Wednesday, 1 February 2017

A Problem Unseen -(Spatial Awareness and Me).

I've been asked what it is like to have spatial awareness problems?

Spatial awareness is the ability to judge gaps, distances, depths, and spaces correctly.
Due to my Cerebral Palsy it is one of the (hidden) things that I find difficult.

Rather than being able to see (and judge) those things, I often have to do it by memory -which isn't a problem if I am in familiar places.

It becomes a problem if I have to go down steep unfamiliar steps, kerbs or gaps. My body automatically braces and I panic, until I've taken the first few steps.
Something like stepping off a train onto the platform is a good example to illustrate the problem, and it is compounded by knowledge of people behind me, who might be in a hurry!

Most people judge the gap between train and platform instinctively. They take such things for granted.
To me, such a gap can appear wider or narrower or deeper than it really is, so I (again) become very conscious of it. Someone has to say to me, 'you're nearly there'...or whatever.

This is obviously a problem if I've had to get out of the wheelchair because a place isn't accessible IN it!

I can walk (a very short distance) on my crutches, (and not at all without them), but it isn't very long before I am in agony, especially if I've had to stand still.

Another example is those horrible stairs with the gaps in, where you can see straight down through!
Hopefully you will be able to imagine why they are difficult.

I have to judge the distance of the gap between steps, but it will be distorted by the gap between me and the ground.

Often such staircases are carpet free, so add to that a fear of slipping!

Another problem is unfamiliar or narrow doorways. I often hesitate before I go through them because I'm trying to judge the space, between me and the door or door frame.

Friends joke that I'm the only person they have ever met that can trip over a door - and I have!
There have been many occasions when I have misjudged the space and one of my crutches (or feet) has caught on a door, and I've fallen over!

In my teens, I was assessed as fit to learn to drive. I was surprised, but knowing how much freedom and independence it would give me, (-VERY precious things, when you gave a disability which compromises them, and another thing many take for granted), I decided to try. I was desperate to do it.

I took my lessons in a specially adapted car, as I am unable to use the pedals.

I found judging the spaces and distances on the road very difficult, almost nightmarish, and as a person who already suffers from anxiety and depression, there was a lot if added stress.

There were some lessons when it was all perfect. Somehow I'd learnt that space in the road. I was calm and able to drive very well, and then the next lesson I'd be unable to judge at all, and I'd end up trimming hedges for the council!

I grew to fear my lessons and feel like a failure even more than I already did. I was often physically sick beforehand, but it was so important to me that I did it and I had a wonderfully patient instructor!

 One day, before a lesson, I just started to shake and cry. 

After discussions with my family we decided that it just wasn't worth it...and we left it open that I would call him, if I ever wanted another lesson. It never happened.

People don't realise the non visible aspects of having a disability or illness. 

They often don't think about the unseen difficulties or the energy everything takes, but just because something isn't visible, it doesn't mean it isn't there and it is exhausting, every single day!

Image: Google


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