Tag Archives: college

Sunday 3rd May 2015- Music and other languages

 

My day started with a grocery shop. Sadly, my usual fish fingers are no longer in stock. A shiny new budget-friendly box is filling my freezer drawer with anticipation. Something I’m really looking forward to is a visit from the awesome French branch of my family tree. So today I watched an episode of Chuck in French with French subtitles.

Despite the fact that listening is a weak area for me because of my Auditory Processing difficulties, I enjoy learning different languages. My favourite language is music. Music is a universal language because whoever’s listening- no matter what their spoken language is- can enjoy and empathise with the mood the music sets. Kind of like that TV show, The Clangers. Many people from different cultures claimed that the Clangers were actually speaking their language (or so I have heard). The Clangers speak Clanger. But like music, Clanger has a similarity to human speech. The adorable moon-dwelling mouse-creatures don’t use identifiable words, but somehow their language of squeaks and whistles still makes a lot of sense to their human watchers.

Although for my first 16 years or so, I couldn’t hear speech as clearly as most people because of serious Auditory Processing Disorder, I have always loved music. It’s a language which I understand. Although my social skills lagged behind since spoken nuances and hints were lost in a sea of gibberish and background noise, I could pick up a tune by ear really quickly. On my flute I learned to play music with an emotional maturity which socially I completely lacked. The way I played and the way I spoke completely didn’t match up. Then after Johansen IAS therapy my hearing cleared up enough to hear song lyrics, and I discovered an amazing combination of languages- music with words! After that my life was changed forever.

I’ve read somewhere that children who listen to music or learn an instrument can improve learning skills and strengthen listening ability. My parents played lots of music in our house when I was young whether it was Gypsy Kings (my mum) or Nirvana (my dad). Listening to music from an early age even just in the background probably gave me an edge against my Auditory Processing Disorder which I wouldn’t otherwise have had.

I think that a lot of kids who struggle in some way with communication, in whatever form and for whatever reason, would really benefit from learning to play an instrument. It’s a way to express your feelings without using conventional spoken language. Like a fingerprint, music is unique to the individual it comes from. Personalities shine through, and listeners who make strong first impressions of people on face value ( *The Fish Finger Conundrum again!* ) may be surprised by what they hear.

*The Fish Finger Conundrum- Monday 20th October 2014*

https://gibberishdictionary.com/?s=fish+fingers+and+social+identity

Due to unfortunate exam-related circumstances and the fact that any vaguely maths-related homework is not my friend, blog entries have recently been few and far between. Hopefully in a few weeks I’ll have the time to post a backlog of stuff. I hope you enjoyed this post.  =)

clanger

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Sunday 1st March- The joys of academia

I have SO much homework, an overdue essay to rewrite which I discovered this morning, and revision for two exams which I tanked. Apparently, Tanked can also be a positive description. A garden supervisor once said when I dug over a big area, working flat out, “You tanked that”.

When I say “I tanked an exam”, I mean Tanked as in, like a tank falling from the sky, and whatever resulting unhappiness when it hits the ground with a huge splat. This was a very tough exam in the format of mini essays, which unfortunately can not be answered with a two-word sentence.  

Although I have chosen to go to college, I am not an academic person. I would much rather do things than write essays about it. It is a small miracle that I went to college in the first place. Not because I had very few qualifications- I have a few good highers under my belt. The main reason for not leaving home to study would have been my Auditory Processing Disorder and Retained Reflexes, which affected my life in general as well as making learning much much more difficult. After Johansen IAS therapy to help with my Auditory Processing, and going to The Movement and Learning Centre Scotland to get rid of the Retained Reflexes which were holding me back, I had the health, energy, social skills and learning capacity to go to college. 

So here I am, living independently in a different city, studying with mixed results. I’m not academic and probably never will be, but the fact that I’ve made it this far is something to be happy about. Anyway, no matter who you are, and what your brain is like, sometimes during an exam you just have a bad day.

Monday 8th January 2014 – My First Lecture with a Personal Listening Device

Meh. That is how I felt today.

After a very busy few weeks, I was feeling mentally bedraggled and less than enthusiastic about my first Plant Physiology class today. It was going to be a long afternoon- a double assault of two-hour long lectures, detailed to the molecular level.

It was the ideal day for my first experience of a lecture aided by a Personal Listening Device.Thanks to my college’s brilliant Student Support system, the SAAS Student Disability Awards, and Ron from iHear Ltd, I have a Personal Listening Device on loan for a trial.

A great thing about my college is that they always have powerpoint presentations to go with the lectures. However, there is only so much I can absorb from the screen. Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) has its name because the Disorder is all to do with Processing, not hearing ability. I have no hearing loss, but had been dreading this new topic. I worried that I would sit in the lecture theatre and hear everything, but not process, understand or remember it. Thanks to Johansen IAS therapy, my Auditory Processing abilities are 100 times better than they used to be, but I still struggle in some areas (I had pretty serious problems with Auditory Processing to start with!) . The testament to the improvements in my life because of Johansen IAS therapy is that I have managed to go to college in the first place.

Auditory Processing Disorder can be roughly summed up with the phrase,

“In one ear, Out the other”.

Someone with Auditory Processing Disorder can be listening with every ounce of concentration, but lose track of almost all meaning of a conversation because of background noise, or simply a bad Processing Day because of tiredness or stress. Camilla the Johansen IAS therapist once likened APD to listening to a conversation in a foreign language you can get by in, but are not fluent with. Except that for people with APD, what can seem like a vague, jumbled string of words is actually their own first language. Even if you manage to hear everything clearly and understand it, Auditory Processing Disorder can seem to wipe your memory clean, and by the next day the information is new again, still to be learned.

Personal Listening Devices like the one I had for a trial period (The Comfort Audio Digisystem iHear) are designed to cut out background noise by transmitting the speaker’s voice directly to the device-wearer via earphones or hearing aids.  

And it works!

After switching on the small black transmitter to my lecturer, and explaining what it was for, (he was very helpful and supportive) I turned on my receiver and put in my earphones. The difference from my other lectures before I got the Listening Device was stark. My lecturer’s voice was in my ears, clear and sharp. The background noise of rustling and chatting in the lecture theatre was very quiet, as if the sounds were coming from underwater, and no longer distracting.

The lectures were intense. I felt like we covered more plant biology in those four hours than I had learned over  year for Higher Biology. Thanks to the Personal Listening Device, I  was able to mentally keep up with the lecture. Cutting out the background noise took most of the effort out of listening and all my brain’s energy could be devoted to Processing.

I’m not saying that having a Personal Listening Device transforms me into an academic whiz. It doesn’t. I know that I will struggle with this Module. However, I expected to walk into that class, pay attention and learn nothing. Being able to take in spoken information from the lecture feels encouraging. Thanks to the Digisystem iHear, I have a chance to pass a difficult module which would otherwise be hopeless and impossible.

For more great personal listening equipment, please check out iHear’s website using the link below.

iHear Website

Saturday 29th November 2014 – Day Off!

I took the opportunity of some energy combined with free time to fight the mould in my shower and write up this diary after an incredibly busy week.

Now that the mould kingdom is vanquished (or at least severely reduced, since it may have worked its way into the sealant) I can have a shower which actually feels clean.

One of my friends from college has a band, and I might go to see them play tonight. 

Cycled to the pub where the gig was being held. It was good to cycle. I’ve not been on my bike for a while, mainly because when I have a lack of mental energy, I do stupid things. If you want to live any considerable length, making stupid decisions in traffic is something best avoided.

My friend’s band were really good. They were like if the Beatles were into eco music and songs about plants. They had a really entertaining song about mushrooms and how they’re Fun Guys. Plant flashcards were brought out for the crowd at various points. Their drummer seemed to be their secret weapon. He drummed, played guitar, and sang, often two at the same time.

Fun night.

Friday 28th November – A Very Long Day

I didn’t go to bed last night, so today I was feeling very tired. After college yesterday I worked on assignments for today’s deadline and revised for an exam re-sit until it was time to brush my teeth and go back to college.

Before I went to the Movement and Learning Centre (MLC) Scotland I had problems with sleeping, along with anxiety and poor balance and coordination. I slept poorly for my first 16 years, but back then lack of sleep was normal for me.

Now that I’m used to sleeping normally, I found that an all-nighter put a big dent in my day.  

At class my Auditory Processing was working amazingly considering my lack of energy, and all the music I listened to last night to keep awake and focused on working. Despite everything, I could still hear clearly. That didn’t help me to look and feel  less like a zombie though.

As for my exam re-sit, I can say that it went better than the first time round. This time I knew little, rather than nothing at all.

There were other problems I encountered in my exam.

Before MLC therapy for Retained Reflexes, the root cause of my insomnia was a fully-retained Moro Reflex. This kept my body flooded with adrenaline 24/7. As well as not falling asleep for hours after going to bed, or being able to stay asleep at night, during the day, I was unable to fall asleep even when I was really tired.

My Moro Reflex gone, I no longer have that problem. I was very tired, so my body felt safe to do the sensible thing and go to sleep. Every so often, I drifted off, still sitting up in my chair, and started dreaming. I would be writing the start of a word, then finishing it with the start of a word related to wherever my mind was drifting to. Luckily my lecturer was doing marking, and not aware of every time I jerked awake and blearily corrected whatever nonsense I’d written.

Back at the flat after a very long day I had a well-deserved sleep.

Thursday 27th November- Animal Balloons and Social Awkwardness

This morning, my laptop seemed to be broken. As well as studying, I had an important email to send, so I went to college to ask for help from IT Support.

Searching the college for the IT Support room, I asked some men in a room downstairs for directions. They had some balloons over their desk partitions. The balloons were creatively added to with paper post-it notes to look like animals. I was particularly impressed by one which resembled a chicken. In a moment of impulsive enthusiasm I told them “I love your balloons, they’re awesome!”.

They said, “That’s not how to talk to us”.

It has been said that Social Awkwardness is the Curse of Genius. Well, in my case, it isn’t.

In better circumstances of mental energy, ideally the rest of the conversation should have been along the lines of, haha, you’re a funny guy. Did you make the balloon animals yourself? It’s upstairs? Thank you very much.

But.

I was feeling stressed out already, with a lot of deadlines and a gubbed computer on my mind. I wasn’t sure whether to laugh if it was a joke because he was smiling. And also, I wasn’t sure if it was funny enough to laugh at. It took me a long, blank staring moment to think about this.

In which time, he was starting to look reproachful and said, “Did you get it?”

I wasn’t sure if the joke was what I thought it might be, and how it might work since he was male, and therefore not in possession of any possible metaphorical balloons. Also, since he was possibly a lecturer/ figure of authority was it actually appropriate for me to laugh at his balloon joke? At the same time I still wondering if I found it that funny, and whether I could manage to do a convincing laugh to put his mind at rest that it was indeed a funny joke and I totally understood it.  He really wanted me to laugh by now (and was possibly regretting his balloon punchline), but today I did not have the energy.

I apologised and explained that just like my laptop, my brain was fried. Did he know where to find IT support?

Sometimes, you just have to forget socially awkward moments and get on with life. I hurried upstairs, the IT Support guys sorted my laptop in seconds, and I made a mental note to never use novelty balloons as a conversation topic again.

 

Friday 21st November- Failure Cake

Last night’s trip to Glasgow to see The Pretty Reckless, Heaven’s Basement and Nothing More at Glasgow O2 was amazing.

I revised on the homewards train, but was still not properly prepared for today’s exam. It didn’t go very well. I was tired after a busy week, and a few commutes this week to Glasgow, one for last night’s concert, the other for band practice. My hearing was a bit wonky, mainly from tiredness. I’d had a few late nights.

I take responsibility that I’ve not been 100% dedicated to my course, but there’s also my Auditory Processing difficulties. I find it very hard to learn in class, especially with long spoken lectures. Because I probably won’t retain much of what is said in class (although the fact I can actually hear what my lecturer says is a huge improvement from school) I listen hard and take really good notes. This means that I do most of my actual learning outside of college. This makes the learning process twice as long.

On really good days, I can remember some of what the lecturer says, while taking notes at the same time.

This is part of the reason I’m getting a Personal Listening Device. My hope is that with reduced background noise, and the lecturer’s voice directed into my ears, the effort will be taken out of listening and concentrating in class. Then I can take notes and learn at the same time.  Ideally I will learn more quickly, have more energy, and also have more free time out of college, not having to that day’s notes as if they are an unfamiliar topic. 

My exam did not go well. I knew barely any of the answers. Some of this I blame on my Learning Difference. For the most part though, I can only take responsibility and blame myself.

Back at the flat I sat in my room, hiding from another flat party, eating what I like to call Failure Cake. It regularly cheers me up after tests which could have gone better.

I’m always trying to improve my writing skills for this blog, so here is a Haiku of how I felt.

Passed exam unlikely

Eat defrosted Failure Cake

Rock concert worth it.

Thursday 30th October- I have a Cold and a Dyslexia Test

Today I had a dyslexia test. I wondered if because some areas of my processing are affected by APD, if I had any dyslexic tendencies.

Since the test is free at college, I thought that I would do the test. My reading and writing is really good. The only possibility was that I could be slightly dyslexic, or not dyslexic at all. The worst thing that could happen is that I’m left feeling sheepish for wasting learning support time. This is not a good reason not to do the test.

I want to write about the test here. It will be interesting for me, and hopefully useful for anyone reading this.

The test confirmed that I am absolutely not dyslexic.

The test involved:

  • Copying as much as possible of a short passage of writing in 30 seconds.
  • Writing spoken words in a vertical line on the page
  • Accessing short and long-term memory- remembering and reciting a spoken number, and swapping the first sounds of two spoken words
  • Visual puzzles
  • Naming pictures (this was also part of the Johansen test I did years ago)

 

It seems like this test could also pick up a few people with Auditory Processing Disorder, since some of it is spoken and involves listening.

In the afternoon I was tired and feeling rubbish. I started laughing hysterically in class and found it hard to stop. This may go with coming down with a cold.

After college I went food shopping. Not feeling like cycling, so I walked to shops and got some nice cereal and groceries, and an effervescent orange vit C drink for colds. Its Effervescent, so it’s got to be good for me, right?

I had forgotten what it feels like to have a real cold. This used to be everyday life for me. I had rhinitis until I was about 17, mainly because of diary allergies. For a whole year I’ve taken breathing clearly completely for granted. This is just a normal cold, probably going around my flat or college. Still sucks though.

Time to break out the box of tissues. 

 

Monday 27th October- Bad Hearing Day

Tired. Today’s college lecture about Soil Structure was okay. I listened hard and took good notes.

Lunch with my friends. We went to a shopping centre together to get some stuff for a plant experiment.

With lunch time to spare, we crashed out on comfy chairs and giant beanbags in a university café. Very happy to be doing ordinary things like this with friends, chatting and my hearing was okay.

Our afternoon plant experiment went okay, although I struggled to concentrate. After college finished my brain began to grind to a halt.

I got off the bus by the shops for some groceries. By the time I had picked out some ingredients in Lidl I was keeping myself oriented by using a list of tasks, and finding it hard to think in words.

Carrying a Bargain! £2 for 3kilos! bag of fusilli pasta around with me did not help my energy. I went to the train station to collect tickets for tomorrow’s commute to band practice. Everything was loud, too many colourful sounds flying and floating about everywhere. Outside the ticket office, I heard this extremely annoying sound like four alternately pulsing white dots, with a white/clear line flying out from one of them which seemed to drill into my head. I followed the line going into my head in my mind’s eye to the position of the offending device on the wall. It was a box with the words, Bird Repeller on it. It was a very thin, pale, straight line. The higher the pitch of a sound, the sharper, thinner, lighter and straighter the sound tends to be. This sound was painfully high. Similar to the Rentokil cat-scarer I encountered during my job with a gardening company.

Nowadays, this counts as a bad hearing day. In the past, before Johansen IAS therapy, this would have been a normal, perhaps even a good day for me. Although it may sometimes seem like I still struggle with my Auditory Processing Difficulties, compared to how serious my APD was before I went to Johansen IAS for treatment (Camilla said that I was her most complex case so far) my hearing is amazing.

Moments like I had today is a reason why telling people about my APD is a very good idea. Then they can understand why most of the time I’m normal, happy and fully functioning, then suddenly one afternoon I seem almost mentally handicapped and might even need some guidance with crossing roads.

Right now I still don’t feel good. I’m really tired, but I know that an early night should sort me out. Writing this diary is really good because I don’t have to speak. Here, I can write out my thoughts fine despite how much my mental energy levels have crashed. But if you tried to ask me to speak to you about exactly how I feel right now, I might not be able to raise my game enough to do more than go ummmm….while I try to remember events, form them into words, then remember how to say it.

Tomorrow is a very big day. Work experience, then a very exciting band practice. I need to be thinking as clearly as possible for the best drumming I can manage.

Listening to new CDs after a hot chocolate with marshmallows for some instant sugar. Starting to feel a bit brighter. Dinner time soon.

I aim to be asleep by eight. My brain needs to reboot.

Tuesday 30th September- My Brain Explained with computer analogies, and Death Stares

My auditory processing was a little patchy at college today, but pretty good considering the busy times I’ve had recently.

Something new is saying things without conscious effort. I no longer think, after a processing time lag: “They said that. What does that mean? How do other people respond to similar thing? What do I think? What do I want to say? How do I say it?” In the past, before Johansen, this processing slog my brain went thorough made every sentence in every conversation really long and difficult. By the time I thought of an answer, (if I heard what friends said in the first place), by then they were already on a new topic. Here’s a computer analogy (because computer analogies seem to make sense for lots of people)- the speed my brain processes at now is like the processing speed of my up-to-date windows laptop, compared to the speed of the room-sized computers people used about 50 years ago. You can probably do on a gigantic, ancient old machine, most of the basic, important things I do on my laptop, such as word-processing and emails. The difference is the effort and energy required for processing. The more energy required, the less energy remaining for other tasks and everyday life. Yes, you can get by with windows B.C. or whatever, but it’s awful nice to be able to read my emails with one click, then just get on with my day.

Nowadays I find myself talking and responding almost spontaneously. It’s less effort, and also a more genuine response from me. I don’t overthink about what to say until the opportunity to speak has gone, with that slow old processing route. My brain is a-moving with the times.

Johansen and MLC therapies really helped by giving me a solid foundation for life. Now, gradually I’m going through stages of development I missed and growing into my own age. For anyone else who has chosen to go down the route of MLC and Johansen therapies, in my experience it is normal to still be seeing improvements 3 or 4 years later. I’m very lucky that I was diagnosed during my teens. As an adult, I would have much more to catch up on, perhaps even most of a lifetime of missed social experience and development. Something I noticed recently is how much I can be influenced by behaviour and information from people around me. I can learn a lot of social skills in one day, and more about myself in the process.

Being able to hear clearly, and also the benefits of MLC, are something to get used to. It takes a while to adapt to your brain’s strengthened, faster-functioning neural pathways. Here’s another computer analogy: It’s like putting the SIM card from an old brick-style mobile into a brand-new smartphone. You know instantly that it works faster and the same old information is there, but you are yet to understand how to use the new system. And with this upgraded version there are new things you can do that you haven’t even discovered yet.

Any emotional habits and problems related to retained reflexes etc. will also have to be dealt with. They won’t vanish overnight. Sometimes it might seem that the same old problems are still there. They might be, but without whatever was holding you back before, this time you can really change.

I once joked that I never got round to being a difficult, stoppy teenager. Well, technically speaking maybe I didn’t. Perhaps stroppy isn’t my natural temperament, but more and more I feel like I’m catching up with my age group. Over the last year I’ve been listening to heavier music, got a new ear piercing, don’t worry so much about the small things, and am finding it considerably harder to get out of bed. Some of that sounds like the beginning of puberty, although I just turned 20. My parents might be relieved that I’ll no longer be living at home with them for the delayed teenage years.

Tonight I had my friends over to watch the end of Hot Fuzz, which is hilarious. One of my favourite films.

One of my friends is teaching me a Death Stare. He’s very good at it. I can’t do it yet without cracking up or smiling. Death Stares could be a very good life skill. Something my friend is teaching me is that sometimes it can be useful to put up a bit of a front to protect yourself from unsavoury types. He’s a really nice person, but can give a stare to freeze your blood. 

In the past when I felt threatened I used to go the opposite way, becoming more goofy and confused than before. Safety through looking a bit simple rather than scary. Now I don’t feel confused all the time, and when I’m nervous my brain can still string a sentence together. I don’t need to do this anymore. Within a few years I’ve gone from not talking much at all, to enjoying chatting with new people and making friends. But I’ve only got a few years of social experience, and sometimes have an overly optimistic view of people. I’m still learning how to judge characters.  So although socially I’m much more able than before, if one day I realise that I’m in a situation with some bad people, a well-practiced death stare may come in handy.