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.


  1. Oh my goodness, I just spent at least an hour writing a whole thing in my notepad, to copy and paste into the reblog box, only to discover that you don’t have a reblog box. Augh! But anyway, I will paste what I just wrote, here in the comment box. Sorry, I am too hungry and tired now to go back and delete all the references in my comment, to this being a reblog. I hope you don’t mind!

    Here is my “reblog” comment:
    I just had to reblog this very enlightening post by Nyssa on the topic of NVLD, or non-verbal learning disorder. The way she explains it, really helps you to understand what living with NVLD is like.

    I have no idea what label or diagnosis would best fit my particular cognitive challenges, other than the Complex, or Developmental, PTSD label I already have. On the one hand, I made perfect grades all the way through practical nursing school, plus I scored in the top 1% in the nation on the licensing exam. I also scored extremely high on my proctored IQ test, just 4 points below Einstein’s IQ, in fact. HOWEVER, there is so much about life that seems easy for most people, but is extremely difficult, if not impossible, for me!

    Almost a year ago, after I had my baseline EEG for my neurofeedback treatments, I received the report that interpreted my EEG readings. This report states that my brain wave patterns could indicate everything from ADD/ADHD, to autism, Aspergers, dyslexia or an other learning disability, a head injury or a stroke, and even Parkinson’s. But I do not have Parkinson’s disease, both my doctor and my therapist assured me.

    I did have a transient ischemic attack about thirty years ago, which is also called a TIA or a mini stroke, and I have been knocked unconscious four different times, three of which were due to abuse.

    The therapist who administered my EEG and my neurofeedback sessions, told me: “When you first came here for your intake interview, I could not understand why you were even here. You seem so personable, so articulate, and well put together. But when I saw your EEG, I understood!”

    Yes, I have learned to fake being normal. It’s about “survival,” not about trying to be a phony.

    The approximately thirty neurofeedback sessions that I had last year, helped me immensely. However, I am not completely cured of my cognitive issues, by any means. Especially during the Christmas holidays, my PTSD can really get the better of me, because Christmas time was when my mother tried to gas us all to death.

    Today, January 21, is a trauma triggering day for me too, because the last time that I was physical beaten happened on a January 21. It was the most severe beating of my life, and I have had a lot of beatings, too many to count. I ended up with a broken nose, which is still crooked to this day, and the worst damage that was ever done to my brain happened on that horrible. I had gently, tearfully, told my then-husband that I was sorry, but I was leaving him, and suddenly he was pounding me into the floor.

    I went to nursing school a few years after that, and I made all straight A’s. So, although I can tell that my brain has never been the same since that terrible beating, I did not lose all of my marbles in that terrible assault, thank God.

    But…. I had zero emotions for about five years after that. “Flat Affect,” as they say in medical parlance, that was me.

    So yes, I understand very well what Nyssa wrote in this post, about how obscure and “mild” cognitive differences can cause multiple problems in daily life and in relationships, despite appearing to be “normal” on the outside.

    Now I wonder: what kind of cognitive disorder would cause someone to marry one abuser after another abuser, following a childhood of extreme neglect and abuse? It is beyond crazy that I did that! Today I thank God that fifteen years ago, I finally got some good therapy that helped me understand, and break, my very sick relationship patterns!!

    Here is Nyssa’s enlightening post. Please visit her blog and comment there. Thank you!

    • Thank you for your comments! I don’t have a reblog button because they don’t exist in self-hosted WordPress. “Press This” is the closest I could find to that, but it doesn’t look like the button works anymore.

      Cognitive disorders do seem to make people easier prey to abusers and users. I know I’ve had a string of them, despite my parents being basically “normal.” I wonder if what you’ve been through caused the issues, or if the issues made it harder to see warning signs….

      I’m glad that my post has already reached out to and helped somebody. That’s why I wrote it. 🙂 That and to get it out. 🙂

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