VOLUNTEER SPOTLIGHT: Kevin Peruch
Posted Feb 17, 2020 by Jacquie Robison
At the recent "Sew For Service" event with Williams-Sonoma Inc., WAWOS Founder Jacquie Robison had the privilege of meeting Kevin Peruch. As Jacquie opened up about her family's story, Kevin found a quiet moment to share a little of his. It's a warm and powerful perspective about difference and drive.
Kevin manages employee recognition at the Williams-Sonoma Inc. corporate office and lives in Foster City with his husband.
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I've loved sewing ever since I was a young kid. My mom, who was an Occupational Therapist and a skilled sewist, encouraged me to practice my fine motor skills through various exercises, but sewing by hand was always one of my favorites.
Let me go back to the beginning. At a very young age, I was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). This diagnosis refers to a dysfunction in the way the nervous system receives messages from the senses that turns them into responses. Essentially, my brain doesn't process information that has to do with the senses -- sight, hearing, smell and touch -- the way that it does in those who are not affected by SPD. It's not something that anyone really notices just by looking at me as an adult (or as a child), but one of the symptoms is that it causes my hands to shake, which most people often notice and comment on. I don't shake constantly, but if I'm trying to focus on doing something or I'm anxious/stressed, it's more noticeable. It has taken lots of Physical and Occupational therapy as a child, along with schooling to help me overcome challenges from when I was little. To this day, I still struggle with a lot of what I did as a kid, but I've developed ways of learning that best fit my needs to help me function as an adult. I speak up for what I need and I take the time that I need to learn something, even if it means spending double the time that it "should".
If someone were to ask be for advice, either as a parent or as someone who is struggling with the same thing, I would say the most important thing is to be sure you understand your difference and be able to advocate for yourself. When I was young, I didn't fully understand my disability, which in turn prevented me from being able to champion myself and my needs. I was told I had a form of dyslexia and, while I knew I always had trouble understanding what I was reading/writing, dyslexia is not a form of SPD. In fact, it's often a misdiagnosis. I still struggle with reading, writing and even speaking today, but it's not because I have dyslexia, it's because my brain doesn't fully process what's being received. In most cases, this means my responses are delayed. I'm sure many people have heard someone refer to another with language like "being slow". Well, with SPD, the brain processes information differently and it either slows down or alters the response. I can't count the number of times someone has jokingly said, "wow, you're slow" or a similar off-handed comment to me, not realizing I have a disability. This is where having an advocate, especially as a child, is most important.
My parents have always been my biggest advocates, and I absorbed their belief in me and made sure it was louder that any of the doubts other people expressed. And, I don't mean just classmates. I had some teachers tell me that I wouldn't succeed in life because of my disability. I can't imagine what it would be like for a child to hear that from a grown up and not have a stronger, truer, kinder soundtrack telling them otherwise.
My parents showed me the importance of having your tribe. Surrounding yourself with people who build you up and who see your worth. They've also supported me by standing up and fighting for what I needed as a child, which prepared me to be able to speak up for myself as an adult in a working environment.
I've been wanting to find a way back to sewing, and the WAWOS event was the perfect opportunity. I think the name of the nonprofit, which stands for "We're All Working On Something" truly highlights the mission and message of inclusion -- that no matter how others may label or measure you, there's a spot for you in the world.