No. That is NOT what I said.

Traffic JamI get overwhelmed.  It can be anything.  Right now, we are getting our house ready to sell, keeping it clean, figuring out lodging for Santa Fe, making sure to spend quality time with my mom, cleaning out her storage locker, worrying about our dog because she has torn her ACL, etc., etc., etc.  And, I can handle all that.  But, the minute someone asks me to do something that is not in my plan, beware!!  The most innocent statement might just hit me the wrong way and I am ready for a fight.  Ask me to help bring things in from the car when it is not in my plans and I am doing something else, and I might think that you are trying to tell me what to do! – and who are you to control my life!?!?!  And WHY don’t you know that I am doing something else and that I cannot cope with one more thing.  Yes, I might have looked like the picture of calm, and not given you any clues that I might be at the brink of an eruption, but you should have known!!!  Of course, when things calm down and I can think rationally again, I realize that I might just have overreacted a tiny bit.

That happens to a lot of people.  One of the reasons I believe it happens to me is because my brain can’t function as well as I’d like if there is too much going on.  After years of testing for central auditory problems, I have come to realize that I have what is called an Auditory Integration Deficit (AID).  Of course, at this point, I could never really find that out for two reasons.  One is that I have used the tests for others so many times that I know them by heart!  The other is that some of the therapy that I have done with others has rubbed off on me.

AID is basically a faulty or delayed communication and integration of auditory information with other things going on in your brain.  These might be other auditory things, like you might be able to understand and identify the sounds that are coming into your brain, but then not be able to put it together with your understanding of timing and sequencing of sounds, of identifying patterns of how sounds are coming in, etc.  Or, it might be with other parts of the brain, like those that process visual input, or memory areas, or language areas that allow you to understand those crazy sounds coming in.  So when you say “Can you please help me carry the boxes in from the car?”, I hear “Can you PULEEZE HELP ME CARRY THE BOXES!!”  Or, “Stop everything you are doing and get out here immediately to carry all the boxes in from the car all by yourself while I go in and sip a glass of iced tea!  Why aren’t you here yet!”  So, even though I understand the words that are being said, because there are other things going on in my head, I don’t access the  tone of voice effectively enough and think the person is angry, annoyed, controlling, unreasonable, etc., etc., etc.  As you can imagine, this is not the best way to communicate if I would like to have a respectful, positive relationship with that other person.  Not only do I hurt the other person’s feelings, but I create anger and anxiety in myself.

In addition to misunderstanding the underlying intent of a communication due to mistaking or missing tone of voice cues, including the rhythm, stress and intensity of voice, AID can manifest in other ways.  You can think of the connectors in your brain as highways.  The more information, or cars, going across the highways, the slower the information travels, and sometimes there are even traffic jams. Excessive noise, listening to more than one talker, looking at something while you are trying to listen, worrying about whether your teacher is going to call on you in class, for example, can all create traffic jams, keeping you from understanding what someone is saying, or what you are reading.  I often find that I have just spent five minutes reading and have no idea what it was that I read.  I may have to go over it three or more times before I get it.  Of course, if I am reading a mystery novel, I have no problem at all.  When I am relaxed, interested, and there is no pressure on me to understand what I have read, reading is easy!  If I know that I have to remember what I read, or the information requires me to concentrate to understand it, that is when the problems arise.

Now I limit myself to reading what I need.  I don’t read professional journal articles unless I can relate the information to something I specifically need.  I keep abreast of current literature by reading synopses and abstracts, and going further if I need to know more.  I listen to audiobooks for pleasure.  I love narrators who have great intonation in their voices, but hate it when their intonation patterns are inappropriate or poor.  I pay more attention to that than I do to the content!  We are lucky to have programs now like Scientific Learning’s Fast ForWord to train the auditory skills we need to make listening and reading easier for kids and adults with central auditory processing disorders.

Most importantly, though, I try to be aware that my perception of what another person has said may be incorrect, and that I must try to keep an open mind before rushing to judgment.  I am not always good at it, but I keep trying, and I am really lucky to be surrounded by dear souls who don’t give up on me!



Batman CAN save the world

This is a picture of me and my friend, Batman.  I call him Batman, not only because he loves the superhero, but like the masked crusader, he has gone through some tough times in his short life.  And, because he and his family are my heroes.

Batman and his family have taught me so much about persistence, and dedication, and support, and love.

When Batman and I first met he was 3, and his mom believed that he had some problems with his hearing, but had been unable to get a complete picture of what was going on.  Batman had a few other medical difficulties, including sensory processing problems, ADHD, and duplication of the 12th and 22q11.2 chromosomes which can cause behavior issues. These confounded the process of getting a clear understanding of his auditory function.  He had already started to receive occupational and speech therapies through early intervention services.  When we met, Batman and I hit it off immediately.  He is a funny, creative, imaginative, sensitive young man who makes me smile every time I see him.  He also had difficultly following auditory directions, could not tolerate noisy or confusing environments and had some speech/language delay.  We did find that his recurrent middle ear problems cause him to have mild fluctuating hearing loss.  We also found, eventually, that he has central auditory processing problems as well.  Because of his fluctuating hearing loss, Medicaid agreed to pay for his hearing aids.  He was fit soon after our initial meeting with hearing aids in both ears.

Batman’s mother is amazing.  She and his father have three other children at home who also have medical needs of varying types and degrees.  Mom spends her days (and nights, I imagine) taking care of her children.  You might say, “Isn’t that what every mother is supposed to do?”  Yes, certainly.  But, not to the exclusion of almost everything else.  She is a knowledgeable, positive, cheerful yet dogged advocate for her children.

When she came in for Batman’s post fitting check a few weeks after getting his hearing aids and told me that she felt the aids had already created a clear improvement in his negative behaviors, I was thrilled for them.  Batman wears his hearing aids on a regular basis (sometimes with his Batman paraphernalia – he has a T shirt with Batman’s silhouette wearing hearing aids).  He calls them his “super powers.”  Mom brooks no messing around.  The only time, in his waking hours, he doesn’t wear one of the aids is if he has a draining ear due to his ongoing ear infections. As you can see from the picture, Batman is doing well!  He is still smart and funny and creative, but now he can function much more easily in unfavorable environments and can show the world his scintillating personality with greater ease.

Batman’s story is such a clear example of the power of early and appropriate intervention.  That such a small change in his sensory input (hearing aids for mild hearing loss) can create such a big change in his and his family’s lives, in conjunction with his other therapies, is testimony to the necessity for all of us to have access to appropriate medical assistance.

Batman is one of millions who benefit daily from affordable medical care.  Batman is one who through the love and devotion of his family, and appropriate medical care will have the opportunity to go out and save Gotham if he so chooses.  Let’s hope that others get that chance as well.