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Yesterday I had my second session of auditory processing disorder therapy with Dr. Katz. A very pleasant colleague of his from New Zealand sat in on the session.

When I first started working with Dr. Katz this year, he evaluated my processing by playing words and sounds to me and asking me to repeat what I heard. My biggest challenge was to repeat the sounds I heard to him as I actually heard them, rather than repeat them as I knew I was supposed to have heard them. For instance, yesterday he played a word. I explained that it sounded to me like “wu-wuhl” but that I knew it should be “wall” as I didn’t know of any English word “wu-wuhl.” When he played the sound, the first thing I did was spell w-u-w-u-h-l in my head. I immediately recognized that it is not a real word and decided I must had heard “wall” instead.

That is why it takes me so long to respond to people at times. It takes me even longer to respond when I hear a word like “sent” because I am busy spelling s-c-e-n-t, s-e-n-t and c-e-n-t, while evaluating the context to figure out which one I should have heard. It gets even worse with words like “see” because I have to go through s-e-a, s-e-e, and also s-i, because I’ve been around lots of Spanish speaking people my whole life. Then, for instance, if I’m in Colorado I have to wonder if I was supposed to have heard “ski,” rather than any version of “see”.

This is a strategy I refer to as my “internal closed captioning system”. It is a habit I’ve had for as long as I can remember. Turns out I was wrong about “wall” when Dr. Katz played the word. The word he had played was “wool”. I would never have guessed “wool” unless it was part of a conversation about sheep, yarn, or sweaters. It is a word I hear far less often than “wall”. I work with averages and probability when I’m talking to people. It really drove home how reliant I have been on context and spelling for understanding speech throughout my entire life. It also explained why I had experienced such a hard time in classrooms and lectures throughout my educational career.

I get really fatigued after my sessions with Dr. Katz. I still experience profound exhaustion after being exposed to sound from which I am expected to extract meaning. But despite this I will continue because the sessions are incredibly eye opening and informative. I’m slowly learning to differentiate sounds based on their own merit, rather than based on context.

Today I had another variety of language lesson. I had a one on one tutoring session in American Sign Language or ASL. My tutor is super cool and I feel like I have learned a lot already. What I find interesting about my ASL class is that unlike anything else I’ve ever been expected to learn, I’m not expected to learn with my ears. My tutor uses her voice some, but like many Deaf people, her enunciation is different from that of hearing people. With my APD I don’t stand a chance of figuring out what she says. Which is fine, because as it turns out I’m learning content at a faster pace because of the visual nature of the subject matter. I have never learned this quickly through spoken communication. It is almost like discovering an ancestral homeland. The language just feels right to me.

I am very excited about what the future may hold. I finally have a firm grasp of my strengths and limitations. I know what I can do and I know how I can do it. I hope my journey can be of benefit to others.

Twilah H is a recovering patient. She studied Philosophy with a concentration in ethics at the University of Kansas. Through writing, meditation, relationship building, and quilt creation she has found a place of peace.

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