Emerge and Spread Your Wings

The Lens of First Impressions

I have to admit I like predictability. I feel comfortable knowing as much background information as I can before I encounter a new situation. Recently though I had the opportunity to try a new way, and it came with a revelation to me. I met with a new client’s family before I had received the usual assessment reports. I knew little beyond the name and age of the little boy – not his diagnosis, his disability, nothing.
As I asked his Mum to tell me about him her face lit up. She talked about her “happy, easy going” eldest son, who loves school, swimming and technology.And my first impression was not that of a child with a disability, but a much-loved , cherished and understood little boy, acknowledged for what made him special.
Without the usual context of diagnosis or disability to pin my understanding on I found myself having to listen carefully as I filled in my picture of life with this little boy, his Mum’s worries, goals and aspirations. I felt connected as another mother, as much as a therapist, and my rapport with the family grew as a result.
Since that first visit I have mulled over how different it might have been if I had received the background information prior to meeting the family. Would my first impression have been as non-judgmental as I would hope, or would it have been filtered through the lens of all my past experience with children with disabilities? Would my preconceived assumptions have got in the way of really listening to this Mum about what was meaningful to her?
The gift of seeing with fresh eyes has reminded me of the value of mindfulness and being in the moment with clients.