By Annie Henwood (WeCo Public Relations Assistant)

Daisies in a field with blue sky in the background.

“I seldom think about my limitations, and they never make me sad. Perhaps there is just a touch of yearning at times; but it is vague, like a breeze among flowers.” – Helen Keller

I sat at my desk with my eyes focused on my professor’s facial expressions. While other students around me were taking notes or even playing with their phones, I struggled to keep up with the lecture. This professor was a firm believer in lecture-based education. He talked the whole time with very little interaction and almost no writing on the whiteboard. For some, this was a boring, yet effective way of teaching. For others like myself, it was a nightmare.

I have a learning impairment called Auditory Processing Disorder. While there are several different types of this disorder, I know I experience a little of each of them. For example, I struggle to pinpoint important sounds in a noisy environment. Another issue I have is with long and short-term auditory memory. In this case, note taking in lectures and virtual meetings becomes troublesome. It also impairs other functions, such as remembering names or following verbal directions.

In school, I sought accommodations to assist with my learning. The professors gave me extra time on exams, and student volunteers offered to provide a copy of their notes. Without the acceptance I received by professors and students alike, I do not feel my education would have been as beneficial as it was for me. I found that professors started writing on the whiteboard more and used classroom technologies as well to help students, including myself, understand the material better. Auditory processing issues often present themselves as attention deficit disorder, so a range of teaching methods and the increased frequency in written content assisted with maintaining my attention.

In the workplace, I often request task assignments and priority lists be written or typed out for me so that I don’t lose track. Task management systems and other technologies have been very helpful because I’m able to read my responsibilities rather than attempt to recall everything in priority order from memory.

There are several disorders or impairments in existence that present themselves similarly to auditory processing. They include similar symptoms and affects, such as the impact on attention. My advice for getting around these issues is to take advantage of advancing technologies. Mobile productivity applications are great for on-the-go management. On the computer, there are desktop apps and internet programs that can help with task management, note dictation, and more. Some are even free! Others are expensive, but there are usually cheaper alternatives that work just as well, if not better. I would provide specific examples, but there are so many options out there, and I feel there’s no way to judge which ones would work best for others. Some features may be beneficial to some but a distraction or challenge to others.

In the end, yes, I have a disability, and yes, it has affected my life. However, as Helen Keller so profoundly said:
“I seldom think about my limitations, and they never make me sad. Perhaps there is just a touch of yearning at times; but it is vague, like a breeze among flowers.”