Tag Archive for: Processing Speed

Woman with APD

What it’s like having APD for me

By Guest Blogger – Shuna Beckett

Forward

When we first met, I didn’t know a lot about Auditory Processing Disorder (APD). As she has shared her story and her passion for writing, I wanted to give her a platform to tell the world about the reality of living with APD. So here it is APD.

From Shuna

I might not register you talking to me, and I might not register my son crying, and I might not register that alarm going off. My mind is on other things. I can’t focus on anything else. I’m in the middle of a film playing in my head, in the middle of a story. I’m too immersed in the imagery. There’s too much stuff going on in there already. It’s impenetrable.

And yet, at other times, I get distracted if there’s another noise in the room, and I can’t focus. I have to wear earplugs at night. I know it doesn’t make sense. I don’t even understand it myself. I guess it depends exactly where my mind’s at. Sometimes, noises are too quiet (I have a hearing impairment, too), but sometimes everything feels deafeningly loud.

Sometimes, I might interrupt your conversation because I don’t register a conversation is going on.

I’m sorry.

Sometimes, I might take up more air space with my stories or anecdotes because it’s easier than following other people’s and less tiring to talk than to listen. I don’t mean to dominate. I try extra hard to be mindful and aware of the situations where, to others, it might come naturally?

I’m sorry.

Sometimes, the fog sets in, and I forget what I’m saying halfway through.

At other times, I can’t get my words out. I’m searching for a word in the tunnels of my mind, but it’s gone. Names of famous people, names of people I know, names of places, names of songs, as well as day-to-day words. Witty comments come to me hours later. I often plan what I’m going to say ahead of time. I can’t express myself properly in an argument or debate. And if my emotions are triggered, my thinking brain shuts down, I get confused, I am like a small child again. I might implode. I might explode.

I’m sorry.

Even when writing (and I’m a writer), I can’t find the right words – simple, obvious, words. I defy the Writers’ Code and reach for a thesaurus more often that I care to admit.

I can’t always follow instructions or new information or conversations on a subject I know nothing about, or where I don’t understand the context. What am I missing? What am I forgetting? What was I supposed to do again? What was I supposed to say? What did you ask of me? And there’s the fog again.

Sometimes things sink in after about a minute. Often more. I very probably won’t laugh at your joke till way afterwards, if I get it at all. I can’t follow films. And I might recognise a song that’s been playing on the radio or at a gig half a minute after it’s started and everyone else has been singing along. And I never remember the lyrics.

It can take me hours to process a whole conversation; hours before I realise that somebody might have actually insulted me or treated me unfairly. So, quite often, I can’t deal with it in the moment. I sometimes end up writing an email with all the things I should have said, in a far more eloquent way than I could have communicated verbally. And I think people find that quite odd, or perhaps they think I’m scared of confrontation, because I didn’t say it to their faces.

Sometimes, things seem to go in but don’t stick…

I rarely remember facts or information, unless I see them written down. I don’t do audiobooks or podcasts and webinars behind screens aren’t much better if there are no visuals. Even if I manage to listen long enough for it to go in, I won’t remember anything. Not unless I take copious amounts of notes.

I’m sorry I forgot what you said about your sick Aunt. About your holiday. About that thing you told me that happened to you when you were a kid. I know it’s all important stuff. I listened. I really did. But it didn’t stick. It went in, but not quite far enough. It didn’t reach the depths of my understanding. I think that part of my brain that’s supposed to make other people’s words sink in is missing. While other parts of my memory – the bits that remember things that affect or have happened to me – thrive like a warm incubator. Sometimes too much. Don’t ask me why. It doesn’t mean I’m a bad friend or I don’t care. I am trying.

It’s just all very…abstract. That’s how the verbal world feels at times. Abstract.

Let me see it. Show it to me. Let me have a go. Or if not, describe it to me so I can see it in my mind. Really see it. Write it down. Let me write it down. Give me pictures, a story. Something to hold onto. Let it reach my emotions – cos that part of my brain is in overdrive.

Sometimes, everything feels like an uphill struggle. It’s all a muddle in my brain. I need to write it down. Make a list. Make another list. Get it in an order. Make it make sense.

I hear in pictures. Please be patient with me. I need to visualise or imagine what you’re saying: The words, the numbers, the things you’re describing.

I read in pictures. The more I can visualise, the easier it is. A fictional novel full of description is way easier than an abstract academic text, for example. But either way, I still read slowly and can get easily distracted.

I write pictorially. Please understand if I write you a really long message, an email or letter. I’m trying to see the things I’m writing about.

I explain pictorially. I am trying to describe things the way I see them in my mind.

I can’t do two things at once. I can’t have a conversation with you while I’m doing something else or I’ll delete a whole computer file, put the salt in the tea, the sugar in the stew, burn myself, take a wrong turning in the car – or worse. It’s one thing or the other. Or something’s going to suffer.

And it’s usually me.

APD affects organisational skills too. Logistics? Forget it. I feel I must come across as stupid at times, bereft of common sense. Sometimes (and particularly before my APD diagnosis, aged 41), I feel stupid. But I’m not stupid. It just takes a while to work things out. Give me a day – some time and some space on my own – and I’ll come back with a perfect plan. Ask me on the spot and I might crumble.

Groups are especially hard. When there is more than one person talking at once, or if the conversation flits from one person to the next, or people change the subject rapidly. It takes time to register each person, really grasp what they say, by which point the next person is speaking! And I’m lost again.

I get easily confused in social settings. More and more, I feel overwhelmed and flustered. I’ve always loved dancing and gigs and music, but now trying to socialise where there is music, or even too many people and too much noise, disorientate me. Sensory overload. I can’t get my words out properly. I can’t join in conversations. I’m sure people think I’m behaving weirdly.

And after one of those rare evenings out with friends or meeting strangers, I lie in bed processing it all night. I can’t sleep. I’m trying to make sense of it. Remember what I said and whether it was the right or the wrong thing. Did I rant? Did I come across as weird or stupid?

I often find myself practising the most basic or mundane of interactions in my head, even to a colleague or a friend. It’s not because I’m particularly nervous – I just know it won’t come out right otherwise. Then I might replay it in my head afterwards. Have I said something wrong? Maybe I’ve upset them? It’s like I don’t have full control over how to manage conversations – or at least my part in them.

And all this can make me feel unsure of myself and doubt myself.

APD makes me feel excluded from the world sometimes, heavily compounded by my hearing impairment. In fact, I don’t know which is worse! It’s like they’re both teaming up on me.

And then…when it’s at its worst, when I’m a bit stressed out in general or nervous (it might just be that I know I have to talk in a big group of people I don’t know), in that moment, nothing goes in. Words dissolve into each other. My head goes mushy and cloudy, like muddy water. There’s too much blood pumping in and out. It starts to throb and swell till it feels twice its size and detached from my body, like it’s about to explode. I feel like I’m trapped inside it. It tingles like it’s made of electricity. I get ringing in my ears. I can’t think straight. And then I miss what people say. Their words are slippery like tea, I can’t hold onto them. They go in my ears, but then get scrambled by my brain. One big tangle. ‘Sorry what?’ I swallow as anxiety fizzes. I nod and smile and fill in the gaps, I read their faces, their bodies, I try to work it out. But it tires me. I have to concentrate so hard that I then zone out. I don’t understand anything anymore. It just becomes noise. Words are words with no meaning, bouncing around an echo chamber in my brain.

All my senses have had enough then. Too much light, too much colour, too many people. Everything’s a blur. Sometimes, when there’s too much happening, I feel like I don’t have a clue what’s going on around me. I’m stressed. My heart rate rises. Sometimes, I say the wrong thing. I make a joke. I try to mask it. Bury it deep down. But that just makes me want to cry. I try really really hard but sometimes, in the end, I just retreat inside myself.

Somehow, I seem to manage. Years of practice and finding strategies around things. But also, I’m massively masking. Faking. I’m cool. Just a bit ‘quirky.’

And that leaves me exhausted. I need a lie down.

Then add to that any problems or stresses in life, plus tiredness (and, as a single, working, studying mum, I am always tired!), which really aggravate it because your concentration levels and understanding are the first things to go.

And the thing is you probably have no idea by looking at me that any of this is happening in my head, apart from a few little quirks or ‘endearing’ – or annoying – habits. It’s such a hidden disorder and we get so good at hiding it. I am still learning about my own brain.

Somebody with APD once described her ability to read body language as a superpower. We rely so heavily on reading every gesture, movement, and facial expression in order to get clues as to what someone is talking about (so online meetings are a nightmare for me but hey, we’re in 2023, I’d better get used to it!). While it is hard to read certain situations and understand verbal clues, my perceptive abilities are often in overdrive. My empathy is in overdrive. And sometimes this is too much. It makes me oversensitive, too atuned to the little things, to the energy in a room, to the signals someone is giving off. And this has its own set of problems…

And I wonder how much APD has played a part in all the broken relationships I have had in my life…

I’m sorry.

  1. APD has a lot of crossovers with dyslexia and autism. They say that all autistic people have APD and a lot of people with APD are autistic, but not all. But there are some shared characteristics. And with regards to dyslexia, I have no problem reading or writing, but my brain might work in a similar way.

To find out more about Shuna check out www.squarecirclearts.co.uk

A picture of a megaphone to illustrate external processing

External processing and neurodiversity

External processing is a cognitive style where people learn and process information by interacting with the world. This can include things like talking to people, doing hands-on activities, or using visual aids. People who use external processing often learn best by “doing” and may find it challenging to learn in traditional settings.

External processing is sometimes associated with neurodiversity, which refers to the natural variations in human cognition.

There are many benefits to external processing. External processors are often creative and innovative thinkers. They can also be good at problem-solving, critical thinking, and effectively communicating and working with others.

However, some challenges are associated with external processing and neurodiversity, as sensory input sometimes overwhelms individuals. They may also need help to focus on tasks that require them to sit still for long periods. More challenges can arise if this is combined with difficulty understanding social cues and nonverbal communication.

If you are a manager or leader, there are a few things you can do to help people who are neurodivergent external processors to succeed in your organisation.

First,

Ensure your workplace is sensory-friendly by providing a quiet space for focused work.

It also means providing access to fidget toys or other tools to help them focus.

Second,

Provide opportunities for people to learn and work hands-on. This could involve projects requiring them to use tools or materials or having them work in teams where they can collaborate.

Third,

Be patient and understanding. Work with the individual and ask what is useful.

 

By understanding the benefits and challenges of external processing, you can create a workplace where everyone can thrive.

If you’re a manager or leader, you can help people who process information externally by creating a supportive environment. By understanding the needs of these individuals and providing them with the right tools and resources, you can help them reach their full potential.

Leaders and managers, are you looking for ways to create a more inclusive and supportive workplace for your neurodivergent employees? If so, consider contacting me at The Neurodivergent Coach.

We can help you understand the needs of your neurodivergent employees and how to create a welcoming and supportive workplace. We support you in developing strategies for managing employees who process information differently, including externally.

Here are some of the benefits of working with The Neurodivergent Coach:

  • Increased understanding of neurodiversity: The Neurodivergent Coach can help you understand how neurodivergent people think, learn, and process information. This understanding can help create a more inclusive and supportive workplace for your employees.
  • Improved communication: The Neurodivergent Coach can help you improve your communication with your neurodivergent employees and colleagues. This can help you better understand their needs and how to partner with them to support them to succeed.
  • Increased effectiveness: The Neurodivergent Coach can help you partner with your neurodivergent employees to help them increase their effectiveness. This is about providing the right tools and resources and creating a welcoming and supportive workplace.

If you want to learn more about how The Neurodivergent Coach can help you create a more inclusive and supportive workplace, please get in touch with us today.

We’d be happy to discuss what you need and if we are the best partner to help you move forwards.

Contact us here and start the conversation.

dyslexic

How does a dyslexic person fit in at work?

Have you ever stopped to think about who you are and what you are doing? It’s a big question!

I now identify as being neurodivergent and dyslexic (along with a few other traits), but this wasn’t always the case.

I have worked across several different professions including sales, marketing, business development, technology, and fundraising. What I have recognised over this time is that you are not the job you do, but instead the skills, experience, and attitude that you bring to that job. This can mean you can perform well in many different roles, bringing new and more effective approaches to age-old problems.

There is a flip side. Sometimes it can be hard to fit in, understand alien processes and feel that you are not accepted as part of the organisation you are working for. You may have felt like this at certain points in your life, but for some individuals, this is an everyday occurrence and something that stands in the way of them progressing at work. This is something that I experienced first-hand. Not being able to work effectively, struggling with my short-term memory and ability to process information and as a result not being able to perform effectively at work.

What does a dyslexic diagnosis mean?

Getting a dyslexic diagnosis helped me understand some of my points of frustration including how I thought. I recognised that some of the things that were difficult are to do with how my brain works. For example, thinking big, having big ideas and thinking outside the box are strengths of mine, but areas of difficulty include getting these ideas down on paper and remembering them. This doesn’t mean I don’t have a lot to say, and it doesn’t mean that I can’t actually put it down on paper, it just means the process is really difficult and as a result is something that I have avoided for a long time.

Workplace needs assessment

After diagnosis, I was assessed by a workplace needs consultant who took the time to understand how my job worked and what help I might need. This resulted in a number of recommendations including strategy coaching and various pieces of assistive technology. With associated training, it enabled me to manage some of the things I found more difficult far more effectively and to amplify my strengths. After being through this experience I recognised that this is something I wanted to help others with, bringing not only the skills I had gained in coaching and training but also adding on top my real-world commercial experience.

So ‘The Neurodivergent Coach’ was born, an organisation designed to help individuals and organisations amplify strengths and manage difficulties so that neurodivergent people can be the assets that they were always meant to be. We offer support around coaching, technology training and workplace assessment. What is important in all this is that it is focused on the individual and their needs so that they can develop and be effective at work.

If this is something that has impacted you or one of your team, you might like to know that there are several different ways that you can get help.  Please drop me a line. It would be great to talk further.