The Emotional Impact of a Visual Processing Disorder

April is Autism Acceptance Month. I wrote a post at the beginning of this month about a visual processing disorder called Meares-Irlen Syndrome. This disorder is more common in autistic people, but is also pretty common in the general population. Click here if you want to read that original post. I wanted that post to be full of practical ideas. I hoped that, after reading it, readers felt they could potentially identify behaviours that might suggest they or someone they know has Meares-Irlen Syndrome and what they could do about it. That’s not the whole story though so I wanted to post a second blog about the emotional impact of having Meares-Irlen Syndrome.

The most basic way that Meares-Irlen Syndrome affects a person’s emotional development is by reducing their independence. A lot of the markers of a child’s increasing self help are difficult for people with Meares-Irlen Syndrome. For example, using cutlery is harder. You probably don’t realise it, but, as you move food from your plate to your mouth, this process is monitored by your eyes. If your eyes can’t smoothly track a moving object then they can’t provide your hand with accupexels-photo-1005373.jpegrate feedback about where a fork is in relation to your mouth. This means a lot of stained clothes and, with age, embarrassment about missing your mouth with your food. Crossing a road safely is hard when you can’t visually judge speeds and distances. Riding a bike is difficult when you can’t keep your balance. All these little and big difficulties make it harder to think of yourself as a competent and independent human.

It goes a little deeper than that though. I was talking to a friend and we happened to mention the word “gaslighting”. An extremely astute 9 year old girl was listening to us and asked us what it meant. We explained that it is when someone questions or manipulates your perception and memory so many times that you start to think you are going mad. She coolly replied that it sounded like what people do to her with her sensory processing; “my eyes are so sharp that I can see things that others can’t and then they tell me it is not there.” I thought that was really insightful and sad; and it’s similar if you have Meares-Irlen Syndrome. You perceive the world differently to others: a striped white and black t shirt might cause you to see wavy, rainbow auras in the stripes.

pexels-photo-714698.jpegYou also perceive the world differently to how others expect you to.  In primary school, I was quite verbally clever, but I really wasn’t doing that well at school.  The general consensus was that I was lazy and didn’t concentrate enough.  I started to fulfil my promise suddenly when I moved to secondary school.  I didn’t work out why until I was a teacher myself.  I had a classroom with a whiteboard and a black board next to each other.  I realised that I could read black pen on a white board, but I could not read white chalk on a blackboard at all.  My secondary school had white boards, and my primary school had black boards.  That was the difference in my achievement!  None of my teachers had considered that the gap between my potential and my achievement  due to my perception, not any defects in my personality!

I wonder if having Meares-Irlen Syndrome actually changes your world view.  I couldn’t find any research on this, but it seems plausible that the way you experience the world would impact on how you feel about things.  Someone with Meares-Irlen Syndrome lives in a world, where everything is relative.  Things are not always where you think they are.  Objects, people and animals don’t travel through space in the way you expect.  The world is unpredictable and a difficult place to trust under these circumstances.  I wonder if that extends to how you view people too, and whether people with Meares-Irlen Syndrome are more likely to be anxious and depressed as a result.

I may be taking things too far, but there is the Jesuit saying “Give me a boy until he is 7, and I will show you the man.”  At seven years old, I was clumsy and not really doing that well at school.  I still feel that way, regardless of what I have achieved since.  I can’t help thinking that having Meares-Irlen Syndrome has informed my personality, both my strengths and my weaknesses.

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The Norton Dog, Suffolk, UK

The Norton Dog is a traditional-looking pub in the tiny village of Norton in Suffolk, except it has a slightly less traditional sign outside.

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Yes, that’s right.  The Norton Dog offers a full gluten free menu at lunch and dinner. I chose a Norton Hog Roast – Old Spot Pork Belly, stuffing, apple sauce and crackling served with a gluten free bun and chips.  Oh my, it was good.  The pork belly literally melted in my mouth.  The apple sauce was tart and cut through the unctuousness of the pork.  I would eat it again right now, if I could.

20180410_212359In the name of research, I made room for dessert.  I chose a chocolate brownie served with cherries and ice cream.  It was rich and satisfying, although I sort of wished that I had shared this with my friend instead of ordering one each.  The chocolate was quite “heady”.

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The food was very good for a pub, but it was the little details that really showed the quality.  My friend ordered tea with dessert.  When the tea arrived, it was loose leafed and the milk came in a little churn.  A whimsical detail and the extra effort involved in using loose leaf tea took that from a regular drink to something a little special.

20180410_212453.jpgIn summary, I love where I live, but I wish I lived a little closer to The Norton Dog.  I wonder if they would consider adding a North Essex pub to their portfolio…

What the food is Spirulina?!

I spend a bit, honestly a lot, of time everyday being amazed by food photography on Instagram.  I always want to reach into my screen and take a bite!  I have been wondering how people made food such intense and beautiful blues.  I noticed these photos are often tagged Spirulina or Blue Spirulina.  What the food is Spirulina?!

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Is Spirulina a natural product?

Yes, Spirulina is a generic term for blue-green algae that grow in some salt-water and also fresh-water lakes in Africa and South America.

Why is Spirulina used in food products?

Spirulina is used as a dietary supplement, due to its high levels of protein, vitamins and minerals.  It is also used as a way of adding some really beautiful, natural colours to foods.
Is Spirulina safe to eat?

Spirulina itself is safe to eat, but Spirulina harvested from the natural environment may be contaminated with toxins or heavy metals.  This is further complicated by its status as a dietary supplement, which means it isn’t regulated to the same degree as a food.

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Spirulina should not be eaten by people with Phenylkeptonuria as it is a source of phenylalanine.  If you have a thyroid condition, an autoimmune disorder, gout, kidney stones, or are pregnant or nursing, spirulina may not be appropriate for you. You should check with your healthcare provider before taking it.
Can Spirulina cause allergic reactions?

Potentially, especially in those who are allergic to seafood, seaweed and other sea vegetables.
Is Spirulina vegan?

Spirulina is a cyanobacteria, a blue-green algae, so it is made up of tiny single-celled bacteria.  These bacteria make their food through photosynthesis, just like plants do.  Spirulina is not really an animal or a plant, but seems to be generally viewed as acceptable for vegans to eat.

Cornetto (GF, vegan)

Sorry for the lack of blog posting.  We have been very busy behind the scenes with some exciting new projects, and also enjoying having some holiday time with the Allergy Brothers.  There has even been some almost summery weather for a day or two, which fully justified testing these new Cornettos/Cornetti.  When I saw them in the supermarket, I let out a very audible squee of delight.

INGREDIENTS

Water, sugar, vegetable oils (coconut, sunflower), glucose syrup, glucose-fructose syrup, maize starch, corn flour, HAZLENUTS (1.5%), fat reduced cocoa powder, SOY extract (1%), emulsifiers (mono- and di-glycerides of fatty acids, sunflower lecithin, ammonium phosphatides), stabilisers (guar gum, locust bean gum, carrageenan), flavourings, salt.  May contain: milk.

So was my delight premature?  This might be a me thing, but I think the best bit of a Cornetto is the chocolate at the bottom of the cone: practical (it stops any melted ice cream running out) and delicious.  I am pleased to say that the gluten free cone is very crisp and tastes like a nicer waffle cone. The dairy free chocolate is acceptable. I was a bit concerned about the actual ice cream because coconut is an ingredient and it can give me an allergic reaction.  I can only guess from the lack of reaction and the fact that there was no noticeable coconut flavour that there really isn’t much coconut in this.  In fact, it tasted like not very nice, cheap ice cream.  A bit disappointing, really.  Why didn’t they use the same recipe as Swedish Glace ice cream, which is made by the same parent company (Walls, well ultimately Unilever) as Cornettos?

May we recommend Booja Booja icecreams instead?

Allergy Mum & The Quest for the Holy Granola – Part 2 DIY Granola

After my annoying discovery that me and coconut are not friends, I decided to invent my own granola.  It took quite a few attempts to tweak it, but this was very good.  It has the right ratio of clumps for snacking to cereal for eating in a bowl.

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Ingredients

100g maple syrup

300g dark chocolate

100g peanut butter

1 tsp salt

450g gluten free oats

150g flaked almonds

150g pecan halves

150g dates (chopped)

125 g Hilltop Honey Bee Pollen

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 150°C, and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
  2. Melt the chocolate, maple syrup and peanut butter in a bowl over hot water.
  3. When the melted chocolate, maple syrup and peanut butter has cooled down a little, mix in the salt, oats, almonds, pecans and dates.
  4. Spread the mixture out on the baking tray, and bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden.  Stir once or twice during baking.20180208_095918
  5. Leave it to cool in the baking tray.  Then mix in the bee pollen and store in an airtight container.



The Café at Beth Chatto’s Garden, Essex

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Allergy Little wants to get in on the blogging action too!  He has decided to change his nickname; he would like to be known as Allergy Plant (he likes playing on the Plant side in the game “Plants vs Zombies”!).  He has drawn his own logo too, with a bit of help from me.

 

Once a week, Allergy Wizard goes to a club after school.  Allergy Plant and I have an hour to kick our heels.  We regularly seem to end up at the café at Beth Chatto’s Garden in Elmstead Market.  I think I have homing instinct in on gluten free cake, and Allergy Plant can certainly sniff out some crisps!  The photo above shows some delicious gluten free chocolate and beetroot cake.

Allergy Plant’s review – “I think the café at Beth Chatto’s Garden is brilliant.  I like that there is food I can eat.  The staff are fantastic.  They can get my food ready in one minute!  They are friendly to me.  They always have some gluten free cake, and often some cake that is gluten free and dairy free for my Mum.  It’s super dooper.  That’s all.  I’m finished”

Beth Chatto’s Garden is in Elmstead Market, Essex.