Tag Archives: School

TWITS, Caveman Conformity and The Toothfull Beastie (Sunday 17th May 2015)

This blog post is being written thanks to my friends who are noticeably “different” in some way. I love and admire them for being the interesting and unusual people they are. Sadly, sometimes other people take against them for it. I wonder why some people treat others who stand out in some way with prejudice or indifference. So here are my thoughts on the matter……

I reckon that cliques and conformity are a form of a Caveman mentality we required thousands of years ago to survive. Separated from the herd, that animal was less likely to live. And once they were separated from the group, perhaps they wouldn’t let you back in- instead becoming a sacrifice to whatever Toothfull Beastie was after the flock at the time. The Toothfull Beastie is more likely to gobble up strays and outsiders instead of attacking the main unit of the herd, the sacrifice of the stragglers allowing the rest of the herd to live another day. Leaving members of the flock behind was probably justified by blaming them for their own predicament, such as being too slow or weak or not really one of them anyway.  Blame is a Hot Potato.

Those of the flock with a conscience may have been thankful that at least it wasn’t them, believing that “It’s them or us”. I tend to think that wherever there’s a Them and an Us, there’s a Problem.  Unfortunately, long after the Caveman days, there is still plenty of that mentality around.   

 

If conformity is fear-driven, that leads to the question: In the case of modern society, what is the Toothfull Beastie?

 

Most predators which once roamed the earth are now either extinct or excluded from most urban areas. Although nowadays there is a lack of animal predators attacking humanity, we retain this mentality out of habit and lack of change.  Perhaps the modern Toothfull Beastie is the fear of exclusion itself.  In a way that makes us our own predators, which is even more destructive.

Before therapies from MLC Scotland (which gave me physical and emotional balance) and Johansen IAS  (which strengthened the sound processing connections in my brain, allowing me to hear speech clearly and consistently) I used to feel different from other people. Difference is great, it’s what makes us individuals, but I felt different in a negative way.

This is partly because I took on some of the views of myself from some people who were herd members in the extreme. Their uniform was generally Ugg boots, short skirts, carefully prepared hair, shellac talons and that healthy orange glow. Instead of emulating their fashion sense and clothes labels and admiring the beatific solarium radiance of their skin, I remained a minority against their numbers. I was a pretty scruffy herd member, with long unkempt fur and almost zero interest in fashion trends.  Because of the serious Auditory Processing Disorder I had when I was at school, I couldn’t hear speech clearly. This made me an easy target for TWITS (Trophy-Wives-In-Training) who identified me as a weaker animal with social skills even less developed than my grooming regime.

Some of them pitied me for not wanting to be the same as them, pointing a bejewelled acrylic claw in my direction and saying “That’s a shame” enough times for my scrambled hearing to pick it up.

Others messed with me out of curiosity as if they were thinking “(OMG!) It’s not the same as us. What does it do?”

And a few of them were just plain mean, the kind of people who intercept the Hot Potato of Blame in midair, just so they can pass it on to someone they dislike.

 

Feeling like easy prey, I took on some of their Caveman mentality. I felt like there was a Them and a Me. I almost believed that being different was something to be ashamed of, because it made me feel lonely and in fear of packs of TWITS every time I entered the school gates.  TWITS are terrified of people who are different, which is why they made sure to remove me as far as possible from them, like doing a biopsy of a cancer. I could have been contagious.

I know many people, who like me, because their differences were seen as negative, badly want to be Normal.  Back at school I wanted to feel Normal, whatever that was, unless it was a TWIT.

Now I know that because “normal” is an average created by measuring how everyone is different, there is no such thing. Normal is a myth, a fiction as non-existent as the Toothfull Beastie.

Safety in Similarity has a nasty sting in its tail: Conformists may show contempt for those who do not emulate them, but if there were no people who were “different”, Conformists would have no direction for their prejudice and fear except to look inwards on themselves. And I think they would find that truly unsettling.

One of the amazing things about evolution is that we adapt to survive. We will eventually realise that The Toothfull Beastie is no more, and that we can come out of our Caveman Cliques and benefit and learn from each other’s differences. Where there is no Them and Us, just one huge united group, by helping each other we will also help ourselves. But sometimes I think Guys, can we maybe evolve just a little bit faster please?

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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.  =)

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Little Green Frogs

A week into term 3 and I don’t have time to type up a backlog of diary entries. So I’ll leave you with this story. I hope you find it uplifting and encouraging on a Monday morning. I heard this tale from a visitor at a school assembly. Because of my serious Auditory Processing Disorder, listening was still not one of my stronger abilities during my school years. I always tried hard to focus despite this, and in this case was really happy that I did. I may have missed bits of it, but I caught the gist of a story which still feels important to me years later.

Little Green Frogs

One day in a rainforest hundreds of tiny green frogs decided to climb to the top of the tallest tree. Wondering what was going on, many people gathered around the tree trunk to watch the spectacle.  It seemed an impossible climb for creatures so small. As they climbed, the people below started shouting at them. “Stupid frogs, you’re too small, you’re never going to make it! You’ll never reach the top!” The frogs began to get tired as they climbed higher and higher. One by one they became exhausted and fell, or collapsed to rest on the branches. Still the people at the bottom of the tree kept shouting. More and more frogs gave up until there was only one left. It kept climbing until it finally reached the top of the forest’s tallest tree, clearing the leafy canopy and emerging in the sun. All the other frogs had fallen or given up, but one made it.

The little green frog at the top of the tree was deaf.

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Independent Student Life is a reality

I arrived in Edinburgh with my parents, feeling groggy because I was up until stupid am putting music onto my new laptop. Be damned if I was leaving home without my iTunes library. They helped me carry bags of my stuff from the car to my room. In the hall I met a flatmate. My main worry about leaving home was that my flatmates wouldn’t like me. I shouldn’t have worried. Like her, they’re all really nice people. All the bags in, I said goodbye to my parents (it wasn’t an epic emotional moment – we hugged and I said I’d bus back to Glasgow next weekend for my birthday) then dashed back upstairs to talk to my new friend and unpack.

A nearby corner store provided dinner ingredients and that night we went to a party.

This all seems pretty ordinary probably. What’s the point of me writing about leaving home? 

Without MLC Scotland and Johansen IAS therapy, I may have never left home. And if I had, it would not have been so easy.

In an alternate universe, where Jenny had not been diagnosed with serious Auditory Processing Disorder and Retained reflexes, then gone to Johansen IAS and MLC Scotland for help, things would be very different. I would be a completely different person.

Socially, I would still have an age of about 7- I’d have enough basic social skills to get by, but would be lagging far behind my age group. I still wouldn’t have had the energy, good health and clear sound processing to learn social skills. Moving into a flat with strangers would have felt terrifying.

Everything would have been overwhelming. Talking to a flatmate for the first time would have been difficult because I would have struggled to understand what they said. Guessing yes and no answers to questions I wouldn’t hear properly could have made them feel like I was uninterested in them, or didn’t like them. And I wouldn’t have had the energy to study and look after myself.

Most likely, in this hypothetical universe I would still be living with my parents for a very long time. And since my course recommended four Highers, I may not have qualified for it. In my fifth year at school, just before the MLC and Johansen therapies started to work, and just before my Higher exams, I was really struggling and nearly dropped out.

Back at school I had hopes and dreams of moving away and being a student. But I think that in my heart I didn’t really expect it to happen. Even holding down a job would have been difficult.

Now student life is a reality. I have the energy, emotional stability and the learning skills to study full-time, make friends, care for myself and enjoy an independent life. And enjoy it. I’m looking forward to my new life here.

Learning Differences, not Disabilities.

Dyslexia is the most commonly known learning difference. I say learning difference, because calling Dyslexia a disability is just a point of view.

Having Dyslexia does not mean that something is wrong with you.

There is a lot of value placed on reading and writing skills, and it’s hard to achieve academically without these. Since academic jobs are often the most valued by society and therefore more highly paid, academic skills are what schools push children to learn.

People with learning differences are a (not very small) minority. We have to adapt to a world that’s been set out for people who learn, think and see and hear the world in a slightly different way. No wonder school can be hard. Maybe some dyslexic people can’t spell worth carp, but there’s more to life than perfect reading and writing skills, although some dyslexic people can be very good writers.

In a reversed world, where at schools, the focus would be to learn practical and creative skills such as art, music, gardening, construction, and joinery, “academic” people might be the ones feeling at a disadvantage.