My friend’s mother’s uncle didn’t say a word – not a word until he was 4 – and now he’s a brain surgeon. And did you know Einstein didn’t talk until he was 4?
Excuse me for a moment whilst I bang my head against a brick wall.
Well guess what? D is four now and he still isn’t talking. He hasn’t suddenly overnight progressed to full sentences on string theory. In fact the more sounds he makes, the more chaotic and disordered we realise his speech is.
The last 4 years have been a sometimes very lonely place as a parent of a child with a ‘hidden’ disability. It’s like we’ve had to wait for the rest of the world to catch us up. Now he is older and in school, his problems are much more apparent – even to the casual bystander. Learning to talk for him is going to be a constant and uphill struggle. It’s something he is likely to battle with for the rest of his life.
I know people were just being well meaning. I know people just want to reassure you and be sympathetic. I tried to understand that, but it was very hard and you have to develop a teflon coated skin otherwise you can see hurt where none is intended.
But then I would come across a rare soul who just got it. Who didn’t invalidate how I was feeling in anyway. And it was’t until much later that I realised that this was the difference between sympathy and empathy.
Sympathy may show compassion – but it can often lead to feelings of disempowerment, whereas empathy expresses an understanding of my feelings without a sense of judgement.
This is one of the many things my son has taught me. And becoming more aware of my reactions to what people say to me, has made me much more aware of how I respond to other people – in short I have become much more empathetic to others. Now I’m not perfect (far from it), but I have always said that being consciously aware of your failings helps you to overcome them.
Anyway there are better people than me who can explain this. Brene Brown on Empathy But, when someone expresses a worry – stop for a moment before you respond and think about whether you have understood what they are saying and whether your answer demonstrates an understanding of their experience.