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Problems with verbal understanding, what is this?
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Problems with verbal understanding, what is this?

I am not he himself, but I am offspring of a ~60 year old person who has always (or at least certainly for 30 years or so) had problems taking in information given by others. In a way it is a long story how this manifests, but I'll try to keep it short.

First, some features that are almost certainly within normal limits (ie. no problems).

- hearing (at least not critically impaired)
- vision
- IQ (higher than average test results)
- ability to learn languages and many other typical skills
- memory (at least not critically impaired)
- reading speed (although reading comprehension depends deeply on subject)
- fine motor skills

I do not think he has dyslexia at all in the sense that he would find it difficult to see words. However, in certain kind of discussion, he has huge problems understanding what is written or said to him. The problem multiplies to an extreme scale if what the other one has to say is "inconvenient" to him. However, I am quite sure it is NOT narcissism even though there is a kind of self-focus present. He is empathetic etc. I have tried to analyse the features very carefully and to me it seems that there are definitely inborn features that very strongly block (or just not process normally) the understanding of both written text and spoken sentences.

He has been able to be successful at his career but also has had huge problems with relationships to close people. He often understands what people say incorrectly or dismisses what is said. He seems to have developed a way to hide the problem understanding. His misunderstanding is very often corrected and then he kind of acts as he just didn't hear correctly the first time even though I am sure the problem is not hearing. I am sure because exactly the same thing happens with written language. He seems to have problem understanding and he compensates by "guessing", filling in the gaps he didn't understand in order to maintain seemingly normal speed of understanding. Importantly, I do not think he realizes this habit of "guessing". He definitely does not admit it at all. So he may read a text at normal speed, creating an understanding, but depending on the subject he may completely disregard big parts of the text and create a completely own interpretation that may have little to do with the original message. Especially parts of the message that are not convenient for him, may be completely disregarded. He does not notice that he skips, he is utterly unaware of that and therefore very strongly gets offended, frustrated and angry when the discussion continues and when he is "accused" of not listening.

He may ask a question and then when the other person starts to answer, he may start talking again himself, interrupting. Then if he is asked "why did you stop me" or "do you think you are paying attention to what I say", he gets offended. My explanation is that he utterly does not notice that he is not listening.

This makes communication with him extremely difficult and heated. He does manage with many situations with other people than people close to him because of the mentioned compensating strategies. Not always however, sooner or later people do realize that he may not be capable of normal, attentive collaboration.

I am not sure if this is an understandable (short) explanation, but does anyone have experience on a similar issue? This problem has, as may be evident, pretty much in many ways destroyed our family life. We do manage, somehow, but it makes many conversations completely impossible. It is many times just not even close to having any chance of being a successful conversation.

By the way, one reason why I'm quite sure it has to do with inborn qualities is that I as offspring seem to have some of the same genes (naturally). I also have less than normal capability of understanding what people say. However, I have strongly compensated by being very careful. I take time and with time and concentration, I do understand. My processing is just different from the average person. I could describe it in detail but that's also a long story.

What I'm hoping for is that I would find a diagnosis to this. And maybe then perhaps some help. It has been extremely difficult to understand the true mechanism of the problem, but after endlessly patiently trying to figure it out, I think I do have at least some understanding of it. I do suspect that the problem is very rare in this form.

Some might suspect that the behavior stems from temperament, stubbornness, impatience or things like that. But I do suspect it is much deeper than that. It seems to be a some kind of information processing disability.
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