“Kids say the darndest things.”
A phrase heard all too often. But do we actually listen to what they say? I know I hadn’t always. I began my vision therapy career just over a year and a half ago. I went from working a 9-5 desk job for a large corporate company with over 70 locations and thousands of employees that cared about nothing but their own salary to a 5 employee business catering to people and the wellbeing of their physical and emotional state. Quite the change. I was quickly immersed in the in’s and out’s of what it was like growing up a kid again. The schedule, the extracurricular activities, the homework, the playdates, etc. And for most the list seemed never ending. But what I also started seeing was that caution-to-the-wind, no nonsense, attitude on life. As adults, it’s so easy to integrate into society and go with the flow of our day, our routine and become another member of our ever changing world. But what about that attitude we had as kids?
I had a patient this week, we’ll call her Anna, that is somewhat different from the normal; socially and somewhat physically speaking. She has a rare condition; one less chromosome than everyone else. When you first meet her, there is a clear lack of social ability yet it can be somewhat refreshing. She is very stubborn and to the point. She tells you exactly what’s on her mind. We have been working on visual spatial exercises, figure ground and visual motor integration using parquetry blocks. We are on week 12 and she has progressed to placing parquetry block patterns off-page using patterns with no lines on a piece of plastic. I then lay it over the pattern to check her work. I’m becoming more and more critical as her abilities increase and she loves telling me the difference between a square, triangle and diamond. On a more challenging pattern, I asked her first what shapes she needed before allowing her to place them on there. With a quick correct response, I allow her to put the blocks on and she gets it’s right first try. I’m smiling inside and I say, “Anna, how did you do that?!” She rapid fires right back matching my enthusiasm, “Because I have smarts!” I couldn’t have said it better myself. I sat there as she worked on the next pattern thinking how this, simple, yet profound comment applies to every single one of my vision therapy patients.
It’s easy to think that a student with poor grades who has trouble with homework and avoids reading might not be smart. It’s an assumption that everyone from parents, teachers and tutors have probably made a few times over. But what I have found with every single patient that I have worked with couldn’t be farther from the truth. They are simply lacking the tools and strategies to perform to their potential. Why that’s the case could be different for each child. But what I need to remember on a daily basis is that I am here to lead them in that direction. That their potential can always be reached and no child or even adult that walks through my door should be thought of as not “smart”. They are simply missing a few pieces to their learning puzzle and when I can be the one handing them pieces it lights me up all over again reassuring me that my career change is making a tangible difference in someone’s life.
– Emilie Christensen, Vision Therapist at Rancho Santa Fe Optometry