Category: nonverbal learning disorder

NVLD and missing social cues

An incident with the hubby–which took me entirely by surprise and confused me–meant more teaching him about NVLD and how to deal with it….Though I could swear I’ve told him this before.  Basically, don’t rely on me to figure out through body language or inference that you’ve asked me a question.  You must use WORDS.  And direct words, because vague questions don’t work too well, either.

Anyway, there are some problems from NVLD which can be helped through training: social skills training, a driving instructor who understands learning disabilities, tutoring, sometimes even the hard way because many of us grew up long before NVLD was identified.  (Even now, apparently a lot of people haven’t heard of it, even teachers.)

Of course, it can be hard to fix things as an adult if they weren’t dealt with in your childhood, because now you have to pay your own way–and if the NVLD hinders you professionally, it’s harder to make $$$ to pay for help.  Even a neuropsych exam to diagnose the NVLD can be prohibitive, so you have to rely on self-diagnosis, which doesn’t exactly open up resources for you.  But sometimes you can figure some things out as you go along, though a bit later than other people do.

But there are some things which don’t get “fixed” no matter how much you know about your NVLD or how to cope with it.  For me, I know that I miss social cues, but I only know this because sometimes people get angry with me out of the blue.  But whether they don’t know I need words, or I’ve told them but they either forget (hubby) or choose to ignore it (my narcissist ex-“friends” Richard and Tracy), if they don’t use the words, I’m not going to know the cues are there, either.

It made me reflect that this is the story of my life: Just going along, doing my thing, trying to be nice to people, and all of a sudden somebody yells at me.  Or scolds me.  Or starts rumors about me.  Or accuses me of all sorts of things which just plain aren’t true.

They say if you want to date, you need confidence.  Except how can you have confidence when all you’ve ever known is that people are going to hate or be angry at you without you ever knowing why?

They say, “You don’t need to be shy.  A lot of people like you.”  But how can you stop being shy when the haters keep coming around?  Or when you try to be social, or do things other people do, only to get either ignored or insulted?

Basically, you learn to be shy and retiring even if you weren’t born that way.  I think I was born that way because it runs in my family, but it can also be reinforced over and over again throughout life.

Many introverts have similar problems to the NVLDers because their brains work differently than an extrovert’s, so they have different social needs and conversational styles which lead to misunderstandings.  But NVLD adds on issues that an introvert may not have trouble with.

For example, organizational problems can make it hard for the NVLDer to make it places on time, so they’re labeled rude, self-absorbed, not caring about other people’s time.  But that’s not it at all, as the NVLDer may have been running around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to make it there on time, but ultimately failed.

Or trouble with inference, hand-eye coordination, remembering directions, remembering landmarks, interpreting conditions and what to do when, can all make driving a lot harder than it might be for other people.  But if we refuse to do it, we may be accused of giving in to fear, not being a grownup, wanting other people to be our taxicab, etc.  I was terribly verbally and emotionally abused for this by my ex.  Even though if you aren’t comfortable, you’re not a good driver, and doesn’t everybody say that some people shouldn’t be driving?  Do you really want me on the same road with you?

But because our disability isn’t easy to see–unlike, say, blindness or paralysis or a broken arm–people often miss it and don’t understand.  If a blind person doesn’t drive, you say of course not!  You don’t look at them funny and say everybody has to drive.  Not if you’re sane, anyway.

But if someone with NVLD completely misses your cues or doesn’t know how to properly enter a group conversation, or doesn’t recognize your attempts to make conversation, we are, essentially, blind.  Not exactly physical blindness, because we can see.  But then, it kind of is, because we don’t see what you’re doing.  Or maybe we see it but can’t interpret, so it’s meaningless to us and disregarded just as when we see somebody blink.

So when we go through life experiencing people randomly blowing up at us, hating us, spreading rumors about us, dismissing us as friends or dates, that sort of thing–we learn that people are confusing and unpredictable.  This is why the usual advice doesn’t work for us: talk more, talk less, don’t be shy, be confident.

And also why, for a writer, putting body language into dialogue is like trying to write a dissertation on astrophysics when you couldn’t even pass Chemistry.

Basically, see NVLD as a kind of blindness, and maybe you’ll understand better that the NVLDer or Aspie isn’t trying to make you angry on purpose.  Getting angry at them only makes them upset and confused.

I’m not looking for sympathy necessarily here, but rather to help “normals” (“neurotypicals”) understand NVLDers and Aspies a bit better (NVLD is similar to Asperger’s).  And also to give some solace to NVLDers and Aspies who are going through what I’ve described, to show you that you’re not alone.


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One way that NVLD affects marriage

An argument today demonstrated vividly for Hubby and me both that NVLD can affect marital harmony.

But this time we experienced a breakthrough that shined light on a problem we didn’t realize was there.

Basically, without getting into boring personal detail, Hubby made a comment that he thought would give me all sorts of information which he did not actually say out loud.  In other words, “subtext.”

I totally missed the subtext because of, well, NVLD or some related disorder (such as Aspergers; I don’t have thousands of $$$$ to get formally diagnosed).

So I made a request which seemed perfectly normal and reasonable to me.  He infused it with all sorts of offensive motivations on my part, because he assumed I caught the subtext.

Fight ensues.  I feel like I’m living with a timebomb.  He thinks I keep saying things and using tones which, well, I’m not at all.  I’m not the kind of person who would.

Somehow during the course of discussion afterwards, he explained the subtext, and he learned that it went completely over my head.  Also that I do much better with literal speech.

I may be a writer, may understand idioms I’m familiar with, but as a child, I took idioms more literally.  Even now I’ll occasionally discover that some concept I take literally, is supposed to be metaphorical.

Education has made me familiar with the concept of metaphor, but unless you tell me a book has it, I’ll usually miss that there’s any metaphor in there at all.  I read the book plainly without inferring; I don’t guess how it will end; I would never have seen the eyeglasses in Great Gatsby as a metaphor for God if the teacher had not said they were.  I often have to back up movies and TV shows and play scenes again, because I have no idea how Sasha ended up dead in the kitchen, for example.

So now Hubby understands that he needs to speak more plainly, verbalize things he thinks can be inferred.  And I wonder how many past arguments are based on me totally missing his subtext, and him thinking I understood it.

I’ve also noted that he keeps putting far more into what I mean by my tone, than what I actually do.  Or being particular about the words I use.  I’ve also noted that people keep taking me seriously when I’m making a joke.

I explained that misunderstanding of, and trouble using, tone are NVLD problems as well.  And that I’m an introvert forced to speak on the fly, so I don’t have time to come up with the perfect words.

(Introverts have to think before they speak.  This makes it almost impossible for me to think of the perfect words.  And he discovered that I don’t see the difference between using one particular word or another, while he does.)

(This is why I prefer writing to discuss things with people.  In person I say the wrong thing and sound awkward and can’t get my meaning across, especially when interrupted.)

I explained that it’s a lot easier to understand expressions on actors on TV, because I can back up the tape, and stare at them fully, unlike in real life, where if you stare they’ll think you’re creepazoid.

(Unless you’re German.  Apparently Germans keep super-steady eye contact, unlike Americans, who flick our eyes every few seconds.)

It also doesn’t help to be uncomfortable with eye contact.  Even after 22 years, I don’t even feel comfortable having prolonged eye contact with the hubby.  Even when we were dating, the concept of “staring into each other’s eyes” made me uneasy.

And then I start wondering about past relationships and–I start wondering if it’s too much navel-gazing 20 years after those relationships ended, considering that I already explored those relationships in-depth here, and much of the necessary context is lost in the mist of memory.  And, well, those guys also ended up annoying other people or treating other girls the same, so maybe my NVLD wasn’t the only reason for arguments.

But in this case, it sure didn’t help.  Hopefully things will go more smoothly after this, more understanding on both sides.




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NVLD vs. Aspergers: Videos to explain

Richard and Tracy refused to believe in my NVLD, and it was the source of most of our problems (that and me recognizing her abuse).  But it is real, and the following video succinctly describes my childhood–and many of these problems have followed me into adulthood:

Another source of disagreement was Richard thinking that NVLD and Asperger’s are one and the same, so since I don’t act autistic, I must not have NVLD. But here the differences are clearly explained:

And this describes Asperger’s:


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My struggles with reading comprehension: Another sign of NVLD

NVLDers tend to think in words and struggle with visualizing.  They also tend to have trouble comprehending what they read.

I just read this blog post by Paige Mead, who has autism–but does not think in pictures, so I found NLDers agreeing with her:

People describe things to me and I attempt to picture them in my head. It doesn’t really translate. I try to describe things to people. They don’t get a mental image from my descriptions, from what I’ve noticed. Granted, I do write these types of things better than speaking them.

I read books, and no matter how well written the worded images are, sometimes I still don’t visualize scenes. I just follow the words and the story and the narration and read for the words.

Yes!  When I’m reading, long descriptive passages are especially difficult to get through.  I get little fragments of pictures in my mind–visualizing individual parts as I read them–but I struggle to put them all together into one big whole.  It helps when I have a picture in my head of an actor, or a picture in front of me of a character or scene.

This is especially a struggle right now as I re-read The Lord of the Rings: I read through passages rich with description–the story of the Ring, or Bilbo’s poem of the traveler, or a description of some other thing–or even watch the movie’s quick version of the Ring.  And it takes such a long time, as I fight to put all the images together into a coherent whole.

I finally break down and just start reading the words without visualizing, so I don’t know what the heck is going on, but I’m getting to the next paragraph at least.  This is with or without music playing, and when I do play music, it needs to be as quiet and undistracting as possible.

Whenever somebody in a movie describes something, even the movie version of the Ring with its visuals, it still is too fast to comprehend.  Reading helps because I can go back and re-read, but I still get confused.

This is one reason why I take so much longer reading books than other people do.  No, it was absolutely impossible for me to read a Harry Potter book in one day, like others have done.

If I want to actually comprehend what I’ve read, then it’ll take an hour or two to read 20 pages, depending on the density of the prose.

When I read 100 pages a day of Clarissa back during a college break, or 80 pages a day of Jane Eyre in high school, it amazed me because normally I simply cannot read that much in a day.

It seems like I could understand the Bible a lot more as a teenager reading it the first time.  But for years now, I can read an entire chapter–whether prophecy, a story of a battle, or an epistle–and it’s all just a blur in my head.

But I can read an emotion-filled novel such as Jane Austen, and comprehend it much better.  Tolkien, however, is so dense as to cause trouble.

I have read entire books on theology, history and what caused the Great Schism of the East/West churches, but a couple years later, I could not tell you much of what was in them.  I don’t re-read books to find new things I never noticed before.  I re-read books to remember what was in them, because I forgot.

I tried going very slowly through Elrond’s story of the Ring today, and I kept having to go back and re-read names and descriptions from earlier in the passage.  So I think I mostly got it, but parts are still confusing.

It helps that I have seen the movie a number of times and read the book before, but I still have trouble putting everything together.  How did Isildor lose the Ring?

I’m still not sure, but was Aragorn actually using the broken sword, or did he just have it along with a sword he could actually use?  Because how can you use a broken sword?  Argh!

And all I got from Bilbo’s poem (which I read today) is that some guy was traveling on the sea and met some elves.  Then I just go on ahead to the next paragraph, accepting that I’m confused.

Also, in college placement tests, I scored highly on everything else but abysmally on reading comprehension.  So my adviser said I should take a remedial reading class.

For a writer who was in Advanced Placement English, who had–in high school–read all sorts of classic novels which were not assigned in class, this seemed ridiculous.

I took the class, but dropped out a week later because it was full of international students who knew English as a second language.  I read slowly and my comprehension suffers, but still I managed to graduate with honors.

This is one reason why I don’t go for jobs which involve understanding and explaining complicated rules (such as insurance or mortgage brokering).  I don’t comprehend what the person is telling me, so how could I explain it?

And I could swear it’s been getting worse over time.  As I wrote above, I used to be able to comprehend what I just read in a Bible passage.  Now I completely miss a Bible passage even if it’s read in church, or even if I read it to the church!

I also struggle to follow someone else’s writing when they read it in a Writer’s Club workshop without passing out copies.  This is one reason why I lack comments or suggestions.  I wonder if approaching the age of perimenopause is making it worse.

Children with Asperger’s, a high-functioning form of autism, and those with a condition known as “nonverbal learning disability” may have similar symptoms, however the underlying causes are very different, according to brain scans….

Children with nonverbal learning disabilities and Asperger’s can look very similar, but they can have very different reasons for why they behave the way they do. —Brain anatomy separates Asperger’s from Learning Disability


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