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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Blogger Recognition Award

Right back in January, Nich of At Home with Nich nominated me for a Blogger Recognition Award.  I’ll confess that I didn’t know what this award was.  When I discovered what it was – a way for members of the blogging community to support other bloggers – I felt all warm and fuzzy so thank you very much, Nich.  Unfortunately, I am very British and not very good at self-promotion so I have been umming and aahing about what to write since January!

blogaward

RULES FOR THIS AWARD:

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  2. Write a post to show your award.
  3. Give a brief story of how your blog started.
  4. Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers.
  5. Select (up to 15) other bloggers for this award.
  6. Comment on each blog to let them know you nominated them and provide a link to the post you created.

How The Allergy Brothers blog started

The origins of this blog are very mundane.  I was simply fed up with having little bits of paper covered in scrawled notes about recipes all over my kitchen.  I thought it would be a good idea to put the recipes online so I could tidy up my kitchen.  I soon discovered two things: baking and electronic devices don’t mix that well unless you like your laptop covered in cake batter, and that I really enjoyed having a creative outlet in the form of the blog.  I have now corralled paper copies of my recipes into a folder for day-to-day use, and the blog has morphed into a more general resource for people with multiple allergies.

Advice to New Bloggers

  1. Enjoy it!  For most bloggers, blogging is never going to be more than a hobby, and not a road to riches, so make sure you enjoy doing it.  I took about a year off the blog a while ago.  It was a difficult decision because the blog had started growing a bit at that point, but, because there was so much else going on in our lives at that time, I wasn’t enjoying blogging.  It had become another chore I needed to do when really I should have got more sleep.  Now, our lives are calmer, I am able to genuinely look forward to sitting down and working on the blog.
  2. Don’t be afraid to celebrate small successes.  It’s easy to look at celebrity bloggers and influencers and feel like a very tiny plankton in a huge internet ocean. Remember the classic Theodore Roosevelt quote “comparison is the thief of joy.”  He’s right.  The Allergy Brothers are excellent at this.  To them, the idea that over 500 people have read our blog since January is mindblowing.  They don’t care that Kim Kardashian West has over 109 million Instagram followers.  They find it exciting that people from all over the world read their blog.  So celebrate each new follower, and every new best ever statistic because that is a success.

My Nominations

IT Elementary School

Wildlife Through A Lens

And thanks again to Nich (At Home With Nich) for the nomination.