I have APD.
I've always known something was a little off from the time I was in elementary school, but back in those days, research was just getting started and no one really knew what APD was. No, my brand of APD isn't Acid Peptic Disease (though that's another APD), it's not a respiratory disorder (that's COPD), and it's not the behavioral disorder (OCD) though it can certainly affect my behavior, and it has been, as I mentioned, life-altering.
APD is Auditory Processing Disorder, and for this author, it's always been a pretty major impediment in doing what authors generally need to do. This disorder affects an average of 5% of school-aged to adult people (some sources say as high as 10%), has no cure, and is usually related to genetics, chronic ear infections, or an injury to the central nervous system. In my case, I either inherited the genes, or it was due to severe ear infections I had when I was a threebie, or it's due to a fall I took from a horse when I was eight that caused other mild injuries. I suspect it's genetic, because I can't remember a time I didn't have the symptoms.
- Symptoms include difficulty understanding speech in noisy environments, following directions, and distinguishing between similar sounds.
It has nothing to do with intelligence, but it has everything to do with the ability to process sound.
How APD Affects Me
If I'd had a severe case, I never could have become an author. I wouldn't have been able to effectively express myself, verbally or non-verbally. But I was pretty much an honor student all through school (if you don't count Chemistry or Advanced Math -- ack!) and into college, where I maintained a 4.0 average. But that's because most learning situations involved a teacher or instructor speaking to a quiet class or my reading information from textbooks. No problemo there! It's only when we did group exercises, with several people talking at once, that I really struggled.
And there's where, early on in school, one perceptive teacher zeroed in on a possible issue with me. She could tell I wasn't "catching on" in group situations.
A battery of hearing tests was recommended. I took them. The outcome? Perfect hearing. Perfect. Full range, exceptionally acute hearing. I had no issues with being "hard of hearing" as it was called in those days, but after one particular test, they caught something. They just didn't know how to explain it. Or what to do about it.
How APD Can Affect an Author
So let me tell you how it's impacted me as an author. Because it has nothing to do with my ability to write, right? Well, that part is true, but it has affected me in other ways. Here's a few examples of how APD can make life difficult. And especially why the thought of attending major writers' events like RWA and RT are beyond intimidating.
There's a Good Reason I Don't...
Join the SFR Author Panels
*Gasps in horror* I avoid panels because, like every author, I want to put on my best face for readers and having to ask someone three or more times to repeat their question because someone in the room coughed, or shuffled papers, or was chatting with their neighbor at the same time the question is asked is both annoying to the person addressing me, and makes me look deaf, at best, and a bit of an idiot, at worst. So, nope. I've never participated in a SFR panel. Curse you, APD!
Participate in the RWA or RT Book Signing Events
No. Just absolutely, positively no. We're talking about a massive room where there are hundreds of authors and possibly thousands of participants...all excitedly squeeing and shouting because they've just met the author of their dreams or a long lost friend. I swear the sound levels at these things get somewhere in the range of 85 decibels. Talk to people about my book? Sure, I can talk about it, I just can't interpret their comments or questions. Or I have to ask them a dozen times to please say that again and...well, see "Join the SFR Author Panels" above. I rarely venture into these cavernous rooms even to buy books, because, while I can hear everything, I just can't understand anything that individuals or authors say when they speak to me. Seriously. It's beyond frustrating.
"Go talk in the bar."
Um...yikes. With scores of other writers, authors and professionals all talking, drinking and laughing in that huge central hotel bar, I'll be lucky to interpret every fifth word that's said, and then, I'll have to concentrate hard to string together enough words to actually follow the drift of the discussion. I may say, "What's that again?" and lean closer. I may have to get up and walk to where the speaker is, asking them to repeat their words several times--like two inches away from my ear--in order to pick enough of their words out of the din to grasp a bit more of what they're saying. Having attended these events with Sharon and Donna, I'm sure they remember me pleading with them to find somewhere quiet where we could talk. Sometimes (New York, I'm looking at you) there just was no "quiet place" to be found. And then I struggled.
I actually love to talk to people--especially other writers--though most people probably wouldn't know that. My favorite places to chat are quiet corridors, hotel lobbies (provided they don't have waterfalls or a lot of traffic), a quiet snack bar, and before, after or between workshops when there's not a huge crowd around. Over drinks in a bar with sane levels of noise? Absolutely. Quiet outdoor courtyard bars, I love you! Echo-y, bustling lobby bars? Forgetaboutit. Some of my favorite RWA National locations are DC and Anaheim. My least favorites are, you guessed it, Orlando and New York.
But even in a quiet setting I sometimes have problems processing what's being said, especially if it involves complex ideas. That's part of APD too, because my brain doesn't always interpret verbal information effectively. You know how there's always that one person who suddenly bursts out in a fit of laughter a minute after everyone else has stopped? Present! * raises hand *
In fact, my behavior, as a result of being "sound-challenged" often strongly resembles another disorder with the same initials -- Avoidant Personality Disorder.
What Can I Do About APD?
Learn to cope. As I mentioned, there's no cure and it's never going away. There are indications that hearing aids might help some people with APD in certain situations. I don't know if my case is one of them, but I'm willing to explore the option.
(As much as it rankles me. A hearing aid? At my age? Oh...wait....yeah. LOL)
Since I can't currently participate in the types of events most authors employ for discoverability and getting their books out there, I'm going to have to brainstorm other avenues. I've got a few ideas. We'll see how things go.
But one of the big reasons I decided to do this little testimony today is for the benefit of millions of others out there (2% - 10% of the population is huge!) who may have some level of APD and just don't realize it. It's for all the Moms and Dads and friends and individuals who recognize my symptoms and realize they know someone who may also be suffering from APD.
Some of the symptoms are:
- Becoming upset by noisy environments
- Becoming easily distracted or bothered by loud noises
- Having difficulty with verbal directions
- Having difficulty following conversations
- Having difficulty with verbal math problems, exercises or explanations
- Having difficulty processing or remembering lists related verbally
Want to see what it's like to have APD? This video is a good example:
Want to take the test given in the video above? Here it is:
Auditory Test (PBS.com Misunderstood Minds)
Tell me how you did in comments.
Granted, this particular exercise might be difficult for anyone to complete, but it gives you a good idea what it's like to have APD.
So there you have it. My confession about my disability. And for full disclosure, now you probably understand why I'm more than a little daunted about the 2018 RWA Nationals. Which I just signed up for.
Ooh yes, I did! *bites fingernails*
Think you may be struggling with APD? Trust me, you're not alone. You can Google "Auditory Processing Disorder" (sometimes also called "Central Auditory Processing Disorder") for more information and search Facebook with the same phrase to look for support groups.
There seems to be a lot of help available to school-age children, so you might want check with your school health official. But if you're an adult who suspects they may have APD, you might want to read this article.
I'm also interested in finding and putting together a support group for authors, to discuss our particular struggles with APD and to talk about our options. If you're interested, please let me know.
A very informative article from Kids Health on Auditory Processing Disorder
Wikipedia: Auditor Processing Disorder
What is Auditory Processing Disorder? from WebMD (where you can livechat with MDs)
Have a great week!