As I wait for the technicians to install a third tire on my car in the past five months alone, it is difficult to repress frustration about the costly consequences of visual-perceptual deficits. Getting lost everywhere and relying excessively on signs or the presence of furniture to determine which direction to turn in to arrive at my classroom/office from the front office or to a patient’s room is disconcerting and exhausting at best. Within the past three weeks, I mistook another person’s car for my own (and went inside of it before frenetically seizing my belongings and an empty Publix cookie container that took residence in the stranger’s passenger seat), ran over a median that I didn’t see, took aberrant turns to just about every destination, was unable to locate the entrance to an indoor trampoline park (to take an aerobics class) on the campus of a school and church despite the fact that I had delivered speech therapy sessions there for approximately four semesters, and had no idea how to direct my friend to take me to a parking garage.
I inconvenienced my aunt and her boyfriend when arriving late for dinner (in spite of leaving at least twenty minutes early) due to taking multiple deviant turns, had no idea of which road to take to navigate to a fast-food restaurant five minutes from my apartment that I had visited on multiple occasions, and forgot how to get to the dumpster in my apartment complex. I parked very far from the start of a 5K race, because I couldn’t visualize where the race began (albeit I had run there on countless occasions) and was unable to back out of a church parking lot space until a parishioner graciously offered to provide assistance. This is just a mere snapshot of the constellation of mishaps of a visiospatial nature that wreak havoc at an uncanningly high frequency and yet, I have made considerable gains in this arena.
Between the ages of 18 and 27, I caused four automobile collisions, backed into the fence of Lake-Sumter Community College, ran into the wall of one of the parking garages of the University of Central Florida, and damaged the undercarriage of my car when colliding with a curb in the parking lot of the legendary Donut King (in an effort to purchase a box of donuts for the supervisor of my practicum). When I did not appear in the procession of the commencement ceremony with hundreds of other undergraduate students in December of 2009, my parents and relatives thought that I was lost. (They were relieved to discover that, although I couldn’t keep my cap properly positioned on my head, my 4.0 GPA had landed me a place on the stage as the top student of the College of Health and Public Affairs.) I have spent over 90 minutes searching for my car in the parking lot before a police officer gave me a ride to find it. After attending a wedding reception a couple years ago, I reluctantly asked the tired newlyweds if they could assist me in finding my car in the church parking lot, as it was after midnight and I had already spent over 20 minutes on a feckless search. When I participated in a month-long study abroad program in San Jose, Costa Rica in June of 2017, I was lost for a few hours (into the night) as I initially attempted to walk from the Spanish language school to the residence of my homestay “parents.” I had to be driven back by strangers whom I fortuitously encountered in the restaurant where I was trying to call the host family. Again, this is a mere snapshot.
At times, I feel as if the quality of some of my misadventures is worthy of inclusion into a sequel of Oliver Sack’s The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. Although I do not want to explicate the reasons why I am frequently lost or late, I have found that dismissing them can evoke unwanted confusion in others and may jeopardize the quality of relationships. Visual-perceptual deficits contribute to the profile of NLD that can influence your identity and your self-concept. However, you have the power to choose whether they define you to any degree or whether they can serve as a form of inspiration or perhaps just some comedic relief. We never know the ways in which we may touch or empower anyone who is willing to listen to some of the tales on the pages of our unique stories.
Hi! As a speech-language pathologist, I am committed to empower others to reach their communication potential. I assist with the high school youth ministry of my parish. As the proud owner of a very cool blue-tongued skink named “Professor Lexicon,” I have always loved animals and volunteer with handling reptiles in a science center. I have a fiery passion for words, religious liberty, and the sanctity of life.Share your own story