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Published on June 14th, 2015 | by Leanne Waller


Dr Google

I was struggling to do well with my Master of Management (Events & Tourism) studies. The thought crossed my mind “am I cut out for this?”.

My husband John, consulted Doctor Google some years prior. He noticed I got my left and rights mixed up, along with the pushing and pulling (of doors). Words which in my mind characterised similarities such as Queensland and Queenstown or Brisbane and Beaumont (a suburb in South Australia) were used in wrong contexts as I interchanged them. I mentioned to a friend once I would meet him at Bocelli’s cafe (in Hutt Street, Adelaide) when I really meant Brunelli’s (in Rundle Street a few kms away). Fortunately, I now anticipate these peculiarities, I know what to look for and I consider carefully what I say in these situations. It did however pose a conundrum with the studies.

“Leanne” said John, “Are you dyslexic?” I replied “I don’t know! Lets get me checked out”

At the age of 40 I was diagnosed with dyslexia, with some audio processing disorder (APD) thrown in for some good measure.

An excellent Adelaide speech pathologist, Bartek Rajkowski who specialises in dyslexia, not only diagnosed me, but gave me the learning tools that my brain would understand, given the way it is wired. He was the one who thought I also had the APD, but at the time, was unable to diagnosed this as it wasn’t his field. He did put me onto one of the best specialists in Adelaide. I made an appointment to identify if this was effecting my studies. The results confirmed I had slight APD and in combination with the dyslexia, caused enough emotional and learning hardships to warrant special consideration when it can to sitting exams.

Initially for me, audio processing disorder, for me, was confused with a hearing disorder. I went to the ear nose and throat (ENT) specialist three times while knowing my husband to have my hearing checked, as I struggled to hear him almost every time we talked. To my frustration, results on each occasion returned negative. I was no wiser … there was no problems at all! APO however isn’t about hearing, it is about the way sounds are processed once they have entered the ear and are in the head! I found that words are not audible when there are two or more sounds going simultaneously. For example, it is hard to hear the actor speaking in a movie when the background music had crescendoed, or hearing someone in a nightclub or bar when the band is loud, or simply hearing someone speak at home when the TV is on or the air-conditioner or fan is creating a noise. Furthermore, it is hard to retain information the conventional way the brain retains. When having to memorise an entire text book in 5 weeks for the Masters exams, I needed to pull on every strategy I could muster! Retaining information was only possible if I related it to a real life instance. When asked a question, I would remember the real life experience (which encompassed the answer) I associated the question to, in order to answer it.

In additional, I couldn’t have ANY background noise while studying, I needed a little longer in exams and allowed myself more time to process, learn, retain information, as well as putting it into the written form. Uni SA recognised not all people operated, learnt and approached exams cognitively in the same ways. They made allowances by preparing a separate room for me to do exams and ensured conditions were appropriate to my needs.


Leanne Waller featured promoting Uni SA Master of Management courses

After the first disappointing attempts at exams, I applied the techniques required to accommodate the way my brain is wired, and along with the accommodations from the Uni of SA, I received distinctions for all subsequent courses, and consequently an overall distinction average.

Understanding my ‘dirty’ DNA (as a GP once called it), and knowing the tricks to overcome these idiosyncrasies, was and is the key for me to overcome.

I don’t consider myself terribly academically inclined. If I were, I would have received an overall high distinction average. I do however consider myself to excel in ‘right brain’ function. I excel when needing to be practical, operation and with soft skills. I am highly organised, a strategic thinker and have a knack to communicate effectively and warm people to me or a cause. I can confidently say, each to their own.

I am so convinced of the importance of identifying what you are good at, where you passions lies and developing these. Study was a way to a means, a way to improve myself in order to be better at what I love doing – coordinating and managing events.

Consequently, I was head hunted for my first official Event Manager’s role …


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