I was born in Bath City, United Kingdom, to my mother Regina (1/2 Greek / 1/2 English), and my father Raymond (English). From an early age, I have been hampered with disabilities in writing and reading. This ranges from severe Dyslexia, Aphasia and Mild-Retardation (though the latter two are highly debatable once you have read this biography in full).
On the outside, I look like a perfectly healthy young man. On the inside, I am highly confused and do not relate to reality as one normally should. In 1988, by the age of 3 years and 6 months, I had no capacity to speak (which any parent can tell you, is not normal for any child).
My mother took me to see many doctors and speech specialists to try to find out what the cause was. There was none, at least, in 1988. The Child Specialist, at the time, diagnosed me in his papers as showing signs of Dyslexia. He also diagnosed me with Aphasia, because I could not talk, and Mild-Retardation, because he was uncertain of some of the test results when my intelligence and cognitive abilities were called into question.
At that stage my mother, who was told of her child’s conditions, was obviously very upset. The Doctors had told her that I would never have the capacity to speak, and that learning language was incomprehensible as was shown in the tests.
I was always a strange little boy. I would often walk on my toes, arrange VHS tapes in orderly lines, and would always bang my head or cry when my routines were upset in the slightest manner. This often led to me taking out my rage on toys or bed furniture. My mother’s friends or mid-wives would comment on the behavior, that it was odd and distressing, though due to the diagnosed condition they obviously never pursued it and would often leave my mother with kind comments.
It was by the age of four that I finally uttered my first word. My mother was overjoyed, so much so that I still remember a vague memory of where most of my relatives were in the living room listening to me speak a single word. To her, it was a miracle that I could speak. She thought I had proved the doctors wrong. However, though I could finally say several words by the age of five, I still required intensive speech therapy and special lessons at the primary school, Frogwell, in Chippenham, Wiltshire (and outside of the school environment also).
I remember my first day at primary school very well. My mother dropped me off to the classroom, which was no problem. The problem happened when she had to leave me. I was left all alone in an environment where I knew no one at all. This absolutely petrified me, and I was always frightened of the teachers and other children (they were lovely and harmless, of course).
I could only speak three words at a time, before pausing briefly, to carry on with the sentence - again at three word stretches. If you were lucky. This made my life hell when trying to speak to other children in the class. I would always get upset or angry, yet at the same time, too frightened to say anything.
Instead, I would be picked up and taken home. Sometimes I relieved the stress by getting angry or upset at my parents or siblings. I was always deeply happy at home compared to school. I couldn’t read or write, and this made me feel highly embarrassed and inferior compared to the children. We had small drawers in our classroom where we could store our work. I remember those grey little trays fondly. On the front of them, they had our names printed and stuck to them with sell-o-tape.
Could I read my own name? Not a chance. Quite often, I stashed my work in everyone else’s drawers. Of course, this was quickly picked up by the teacher, who then told me, and then shown me, when that failed, of where my drawer was located. I never remembered my name, only the position of the drawer.
I never knew how to socialize with the other children. I always thought it strange, even after hitting secondary school. How boys and girls could be friends, never mind just making friends. Due to my incapacity to make any friends, boys or girls, (due to everything mentioned) my early years in school were very lonely.
My first years were spent following painted lines around the playground during break times. The other children played, of course, the playground would be filled with screams, laughs and utter chaos. I could never understand it, at the time. All I had was my lines. Eventually, when I turned seven years old, my life felt like it was changing for the better. I could now speak many words in a sentence - I couldn’t read or write (or barely do math) still, but I could communicate with the other kids. My life was turning around, very slowly.
I enjoyed art, though. All the others kids sucked at it! Jest aside, I was always one to draw 3D pictures in the classroom, whereas all the other children could only draw 2D stickmen. Quite often, the teachers would be very surprised at my artistic ability. It was a shame that art was never a primary focus in our lessons. I could have done with more praise for something I could actually achieve in.
However, I needed to speed up when it came to literacy and language. It had taken me this long to speak, semi-fluently, but I could not read or write. My mother, when I turned eight, started taking me to Bath City, twice a week, and for an hour each time, to the Dyslexic Institute.
They specialize in teaching you in how to read and write. I attended this for 3 years. I always enjoyed Tuesdays and Thursdays. It would mean driving to Bath City for half the day - this meant I could avoid primary school. I was well happy.
In that time, I went from not being able to read or write, to being able to read books designed for age 3+. I remember the day well. It is one of my happiest moments. I could pick up a book and, as if a light bulb was switched on in my head, I could finally read a book by myself at the age of ten! I was so impressed with myself that I even read it out to my teacher (god knows what the book is now). She almost couldn’t believe it. I finally got it. I could read.
My writing needed much improvement but, by the time I hit secondary school, I was all right. I could cope. I shan’t trouble you with my secondary school life in such depth. Again, the attributes that plagued my social life also followed me into secondary school, such as heavy bullying - until the last couple of years, then it got a bit easier. It wasn’t until I started college that my life really turned around, properly, for the first time.
Since then, I have had my fair share of relationships and breakups and have made or lost friends through either lack of contact or either party upsetting the other. Regrettably, I wish some of the people I lost were still my friends. As the old, unfortunate saying goes, “such is life.” I find this saying bitter and twisted.
However, a more recent chapter has occurred lately since 2012. It is inconclusive, and I still have yet to find a doctor or specialist in the field that will give me a professional diagnosis. It is to determine if my mental disabilities are not that of Aphasia and Mild-Retardation, but that of Autism.
I was diagnosed in 1988 with the former, at a time when Autism was only thought to have been rare. This could be why the Child Specialist, at the time, marked me down as dyslexic, aphasic and mildly retarded. It is only since the turn of the millennium that Autism has gained the name ASD or “Autism Spectrum Disorder,” and is a more recognized diagnosis, which has broadened since 2000.
There is a saying that “everyone is their own doctor”. I do not wish to fall into this little trap, though my symptoms do match in many ways. Coincidence? Unfortunately, Aphasia and Dyslexia shares some of the symptoms of Autism in the way of speech, reading and writing. I also assume that the Child Specialist at the time did not recognize Autism (this was the late 1980s, compared to the wider awareness from 2000 onwards), and instead branded the symptoms “Mild-Retardation” in his report - of course, unfortunately, I don’t believe I will ever know.
Could my original diagnosis at 3 years 6 months have been accurate? It changes nothing, but I would love to know all the same. Explaining how I work in one word would be brilliant. Autism is a disability gaining more recognition, compared to Aphasia that one would only normally acquire through head trauma - which, in my case, is not. I will leave you to think over this interesting fact - those with Autism develop language later in life, if indeed they can, at around the age of four in most cases.
Individuals with Autism have little grasp for grammar, if any, which has always been a hurdle in my writing. Add all the other little facets of my life, which I have and have not mentioned here, and I begin to formulate a picture. If I ever find out when the NHS get some funding for Mental Health, I will let you know.
Since 2005, I have been writing my story, which then developed into a series. It began with Resonance (the title switched names many times before I settled for Resonance), until I finally finished writing it up in 2007/8. Since then, I churned out Orchestra in 2011 - and then Echo in 2012.
I have drawn on much inspiration. This ranges from music, movies and anime (Japanese cartoons to us westerners - although far more awesome, especially on Blu-Ray with full HD). However, one massive inspiration is that of Final Fantasy VII. I played this game, religiously, when I was 14 - and still do today. Diablo II was also a massive source of inspiration - I would truant school to play it, and it served as a source of escapism. For years, I also attended the Chippenham Games Club, where I would often play tabletop games of Warhammer.
It was out of school, and many of the members were friendly adults that introduced myself and my younger brother to lots of different board games, card games and RPG’s, such as Dungeons & Dragons (nothing beats second edition). These were self-esteem boosters, and I could always relate better with the older folks compared with others my own age. Another source of inspiration is my fascination with the paranormal or supernatural. This has been something that I have always been drawn to since a child.
I strongly believe that the earliest years in my life have played a large part in my utopian ideals, sourly mixed with those of occasional depression. Over the years, these inspirations have churned my intellect and aspirations of what I love to write. A science-fantasy to call my own.
Now, after my many hurdles, I believe I have achieved just that...
My own little universe.
For more information on Dyslexia, Aphasia, and Autism, please visit these links, here:
Dyslexia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dyslexia
Aphasia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aphasia
Autism - http://www.autism.org.uk/
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