Saturday, June 6, 2015

All's Well That Ends Well


So, I decided to read Shakespeare for the first time in my life. As of this morning, I have completed the first act of "All's Well That Ends Well." The title just seemed to be so appropriate. 

The truth is, I have never really enjoyed British literature. The reason being is I never understood it. The syntax, the different spellings of familiar words, the unfamiliar words, and an enormous amount of innuendo found in Shakespeare's works were always completely beyond my comprehension. After the 11th grade, when he was required reading, I never gave Billy Boy another thought. 

Until yesterday that is. 

Because of and thanks to the brouhaha over Memorial Day weekend, I started to think some more about neuroplasticity.

I wondered if more cognitive healing was in the realm of possibility for me, which led me to a book by Barbara Arrowsmith-Young called, The Woman Who Changed Her Brain.

Her story is remarkable. In a nutshell, Arrowsmith-Young lived with learning disabilities galore that made some of my struggles look like a cake walk. Yet at the age of 27, she developed her own neurological exercises to strengthen the weaker areas of her brain, and she overcame each and every one of them. Then she developed a program to help others overcome their learning disabilities.

She mentioned, in her book, a person who could not plan, which is one of the problem areas I still deal with. This is an issue with the front left part of the brain, and according to Arrowsmith-Young, it can be strengthened by reading (for hours at a time!--this work is not for the faint of heart) fables, parables, and allegorical stories. 

I thought this was interesting because I have always hated fables, parables, and allegories. It was if I already unconsciously knew this was a weakness and thus made excuses ("They're just boring!" was often my prime declaration) to avoid such stories. 

But after reading the many accounts of Arrowsmith-Young's success, I decided this was going to be the summer of reading. The summer of diving deep into symbolism and not coming up for air until I understand this new world of ideas and thoughts. I don't know if it will cure my planning problem, but I know new connections will be created in my brain, and that can never hurt anyone!

I would encourage all of you to get your hands on The Woman Who Changed Her Brain. Nearly every single person she's written about who attended her school would have been diagnosed with autism in the U.S. 

What she does instead of looking at one encompassing diagnosis, is she identifies, based on cognitive testing, any number of learning disabilities a person (she does work with adults) may have. Believe it or not, at times, the cumulative effects of all of those disabilities do resemble autism (many of her students cannot speak when they come to her school), but she is proving, at least to me, that those she is working with are really not on the spectrum. It gives me pause as I wonder how many children in the United States are being misdiagnosed and are living without hope when something, in fact, may be done to change the course of these many lives.

As for me, I see glimmers of hope. I struggled through the first twenty minutes of my Shakespeare reading today, but--with dictionary in hand--as I continued, the reading became easier. After an hour or so, the plot of the play became clear, and the rhythm and meaning of the language no longer stumped me as it did so many years ago. For me, this is something worth celebrating!

Never quit learning friends. And never give up.

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