Sunflower Lanyard: Hidden Disabilities

Hidden Disabilities: Making the Invisible Visible with the Sunflower Lanyard Program

The Sunflower Lanyard is an international program featuring a simple, distinct green lanyard with yellow sunflowers worn by individuals with a hidden disability. This lanyard acts as a visual cue to others that a person may need some extra considerations or support.

Just as some individuals wear glasses to see, the Sunflower Lanyard Program is a way individuals with an invisible disability are seen.

The Sunflower Lanyard Program is a completely voluntary and often unknown in many cities across the Unites States.
I seek to change that. We are a family of five who traveled the USA as full-time RV’ers for three years and never heard about the Sunflower Lanyard program until we went to Europe in 2023. It is only within the past year that I have begun to see signs about this program at airports in Kentucky, Florida, and recently in Chicago.

I desire that every airline, airport, and country will know of the Sunflower Lanyard program. Please join me in spreading the word about this program.

It is my family’s desire to share this program with the world around us. As part-time travelers, making this program more well-known helps our family and others with invisible disabilities navigate travel and the world, being more seen and accommodated for in the process.

Our first introduction to the Sunflower Lanyard was in the fall of 2023 when we went to London England while visiting Bletchley Park for education and vacation. Never having heard of this program, which was launched in 2016 in London, the museum staff educated and gave us a Sunflower Lanyard for my daughter to take with us and wear. We shared with the staff that our trip was several weeks long and we were heading to Denmark and France after leaving England. The employee said that the program was more common in Europe and we would likely see quite a few, even as we were headed to Denmark. She said that especially going through airports internationally, it would be helpful to the staff that my daughter, who has some sensory special needs, wears the lanyard to provide a visual clue so the airport staff knows we may need extra time or assistance.

We are forever grateful for the individual who shared this program with us in our first few days in Europe.

When I started looking into the symbolism behind the Sunflower Lanyard, we looked around the website and found the following:

“We searched for a discreet sign that is clearly visible from a distance as well as being distinctive, joyful, and dynamic. We chose a sunflower as it suggests happiness, positivity, strength as well as growth and confidence and is universally known.”

-Sunflower Lanyard Website

 “Globally 1 in 6 of us live with a disability. That is approximately 1.3 billion people. But while some of us experience a disability that is visible, many have a non-visible condition or experience a combination of both visible and non-visible conditions. These disabilities can be temporary, situational or permanent. They can be neurological, cognitive and neurodevelopmental as well as physical, visual, auditory and include sensory and processing difficulties. They can also be respiratory as well as chronic health conditions such as arthritis and diabetes, chronic pain and sleep disorders.”
(Sunflower Lanyard Website)

When we left London, we had a pleasant experience going through security at the airport. The security personnel saw our kiddo wearing the Sunflower Lanyard, knew what it meant and asked no questions. They asked my daughter to step to the side to finish her security check in a less busy area since she was selected for a random security screening. My daughter gave me a thumbs up she was ok and we finished our security check. I have never had such an experience going through security as we did that day in London.

We took the lanyard with us when we went to museums and airports. In Denmark, we went to the Lego House where we saw dozens of children wearing the same cheerful, green Sunflower Lanyard. Even though we did not know what everyone’s invisible disability was, but the children chatted cheerfully over the common bond of both having Sunflower Lanyards.

“As a parent of a child with an invisible disability, I can only describe the feeling of heartwarming connection I have when I see another individual wearing the lanyard.”

-BG Barnstormer

While at Lego Land in Denmark, we saw dozens of staff who wore their own Sunflower Lanyard. We smiled in greeting them as we got on ride after ride and we shared our joy of connection with our lanyard. We may never know why each person wears theirs, but we do know that it is a visual cue to be more understanding and aware of a hidden disability.

Our daughter’s invisible disability will not go away and we are passionate about creating a more welcoming and supportive world around us for her as she navigates through life.

We consider her invisible disability a gift. She does not navigate through the world the same way as others and her unique self is to be celebrated.

-BG Barnstormer

Every person has their strengths, and the Sunflower Lanyard can help individuals who need extra support to be better accommodated in places like security lines where things are fast paced. The world can be a chaotic place and raising awareness for understanding is one of many ways we believe the Sunflower Lanyard program is making a difference. If you would like more information about the Sunflower Lanyard program, please search online for the “Sunflower Lanyard Program” and see their general website for the country you live in.

To purchase your Sunflower Lanyard or other accessories in the USA, see their website store HERE.

Please share this article with anyone who might benefit from knowing about this program.

Stay tuned on my social media and blog as I share more about traveling internationally as a family with a kiddo on the Autism Spectrum with SPD. We celebrate the struggles and what we have learned along the way as much as we celebrate the wins. Join me as I share tips and tricks we have learned while traveling to places like London, Denmark, France, South Korea, Saipan, Guam, and Japan. We are passionate about education, travel, advocacy of special needs, and encouraging others that a disability isn’t a defining factor in life, it refines and redirects you so you can be the best version of yourself in the world. We take struggles in stride and grow through them as a family. Join me on our adventures as I share more in the upcoming months.

PPS: My hubby Chris was a guest on a podcast discussing traveling with our kiddo who is on the Autism Spectrum with SPD. He shares some tips and tricks for travel that work well for our family and the accommodations tips.
Click HERE to listen to Episode 174 of Non-Rev Lounge.

Many thanks,

AKA Auntie Birdie
AKA BG Barnstormer

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