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Who Defines Your Potential?

by Helen C. Hipp

posted in Home and Family

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My son Ray was very young, and it was clear that his development was showing signs of being delayed. My concerns, and needing to plan for my son's future, led me to make arrangements for my son to be assessed by a medical team in NYC. The whole process kept us in and out of doctor's offices for a week. Each day was full of tests, questions, and much poking and prodding. Many questions were left unanswered at the end of each day, and it was nerve-wracking for all involved. Thankfully, the last day arrived and I was anticipating more answers than questions.
As a parent sitting in a chair waiting to hear the test results and prognosis, I felt much like a nervous child waiting to see their principle. The Dr. walked in, shared the diagnosis with me, and I felt as though a bucket of ice water had been abruptly poured over my head. The floor beneath my feet seemed to crumble away. Upon collecting my emotions, I heard the doctor continue to discuss my son's prognosis and then his question, "What is it that you've been doing?" Huh? Not sure where he was headed with his question, or the relevance of it, I decided to provide him with an answer. I stated that my son's learning style was not unlike a child that spoke a foreign language, and I have approached teaching him as if he were learning a new language. I told the Dr. that I never thought my son was unable to learn. Then the Dr. said, "Your child is functioning beyond his capabilities." Was this the summary of a week of assessments by a clinical team? Shortly thereafter, I left the Dr.'s office but kept on replaying his words in my mind, "Your child is functioning beyond his capabilities." In an Ah Ha moment, I felt as though I had made sense of our meeting. My son was doing more than the New York medical community, based on their diagnosis, thought would be possible. Black and White thinking was alive and well in this doctor's medical mind - a conclusion defined by a diagnosis. It was in that moment that I committed to never letting anyone define my son's ability, or potential, except my son. Who defines your potential? Who defines your future?
Today, I work as a professional, supporting adults with special needs and their families. Perceptions shape your reality. Here is a message I often share with those I work with:
"Use a diagnosis as a suggestion, a springboard for possibilities, instead of a straightjacket... so use the support system to your advantage, but exceed it. Go beyond it... don't let it be the end."
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