second or third opinion before pursuing treatment.

(source: add.org)

ASD
Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Most people think of Autistic children as arm-flapping, vacant, and uncommunicative. While those are symptoms of some autistic children, it is not all-inclusive. Autism Spectrum Disorder covers a broad range of symptoms (hence the word “spectrum”). Many children are considered “high-functioning,” which means it is difficult for outsiders to recognize the symptoms because the majority of their behavior is “normal.”

Symptoms of ASD include (but are not limited to):

  • Getting upset by a slight change in a routine or being placed in a new or overly stimulating setting
  • Making little or inconsistent eye contact
  • Having a tendency to look at and listen to other people less often
  • Often talking at length about a favorite subject without noticing that others are not interested or without giving others a chance to respond
  • Repeating words or phrases that they hear, a behavior called echolalia
  • Repeating certain behaviors or having unusual behaviors
  • Having overly focused interests, such as with moving objects or parts of objects
  • Having a lasting, intense interest in certain topics, such as numbers, details, or facts.

Autism is a fraught with challenges for the entire family. If you are aware of a family dealing with this disorder, offer the same kind of help you would offer if their kid had cancer. This is not a brief ordeal; this is a life-long challenge!

(source: Symptoms listed above are copied from the NIMH website; click the link for additional symptoms and information.)

SPD/SID
Sensory Processing Disorder/Sensory Integration Disorder.

SPD is considered a neurological disorder in which incoming sensory information is improperly processed by the brain. It has been likened to a “traffic jam” in the brain. A pair of jeans might feel like sandpaper. The feel of a strawberry on the tongue might be startling. A room full of noise may cause panic.

Symptoms include:

  • difficulty performing fine motor tasks such as handwriting
  • awkward or clumsy
  • confuses similar sounding words
  • overwhelmed at the playground or in crowded places

Understood.org has a brief, but helpful article entitled 5 Tough Situations for Kids With Sensory Processing Issues.

For a more complete list of symptoms, check out this free resource from the STAR institute.


Can you see how parenting a child (or being a child) with any of these disorders is problematic?

Most would agree (as would I) on the following statements:

  • Parents and teachers should have expectations for proper behavior.
  • Parents should not make excuses for a child’s behavior, but rather correct it.

That being said…

If you have a child with any of these disorders, you know it’s not as simple as “laying down the law.” Setting realistic standards is helpful for every child, but to be effective, you’ll need to get creative in your training techniques. 

When criticizing parents, many will point at obvious Bible passages (“he who spares the rod hates his son,” or “train up a child in the way he should go,” etcetera), not even thinking that those parents could be employing these very verses to little effect.

These two proverbs are of equal importance in your parenting endeavors:

“Where there is no guidance the people fall, but in an abundance of counselors there is victory,” (Prov. 11.14)

and…

“A wise man will hear and increase in learning, And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel.” (Prov. 1:5)

My advice to any struggling parent is to seek wise counsel from multiple sources. Don’t try to go it alone when it comes to parenting; this task should never be taken lightly. There is no shame in consulting a professional counselor.

Above everything else, get on your knees and pray. The best counselor, the best listener, is the Lord who sees all and understands best. Pray for your child. Pray for wisdom to raise them properly. Pray for them to have mentors, teachers, and friends who will guide them in the right direction. For more ways to pray for your child, check out this post.

My fellow parents, I urge you: Do not neglect prayer or wise counsel.


This post is the barest glimpse into childhood disorders. I haven’t even covered obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), Asperger’s, dyslexia, dyspraxia, tourettes, anxiety, bipolar disorder, etcetera. And let’s remember something else: these disorders don’t vanish when they reach adulthood. Many of these challenges follow them into adulthood!

We are commanded to love our neighbor as ourself. Understanding these difficulties can help us fulfill that command more completely. We do not learn about these disorders to make excuses for ourselves or others; we seek knowledge in order to approach the problem more effectively and exercise compassion more fully.

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20 thoughts on “The Painful Truths About Invisible Childhood Illnesses

    • Elihu January 31, 2017 / 06:48

      Thank you so much for the reblog! God be with you.

      Like

      • J.S.Stone M.Ed January 31, 2017 / 06:52

        You are a careful and measured writer. I see a lot of sloppy blogs. You one of the few, I will reblog. Great Content

        Liked by 1 person

  1. madblog January 31, 2017 / 05:57

    I can’t express my support for this post enough. I am a parent of several, all with overlapping three and four letter burdens upon their backs. People have no idea the mountains my kids have climbed just to be where they are, because they look like they’re doing OK.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Elihu January 31, 2017 / 06:53

      My heart goes out to you! It is a hard road for the whole family.

      May you be blessed as you press on in your efforts.

      Just recently I learned about a book by Sally Clarkson called “Different” and it addresses the difficulties of raising children with disorders. It’s told from her perspective and her son’s perspective. I was thinking about reading it. Have you heard of it? Do you have any resources you recommend for other parents who might be struggling?

      Liked by 1 person

      • madblog January 31, 2017 / 07:33

        Thank you! My husband and I joke with them that we were the perfect storm.

        They are mostly young adults now, and the issues most definitely do not go away. I would advise parents to find help asap, as young as possible, so that children might learn to manage these difficulties and internalize tools for coping before they’re trying to transition to adult responsibility, which is a hurdle for anyone.
        I have met Sally Clarkson, and I recently heard about her book. I do intend to get hold of it.

        As a parent you must become your child’s first counselor, personal researcher, and first line diagnostician before you even seek help. It’s an extra job or two. I’ve read a lot. Two resources which have been helpful:

        Brain Lock by Schwartz explains what’s going on with OCD clearly, and encourages because it also explains a method for effective treatment.

        Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnosis of Gifted Children and Adults by James T. Webb, etc. This book really helped us understand those issues which were sub-clinical. The idea that, putting aside clinical labels, we can recognize each person’s unique strengths or weaknesses and meet him/her where he/she is. That giftedness often comes with a collection of hypersensitivities and problems that many other people don’t have, and that it’s best to recognize them and find effective strategies. Rather than see people as normal (ignore the problem) OR abnormal-disabled (get treated), and no spectrum in between.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Elihu January 31, 2017 / 10:55

        Wow! There’s some great stuff in your comment. I especially like this statement: “As a parent you must become your child’s first counselor, personal researcher, and first line diagnostician before you even seek help. It’s an extra job or two.” I agree and believe wholeheartedly that a parent must advocate for their child’s health and do lots of homework. We’ve done a lot of that with ours. I can’t say it’s gotten “easier” but our ability to work together has improved. Thank you so much for your great comments and I truly hope that many of my readers will benefit from some of the resources you’ve listed below.

        Like

  2. madblog January 31, 2017 / 07:44

    I forgot to mention that I’ve found some of Temple Grandin’s insights fascinating and applicable even where Asperger’s is not the issue. Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships is useful anywhere naturally intuitive social strength is lacking.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. marciasettles January 31, 2017 / 08:41

    Reblogged this on A Mom Looking Up and commented:
    I cannot thank Elihu enough for posting this. You may recall, my daughter has autism, SPD, an IQ of 45 and language disorder. She is 13 going on five. Her 13 yo body is in constant conflict with her cogntive and language challenges, which results in severe behavior concerns. If that isnt frustrating enough, she also struggles with abstract thought. She has trouble connecting consequences to her behavior. As a mother, it is heartbreaking to see your child struggle so much and know she has no friends. Many adults, let alone kids, want to be around her. Elihu’s advice about prayer and wise council is spot on. I ask that you continue to join us in praying for our Beauty, and for us as we train her up in the Lord.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Elihu January 31, 2017 / 11:02

      It is so heartbreaking, watching a child suffer. I am sorry that your daughter is enduring so much pain.

      I am thankful to you for sharing your story here and reflagging this post too. Only you know how difficult a road it is, and I hope and pray that God will supply you with abundant strength to carry on. I am adding you and your daughter to my list of people to pray for. May God be with you and bless you.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. gmgoetz January 31, 2017 / 08:58

    Reblogged this on thotsfromgeorge and commented:
    Another excellent blog on a subject which will at sometime have an effect on each of us. This may be a family member, the child of a friend, someone in our place of worship, or schooling.
    The idea of Prayer mentioned by Elihu, is very important, and will be a help to the families involved, if they know we are praying or not.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. gmgoetz January 31, 2017 / 09:07

    Elihu, another excellent article, thank you for sharing your knowledge with us. I reblogged this article, as well as posting on fb, believing this will benefit everyone who reads it. God Bless you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Elihu January 31, 2017 / 11:03

      Thank you so much George! I pray this comforts and strengthens many people. There are so many parents and children out there who suffer in the shadows, grappling with pain that few comprehend. God bless you, George.

      Like

  6. deanna reynolds January 31, 2017 / 09:23

    Hello brother. I am a born-again servant of Christ, and a physician to who He opened up His word on the cause and eradication of disease once I died sufficiently to self and submitted to His call to leave the lucrative practice of medicine. My precious second daughter had ADD, and the Lord revealed the spiritual roots of the disorder to me. Over a few years, as I saw my contribution to her spiritual state, He graciously led me to change my ways (repent of my issues with control) AS He similarly revealed to my daughter the spiritual roots that she could repent of. As we both relied on the Holy Spirit’s guidance and empowerment, we eventually stopped the horrid medications and received the healing.

    After I fully answered His call to stop practicing medicine, He opened the Scriptures up to me far more than ever before, and gave me to write this ~35 page Bible study, “Looking Into God’s Word on the Cause and Eradication of Disease” for all others who truly want to receive the healing God HAS GIVEN US IN CHRIST.

    He is desperate for His beloved children to apprehend His healing. I encourage you and all readers of this article to make time to read it.
    https://thelordiswithus.com/looking-into-gods-word-on-the-cause-and-eradication-of-disease-2/

    God blesses ALL who dig into the Scriptures like the Bereans did (Acts 17:11)! It is His word which renews our minds!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Elihu January 31, 2017 / 11:17

      I am glad that you and your daughter have found healing.

      I do think it’s important to note, however, that we must be on guard against blaming sickness on our specific sins. I recognize that STDs, drug addiction, alcoholism, gambling, etcetera come from poor choices often made by a person (or in some sad cases, a person’s parents). In such cases, yes, their sin has caused their sickness.

      On the other hand, sickness and death came into the world when Adam and Eve chose to disobey God and were cast out of the garden, away from the tree of life. These things are part of the human condition, reminding us of our frailty and forcing us to seek the One who is stronger than ourselves. Humans have tried to eradicate disease for centuries. When we think we’ve “conquered” one, something else pops up in it’s place. Ironically, some diseases spring up from the “cure” itself.

      Ultimately, I see both mental and physical illnesses as a clear reminder that this life is temporary, that God is our source of true life and strength, and we should not place excessive confidence in worldly wisdom. I do not claim to be the expert in such matters—these are conclusions drawn from personal study and I pray the Lord to continue to lead me into all truth. May you be blessed as you continue seeking the Lord, Deanna. Thank you so much for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

      • deanna reynolds January 31, 2017 / 12:24

        The Lord has taught me His word IS truth; we are led astray by our thoughts and our feelings. Please choose to stand firm in your new self in Christ, put off that old self who values its thoughts, and study what He says about our condition to be led into all truth. We ARE all blessed as we do so, brother. Praise Jesus for being the Way, and that the Holy Spirit leads us into all truth as we obey Him. Thank you in advance for reading it.

        Like

  7. autistsix March 6, 2017 / 04:00

    Great insight, as a person suffering with ASD+ with 4 kids all ASD+ one is ASD, SPD, AD/HD and dyslexic, incredible insight. Thank you!
    Oh and I subscribe to the view that rod meant the shepherd’s rod which was used to direct not strike. I believe we are supposed to move our kids in the right direction.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Elihu March 6, 2017 / 04:24

      Thank you for your high praise. As you know, it is not easy to live with ASD nor to raise children with it. May the Lord bless you as you strive to raise your children. He knows it isn’t a small task!

      Liked by 1 person

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