Real World Fears

Real world fears

“Wait until they get into the real world”.

“In the real world they will have to do this”.

I have heard real world fears thrown around a lot in recent years, I have used them myself when fear creeps in.

If you don’t do this, when they get to the real world they will…. Fail, have a hard time, die, not be liked, not get a job.

All I’m hearing when I hear this now is “I don’t like what your child is doing and I’m going to try and create fear about this so you stop them”. I hear that the other person doesn’t understand or trust that all children are growing and learning all the time, and neurodivergent children often take longer and they don’t understand the complex social rules of a world they are outnumbered in.

Because all children will develop and learn over time in their own ways, but neurodivergent children have this pressure, the constant –

Windows of opportunity, Early intervention, It’s a critical time to learn these things now, Maximise funding, you have to do as much therapy and social skills training now to address this.

It also has led me to think about applying this to other situations  –

In the real world people are going to be mean – so therefore I could start being mean to my child as a resiliency prevention strategy.

In the real world there are going to be noises that my child won’t like and might be painful to be exposed to – therefore exposing him to as much as possible is more helpful – after all it’s the “real world “ we are preparing for – purchase a hand dryer that is used in public toilets and install it in the home to help.

In the real world people have that social etiquette stuff about looking people in the eyes so they feel like you’re listening to them – you could address this by forcing, prompting and asking for eye contact when talking to your child. Despite the fact its uncomfortable and unnecessary to use your eyes to listen as they are NOT ears.

Recently I took my child to an appointment with an Occupational Therapist because we needed her approval to purchase items with our funding.

Whilst there she continually was trying to get my child to do all sorts of things, run over here with me, jump on this, sit here and play this. I found her interaction with my son odd, mainly because as a Floortime trained therapist I assumed she would take my child’s lead for interaction.

My child has long hair and she made the assumption that we have trouble with getting him to have a hair cut.  “He doesn’t like to get his hair cut”. It was a statement and I think she was hoping to lead to advice on how we could get him to have a hair cut. I simply stated “ He likes his hair long and it’s his hair”.

She was unconvinced and told me “I’m concerned that it’s visually impacting on him”. She was watching him with concerned eyes as he played and his hair would fall across his face. I reasserted that he likes his hair and if he wants a hair cut he is certainly capable of getting one and has done so in the past. She was unhappy with this and after this made numerous dramatic attempts to move hair from his face so I could see my child was having his life visually impinged on by his hair, that I was not “fixing”.

Not long after that she asked my son to sit at a table. I thought to myself, bet she’s going to try and get him to sit down and stay seated for a period of time. To get him to sit she had to stop my children climbing up and down a loft to which they were jumping off onto a giant mattress with bean bags. Already I was mildly irritated and amused to see her grand idea.

She invited him to sit and he did and then out of her pocket she produced a small tin and opened it to remove a black playdough like ball. She began stretching it and squeezing it, and announced “I have 2 beads and a seahorse stuck in here, see if you can  find them”?

He shook his head, remaining seated. She asked again. “No I don’t want to” was his reply.

No. he said no. It was enough for me. But it was not to her. She continued to ask him. He eventually stood up lingering at the table saying “No”. He then walked away and dropped to the ground visibly upset, “I don’t want to” and looking at me.

I stepped in as soon as that happened. “Caleb you do not have to do that, you said no and it’s ok”.

He was instantly relieved and went to play with his sibling.

The therapist was of course annoyed with me, and said “They are sensory issues he has, not wanting to touch it, and he will need to learn to deal with these things in the real world”. I didn’t even correct her. My child loves playdough, slime baths, water beads, mud and paint. But I didn’t care to enter into a discussion when she had already made up her mind.

The problem here is a therapist making assumptions and being rigid on what she sees and trying to prove a point whilst not actually listening to the child. The problem is a therapist who wouldn’t listen to a child say no, and allow them to self advocate time and time again that they didn’t want to touch something.

Because in the real world if someone comes up to you and asks you to touch something you don’t want to, you can say no. And if that person continues asking then you can assume that person doesn’t respect your word. That’s the lesson, and she failed it. She failed listening to someone saying no to her.

The whole time through the session she was trying to create an element of fear so we could seize the window of time we have now, maximise funding for his best chance at life. I’m pretty sure she said maximise 6 times in 45 minutes.

After that we won’t be returning and I have to find yet, another OT to sign off on our funding. And I wonder if she would ever realise that in that “real world moment” she was concerned about, I was most proud. Because the best real world teaching here, was my son saying no when he didn’t want to do something someone was pressuring him to do.


2 replies
  1. Jeff Mullins
    Jeff Mullins says:

    I love your honest account. As an Early Interventionist myself, I see this all too often in the field, to the child’s and the family’s detriment. Parents know their kids best and are their best teachers. I’m glad to hear that you spoke up and did right by your son. His life with you IS the real world.

    • Leah Wyman
      Leah Wyman says:

      I agree. This is fantastic. Very scary when professionals from social care with legal powers to insist on visitation and cooperation are operating from this viewpoint.


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