Auditory Processing Deficit: It’s not a hearing problem, but…sorry, what did you say?

I have Auditory Processing Deficit. I’ve had it for most of my life — the test that shows the age level one’s auditory processing is at starts at age 5 and goes to age 18, but we are fairly certain my deficit started when I was 2 years old. Trauma can often be the cause of these sorts of deficits, and there was a doozy of one directly associated with hearing and listening when I was two. (I’m not getting into the story right now. I might at some point in the future.)

Before I took the test, mom thought I was just being a teenager with selective hearing. She’d have to repeat herself several times before I would remember what she said. I explained that I wasn’t forgetting or mishearing things on purpose; it was just that I literally had no memory of her saying certain things.

When I took the test she realized it was an actual problem, so we took steps to fix it. The test, called the Gibson Cognitive Test Battery, is part of a program called PACE — Processing And Cognitive Enhancement. It tests several areas of processing and function in the brain — the framework upon which you put content learning. Auditory processing, memory, visual processing, and other areas are tested. Often people who bottom out in one area will max out in another, because it’s their brain’s way of coping. I had maxed out on visual processor and a few other areas.

It’s a program my mom does, and she’s damn good at it. I did the program with her, though I didn’t get the full benefit. Ideally PACE is done quickly — the 36 hours within a few weeks — because this ensures the most advancement for the brain. Because mom had other students and I was in theatre we were both so busy we rarely had time for PACE sessions. We did the program over 2 years, often sitting for several hours in a session, determined to get as much done in one sitting as possible. For the longest time I held the record for levels passed in a session — not hard when your sessions are 7 hours long.

Still, even though it took us 2 years to do the program, I came up several ages in the areas I was lacking. When we were done I was age 16 in auditory processing — that was an advancement of 11 years (14 if we accept that the deficit was lower than 5 and likely at 2 years of age).

We tested me again recently and I have somehow made it up to age 18. However, I still struggle with remembering things that are said, and when I’m stressed or tired my processing goes down the tubes. (It also does not help that Mr. Katje is an avowed mumbler.)

It’s important to note that auditory processing is not a hearing problem. It is not a physical problem with the mechanisms for hearing things — my ears work fine (with the exception of the constant tinnitus). It is a problem with my brain — specifically the area used to process sounds.

However, so few people are even aware of auditory processing deficit as an actual thing that when explaining why I don’t listen to podcasts or why someone has to repeat something to me a few times to make sure I remember I often default to saying “I have a hearing problem,” even though I don’t. I can hear you just fine. Unfortunately, my ears don’t always give my brain the memo — especially when I’m stressed, or when the words are said in certain tones (because said tones stress me out). And these days I’m pretty much always stressed.

It’s honestly pretty shitty having this. School has been a struggle since high school, and last time I asked a teacher to slow down because he was speaking a mile a minute and I needed extra time to process, he said “Why don’t you try just listening?” (As if I wasn’t.) I explained the processing deficit and he and the entire class laughed in my face. That was in University, by the way, but this wasn’t the first time I was treated like that for having learning disabilities. (I was in Special Ed throughout high school and I swear, the fact that my mom kept fighting for me to get certain help in school was the only reason I graduated. If it weren’t for my mom I would have dropped out.)

Because the test that shows the deficit isn’t considered an official source by most schools I often can’t get any concessions for classes. This, combined with my other learning disabilities, depression, anxiety, and more recently physical disability, ensured that it took me 10 years to get my Bachelors instead of 4.

There are tons of podcasts I’d really like to listen to regularly, but I can’t because podcast listening for me entails sitting stock still and concentrating very hard on everything being said. It’s exhausting, and soon my mind starts to wander and then I need to rewind and find my place again.

Also it contributes to lack of communication with people I love, which creates fights. Just the other day I thought Mr. Katje said something that he didn’t, and we fought for over an hour over it. I misheard a sentence because I was really tired and my processing skills weren’t up to par, and he was mumbling more than usual that day. We made up, and talked it out, and all is forgiven — but I hate fighting with him and for that hour we were both miserable.

But, like with all things I have to live with, I learn to cope. I’ve done what I can to bring up my auditory processing to a manageable level, and I’m planning on doing PACE again with mom — maybe it’ll improve some more. In the meantime, I accept that I might always have problems processing what people say, and I work harder to keep it from adversely affecting my life too much.

In return, I only ask for a little patience from my loved ones.

So next time I need to ask you to repeat yourself, or I don’t remember what you say, please don’t take it personally. It’s just my super fucked up brain making my life a little more difficult. (So original, brain. I applaud your creativity. /sarcasm)

-Katje

Happy Summer Solstice!

Today is the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, though you wouldn’t know it to look outside my window. (Traditional Vancouver June: wet, cloudy, gray.)

For me, this day is not only the longest day and a day sacred to Manannan mac Lir (whose symbols include mist and rain, so I’m not really complaining about the weather). It is also a day that really signifies to me that school is over and done with.

At least, my first degree.

Yes, I’m done my first degree. My last class was on Monday and our grades should be in this weekend. Even though class was done on Monday, things didn’t really feel done until today. Today is the end of the semester. My very last semester at VIU.

This isn’t the end of my schooling overall, just the end of the first step. I’ve worked for 10 years to get my degree, and come January I’ll finally be able to walk the stage in my long black robes and receive it from some dude in a funny hat. Maybe someday I will get my own funny hat.

I was going to blog my journey through my last class at VIU. Being stuck with a ferry commute to school would give me plenty of opportunity to type up blog posts on my tablet and then upload them when I got home.

Unfortunately, this class involved working with kids in the local school system, which meant there were a lot of confidentiality issues of which I had to be mindful. I couldn’t just write anything in a blog post about class; I would have to be circumspect.

I was so exhausted after class I didn’t have the energy to even think about what I could or couldn’t say, so in the end I decided to say nothing at all. It was safest that way.

"I Make a Difference"
“I Make a Difference”

However, now that it’s over and I’ve had some sleep, I can tell you that the kids were awesome and teaching them about First Nations culture was pretty cool, even if I wasn’t so stoked about it to begin with. When it was over, the kids gave us bracelets (pictured above) that say “I MAKE A DIFFERENCE.” I wear it on my arm where I can read it easily.

Cue “D’aaaaawwwwww”.

Working with kids isn’t my first choice of profession, but this class taught me some things — about teaching and about myself. It’s also given me some ideas on how I can work towards doing more public speaking and more workshops in areas that matter to me. So all in all, I’m glad my last class was worth the time and effort it took me to ferry back and forth between Vancouver and Nanaimo for 7 weeks.

Not that I’d ever want to do that again.

I’m off for the weekend now. Have a great Summer Solstice (or Winter Solstice if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere), and I’ll see you next week.

-Kat

I am a waffle, and school has never ironed me

It’s not a perfect metaphor. I’m tired, okay.

I’ve been known to waffle about my education. I’ve done everything from Underwater Basket Weaving to Introduction to Finality; from Basic Lupine Urology to Pre-Law. (Yes, two of those are Community episode titles. Guess which ones.) When I finally decided on my BA, I thought I’d reached a point where I wouldn’t waffle anymore. Where I would know what I wanted to study and do it; therefore, choosing my MA should have been easy, right?

Wrong.

A few months ago I was dead-set on an MFA in Writing and Consciousness from CIIS. Just last month it was SFU‘s GLS program. Now I’m going for the same school’s MFA in Publishing.

I, of course, don’t have all the pre-reqs for this program, but I can get them done before it starts next fall. It’s not impossible. It just means I’m looking at going back to school as early as January, which is earlier than planned.

And an MFA in Publishing is, really, quite ideal for me. I run a publishing business and I plan on not only being a niche publisher but also publishing my own books for the foreseeable future. (Read: forever.)

Let’s hope someone’s left me in the iron long enough to become crispy and unyielding. Let me not waffle anymore! Let the liquid batter of waffling cease, and let me become cooked and warm.

I really will stretch this metaphor to death.