Mother of Pearl…
Nacre, also known as mother of pearl, is an organic-inorganic composite material produced by some mollusks as an inner shell layer; it is also what makes up the outer coating of pearls. It is strong, resilient, and iridescent. All this according to Wikipedia. Coincidentally, or perhaps not, Pearl is also the first name of one of my more endearing patients and like her namesake, she carries a resiliency and strength that is matured far beyond her 11 year old body.
Most people who meet Pearl quickly reach the same conclusion, she is a GREAT kid. She is smart, charming, strong willed, charismatic, resilient, compassionate and demonstrates a global perspective and wisdom which one would expect to find in someone much older. Like most of us though, Pearl has her challenges, the biggest of which is her self image. She thinks she’s stupid. A fact that she admits openly, tearfully, and humbly, as if she’s confessing to a major crime for which the entire world knows she alone is responsible. Pearl has been coming to Vision Therapy since last November, and is on track to continue thorough at least the first half of the school year. She attends a local charter school here in Austin and was in jeopardy of repeating 5th grade last spring, but thanks to a successful summer school campaign, she was allowed to advance.
Pearl and I spent much of the summer working on visualization, visual memory, and her other perceptual skills which continually seem to be inadequate in the face of her workload. She and I both were excited with her fantastic progress, and secretly, I was hoping Pearl would impress herself in 6th grade and shed a bit of the self effacing imagery that has been plaguing her over the last 8 months. My usual meeting with Pearl occurs on Wednesday afternoons, and last Wednesday was also Pearl’s first day of school. Hoping to receive some form of positive report on a new teacher, new friends, or perhaps a renewed excitement for learning, I was sad to meet Pearl in our reception area as she wiped tears out of her eyes. Without saying a word, I smiled at her mom, grabbed Pearl’s hand, and led her into one of our VT Rooms to ask what was wrong. Through her tears, Pearl confessed that she was overwhelmed with the talk of a new workload, new computerized learning program – her charter school doesn’t distribute texts, everything is online – and even with the talk of procedures that were customary with the first day of school. She went on to say that she didn’t understand why they warn her of what the new school year would bring, which clearly was causing her stress, and seemed to prefer her teachers just let her “get started on failing”.
I’ve always enjoyed working with Pearl. Partly because she is only five weeks younger than my daughter, and there are many parallels, but mostly because she is so incredibly intelligent and she challenges me every session As we started our first activity, we talked about what Pearl’s perception of a “smart kid” was, and she basically described herself. “Someone who knows that they can learn anything, they just need to find the right way to understand it.” I pointed out to Pearl that her definition fits her. She is someone who is constantly searching for the method of learning that is easiest for her to understand, no matter her previous frustrations. “You have no idea how smart that makes you!” I told her. We went on to discuss choices made by those who give up on learning and where those paths lead. In the end, Pearl understood that giving up would lead no where fun, but still her self image is enveloped in failure.
Pearl’s story is not unlike many other kids I’ve met, in fact, many other kids we’ve all met. The difference I see in Pearl is she’s a fighter, and if misdirected, her fight quickly becomes misguided. She gets frustrated or angry at her situation, picks herself up and continues on, sometimes without regard to her current direction. Her strength is definitely is a model for the weaker souls, but her frustration can lead her astray. After our session, I spoke to her mom about finding a professional who may be better equipped to help Pearl with her self image than myself or my doctor. A suggestion her mom seemed to take to heart. Friday afternoon I received an email from Pearl’s mom saying that they are meeting with a family counselor Monday morning. In her mom’s words, their goal is to “help Pearl realize how smart she is, and stop beating herself up for being different”.
“She will get there” I responded. She’s strong and resilient.
All names and facts shared with permission.