I would like to welcome to my blog, my good friend and fellow writer's group member, Verity Guiton.
Writing is sometimes like jumping into a cold pool of water. Often you can sit on the sidelines and watch people make leaps and bounds; creating a splash when they enter into it. However, some of us hesitate, as we make predictions about how cold the water will be. No matter our passion, or our love of the craft, we insist on returning to the scene by cautiously dipping our toes in first. But as our wonderful writers group recently discovered, while gesturing excitedly on the edge of our seats, there comes a time where you look fear in the eye and say, “Enough is enough!”
This excitement was recently sparked and enlightened by an interview. The interviewee is a teacher, a book critic for the Age and a self-published author. She is my Aunt; Juliette Hughes.
We sat around a coffee table in Ester’s living room. The Skype line had fizzed and the battery to my iPad was about to die. However, this was an interview we were determined to have! So, we put Juliette on speaker phone and got down to business.
I started by asking Juliette a question, which I felt (as a toe dipper myself) I had to know in order to take the first plunge. “What do you feel is the most effective way to make lasting connections?” I asked.
Beginning with a quote from Winston Churchill, Juliette simply stated “Never give up”. Looking round at the rest of the group, it was apparent that this was what we all wanted to hear.
Juliette also said we needed “…a bottom like a Rhinoceros!”; in other words, a tough hide and thick skin. She followed up saying “…believe in your right to write” and with a virtual hand, passed us the website www.litrejections.com. This is an affirming page for writers that details the publishing journey of ‘literacy royals’, so to speak; such as Dr. Seuss, JR Tolkien and Jane Austin. It illustrates the number of rejections they each received by publishes. J.K Rowling, for instance, was rejected twelve times before being scooped up and handed to the masses.
Feeling a sense of hope in Juliette’s answer, I handed the phone over to Jacqui. Her thirsty question, as a full-time teacher, wife, mother and writer, was “How do you meet your writing quotas?”
We heard a rustle and a murmur in the background, which I recognised immediately. It was my Uncle Rick, who (as a teacher and artist/musician himself) provided the useful and practical advice of having a nap after work. Juliette explained that every author writes differently.
The late Terry Pratchett, who Juliette interviewed many times over, said he didn’t believe in office hours. He just “…let (the story) take him”. Austin was a similar case and didn’t even require privacy to write. Whenever words came, she stuck them to paper with her pen. Anthony Trollope on the other hand would get up at 4am every day and write for a specified time. All in all, as Juliette stated “Whatever you prioritise, you will do”.
Ester’s turn next and, dealing with the struggles of character development, she asked “How do you keep characters consistent when you also need them to grow from what they’ve learned and experienced in the story?”
A somewhat more conceptual answer was given to Ester, as Juliette explained that sometimes you need to look within yourself. According to Juliette, “Even when you’re writing about other people, you’re viewing them through a lens that is your own (so, it’s still an aspect of you!)”. She told us that characters often write themselves and, if your characters are changing, let them change. She said to coin your own words, like Shakespeare and to let yourselves in as much possible.
Juliette allowed us a sneak peek at her own novel, which she believes will be ready by September. It has layers of the spiritual realm all through it and puts a harsh light on the shocking realities of the world – ones we normally turn our faces from. However, an apparent sense of hope, and a desire to do what’s right what bleeds through. Her main character is based on her late and much beloved dog Peppy. She described his character in the novel as a kind of ‘Mary-Sue’. The difference being that this ‘Mary-Sue’ was born from cold and cruel origins. Juliette said her other works have been fun, interesting and (above all) exciting. But this novel, she informed us, “…this is my heart”.
Last, but certainly not least, was Megan’s question. She wanted to know about Juliette’s writing journey.
Juliette explained that sometimes you find inspiration where you least expect it. Listening to Dianna Ross, for instance, helped her realise she could teach ‘white’ girls how to combine their chest voice and head voice. Juliette directed us to the ‘artist pages’ website, and recommended the Dr Clarissa Pinkola Estés book ‘Women who run with Wolves’. She also said writing pages of absolute rubbish helps you get into the creative zone. This lead her to Stephen King’s repetitions of a mad man in ‘The Shining’, where Jack Torrance famously scribbles down “All work and no play…”. She said this is actually a very useful exercise.
Juliette explained writers need ‘know-hows’ and encouragement. “…like pregnancy” she said “…sometimes you need help getting the baby out” (to which Ester replied “…a literacy laxative”). Juliette concluded her answer by advising “…if you want to write, don’t wait for permission”.
Megan shared her own writing journey and expressed that, “One day I decided, this is what I am. This is what I want to be known as. I am a writer and I’m going to be discovered”. Juliette (clearly impressed) answered by saying “Well, God bless you!”
In the last moments of our conversation, we shared advice, personal philosophies and spiritual awakenings. The water was looking a little less chilly and we were feeling better about diving into the publisher’s pool. Juliette left us with one last piece of important advice. “Publishers want to pitch you as a genre, so know who you are as a writer and pick your genre”.
Drawing on everything we discussed one thing stood out to us all; believe in yourself as a writer and make sure to write the novel of your heart.
Juliette’s foremost passion (above anything else) is her family. A very close second is music and she leads the choir at St. Carthages Church, Parkville, Melbourne.
For years, Juliette was the Assistant Co-editor for Champagnat Magazine, and through Garratt Publishing, she wrote a series of poems and short stories for primary school and high school students.
Juliette’s self-published book was “… just for fun”, as she put it, and with a hint of cheekiness to her voice added it’s her answer to ’50 Shades of Grey’. In fact, it was only rejected by ‘Mills and Boons’ after she explained to them she wished to stick to her own formula.
It’s called ‘The Music Within’ (under the pen name Fae Clifton) and you can find it on Amazon.
Thanks Verity for setting up this interview and for writing this blog post. And thank you Juliette for making yourself available to answer questions of our writer's group. It was a fun, and inspiring afternoon.
If you, dear reader, have been inspired even just a bit, please feel free to share.
In 1992, Asperger’s wasn’t even recognised. It wasn’t until 1994 that it became a recognised disorder. Due to this, it was not widely known. Consequently, many people were not diagnosed and did not receive the help that they needed early in their life. Some, like my son, with High Functioning Asperger’s, slipped through the cracks.
My eldest, Brandon, was diagnosed with High Functioning Asperger’s Syndrome at seventeen. Bright, clever, he would chat to anyone. I remember having proper conversations with him at two. He could recite his ABC’s and count to ten. He was a sponge, soaking up information all the time. At five he had moved from picture books to encyclopedias and exploring space via the Space Hubble Telescope (his favourite book at the time), and we were conducting science experiments in the kitchen. The closest thing we got to a story book was The Magic School Bus series.
He was always running off and exploring. I taught him to say his name, address and phone number, just in case he did become lost and I couldn’t find him. Luckily I did.
As a toddler I had to be careful what I said to him. One time on a walk he asked what a sign we passed meant. It was a Safe House sign. I told him that if he ever got lost, that he should find a house with that sign, tell them his name and his address, and they would bring him home. The very next day he went outside to play while I got the washed clothes out of the machine and into the basket to take them outside to hang up. The next thing I know there is a knock at the front door. A man was standing there with my two year old son in his arms. It was the guy from the Safe House.
“Is this boy yours?”
I was dumbfounded. My heart was in my mouth. I was only a couple of minutes and he had climbed the fence, and run around the corner to the Safe House. Even now, twenty years on, I can remember the surprise of the man, that this little kid actually knew his name, address and phone number. And that he found the safe house all by himself. As for me, I can still remember freaking out inside, yet smiling and thanking the man for bringing Brandon safely home.
I learnt early on, that yelling never worked. I asked Brandon why he had climbed the fence. He said that he wanted to see if what I told him the day before worked. Now he knew that it did, he wouldn't do it again. Looking back, this showed me early on what Brandon was, and is like.
I learnt from then on to place boundaries. I had to make sure that I encompassed the entire area, or he would just keep going. He would take things literally.
As I didn’t have anything to do with other children before having my son, and only briefly at playgroup and kindergarten, I didn’t know what was considered ‘normal behaviour.’ Except of course, if it was misbehaviour.
It was when he started school we really noticed the difference in his behaviour compared to other children's. Often, of course, this was brought to my attention by teachers... and my son.
“Why can I talk to the grade six’s and not kids my age?” Would be one thing Brandon would ask.
From six his nickname was “The Professor,” because he knew so many facts about subjects his peers didn't know or were even thinking of... like space.
Brandon is now twenty three years old. He completed year ten at school and was unable to go further due to suffering crippling anxiety and panic attacks. He is intelligent and very articulate. He can focus for hours and learn new things. He moved out of home when he was eighteen and a half. He is living with his girlfriend of nearly two years. He has recently started his own YouTube Channel (more about that later), and he loves to cook.
Children with Asperger syndrome
“Children with Asperger syndrome will have many behaviours that are similar to those seen in children with autism. However, those with Asperger syndrome will have no history of language delay, have better fundamental language skills and will generally be of average to above-average intelligence.”
People with Asperger syndrome may experience:
What were some of your struggles when you started primary school?
It is often said that people say that people with Asperger's feel alien. Sometimes this is due to seeing their differences. I certainly did. Kids my age (five and up) and often older, would act differently to me. Feeling alien to me didn't go so far as the way the acted differently to me. Often times due to the way I acted or spoke, I wouldn't be accepted into social groups or have any friends.
Even teachers were guilty of this. I would finish my work quickly and then sit there bored. Usually this would lead to me disrupt and distract others and this would lead to me getting into trouble.
What are some of the things that helped you at primary school?
There were some teachers that recognised that I was a bit more advanced then my peers and would find further work for me to do. My prep teacher was good like that.
My years 4, 5 and 6 teachers were good like that too. My year 4 teacher recognised my love of science and recognised my capacity to understand and that I wanted to find out about the world and put into his teaching a lot of science. Which was great for me. He also got me into a holiday extension program as well. My passion for science and research and finding out how things work has kept with me until this day.
What were your greatest challenges at primary school?
People. People have always been my greatest challenge. I don't understand them. Others just understood eye contact and other social norms. I never got it. So I usually ended up offending them. So sometimes I ended up getting punched in the face. 'Boys will be boys,' were the usual comments from teachers at the time. Or I’d get into trouble for bugging the other kids by doing annoying things to them. They would get really mad and I wouldn’t understand why.
Was high school more difficult than primary school? If so, in what ways?
Puberty set in. This created some difficulties. Young guys generally are bad at talking to girls. Couple that with someone who can't understand people in general. Bad things will happen... or hilarity. Depends on your point of view. Me. I was mortified. Everyone else laughed. I was the running class joke.
School work got more difficult. The work wasn't the issue. It was fact that I have poor time management skills and time pressure of assignments. And the fact that I was so different from everyone. And as humans, being the way they are, anything different needs to be bullied.
How did it make you feel when you were at school and you knew that some things just went right over your head?
It made me feel stupid. I could understand maths, science and physics, my favourite subjects. But when it came to people... I could never figure them out.
What are some of the things that teachers did that helped you at high school?
In high school I didn't have teachers that helped. Class sizes were too big for them to worry about organising extra work for one student. As usual, I'd finish my work quickly and end up disrupting the class again.
It wasn't until I reached year eleven, that I couldn't cope with school anymore. I ended up pulling out after only a few weeks. My anxiety was getting really bad. I was getting panic attacks regularly. The crowds at school and on the bus would freak me out. I felt exhausted. The next year I went to a new school to try year 11 again. It was here, within six weeks, that the learning coordinator suggested that I may have Asperger's and I went to get diagnosed.
That school was really helpful. I could get out of class earlier so that I could get to my next class before the halls got full. They gave me extra work. It challenged me. There were a lot of people there with Asperger’s, so the teacher and learning support team were very understanding. The only reason I ended up not being able to finish was that, because I didn’t get the help I needed earlier on, my anxiety levels were through the roof and I couldn’t cope with school anymore.
So you went to get diagnosed. What book did the psychologist, who was doing the testing, give you to read in the waiting room?
All Cats Have Asperger's by Kathy Hoopmann, a children's picture book.
What did you think of it at first, and then after you had read it?
I felt insulted, funnily enough. But I read it and identified that everything in it made sense. Every word that dripped off the page said, 'This is me. I am a cat.'
I don’t like change. I like routine. I feel like I don’t fit in anywhere. I like to be myself, or in very small groups, and I don’t like crowds. I hate loud noises and bright lights.
How did you feel after being diagnosed?
Initially I was very unsure. The world hadn't changed. I hadn't changed. I just had a name for the way I am. I did take advantage of it (having Asperger's) for a while. But I learnt that it was not going to work. I had to change my behaviour.
After a while I came to realise that it was an explanation for the reason I am the way I am, and why I am so different from most other people. It helped me understand myself and I also found out what the different behaviours etc. that I had to learn.
So that answers my next question. Were you ever bullied at school?
Oh yeah! I have the scars and mended broken bones to prove it.
Did you tell anyone about what was happening?
No, I didn't. I took everything literally. For example, if someone said, 'If you tell anyone, I will kill you." So I would not tell anyone as I did not want to die. I really did think that he was going to kill me.
What has been the ongoing effects of what you went through?
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). If there are certain sensations on my skin, I can't speak. If someone gives me a playful tap on the shoulder for instance, it will cause me to have flashbacks of getting punched. I have to tell myself that the person didn't mean it. Other things are my ribs still hurt and my shoulder, I lost count the amount of times I got punched and kicked over the years at school.
Do you understand what people are talking about, especially when it comes to jokes and interpreting facial expression?
I've had to work at it. I've had to learn what facial expression goes with their reaction and emotions or how to react to body language and tone of voice. Then I've had to learn what to do in various circumstances when the person doesn't act the way that fits in with those parameters... but usually I just avoid those sort of people.
You have tried to complete further education since leaving school but have been unsuccessful. What, specifically, have been the main issues that have hindered you from completing these courses?
I tried two courses online. I need a physical classroom to go to during a specific time, with a teacher that understands my needs. I need routine. I also need a small classroom and not to many people. It needs to be fairly quiet. Even just the rest of the environment needs to be not crowded. So no crowded hallways.
I used to make a joke that was true though at the time. The ideal school would be one where there are no other kids. Just routine, structure, quiet.
You have been through periods of depression and having suicidal thoughts since you were fifteen. You are now 23 years old. What have kept you going through each dark patch?
The support of the people around me. It kept me going, and reminding me that I am loved and that I have a lot to offer. I got the professional help that I needed as well.
Can you share an experience that shows how having Asperger’s affects you in everyday life?
I could be walking through a Shopping Center. I look at everything and everyone. I get overwhelmed by the details I see. It's because I notice everything and I can't switch it off.
What were some of your favourite books when you were a child?
The Hubble Space Telescope, and the Artemis Fowl series – which is still my favourite - as it was interesting world that Eoin Colfer created.
What would you tell your ten year old self?
People are not as scary, complex or daunting as they may seem. They have patterns the same as you do.
Some parents are concerned about having their child labelled-Whether it may be with Asperger's, A.D.D., Dyslexia etc. What would you say to them?
If there is sufficient reason to say how they act is within the symptoms of those disorders, it can be very helpful for them (the child) to know why they act the way that they do, and why their brain is the way it is. They will also be able to have better access to the most appropriate help that they need. This will help them in the long run so that they can learn way earlier than I did, how to cope with situations, and also what their needs are and how to help them to prepare for social situations, school, work, and adulthood. It helps parents, the school, teachers, and employers as well.
What, would you say, are your strengths?
I can research the daylights out of a subject. The other thing is the ability to focus on a single task for hours, as long as I have proper guidelines in place.
What do you enjoy doing now?
Same thing that I have enjoyed for a lot of years... with a twist. As an avid gamer and lover of space, I play a game called Elite: Dangerous and I film while I'm playing and I give commentary as well.
If you want to, you can check it out on my YouTube Channel – Outer Rim Colonists. (Warning: M rating)
Update: February 2017. Brandon has enrolled in a TAFE course in Mechanics, and he is undertaking work placement in a local mechanics workshop.
Three fun facts:
Growing up I wanted to be a pilot.
I have three piercings – eyebrow and ear.
I have always had a fascination with dragons.
I hope that Brandon sharing his story with you has shed some light on what it is like living with Asperger's. Please just remember that this is his story. Everyone on the Autism Spectrum is different, with their own unique set of symptoms.
Feel free to share your stories, comment or contact me via email.
For further information please check out the Tony Attwood website. Professor Tony Attwood is a clinical psychologist known world wide for his knowledge of Aspergers Syndrome.
Recently, on Facebook and Twitter, I started seeing photos of little free libraries, hanging off fences, sitting on poles in parks and next to bus stops and train stations. Some were elaborate - Hobbit holes, cats, and boats, houses, trees, and even a Dr Who Tardis. Others were simple - re-purposed cupboards, large letter boxes, and even CD cabinets.
Now, if you are around me long enough, you will quickly realise that I love books and reading. I do what I can to promote reading in children - I was an International Read to Me! Day Advocate in March, and ended up reading to my friends children that day. I think that having little free libraries like this, will go a long way in promoting reading for fun.
I have friends that are teachers. They have told me that there are children that do not even own a book, and their parents/caregivers don’t take them to the library. To me, I could not imagine my childhood without books. To never find that magic book that takes you away to another place, another time - to be lost on adventure in the outback, or heading to Mordor with Frodo and Sam and the One Ring, or learning about how to tie knots, or the care of a horse, or checking out the adventures of the Space Hubble Telescope, or learning about dinosaurs. Unthinkable! Yet it is a reality of so many children, and adults.
I heard of one story of a boy that always found reading boring, until he found a book in a Little Free Library that interested him. How fantastic is that! Woohoo! I love stories like that. That gets me excited. Seeing children finding a book they love and wanting it read one hundred times. I love hearing about stories how a child, who found reading boring or difficult, found a book that they feel in love with and wanted to read it all the time.
I had considered putting one of these libraries out the front of my place as I live right across the road from a primary school. Sadly, many things get vandalized in the area so that had put me off and I was considering other options. I was so excited when my daughter told me that she had spotted a Little Free Library in the center of town near a Pop-up Park.
On a mild April Saturday morning, I drove down to the Pop-up Park with my daughter, a friend, and my dog Toby in tow. To the sound of African drumming in the background I discovered this little wonder. I was so excited and amazed that in our rural town, someone had already gotten on board with this idea. It was so wonderful to find this gem in my town.
Speaking later on Facebook to the person responsible for placing it there, they said that "it was originally on my fence. But, when the Pop-up Park started, I decided to put it in town near the Pop-up Park instead. It was more accessible to more people."
Let’s hope that the momentum keeps growing and we will begin to see these little treasures popping up like mushrooms after rain everywhere.
Please check out Little Free Libraries Australia on Facebook or on their website, Little Free Library.
Dyslexia is a broad term that is used to describe a variety of learning issues.
Simply put, Dyslexia is difficulty with words. Expressive Learning Disorder (ELD) and Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) are just two disorders that overlap with Dyslexia.
I have two, now adult, children. I was a stay at home mum. I spent heaps of time with my children. I read to them from the day they were born, and spoke with them all the time. But, they were so very different.
My eldest, Brandon, was diagnosed with High Functioning Asperger’s at 17. Bright, clever, he would chat to anyone. I remember having proper conversations with him at two. He could recite his ABC’s and count to ten. He was a sponge, soaking up information all the time. At five he had moved from picture books to encyclopedias and we were conducting science experiments. The closest thing we got to a story book was The Magic School Bus series. Why the Asperger’s diagnosis? That I discuss here.
My daughter was very different. Ashlyn was very quiet. She loved books and looking at the pictures. We would make up stories with her toys. Yet, my daughter was delayed in her speech. At four, Ashlyn still spoke in phrases - not in complete sentences. For example, she would say things like, “Me go outside.” She would struggle with common day to day language, and she was unable to pronounce many words. I am not saying that she was not bright, clever and inquisitive. She was, and is, all these things. It was just hard for her to express herself with words.
When she was four, doctor’s finally listened and she went to speech therapy for Delayed Speech Disorder. We had a lot of work to do in one year to get her ready for school. After a year of hard work with the speech therapist, Ashlyn did it… she was ready for school.
However, by the time she got to high school she was struggling with her school work and falling further and further behind. In year 7, she was diagnosed with Expressive Language Disorder and Auditory Processing disorder.
At 20, just about to turn 21, Ashlyn is bright and articulate. She loves learning languages, as well as the history and culture of various countries. She loves anime and often watches it in Japanese with English subtitles. She also is a massive fan of Dr Who, Star Trek and Star Gate: SG1 and Atlantis . She can make the most amazing plushies (soft toys) and has a funny sense of humour. Ashlyn also has Dyslexia. More specifically, Expressive Language Disorder and Auditory Processing disorder.
What is Dyslexia?
“The word dyslexia comes from the Greek language and means difficulty with words. Individuals with dyslexia have trouble with reading and spelling despite having the ability to learn. Individuals with dyslexia can learn, they just learn in a different way. Often these individuals, who have talented and productive minds, are said to have a language learning difference.”
Expressive Learning Disorder (ELD): Expressive language disorder means a child has difficulty conveying or expressing information in speech, writing, sign language or gesture.
Auditory Processing Disorder (APD): an umbrella term for a variety of disorders that result in a breakdown in the hearing process. In short, our brain cannot make sense of what our ears hear because the auditory signal is distorted in some way. As a result, one of the biggest problems experienced by individuals with CAPD is difficulty listening in background noise.
What were some of your struggles when you started primary school?
Talking to people and understanding what teacher’s wanted of me, and understanding of what or how to ask questions to get the help I needed. That was the main struggle, and expressing how I felt.
Reading was really hard. I didn’t know how to spell the words. Especially learning the silent letters. Sometimes the words were too close together and I couldn’t understand what was being said in the book. It was my comprehension of the written word that was a big struggle too.
What are some of the things that helped you at primary school?
You helped a lot. Reading to me and helping me with my homework, and going over the days work with me until I could understand it. Keeping at it and not giving up until the information just sunk in and I could comprehend it.
What were your greatest challenges?
Keeping up with everyone else was really hard. Everyone else seemed to pick things up so easy. I had to try so hard, so I felt stupid, even though I knew wasn’t.
The other thing was that I would mishear the teacher and not pick up what the teacher was saying. I would just sit there confused and then get into trouble for not doing the work.
In what ways was high school was harder?
There was a lot more work, and harder work. The teacher seemed to speak really fast as well, and because of that I couldn’t hear what they were saying and would get distracted and stare out the window. I fell far behind, especially in maths, because of that.
I also found that the class sizes were bigger so there was more noise and I couldn’t hear the teacher properly, or concentrate on the work. I just needed quiet then I was alright.
You have said to me in the past that sometimes people don’t listen to you. How did it make you feel when children and teachers did not listen to you?
It made feel insignificant and like I didn’t matter. I needed help and it seemed like they just did not care or understand my situation, or they couldn't even bother to find out.
What are some of the things that teachers did that helped?
Can you give me an example of the last one?
My Year 10 English teacher. We did a monthly book reading where we had to read the book then go in the front of the class and tell the class what it was about and we thought about it. I was always uncomfortable talking in front of groups. All my other teachers never pushed me and let me talk in front of five people, not the whole class. Mrs Bundy insisted that I do the talk in front of everyone. “You can do it, I know you can.”
And I did do it. It made me feel better about myself. I found out that I can do more than I give myself credit for. I thanked her for it as well. I thank her again, now, because if she had not pushed me at the time, I would not have found that I can do so much more than I think. I am grateful that she did not give up on me.
What were your favourite subjects at school?
Art, science, history and geography and textiles. Textiles sparked my love of plushy making. And year 10 maths because it was fun. The teacher, Tatiana, made maths fun and easy to understand. I finally caught up because of her. Even if she did put in a few Russian letters in here and there. She even spent some lunch times teaching me Russian, just because I love learning languages.
You completed three subjects by Distance Education in your final year. Year 12 History – Revolutions, as well as Japanese (Year 7) and German (year 11). How did you accomplish this? What helped?
I was really passionate about these subjects. I spent a lot of time writing it out. The languages, I practiced speaking it every chance I got.
With the History I got a lot of help from you. The work book was quite thick and intimidating for me. You would highlight the most important information, and indicate the pages where the answers were. This helped and I did not feel so overwhelmed.
An Anime show 'Hetalia' really helped with History. It's really good as it talked about history in a fun and engaging way. It was fun way to pick up the history of each country.
Can you share an experience that shows how having Expressive Language Disorder affects you in everyday life?
Often it is trying to think of the right words to say to describe the situation, or the thing. Hmm. I keep using 'the thing' to describe objects etc. For example, “Do you want the thing for thing?” When I am trying to say, “Do you want chicken for dinner.”
It does not stop me speaking. It just means that I have to stop and think and work out what I am trying to say before I speak. It also makes things interesting.
Describe one funny incident that you can remember from high school, that shows why you needed directions from the teacher, written down, due to your Auditory Processing Disorder?
Once in year 10 maths, the teacher wanted the homework that she had set due by the 6th of June. After class I went up to her and asked, “Did you say ‘Due 6th of June,’ or ‘Marinate six moons’?” She and a friend of mine had a bit of a giggle, but she said that it was due the 6th of June. From that point she wrote due dates on the board, and gave out handouts. That was funny.
“Did you say ‘Due 6th of June,’ or ‘Marinate six moons’?”
Do you still have reading comprehension issues now?
Sometimes. Sometimes what I read does not make sense and I have to ask for clarification.
How has that affected you in the courses that you have done in the last two years since leaving school?
It did cause a struggle. I did not know what some of the work meant. This meant that I needed more help from my Cert 3 and 4 Tourism teacher, Adele. She was more than happy to help me and wanted me to do the best that I could.
In my Cert 2 in Retail that I did last year, it was hell. It was online. It was the way the system was set up. It was not friendly. Well, not to me anyway. You had to help me a lot, explaining things and helping me to find information.
Does having Auditory Processing Disorder limit your job opportunities? If so, how?
In some sense it does. Working in fast food is one place I definitely can’t go into. This is because I can’t pick up what people are saying because the environment is very noisy. I would miss what people were saying and get the words confused with other people's words.
What would you tell your ten year old self?
Never give up even if the road ahead might be rough. Persevere and you can achieve many great things.
What do you enjoy doing now?
I love learning new languages. I teach myself from books. Mostly German and Japanese and I can speak quite a bit of it. I also love making soft toys, also known as plushies. I love writing stories and drawing as well as learning about animals and the world around me.
I used to struggle reading books a lot. Now I can read big thick books, as long the story is good.
Three fun facts:
* I can say ‘I love you,’ in 22 languages (and the list is growing) including Klingon, Vulcan, Romulen, Elvish, German, Japanese, Swedish, Czech, Russian and French.
* I made an eight foot squid and it’s my largest plush that I have made.
* I own a Bearded Dragon named Garrick, named after a Star Trek: Deep Space Nine character, and a two year old fluffy black cat named Ezri who mews like a kitten.
I hope that Ashlyn sharing her story will help someone out there to not give up. Seeking help, and with the proper interventions, and hard work, reading need not always be a burden and you can learn strategies to live with Dyslexia, ELD and APD, and thrive.
Liz Dunoon from Dyslexia Daily has some great resources. Feel free to check them out.
Barrington Stoke books are specifically created for reluctant readers or those with dyslexia. I own two books. A picture book and one for ages 10 plus. The books are printed on cream paper and it is printed in a special font created for those with Dyslexia. The picture books have plenty of white space around the words so nothing is distracting. All these elements make such a difference to the enjoyment of a book.
And if you live in the Latrobe Valley in Gippsland, Victoria, Australia, Reader's Emporium stoke a great range of the Barrington Stoke Books, as well a range of audio books.
Feel free to share your stories or contact me via email.
21st October 2016 update: Ashlyn has applied to go to University next year to first do a bridging course to prepare her for Uni, then go into a Bachelor of Science specializing in Veterinary and Wildlife Science.
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You can find more about me, and read my children's stories at Creative Kids Tales
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