A hidden condition is a lot like a Rubik’s Cube.
You can spend so much time trying to get your head around it, but the final solid piece of knowledge always seems a little out of your grasp, like that infuriating side that mixes yellows with greens.
Now, to those in a young person’s familiar circle, they will have built up a solid understanding of that person’s hidden condition, like autism, dyslexia or OCD. They’ll be a bit more used to it and less likely to think, “Oh, he’s being mad…” not that it’s stopped my family from thinking that…
But I digress. Of course, most young people at some point in their lives have to venture out into the world of work.
More often than not, people with hidden conditions require support in the workplace.
Now that in itself is a very large word.
Yes, I am aware it may not SEEM like a big word, you may think of it as a technicality, but its importance grows when you ask yourself,
“What does support mean in regard to specific people?”
We know that a particular person heading into work is likely to need it. But we have no idea what form it will take. Will it simply be giving someone a few extra words of advice, a safe haven from anxiety, or a case of constant hand-holding from 9 to 5?
The biggest danger to any development on this front is unawareness. Unawareness that comes in two fronts; firstly in terms of the hidden condition a young person has. Unless the employer is some closet condition expert, chances are an they’ll be left scratching their heads trying to make sense of why a bipolar is prone to drastic mood swings or why an autistic may be set on edge by certain noises.
This leads into the second unawareness front; Bafflement as to how to support them. As much as we would like to go and download a few tips off Google and put them into practice, everyone is affected differently. And you can put together a mass support structure and hope that every condition and every sector is going to fall in line with it.
However, there is a possible alternative we should consider taking; a trump card that if played well, could make a lot of difference.
And no, I am NOT suggesting we send young adults back to school – I don’t think anyone’s going to be eager to relive their school years. But when schools are properly enlightened on the subjects of hidden conditions, they can provide adequate support that not only gives young people a sense of calm in their lives, but also allows them to develop the social skills required to go about day-to-day life.
I speak from experience on the matter. Having received support during my school years, I can certainly say I benefited from it. It gave me a good understanding of structures and how to be more sociable… and when I say “more sociable”, I mean, more sociable as in not having a vocabulary consisting mainly of film quotes…
I never really saw it at the time, but in hindsight, the support I received at school made life much more easier for me and also helped to set me up socially in the long run.
When many people with hidden conditions reach secondary school, they’re aware that there’s something a little different… but at that age, you’re more likely to think that you’re the normal one and it’s the rest of the world. I myself fell prey to this perplexing logic. At the time, I had only just learned about the concept of autism and didn’t necessarily realize that if you choose to march to the beat of your own drum without proper guidance and support, you’ll be struggling against an angry tide. And in some ways, working life can be very similar. Granted, you’re not walking around with a backpack weighing you down or struggling to understand your biology from your chemistry(!) But it is essentially stepping into the unknown. And for some people, they can feel paranoid that they could be stepping off a cliff.
There’s no age clause that says, “You can’t have any support once you hit the 18 milestone.” Hidden conditions are going to require support at varying stages in their lives, especially if they’re breaking into the world of work. But since there’s no official Support Rulebook, you have to try and look elsewhere and support originating at school could be the key.
Now, extrapolating support from a school setting can work in two ways; if an individual has received minimal support throughout their childhood, they will benefit from the integrated structure and routine such support can offer. If they have already received it, then introducing familiar concepts into an unfamiliar day-to-day schedule could benefit them greatly.
The support could come in many forms. Maybe it could be a piece of software students with hidden conditions are provided, maybe it’s about the additional supervision for future tasks. Either way, by taking these methods and with a little bit of tweaking for a more adult environment, employers are identifying potential pathways for support and ensuring that they get the best out of a candidate.
I recognize that to some, the idea may seem absurd. This is not a complete vision. It requires people from various backgrounds to apply their own knowledge to the notion. Teachers will be able to offer their experiences in integrating hidden conditions, employers can look at how to adjust their infrastructure to support the young people, and the candidates can offer their own expertise as to what works best for them
Because every case is so unique, this isn’t something that will come to fruition overnight, God knows it would make our lives a lot easier. But I think it’s something we could work our way towards. We owe it to future generations to give it a shot.
Much like a Rubik’s Cube, the process is mind-numbing as you try to get your head around the notion. But you’ll have that moment of triumph awaiting you if you can pull it off for the sake of the candidate and get those complicated aspects of life all matched up.