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Posts Tagged ‘Auditory Processing Disorder’

Face blindness, or prosopagnosia, is said to affect many with developmental disorders, such as autism spectrum disorder and non-verbal learning disability, as well as those who have suffered from some forms of brain damage. Again, in view of the fact that I have both a non-verbal learning disability and ASD, it would appear that I really am a textbook case for all things ASD related. So what is face blindness?
The simplest way for me to explain it is to blend a little of what the experts say with a little of how I perceive it to affect me. For me, face blindness means that I have extreme difficulty recognizing people. And it doesn’t matter if you are a co-worker, a friend, a family member, or even my husband Dale, I simply will not recognize you right away and certainly not from a distance, even a short one. I also will not recognize your voice over the phone, for what I believe carries the same explanation. This is one reason that I thank god for cell phones and caller ID, so I know who’s calling. That, however, doesn’t lend me a hand when I call others, which makes me anxious, and unfortunately prevents me from making many phone calls, unless I know for sure who’s going to answer the phone.
From what I understand, my differently wired brain remembers people through a combination of factors, such as mannerisms, voice, and the way they interact with their environment, instead of solely on the visual processing of a person’s face. So until these things are observable for me, I don’t recognize you. And I’m not kidding when I say I don’t recognize anyone, even family. It’s not until a person gets close enough for me to hear, see, and study that they begin to look familiar to me. This process can take several minutes of close up interaction.
For those of my friends who wonder why I often ask them to meet me outside of a restaurant, and for those who wonder why I prefer email and texting over actual phone calls, you now have an answer to that question. It’s because it makes it easier for me to find you, recognize you without wandering aimlessly through a crowded bar, peering into faces and disturbing people. And it makes it that much easier on my anxiety levels as well. If I do have to find you in a crowded place with my anxiety at a record high, it will then turn on the auditory processing disorder, which will have the undesirable effect of making it difficult for me to understand what you’re saying as well. And when it comes to phone calls, I have only a voice to go on. No mannerisms, no interaction with the environment, and no expressions. Although eventually, I will recognize your voice, it won’t be until long into the discussion, with laughter being the trigger for my recognition. My suspicion is that laughter is musical, which is like heaven to me, and has always served to calm and soothe all of my senses.
I find it interesting that face blindness is often seen concurrently with abnormalities in EEG measurements (what you might think of as a brain scan). I too have what are considered abnormal, unchanging EEG measurements, consistent it would seem, with face blindness and (I believe) 30% of those on the autism spectrum. What I also find fascinating is that I have no trouble recognizing people in photos. The research seems to support that there is indeed an emotional aspect to face blindness. In other words, your photo is just a picture of you, a simple object, it’s not a living, breathing being, interacting with anything.
Face blindness played a somewhat distinct part in the finding of the pieces to my personal autism puzzle. How many times, as a teenager, had I walked past someone I knew in the mall (for example, boyfriend mentioned in earlier post)? How many times had I been labeled a bitch, or stuck-up by those I wasn’t even aware of, when they were trying to catch my attention? I always wondered why I could never find anyone I was looking for, recognize my friends on the phone, or why I continuously piss people off by failing to acknowledge them in Home Depot when they were three feet away from me. I don’t know how many times I heard through a third party that so and so said I was a cold, unfeeling bitch. And for the longest time, I thought I must be. I know better now, and I’m not afraid to tell others about any of it. And that’s why I’m here, writing. So that maybe, the next time you meet someone you know (from work maybe) and they walk right past you in the grocery store without saying hi, just maybe you’ll remember my story. Just maybe, instead of thinking, “What a royal asshole!,” you’ll give that person the benefit of a doubt. Instead, hopefully, you’ll cut her a break and think, “Hmmm…maybe she’s on the autism spectrum.” At which point you’ll walk up to her, and say, “Hi. I don’t think you saw me back there.” It would mean so much to me, and all of us spectrumites, if you did that!

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What is it like to have an auditory processing disorder? What exactly is an auditory processing disorder? I’ll tell you, it’s pure madness. Plain and simple – it’s as weird as weird can be. But it’s also quite amazing, as is sensory integration dysfunction, in the way that it illustrates the intricacies in the way our brains work and process information.
You would think that having super sensitive hearing and an auditory processing disorder might sound like an oxymoron, but it isn’t, because they are two extremely different functions. Auditory processing refers to the way our brains process what we hear, and organize all that sensory stimuli into something that makes sense. See here for a better description: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auditory_processing_disorder
Not always the case for me, as you will see. A lot of the time, I have to work hard in order to “figure out” what I’m hearing. It has always been this way for me, although I never understood how or why, until my diagnosis.
Auditory processing disorder is similar to sensory integration dysfunction in the way that the wiring of the brain is quite different from most. It’s like over stimulation (maybe hearing and other senses) causes something to become lost in translation. Too much coming at me at one time will cause a major malfunction, and I don’t know if it’s due to the over stimulation itself or the anxiety that the over stimulation causes.
I can tell you that it has often resulted in a number of unintended social mistakes that have taught me to either quickly cover up the mistake or risk exposing my idiosyncrasies.
For instance, in anxiety causing situations (like a party or a noisy meeting, or even out shopping), I seem to lose my ability to understand people. This manifests itself in numerous ways. Sometimes, someone will say something to me, and all I hear is mumbo jumbo. A completely disorganized, alien language, with no recognizable content presents itself to me. Other times, I’ll hear some words, little bits and pieces, while the rest of the words seem to vanish from existence, leaving nothing discernible for me to even attempt to comprehend. “What the hell did you just say?” immediately pops into my head, but experience has taught me it isn’t really socially acceptable to say that. 🙂
Before, I would often panic, and have no idea what to do. In other words, I looked like a freak. These days, I’ve learned that it’s okay if I must ask someone to repeat themselves. Sometimes, I’ll look to my ASD aware companion for a coherent translation.
There are other aspects of the condition that are strikingly fascinating to me. And I’m not completely positive if they all are a result of the auditory processing disorder, but they seem to fit in here, so this is where I’ll squeeze them.
Oddly enough, I don’t seem to hear people unless they’re in my field of vision. So if you’re shouting my name at me across the mall, chances are pretty good that I won’t hear you. And if you aren’t close enough, I won’t even recognize you, but I’ll talk about that later. Obviously, I’ve been in many social circumstances where I didn’t hear or recognize someone, only to be labeled as a snob, a bitch, I don’t know what else. Big social faux pas, let me tell you.
My earliest memory of this social catastrophe occurred with a boyfriend. We were at the mall with a few friends, but had separated for a little while. Wouldn’t you know, I glided cluelessly by him, chatting to my best friend, while he was calling to me and waving? Only to realize that I had done so as a result of my friend bringing it to my attention? Teenage social disaster!!! How do you explain that one, when you don’t even know why in hell it happened? Is it believable to say that I’m that much of an airhead? Some would agree with that statement, and I know who you are too!
Needless to say, he was upset. Here he thought I was playing head games, when the joke was actually on me. Okay, I know you’re dying to know, or maybe you aren’t, what happened after that? Well, he wouldn’t talk to me, he left the mall, I left with my friend, and a few hours later we made up. But to me it’s just an example of the many social challenges ASD can present to a person, especially when you have it unknowingly.
Apparently, one of the signs of an auditory processing disorder is the need for language and speech therapy, which was necessary for me in third grade. So again, I fit neatly into the ASD textbook. Advanced speech prior to learning to walk, late walker, but a need for speech therapy. My pic should be posted as part of the description LOL.
I think one of the funnier, but more startling aspects of the auditory processing disorder occurs under extremely loud situations, like a concert or a convention. Sometimes, out of the blue, through that huge cacophony of merging voices, I’ll hear what someone far away has said, as if they were right next to me, whispering into my ear. Kinda creepy actually. I’ll turn to the person next to me to inquire or answer, and I’m met by the strangest looks sometimes. “I didn’t say anything,” is the alarmed response. Again, the joke is completely on me.
So what I’m saying here again is, if you see me in a crowded place, staring right at you, walking past you as you’re jumping up and down in your attempt to get my attention and I still fail to respond, please don’t take it personal. You might have to actually tap my shoulder or grab my hand, and then you’ll see the dawning recognition as it flows across my pleasantly surprised face. Either the auditory processing disorder kicked in, and your signals to me weren’t processed in this creatively wired brain of mine, or the fact that I’m face blind prevented me from recognizing you. Maybe both. Anyway, I’ll talk about face blindness another time. My electricity just came back on and it’s Saturday night. 🙂
Until next time, Namaste!

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