This story starts way back beyond birth. Long before you were even conceived your blueprint was already taking form. As your ancestors made their way through their lives, your genetic makeup was in the pipeline. This is exactly the same for all of us. Your ability to learn and understand your education comes from what you inherit from your parents.
In this opening chapter of the Book of Amazing People I’m going to give you a little insight into my world, a world of colour and energy, a world where I have a unique set of strategies to connect and interact on a daily basis. There is a lot that happens behind the scenes in my daily life and you may at times see reflections into your own world. If you do, let me encourage you to believe in yourself. Your journey is unique and so is your gift for that matter. Take the time to consider what you know and who you are because you have a very individual purpose for being here. You are important and your life is divinely appointed for this time in history.
My genetic blueprint set in motion an understanding which very few get to experience. To the “normal” world I have learning issues. But I know a thing or two about “learning issues” and if you’ll give me thirty minutes of your time I’d like to share some of what I know. You see learning issues are both genetic and trauma based. They become a part of your DNA as a consequence of your parents and at times from the stress and trauma which life takes you through.
In my case the condition which has caused me the most difficulty is visual dyslexia. For me that means when I look at a page of text, the words move in many different patterns. So reading and comprehending words was one of my worst nightmares. Do you remember having to stand in front of the whole class and read out loud? I would always be violently sick. My nerves would be on edge worrying about getting it wrong and being laughed at. This would kick my dyslexia in to high speed and the words would spin out of control giving me a feeling like vertigo. It was a traumatic panic attack, and made me feel faint and weak in every part of my body.
I knew all the feelings but what I didn’t know was the why I felt this way. Looking at the other kids showed me this didn’t happen to them. Why me? I thought.
This did three things in my head…
- It caused destructive self-talk
- It turned me into a detective, a Sherlock Holmes. (Did you know Sherlock was an Aspie?)
- I was determined to understand the weakness and the strength of “why me”!
When I was about seven years old my dyslexia really kicked in. Because I had just arrived in Australia from the UK, I thought it was the text (or font). I decided it was a cultural thing. I didn’t find out it was dyslexia until I was about 22 years old. I discovered this when I took my two daughters for an eye test and a hearing test. In my mind I was thinking they were not going to suffer like I had.
Now I know you are probably thinking ‘why didn’t my parents do something about my learning issues?’ The answer is simple. I was just like them so it wasn’t seen as any kind of disability or learning issue, it was just seen as my struggle to learn, and the same as both my parents had. The truth is… this is what drew them to each other; they felt safe together because they understood each other.
They understood each other enough to communicate and strengthen each other’s weakness so Mum did the spelling and Dad did the maths.
Mum’s self talk was, “I am not good enough” and Dad’s self talk was, “I will find a way to understand what ever is put in front of me”. You can now see where I got the concept of becoming a detective.
Before I take you on a journey into the unpacking of learning issues let me share with you what I have and how each one has its inabilities, amazing strengths and beautiful attributes.
Yes you have it right, I am in love with what the world sees as learning issues or challenges.
In fact I have what is known as a cohort (in the sense of a band or gathering) of learning issues. (But sometimes they act more like accomplices and compatriots and gang up on me.J)
Here’s the list…
- Visual dyslexia. At least 6 different reading patterns.
- Auditory dyslexic. I hear at a 100% but my ability to process what I hear is around 70%.
- Dyscalculia. (Maths) I cannot add up or do any maths in my head and times tables just don’t compute in my head at all.
- Dyspraxia. (Motor co-ordination) This means I can be clumsy and have trouble speaking. In my case the right side of my tongue moves or is lazy when I’m tired or stressed so words don’t come out clear. This makes it impossible to use Speech recognition software. If I close my eyes I have no point of reference giving me balance issues (I have now overcome this). Dyspraxia affects everything that involves both sides of my body, Eg. Crawling as a baby.
- Irlen. (Light sensitivity) Also known as Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome. It means lights and even sunlight play a huge role in me being able to think, read and learn. I am presently studying community services and to study I have to plan when, where and how much I can learn on any given day.
- Synesthesia. I see things in front and to the side of me in colours. Eg. Words that someone is speaking. Billy Joel is synesthetic. He sees music in front of him so instead of it being inside his head he sees it in a flow in front of him and he writes it from there.
- Spacial dyslexia. No real sense of distance, so the GPS can say turn in 800 metres and I have no idea what that looks like. I can use light posts because they are a set distance apart, but if I’m on a highway there are no poles to count and I could miss a turn off. I need points of reference.
- Dysgraphia. This is how you write and hold a pen. You see how you hold a pen and where the pressure is makes a huge difference in how the messaging coming down your arm into your hands is processed. If you do a job where you are required to stand, you will stand in a way that makes it easy to write but it can cause RSI and lower back problems and much more.
- Attention Deficit Disorder. ADD is my best and worst gift. Under control I work incredibly fast and think very fast on my feet, but at its worst I have no ability to hold thoughts and work with them. It fights me when I want to stay still and concentrate on conversations and causes me to butt in because I already know where you are going. I want to answer you before I forget what I need or want to say.
- Sensitive Person Syndrome. Yes this is a real condition and because of my inabilities to learn in the normal ways this trait got heightened. I have learned to use this to my advantage. Sensitive person syndrome means you are sensitive to everything around you and the environment you are in. If I am not careful you can misinterpret the meaning behind my actions. For example: If I fold my arms towards you, you might decide I am shutting you out, but what I am actually doing is hugging myself in re-assurance because I’m in overload. I have to always be physically aware of every part of my body language. I also see everything you do, from the way you hold your head to your eyes, nose and the flaring of you nostrils, to your mouth, shoulders, how hard your foot hits the floor as you walk; I sense everything. This means as I said earlier, I have to be aware of possible overwhelm from the input of everything around me. Some days are awesome and some days are a battle with the constant awareness of a meltdown. It’s a fine balance at times.
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. For me to control my life so I can learn and appear normal I am very OCD. This applies to where I sit, what time I do things in a day, to how much sleep I must have. Nothing in my life is by chance. The bad side to the OCD is there is never a day that is as perfect as I try and make it to be without impacting on another person’s world, so I have learnt to be flexible in my OCD.
- Aspergers. Yes, I sit there too. I have a lot of Aspergers traits. What triggered me to look further at this trait is I don’t have a funny bone in my body. I am very serious most of the time. Some of this is because I think I am constantly monitoring myself so I don’t have a meltdown. This means that I don’t give myself a break to enjoy life. (This is something which I am now working on)
- 3d thinking. I can see something in my mind and keep turning it and explain every angle on it simply through my minds eye. Let’s use a rose for instance. I will smell its perfume, feel the thorns and its texture, see the slight veins in the leaves and the petals, see the delicate colour in the petals and how they fold down, etc. All of these senses happen as if it were a physical rose in my hand.
- Executive function. My thought process and actions are instantaneous. Basically If I can think it then I can do it. It’s a childlike feature. A child will run to the play ground with no consideration that there is a busy road to be crossed to get to the park. The fallout from our actions can at times be very dangerous. The advantage to this is all things are possible, so we just make it happen.
I often joke that I slide up and down the spectrum of learning issues from one day to the next but the truth is it can be as fast as hour to hour due to sensory overload.
I tell the people I work with that you would never give a learning issue or disability to a weak person, it would break them in one day. It’s hard work to appear normal.
What does normal look like anyway? Well, everyone with any disability is an expert on this subject because we have to watch, copy, imitate, control and manage everything from actions, melt downs, overload and much more, just so we don’t give ourselves away.
People just do what they do without a thought, but that is not the case when you don’t want to stand out from the crowd.
People with ADD and ADHD have to be so careful not to take over and look bossy, controlling, rude or abrupt. They often look like they are self centred; only interested in hearing their own voice and opinions which makes conversation hard work.
For the Aspie, they know that body language is 70% of the message and they struggle to communicate in that space. Tone is 27% and only 3% of the message is what is said.
For me, because of trying to listen to what is being said and the body language I need to read, one conversation can do me in for the rest of the day. If it is in a coffee shop with coffee grinders and milk frothers going off, conversations on other tables and the sounds of spoons, cutlery and cash registers for example, I have to constantly filter my conversation to make sure I don’t break in mid sentence. All this input can cause my ADD to kick in and take you down multiple paths of conversation. If that happens you will feel totally lost and have no idea what I am talking about. Also, the lights and the music coming through the speakers and the movement in the room all come into my brain as valid information. It’s a mutli-sensory overload. So a coffee and a conversation is pure hard work.
You see, whatever I do I am fully engaged because I have to be. I understand the effort people go to just to appear normal in a conversation. You would be surprised just how many people do this every day.
We all know the saying, the glass is half full or half empty? This drives my OCD mad! Either fill the glass or empty it. But I do understand the concept behind it and I have to reason with my brain every time I hear this statement. The way I think is very black and white with splashes of colour everywhere. A glass half full for me is completely full. I am both fully engaged, front and centre and balanced or I am not engaged at all, null and void. Splashes of colour represent how we have mastered the outcomes. The colours are either dark and stormy or bright and dancing (the synesthesia is kicking in).
Let me unpack for you my so called dys abilities which give me the most divine assets. I am now a Talent and Traits Analyst. I am able to see via the colours that come from your words and body language, how you see the world and your disabilities.
I spent my life up until I turned 50 handling them. They were amazing colours in the playground in my head, but outside that I wanted nothing more than to appear normal. Its human nature to feel like we belong, but each time I appeared abnormal I was cast aside and felt like I didn’t fit.
This is a sample taken from The Book of Amazing People. The book showcases the stories of ordinary people who have made their lives extra-ordinary. The Book of Amazing People is available from Amazon.