How MapQuest saved this relationship

Valentine’s Day is on the way, and to celebrate, we’re featuring a series of posts on the Easter Seals blog and stories on the website about disability and relationships. Mary Mucci is the Senior Planned Gift Officer here at Easter Seals Headquarters. Here she is with a Valentine’s Day post about a disability that’s not always obvious.

Better than Bill

by Mary R. Mucci

Kevin and I have known each other for over 35 years, but we’ve been in a “relationship” for less than five. Unlike most couples, we never fight…except for that one recurring little tiff. But after 3 or 4 incidents, we’ve found common ground and don’t even fight about that anymore.

That fight was about driving and directions. I drive all over the country for work, and I always rely on my navigation device to get me where I’m going. With only a few exceptions, I get there without incident and within the time it tells me the trip should take.

So, one day Kevin and I get in the car to go to my cousin’s. Kevin is doing the driving, so I pull out my navigation friend (Bill) and plug in the address. Kevin then proceeds to ignore Bill’s instructions and drives off in a totally different direction than Bill told him to go. I am insulted. Kevin is ignoring my friend Bill!

Kevin insists he knows we will get there and asks if I would “please turn Bill off.” I insist that whichever way Kevin thinks he knows, Bill knows better. “You would do well to listen, Kevin.”

We go back and forth on this. I can’t understand what the problem is. Why won’t Kevin listen to me and listen to Bill? I am not satisfied with Kevin’s explanation. Our back and forth goes on and on until we are both uncomfortable with the discussion. We pull back, say “I’m sorry” and eventually get to our destination. I know in my heart that this was not the best way to go. We could have made better time if Kevin wasn’t so stubborn, and if I hadn’t given in. We have this fight maybe two more times until we finally work out what the real problem is: Kevin has an auditory processing disability.

Kevin is a visual learner, in fact, he is an artist. When faced with uncertainty, he chooses a familiar visual path…in this case, he picks the road where he can use visual memory and clues to get him there. My insistence on having Bill read cues out loud caused Kevin to experience auditory overload, drawing his attention away from the road and making him anxious. This is hard for Kevin to articulate when it’s happening, and it sure was hard for me to understand at first, too.

Our Solution: MapQuest! Now, before we go anywhere that is less than familiar, Kevin checks out MapQuest. He studies the visual, and he writes down the directions. He decides beforehand whether or not he will take the suggested route or substitute a road that is more familiar. I never plug Bill in when Kevin is driving, and I have learned that if the most direct route involves a road that does not fit Kevin’s comfort level, well, then we just leave earlier and enjoy the scenery.

There are other times when I know Kevin is struggling with auditory sensory overload, but I know the cues now, and I know he’s not just being stubborn. This Valentine’s Day, I am making it a point to celebrate the artist within Kevin. I appreciate the way he looks me in the eye when we speak to each other, and how I can feel his love and trust. His issues with auditory processing give him just a little more dimension than everyone else …lots more than Bill, to be sure!


 

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