Tag Archives: Social skills

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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Wednesday 25th March 2015 – Honesty is not what I thought it was

Yesterday I found some text on one of the bits of old scrap paper I was using for homework. It was about first-person writing.

The main two points which had survived a printer glitch were:

  • Keep it fresh- a different perspective on life is interesting
  • Put yourself on the line- be honest and show your opinions. Writing life as you honestly see it allows the reader to really understand what you’re writing about. Openness and honesty when writing from your point of view is the only thing that matters.

This made me think.

Maybe honesty involves more than not lying.

Honest people express their opinions, even if that makes them stand out. They don’t hold back their likes and dislikes, and aren’t afraid to disagree with others and fight their corner even over small things. I admire people who are Honest in this way. They are brave.

I don’t lie often. I don’t like it. However, I’m realising that I’m further from Honest than I thought I was. I tend to reserve my opinions and contain my personality to blend in. This way I suppose, I have never really let anyone know me that well.

This is probably the reason why I have never had a fight or a proper argument a friend. Not even when I was a little kid. I would rather stay neutral then risk confrontation with anyone. I suppose that’s a habit from back when speech still seemed muddy and distorted because of my serious Auditory Processing Disorder. Any argument I had, I would have lost. And most of the time I wouldn’t have understood enough of a conversation to argue anyway. When everything seemed so unclear, I just wanted things to be as simple as possible, so why confuse and complicate things with feelings? The small stuff doesn’t matter, right? 

Since I started writing as a Case study for Johansen and MLC Scotland, (3 years ago now!) I have learned to how to listen, how to talk to other people, and how to understand others much more than I did before. A testament to this is how I write “other people” now. Often in my early diary entries I just wrote “people” and left it at that. I didn’t used to identify with others. Something which learning to understand other people comes with, is understanding yourself. I’m still learning to recognise what I think and feel, but it’s becoming easier and more automatic every day.

To improve this blog, writing from a first-person perspective, I need to include more of my own thoughts, feelings and emotions.  

Perhaps, to improve my life, I need to live more as a first-person. Living spontaneously and in-the-moment instead of delaying my reactions and searching for a “safe” response.  

The first big step forward is acting on how I feel. I don’t mean emotional responses to very clear-cut wrongs and rights, or distressing or joyful situations. What I mean is spontaneous reactions to small, everyday events. Spontaneous reactions are honest reactions. Why would I want to express my opinions about things which used to seem inconsequential, such as differing opinions with a friend on music, films or lunch choices? Now I’m wondering why would I not want to?

A huge part of being a normal human being is all the traits, likes, dislikes, loves, faults and flaws which make up you. Which makes me wonder, if I go through life not being myself, what else could I be?

Thanks to MLC and Johansen IAS therapies I have a second chance at life that very few people get. I am very, very fortunate to have this chance to fulfill my potential.

It may seem scary at first, but from now on I will do my very best to be Honest. I think that living life as myself is the only way I will discover everything that I can be. 

Friday 6th March – Nothing More Concert

Around this time three years ago, I was just beginning to hear the words in music clearly thanks to Johansen Individualised Auditory Stimulation therapy.

Music is what feelings sound like. I think I have always understood this. It still amazes me that sound can express emotions and make the listener empathise and feel the same thing. However until Johansen IAS therapy, I had no idea that songs had words which make the music a story as well. As someone who had always loved music, this was an incredible discovery for me. All the slurred mush and mouth noises interfering with (and as it seemed at the time, detracting from) the instrumental background started to make sense, and I realised that songs are as much about the lyrics as the tune.

Tonight I went to see a band which I love, and only heard for the first time a few months ago, Nothing More. Nothing More are amazing. Their music is a beautiful mix of melody and powerful metal, and the words to the songs are great in their own right. Another very wonderful thing about them is all the drums. Their drummer is phenomenal, and their singer also is a drummer. They have drums on stage which they hammer along with their powerful songs, and a bass solo which involves three of them playing a bass at the same time and spinning it on a stand, which is one of the most awesome thing’s I’ve ever seen and heard. Nothing More also have some of the few songs that make me cry. 

Before Johansen IAS therapy, I would have picked up on a tragic mood from hearing the instrumental parts of a song, but not understood exactly what it was about. Back then when I had serious Auditory Processing Disorder, most of the words I heard in music (and a large portion of speech I heard in general) sounded like Gibberish. Now when I hear a song I understand the story in it. Nothing More sing and play their songs with all their souls, songs with stories which come from their personal lives. Not only is their music amazing, they also use music as a form of activism. Every concert they play is an attempt to get people to stop being cogs in an increasingly corrupt system and think for themselves (MTV, Christ Copyright), never stop loving and caring for one another even when it hurts (I’ll be OK), and to fight the stigma associated with mental illness (Jenny). The song which had me nearly crying in the crowd is (God Went North), about the singer’s mother dying. Nothing More are a musical force for good, helping to save the world one concert hall at a time.     

Without Johansen IAS therapy, I would never have discovered Nothing More’s music in the first place, let alone be able to understand what it is about. Music is not only the most important thing in my life, in a way music also saved my life. 

Johansen IAS therapy music CDs strengthened sound-transmitting pathways in my brain, giving me the ability to hear speech clearly. I heard my family around the dinner table at background noise-filled birthday parties and started joining in the conversation, I made friends by joining conversations I was now able to be included in. Able to communicate with other people, I started to catch up with my age-group socially and emotionally. Sounds such as traffic came from the right directions and distances. The deafeningly loud mash of noise I heard when I was at school, the shops, in the street, dissipated and cleared like a fog lifting. I heard my own voice clearly for the first time and was startled at how it sounded different to the idea I had of my voice in my head. And I heard all the words in a song, which completely changed the course of my life. 

No longer scared of loud noises, which used to overwhelm me, I discovered my main passion, drums. 

So I thank Camilla, Johansen IAS and my family for giving me a second chance at life which I never would have had otherwise. I also thank my family’s tolerance of my decibel-heavy new interest. You are very awesome.  

I will continue this blog for as long as I can, writing about everything I learn along the way from being able to hear clearly. I hope that you find it useful and that it helps you to understand more about Auditory Processing Disorder, which (like Dyslexia) affects 10% of the world’s population. 

Saturday 28th February 2015- Bucket Drumming, Junkie Interactions and a Gig

This morning I was tapping away on my buckets, entertaining people, drumming up some cash and dealing with the public.

When I first started busking I was afraid of people looking at me. That then upgraded to photos, videos, far too up-close watching like the Flower of Scotland Man, mid-performance conversations, heckling, and more recently, Junkie Interaction.

Lots of people smiled as they passed, although one elderly man with a great big beard paused in front of me to say “That sound is horrible. Please stop”.  A young guy jumped in beside me with a selfie stick, and a few other people took photos and videos. There’s a lot of tourists in Edinburgh.  I also got some (thankfully friendly) junkie attention. I chatted away, comforted by the knowledge that my Public Relations Frying Pan was within easy reach.

One woman strung out on something said she was a rapper, and wanted to try my buckets. She played along with me, the passers-by losing interest in the tuneless racket. Friendly woman though. She gave me a hug before departing unsteadily.

Previous to her, I had another inebriated admirer. He gave me 5p, which was actually very generous considering he didn’t look like he had much money. He was drinking a can of Special Brew or something similar. He said that he loved my drumming and wanted to marry me. We were chatting a bit and I explained that I busk for confidence when playing drums. He said he drinks for confidence, so I suppose confidence is something we have (or don’t have) in common. Busking for confidence when playing gigs will hopefully allow me to have the confidence to play well without requiring drinks, and have all my concentration to give the best performance I can because I’ll be sober.

Busking makes you kind of a part of the streets, even just for a short time, and people who live on those streets are interested to see what’s going on in their area.

Tonight we had our best gig yet. In an Irish Bar which was packed with people like sardines. The dance area was full, partly because there was nowhere left to sit. The bands there were really good and we’d met one of them before at our first gig in Paisley. One band had come all the way from England. They sounded a bit like Sleeping with sirens. My best friend came to see us too. It was loud, we were all packed together, it was hard to hear anyone talking. Before Johansen and MLC therapies it would have been a nightmare scenario.

I was nervous about playing, but not nearly as much as last time. Bucket Busking and fighting nerves with more nerves seems to be working.

People’s reaction to our music was really good and it was so hot in that wee underground bar all our hair was sticking up with sweat, we all went for it and it was an awesome night. It was so amazing to see people enjoying hearing us and having fun! I’m starting to feel like a proper drummer now.

Wednesday 3rd December 2014 – The Fish Finger Conundrum again

It’s the Fish Finger Conundrum again. Please feel free to check out 20th October 2014 if you have no idea what I’m on about.

Because of what I learned while window shopping in the frozen section Farmfoods not long ago, I decided that I could do with some new clothes for gigs.

Like the varying frozen Fish Fingers I have sampled, I know that pretty packaging does not improve the contents inside. However, it gives an indication of what may be in the box. I’m not just representing myself when we play, I’m representing my bandmates too. And since my wardrobe is pretty vanilla for a rock band, my (nearly) new leather jacket was a good purchase. It smells of smoke, which is both sad and ironic, since I got it from Cancer Research. However it fits pretty well and is quite cosy.

At future gigs and practices I will look more like a rock musician, and all thanks to some Fish Fingers.

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.

 

Saturday 1st November – Same Slug thing, Same Slug place

Apparently, if you don’t have a weird flat mate, you are the weird flat mate. I hope not.

For too long, I have been working on an essay. About Slugs. This slug essay is doing my head in.

Did you know that slugs can digest paper? Well now you do. I love actually doing horticulture, but I don’t like the paperworky learning part.

I’m not busking this weekend. All the tubes in my face are full of goo (kind of like a Slug), so trying to play my flute would be a messy exercise in pointlessness.

Tonight My flatmate had a party. It started fairly quiet when I went to bed. By 3am it sounded like they were acting out a goddamn musical in the kitchen.

I wasn’t sleeping anyway because of all the goo in my sinuses. I had three options:

Ignore the noise and carry on not sleeping

Tell them to be quiet and not sleep in peace

Join in.

The beat of the music and hand clapping was kind of catchy, so I joined them in the kitchen with some egg maracas from my box of music stuff.

By then they were so drunk, they thought that egg maracas were the best thing ever.

One of the people there had created some of the music playing. It was pretty good stuff. Nice people. I tried to shake as few hands as possible because of germs, and made some friends that I wouldn’t have otherwise.

 

Monday 20th October- Fish Fingers and Social Identity

Food Shopping after college. Happiness is a full cupboard.

I decided that since I have a student loan, I would buy a slightly better brand of fish fingers today. Especially since the last variety turned out to be less “white fish” and more Rice Starch. I was looking at the packaging of these other fish fingers which apparently had 100% fish fillings as well as a student-friendly price. The box had pretty cartoon fish on it, a logo and nice colour scheme. It was much more attractive than the very plain box containing my last fish fingers. They hadn’t really bothered with much package design, or much real fish either.

Inside my college lecture-addled little brain, gazing through plastic glass into the depths of a floor refrigeration unit, somehow this turned into my next leap of social understanding. 

How do fish finger boxes relate to people? Well…..

Perhaps attractive, thought-out packaging isn’t just unique to boxes of my current favourite sandwich filling. People who have a cared-for, clean and attractive appearance may seem more appealing, friendly and easier to approach.

I realised that how people look and present themselves to the world can be very important- every stranger who sees you has a first impression, and based on that, they’ll create an assumption of what kind of person you might be. First impressions could be the difference between making a new friend or not.

People can adapt their image to get a desired reaction from other people. Whether they want to be looked at, not looked at, talked to, admired, respected, feared, or to make others feel at ease with them, there’s a way to dress for that. Unless you have a Stabbing Face, (see Wednesday 17th September 2014) in which case, unfortunately, no amount of wardrobe alterations can help you.

My new fish fingers, despite their lovely packaging, may not be as nice as they claim- I haven’t tried one yet. They were purchased on face-value and low pricing. There’s a lot to be said for face value. It’s a social currency. I’m not saying that I want to change my appearance. I’m happy with how I look. But I think that now I understand something new about people which I didn’t before. And all thanks to some Fish Fingers. I hope they’re as good as the picture on the box.

Saturday 18th October- Today I bought a piano

It was too windy for my normal weekend busking- my flute was playing itself when the air blew through the mouthpiece, tubes and key holes. I tried to play outside a shop to avoid the wind, but got politely, and firmly, moved on. It’s all still good practice to fight nerves when performing.

Thank you very much! to kind people on the royal mile today who gave me donations.

I got a reply from someone I contacted on Gumtree about an excitingly inexpensive second-hand keyboard. Playing the Harry Potter theme tune by ear on a toy keyboard when I was six or seven was what made my mum think I might be musical. After that I never had much enthusiasm for learning piano, although I got lessons with a kind, very talented teacher who could have made me a very good pianist if I had it in me. I struggled with learning piano, and actually haven’t played since MLC improved my coordination. With Retained Reflexes which make mirrored and contralateral movement difficult, learning piano was tricky. Not having practiced in 5 years, I have forgotten how to play even the first song I learned. Now, I really want to learn again, and play whatever I feel like. A keyboard will also help me learn songs really quickly for busking.

It will be interesting to see any differences in how I learn to play piano after MLC therapy.

Over the phone the man with the keyboard gave me an address. I got on a bus, paid for and collected the keyboard, and hauled my bin-bag clad treasure home.

I can’t play it yet. Because there is no charger until one arrives from Ebay. It’s an old keyboard. A good make, retired from a music school when they upgraded. All the white keys have the notes written on them in permanent marker to make it easier for learners to play. There are little icons above the keys. Some of them are for drum and cymbal sounds. It also has a “drum pad” facility which I am super excited about. Right now, my desk is taken up with college folders, so it will have to share bed-space with me. Bed was too wide for me anyway.

Night out with my friends. The Horticulture Nights Out have become a thing.

A drunk leaning on the counter thought that I couldn’t be over 18 and kept telling me so. He burped and said that maybe if I couldn’t smell his burp (he asked and I politely said no), the bartender wouldn’t smell my age. Then he laughed in a lopsided, conspirational manner. The barman didn’t need to smell my age. I had ID, and left to go to my friends’ table as soon as I was served.

This man was probably too inebriated to be much of a threat, but I’ve learned to be cautious of single, older men in bars who want to talk to me (see March 2014). I didn’t make much eye contact, got away as soon as possible (although I think he couldn’t have followed me anyway because the bar was propping him up), and when he asked my name while I waited to order, I lied.

Dealing with scenarios like this might be second nature to most people, but I’m still learning. In the past, telling a lie would have felt impossible. Also now, if he had seemed like a threat, I wouldn’t have stayed beside him long enough to order.

One problem with socially being a young age, is that if I’m not careful, I could get into trouble, or learn bad habits very quickly. 

Fun night out with some of my college friends. I almost take being able to talk to people, and being fully-included for granted now. Almost. It’s still amazing and makes me so happy.

Wednesday 1st October- Reality & TV

Today I had a half day at college. I talked to the learning support teacher about my Auditory Processing Difficulties. My lecturers know I may miss information in lectures, and I can go to them or my support teacher if I need help.

After college I went busking. I made £2.67 and got moved on by a security guard because I was unintentionally playing outside Edinburgh High Court and interrupting a hearing. I’ve been living here 3 weeks. I don’t know where the courts are, and would never want to disturb people with my music. Some busking sessions are better than others. At least the security guard was friendly. I think she relaxed a bit when she realised I was there by accident and mostly harmless.

My evening was great. I ate more defrosted spag bol, with defrosted cake for dessert (salvaged from the toaster with forks and marigold gloves) and watched Chuck, my favourite TV series.

People on TV seem closer to real life people in the way that they act and appear to feel. I couldn’t see the similarity until now. TV has more depth and emotion now that real life does too. I’m realising that TV people are based on the way that real people act and react. There are a lot of social cues on TV as well as Real Life. It’s weird, but weird in a good way.