I have always had an ability to block people out when I am concentrating. Even when I was a kid, I would be reading somewhere in the house, my parents would be trying to find me for dinner, and they would have to walk right up to my face to get my attention. This ability served me well in college, since I was able to get homework done in my personal zone of quiet while (usually) chaos surrounded me.

Dave noticed this trait early on in our relationship; he eventually learned not to try and talk to me when I was reading or concentrating, but to get my full attention first. [Dave: “a flare gun is handy for this.”] It’s just an accepted fact of our marriage after 18 years. If Dave is telling me something and I’m not concentrating on what he is saying, I might say, “What?” and then answer his question moments later, when I finally realized what he actually said. Frustrating for him, I’m sure, but we’ve (well, he has!) learned to live with it.

It was no surprise, then, when two of our children exhibited this same trait, presumably inherited from me. I have chuckled as I have tried to get their attention while they are concentrating on something, or reading, and I am unable to even get them to look up. Or waiting for a few moments after I say something for them to definitively process what I just said. Of course, I can’t complain about any of this, without the “tree, meet apple” conversation coming up.

It was with interest, then, that I learned about something called “auditory processing” problems. Medically, these made sense to me: kids (like myself) with ear infections as a child, whose brains didn’t quite develop the ability to fully process what they heard. Thus, a “delay” built into the system between actually hearing what is said, and then further processing what that means. Annoying, certainly, for those around me, but it hasn’t hindered me in any way from being able to become a wife, mother, or physician. Jobs, I might point out, that involve lots of listening.

Psychologists have politely suggested that we may want to look into auditory processing therapy for our kids with this issue (and probably with myself along for the ride). We have agreed to look into it, and thankfully I have a great resource through my medical group of someone who can help me sort out recommendations that we receive. Drawing the line about when to “do something” is simple for me: it’s when the “something” starts to interfere with day-to-day functioning. Thus, we explore what the options are, and whether any intervention is evidence-based. Meaning, someone apart from the person making money on the intervention has studied whether the intervention is effective. Evidence-based interventions for issues that are interfering with day-to-day functioning are, in my book, typically worthwhile from a medical point of view.

Yet, here’s my confession: I love having my cone of silence. Being able to effortlessly retreat to my own private world in the middle of chaos is wonderful. I suspect my children love that they can do this, too (Dave wishes he could do this). It’s like our own superpower, or superhero flaw, depending on your viewpoint. The kids will routinely go to Dave instead of me with their disputes, because they know they have to get my attention before I’ll even listen to them. No one bothers me when I’m working from home or reading because they know it’s pointless (I will look up for blood or smoke). The kids don’t try to talk to me all at once in the car because they know I can’t process everything at the same time. They’ve all learned to adapt, and it’s probably taught my kids to be more polite. Other than hearing more “what?” around our house, you might not notice it exists.

So, we’ll plan to go down the road of “looking into it”, and perhaps even “doing something” if we can find anything that meets my criteria above. But I plan to ask whether any intervention would hinder our cone of silence superpower. That’s not a price I’m willing to pay.

One response to this post.

  1. Posted by mbl on October 15, 2012 at 7:03 pm

    This is eye-opening for me. Both my daughter and husband have this gift/curse. I had chalked it up to their Asperger’s, and maybe it is one manifestation, or maybe it is just general wiring. My daughter never had an ear infection and I used to get them all the time. I, on the other hand have the gift/curse of super-hearing and ear plugs are my friend. Mine may be related to ADHD, but who knows. I definitely bear the brunt of crisis patrol. I can hear a meltdown coming from two floors away while husband is 8 feet away and oblivious.
    I haven’t really looked into since, as long as there are bigger fish to fry I have to throw some back.
    What a treat to have discovered your blog.


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