Kaitlin Castiglione, M.S., CCC-SLP
A brief getaway, lessons learned, and many new perspectives on the challenges of COVID-19 for everyone, but even more for those who may have difficulty navigating the “typical normal.”
Let’s be honest COVID-19 has been a struggle and an inconvenience in all of our lives. It happened very fast and we all had to rapidly adjust. We have all had to make changes and shift our daily schedules, routines and lives. For some, this change/shift comes easier than it does for others.
Throughout this blog, I will share a few stops we made and the experiences we had. There was an increase in our vigilance. We often had to scan/read our surroundings, keep our distance, wash our hands, sanitize, etc., etc., etc., so we could do our part and stay safe. With all of that being said, there were a lot of new opportunities and many new perspectives gained.
Welcome Center: (pit stop)
Finding a bathroom when not in a pandemic can be challenging, searching for restrooms signs, making sure you are entering the correct door and waiting your turn, and practicing proper hygiene, all takes learned skills and effort.
Now 2020 in the middle of a pandemic walking into the Welcome Center and having to second guess myself making sure I was following the rules and expectations on the signs, the direction of the arrows on the ground, the new signs posted with the expectations and requirements, the cones, the caution tape, the lines on the ground to social distance and the out of order signs on toilets and sinks. Holy overload with the endless number of things to visually and cognitively process.
Sensory and visual overload and increased anxiety to make sure you are following the rules to not ruin the flow or make someone else mad due to violating the 6ft rule were all things felt that day. All of the “newness” and “stressors” can impact and decrease one’s executive functioning skills and ability to follow directions, make it challenging to read the signs as well as difficulty processing the expectations. Talk about being stressed out just to go “pee.” To keep myself and others safe all of these expectations needed to be processed and followed correctly as well as understood for a successful trip to the bathroom.
Phew! Talk about a new perspective for others who may have had difficulty processing and navigating prior to the pandemic and all of these new changes that need to be learned and abided by.
Side note, even in the parking lot I felt like we were “socially distanced parking” from others. Cars were parked with multiple spaces in between them to give others space. What a strange time and feeling.
A place we have stayed before and it is familiar to us was now not so familiar. The setup was completely different, there were signs and stop signs, arrows everywhere and roped-off areas. This was not the same, we had to shift, be flexible and learn the new expectations. I almost wished the hotel was not a place I had been before so it didn’t seem so foreign and it would have been easier to adjust. I wouldn’t have known the in’s and out’s anyway so the “new” setup would seem normal for me. I wouldn’t have felt out of sorts and I would have been able to navigate it more successfully had it been a place I had never been. This was hard!
I gained a new perspective. Some of the simplest things we take for granted can easily and quickly change. I learned it is important to just stop in the moment and to take the time to process the expectation. Quickly reading the signs and thinking I understood the whole message could easily set me up for failure. I teach kids the importance of the whole picture. We discuss slowing down, taking it all in, scanning, receiving my message, reading the directions fully before starting the activity, etc. Someone with comprehension and processing difficulties may need to read the sign 2, 3, 4, times to make sure they fully understand the expectation or direction.
This routine stop was certainly not the same, but this time it may have been even better! This is a place where we are creatures of habit! Even though we weren’t able to follow through with our typical “routine” we took this as an opportunity to explore. We could still be outside and enjoy the beauty of nature as well as see some of the animals, but we were unable to enter the barn or closed spaces. This was an opportunity, a push out of our comfort zone, out of the “typical routine” and a reason to see and explore areas around the farm we wouldn’t have seen due to always sticking with the same plan. After a 5 mile scenic run around the farm with a few stops for photo opportunities along the way, we discovered so much more beauty and places we had never seen or paths we would not have ventured down had our typical routine not been impacted due to the pandemic. We felt grateful!
This stop taught us the importance of stepping out of your comfort zone looking at it as an opportunity to grow, expand and explore. It is okay to try something new and to decrease the rigidity when it may be hard to do, but I guarantee it often will be worth it. This stop made me reflect on the individuals who I work with that have a hard time with transitions or difficulty shifting when the plan changes. Sometimes things are just out of our control. This entire pandemic has been throwing curveballs and it hasn’t been easy, but when I look at the positive, I see it has helped everyone grow.
There were many stops we made throughout our weekend that was just different. We did the best we could navigate, but most importantly we learned and saw new things we typically wouldn’t have explored. Even with all the changes and challenges, there have been opportunities, chances to experience something new, and new perspectives gained. When we give ourselves extra time and we are pushed out of our comfort zones we can see, explore and learn new places/things.
Throughout our short weekend getaway, I often had to reorganize myself and readjust my plan. I felt the challenges that my clients and others with the language, processing, and cognitive challenges might face. I felt the stresses and struggles, but I also learned and allowed myself time to navigate this new unknown and to find my way. This time in our lives is different, we must think about others even more and while all of this “new normal” may be frustrating, for some, adjusting to change may be easier than it is for others. The time is now, a simple shift in one’s perspective can open many doors and allow you to grow.
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