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What Having Nonverbal Learning Disability Means to Me

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Although I was recently diagnosed as an adult in my 20s, I want to share how I’ve always had this disability and not only the challenges, but some of the positives as well. To be diagnosed with nonverbal learning disability can mean having a number of challenges in not only school, but daily life. Some of these challenges are (also note that these are simply my experiences; everyone has their own experience):

  • Challenges with math
  • Difficulties reading maps and graphs; getting lost easily
  • Being spacey
  • Learning to tell time
  • Taking jokes and sarcasm very literally
  • Feeling socially awkward and preferring to either talk to adults or play with younger kids
  • Talking excessively, loudly, and/or interrupting others
  • Poor fine motor skills — challenges tying shoelaces and cutting with scissors
  • Poor gross motor skills — typically not athletic
  • Difficulty with handwriting
  • Sensory issues
  • Slow processing speed
  • Executive function issues/challenges with organization
  • As an adult, trouble being independent and completing activities of self-care
  • Comorbid ADHD, other learning disabilities, depression, anxiety (and autism in some cases, although not in mine)

I’m sure there are things I missed, and I know that some individuals with NVLD have more social issues than I presently do. That being said, I did struggle socially when I was younger, and today I still have some issues oversharing or interrupting other people in conversation. I certainly struggle most with being organized, fine motor skills, and math/visual-spatial challenges. This can make driving hard (and on top of that, OCD and anxiety add to the challenge), as well as trying not to get lost. I also really struggled to pass my college math requirement — I passed on the third try.

Now, for the positives of having nonverbal learning disability, in my own experience:

  • Highly sensitive, and thus highly empathetic
  • Creativity
  • Naturally higher verbal IQ when tested — in other words, strong writing, reading, and talking skills as well as a large vocabulary
  • Talkative, friendly
  • Gets along well with adults as a child
  • Passionate about personal interests (in my case, dogs, creative writing, mental health advocacy, art, spending time outside, learning new things)
  • A loving and committed friend and family member
  • Might be described as “quirky” (as I often was growing up); keeps things interesting, fun, unique

Again, I’m sure there are traits I missed. This is how I view myself. I feel part of the reason I am the way I am is because of my NVLD and I see that as a beautiful thing, as long as the challenges are properly accommodated. As a kid, I was undiagnosed, but I always knew I was different. I often was labeled as “lacking common sense” and “spacey” — today I can see the upside to the condition and having knowledge of this label and that there are many others out there that are like me. So, the moral here is to be proud of you are. I certainly am proud to be me, diagnosed with nonverbal learning disability.

Getty image by Bartek Szewczyk.

Originally published: April 13, 2021
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