Growing up, I was taught that there are two sides to every story and the truth lies somewhere in the middle. I thought that was so amazing and found it often to be true. As an outsider, loner, and observer I learned that to be incredibly true. Once I was married and started to work for one of the companies I did, I heard that same thing but phrased differently. While at orientation and training they stressed that a customer’s perception is their reality. Our job was to make sure that their reality was one that resulted in satisfactory experience from us.
That holds true in life too though doesn’t it? So often we focus on our own realities that we will even argue we are right, when we are wrong. Politicians do it. Lawyers do it. Families do it. And when it comes to getting a diagnosis and accommodations for our children it lies in the perception of our reality by the specialists who claim to know.
Let’s be honest though we are trusting someone else to see the reality we see through our perceptions to help us. Sometimes our perceptions won’t line up. We will all argue about what is best or what that reality really is. Maybe it’s time we step back a second and find out what the perception of the person we are trying to help is.
We’ll use Emelie as an example. Yes, she is verbal. In order to best help her I need to separate myself from the parenting role. I can’t assume that she is fine or hurting just by looking at her. I need to pull more information in. I need to ask her questions. I need to make observations. I need to find a constant to compare it too. It’s just like field research. Yet this is my daughter.
The hardest thing I do as a parent for her is to let her tell me her perceived reality. She is telling me that her head is hurting and she is dizzy but there is nothing physically wrong with her. Does that mean she isn’t experiencing the dizziness or backaches? No. It’s her reality. Somewhere something is manifesting itself as a physical ailment or ache/pain. So, since I know she has a diagnosis of a Sensory Process Disorder that is often where I start.
I get to play Dr. House. I have to look at everything around her from the time she wakes up until that moment. What could be the trigger? In her reality, something is off and it’s my job to figure it out. Sometimes it’s sensory overload that is manifesting itself into other areas. Other times it’s her anxiety. If that isn’t it, is there a strong emotional situation going on, or illness, or plain fatigue? Sometimes, I can’t ever pinpoint the problem. Sometimes, she gets so frustrated with my questions into her reality, like I should just be able to see it. In her world, I should. In her world, it’s right there. BUT it’s her perceptions that make it so.
My job is to figure out her reality and reconcile it with the reality around us; Finding that middle ground. Helping her overcome her obstacles in her reality and knowing that she is learning how to advocate for herself by communicating what her reality is.
Life is hard for everyone. All of us have our own burdens to carry and deal with. What happens behind closed doors often isn’t common knowledge or visible. Parents of kids with special needs get judged so quickly before people know or understand what their reality is. Someone with an invisible disability is often percieved to be “faking it”. So before we dismiss someone else’s fears, viewpoint, opinion, belief, life or perceived reality… Think about how yours must look to them.