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Robyn’s story – overcoming lifelong learning difficulties

April 13, 2012

Robyn grew up with learning difficulties that were not identified or treated until she was an adult. Listen to her story and how her dedication to her Fast ForWord cognitive training course changed her life.

My school years were difficult. All I can remember is that I had a lot of problems understanding what was going on in the classroom and I know, especially when I got to high school that I was trying my hardest in the classroom and doing all the homework and all the study and everything that all the good kids did, the only difference was that I didn’t pass an exam. I was always being told on my report cards “she could do better” or “if she would only apply herself”, and “Robyn doesn’t pay attention” and that, I found, was really hard, and wrong because I did try my hardest all the time, even to the extent of having private tutoring and getting extra lessons in remedial classes, it still came to no good because by the end of high school I was frustrated and angry, failed everything and didn’t even get to go to university, and that was a real disappointment because all I wanted to do was go to university and study languages.”

“After I had my working life I had some time and I thought well, I really do want to learn these language so I decided right, I’m going to go to TAFE. The Spanish teacher had an accent, but I could understand just talking to her in a conversation but then she would go and explain 5 things in a string and while I was just getting the grip of understand the first thing, she would be on to explaining thing 2, 3, 4 and 5. The rest of the class would understand and I was still back at thing 1, and often asked her to repeat what she had said back here, and I could see pretty quickly that all the teachers were getting frustrated at this.

“And that’s when I went to find an Audiologist to test my hearing and I explained to him what was happening in class, that I couldn’t understand things that everyone else seemed to understand, that I was asking the teacher to explain the same thing over and over again. He said, it’s nothing to do with my hearing, it’s to do with the way my brain figures out what it’s heard into meaning. And that’s when he put me onto the Fast ForWord program.

“I thought well, I’ve got to give it a try!

“This was a really big breakthrough for me that someone could understand my frustration and someone knew what I was going through and had seen it before.

“Academically it’s been terrific…I could see definite improvements in the results while I was doing the program. And then in class, I noticed that wow, I could understand my Spanish teacher, when she was at the board writing something down, talking to the board and not to me. Normally I would have to wait for her to talk around and lip read and see what she was saying, to understand it but then I found that wow, I could hear her, understand her, while she was talking facing away from me and that was my big lightbulb moment – I thought wow, this is great, it’s actually working.

“It became a progressive improvement, and so by the end of the Fast ForWord program it was the end of my first year at TAFE and I was passing all of my exams.

“I’ve really benefited a lot from the program in my social mixing with people. I never used to like going to parties, especially parties where they have people talking and lots of music in the background because I could never hear what the person was saying.

“After doing the Fast ForWord program, at another business function, I found that I was more relaxed and happier to be there and talk to people because I could discern what the person in front of me was saying, I didn’t have to strain and stare at them, I could just relax and enjoy it and that was a real confidence booster…and I thought wow, I might even enjoy this now because it was easy to understand and not such a struggle and I wasn’t so afraid of mixing with people and going places.

“My advice to others – tell as many people as you can that you’re having a problem. Don’t stop. Don’t let yourself down by accepting that you can’t learn something. That’s not the case, everyone can learn, it just might be a reason why you’re not learning in this particular way. Classroom style is always difficult and it only suits a few people. But all of us have gone through classrooms as kids and as adults and if you’re still having an issue, not learning the way you want it, if it doesn’t come easily, get some help, talk to someone, the Fast ForWord program could be the way to help you through that sort of issue. But just don’t stop banging on doors and windows to get help, it’s really worth trying harder.”

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