Just now, I was looking through my family genealogy book, put together by my aunt, so I could put my grandma’s obituary in it. (RIP as of Thursday.) On the way to find her page, I found mine–and discovered that my aunt had included my worst possible high school picture!
It couldn’t have been the pretty freshman year one, with my hair pulled back and curled, or the senior picture. No, it was THAT one, with shaggy hippie hair, where I looked like I was about to kill somebody.
(Fortunately, a very pretty picture of me with my little family in 2004 was also included, so I’m not immortalized in this book as the ugly duckling of the family.)
And yet I seem to recall, when I took THAT picture, thinking it looked like a smile. Or at the very worst, a neutral expression. Certainly no anger, or anything at all negative.
I know I tried to smile for it, because I always would smile for my school pictures. Yet in my teen years, those smiles seemed to vanish in the finished product.
Also, for many years I felt my yearbook picture for senior year, which I myself chose out of several options, had a playful smile that revealed my personality. Now, it looks more like a grimace.
What the—? How could my impression of my own expressions change so much over 20 years?
To me, this is yet more evidence that I have NVLD. That it has improved over the years, that I’ve gotten much better at “reading” people and their expressions, but that I had an awful time reading body language while growing up. (See here.)
One day I might get it professionally diagnosed, if I find myself with a few thousand extra bucks (not likely).
But as I read over old diaries and revise my college memoirs for this blog, I find all sorts of evidence I had forgotten, things I struggled with in the first half of my life which are no longer big issues. I have learned to deal with them over the years, learned to go with the flow more often, gotten better socially. I’m not sure a professional diagnosis is still needed. But I sure could have used one as a kid.
I think I was tested for something in elementary school, but I’m not sure what, or what the results were.
NVLD was identified but not widely known in those days, and I was good at reading and spelling, so my teacher’s solution to my social, math and handwriting problems was to scold and scold and scold.
Didn’t work; it just made me feel more freakish, because I had no clue why I couldn’t live up to her expectations, or how to change to please her.
I just knew that whatever I did was wrong, that my handwriting looked awful no matter how hard I practiced, that my middle school teachers found my work disorganized, hard to read and not according to directions, and that 8th grade math made no sense to me.
This was certainly not for lack of trying, or for deliberately defying directions. I remember puzzling through study periods, wondering why I couldn’t get my math problems to match the answers in the back of the book.
Today’s kids have it easier because they can get diagnosed early with NVLD or Asperger’s. This did not exist back then. There is hope for them; they don’t have to learn the hard way, like I did, and struggle through life until they start to get it right.
I was good at algebra and geometry, but still can’t figure out how to calculate my credit card’s interest rate fees (8th grade math). I became a clerk, then a stay-at-home mother, because I can do that well. I can also write; at least, that’s what I’m told. 🙂
Another thing I found in the family book: a eulogy of my paternal grandfather. He’s described as quiet and hard to get to know, but friendly and full of character. Not quarrelsome, but won’t put up with getting pushed around, either. Whether through genetics or other means, I see this is a family trait, because I’m the same way. 🙂
The encouraging news from Murphy’s book is that, with the right support and interventions, people with NLD cope much better as they get older….
“It can be devastating,” Lewis says, “if no one in their world is knowledgeable about NLD.”
That is all too often the case, given how frequently it goes undiagnosed. “The reason it’s very hard to get a diagnosis is that it usually exists in conjunction with other disorders,” says Sandra Newman, a learning consultant in the Hawthorne school district who diagnosed J.C. when she was in private practice in Fair Lawn in 2001.
As is the case with autism spectrum disorders, NLD is marked by deficits in social awareness or judgment. As a child who has not had appropriate interventions moves toward adulthood and expectations increase, social misperceptions and blunders occur more frequently and are more deeply felt…..
“Mike and I will be talking,” Wolin says of his stepson, “and I’ll say it’s 4 o’clock, and he’ll say, ‘No, it’s 4:03.’ So often the drive for precision in the detail distracts you from the larger issue — that we’re supposed to be somewhere at 4, and we’re late.” –Ellen Chase, Children, adults with non-verbal learning disorder develop strategies for using talents, navigating around deficits
That last paragraph reminds me of my ex Peter complaining that I would give the exact time, rather than saying “o’clock” or “quarter till” etc. I couldn’t figure out what the fuss was about: He wanted the actual time, didn’t he? I thought everybody did that!