NVLD: Part 2

NVLD Part 1
NVLD Part 2
NVLD Part 3
NVLD Part 4

I was a latecomer to learning profanity.  I knew some of it, and even my mother used a few such words, but my dad didn’t (at least around me), and I was fairly sheltered from them.  I’d learn them from time to time at school, but somehow still missed out on others.

I couldn’t figure out why my classmates thought it was so funny when one of them showed me “Dick” written on a piece of paper and had me read it, and I said, “What?  It’s just a name!”  Or why they wrote the “a–” word afterwards, I refused to say it, and they said, “It’s just a name!”

Uh, Dick is a name, but the a– word is NOT a name.  What the heck is wrong with you?–I didn’t understand the joke until I later asked my mother about it.

In 4th grade, when I was still playing with my hands around other kids, and when the music teacher would always play a 45 of a popular song at the end of class, we were listening to a song which I started acting out with my hands.

I associated that song with a story I wrote, which had pots and pans dancing around; I formed the pots with my hands, with the middle fingers as handles, and had no clue why the entire class–even the teacher–was laughing as if I were doing something naughty.  (These were 4th through 6th graders, all of whom seemed to be in on the joke, except for me.)

I didn’t learn the “c” word until sometime in my mid or late 20s, so when my ex Phil started laughing at a Monty Python tape routine which replaced “c” for “b” and they said “bunt,” I was completely baffled.  I thought the “69, dudes!” joke was funny because Bill and Ted were silly.

I didn’t understand why my boyfriend freshman year of college thought “Mary with a cherry” was a funny way to refer to the Virgin Mary (some joke that was going around about a drunk priest).

I didn’t hear the alternate meaning of “beaver” until my senior year of college when one of our guy friends brought over a movie that used that term.  Yet even then, a year later, I thought Primus’ “Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver” was about, well, a beaver, to my husband’s amusement.

My roommate in college was actually more sheltered than I was, so I had to explain a few things to her.  But I got the impression that I had somehow missed out on quite a bit.

Not that I wanted to learn those words, because they were sinful, so I never used them.  My Campus Life friends rarely used them, either, or my other school friends.  Even now, I’ll still come across terms or words that my husband or a male friend understands, but I’ve never heard it before, so he’ll wonder how the heck I never heard that or never knew what it meant.

This is me to a T: “Perseveration and the Broken Record.”  [This blog post by Aspie Teacher no longer exists, but I think it may have been moved here.]  Pertinent quote:

I especially have trouble derailing myself when I am having trouble processing something. This can cause me great stress. I can feel that I have gotten stuck in a feedback loop.

My husband has been known to get very irritated with me when this happens. This only makes it worse, because I end up feeling guilty, stupid, and helpless that I can’t do anything to break the feedback loop.

Since receiving my official diagnosis over a year ago, my husband has tried to think of better ways of helping my brain switch gears when it gets stuck. Usually I just need to talk and have him listen without him judging me or trying to solve any problems.

I have come to realize that verbalizing what in in my head helps me process it, but this is not always an easy thing for me. I can’t always find the words to convey what I need to say.

Writing has become my voice. It helps me process the chaos that can develop in my brain. I also have found that what I need is understanding and encouragement. These two actions can do so much for a person.

Another blog post by someone diagnosed with perseveration:

Sometimes it happens when I am trying to diagnose a problem and I keep barking up the same solution.  Other times, it happens  emotionally.

My brain can get stuck on something emotionally and I keep going over it again and again.  Ruminating over past incidents becomes a bit of a tape that gets played over and over again.  I find I can ruminate over unhappy or unfair things a bit excessively. –Carol Ng, The Broken Record of Perseveration

I have the words and phrases that keep going through my head over and over again.  I have the recurring obsessions over various special interests, though not to the level (or strangeness) of an Aspie.  And I have the emotional upsets that keep going around and around in my head even months or years after the incident that triggered it.

You could ask anyone who’s been around me during tough times of my life–parents, college friends, college acquaintances, old roommates, my husband–and they’d tell you how I go over and over things again and again and again.

I’d hear of people wanting to go inside themselves and not talk after a difficult incident, and their loved ones trying hard to pull them out so they’ll feel better–and I’d wonder how anybody would want to keep that inside.  I, on the other hand, want to talk about my problems, far more than anyone wants to listen.

I had no idea I did this until my first big heartbreak in college.  I’d been heartbroken many times during my childhood and adolescence, since I was boy-crazy from a young age but it was usually unrequited.  It would bug me for a while, but I would deal with it, maybe cry once or twice.

But I was not prepared for what it felt like to have a guy love you back (or at least say he did), promise he would marry you, tell you you were meant to be together, and then break up with you.  I was devastated, and had no idea what to do or how to get relief, or how to get him back.

I talked to anyone who would listen: acquaintances, friends, roommate, suitemates, Mom, Dad, best friend back home.  I wrote a few letters to the guy to try to change his mind, pouring out my feelings and argumenta (not a typo) for why we should get back together, but they didn’t work the way I expected, so I stopped doing that.

I had no idea that my discussions of the guy with other people had gotten to be too much for them until one of my friends told me so one day, that they were tired of hearing about him.  It just never occurred to me that I could be talking about him too much.

So after that I went within myself, because even though I stopped talking about the matter, I didn’t stop thinking about it.  I couldn’t stop.  I filled diaries with my thoughts about it.  I wrote it into stories.

This perseveration happens again and again with various issues in my life.  Years later, something will trigger a memory and I’ll start wondering again: How could I have done that?  How could they have said that?  How embarrassing!  How infuriating!

Being upset over a breakup may be long past because I don’t want those guys anymore and am happily married.  But I’ll still remember the nasty things a guy did or said.  One reason why I keep a record of my life is to get these thoughts on paper and–I hope–leave them there.

I try to limit how much I talk about something to keep from annoying people, but that doesn’t mean it’s gone from my mind.  Normally, it’s constantly present until my mind finally moves on to something else.  And apparently I still talk about things enough that my husband starts to talk about me “going around and around.”

All my life, there have been incidents where I did or said something that seemed perfectly reasonable to me, but the people around me thought it was strange for some reason.

Like when, as a kid, I shoveled the top of a snow bank by the fence, rather than the sidewalk, because I liked to walk up there instead of on the sidewalk on the way to the garage.  Two guys in a car stopped and asked what I was doing, and obviously thought I was crazy.  But I just wanted a clear path to walk.

The best in-depth articles I’ve found are “Nonverbal Learning Disorders: What To Look For” by Pamela B. Tanguay and “Nonverbal Learning Disorders” by Sue Thompson, M.A., C.E.T.

Keep in mind that Thompson’s article is from 1995.  Later research showed that NVLD does not have to be as severe or grim as pictured here.  Also, while some with NVLD show brain differences, most do not:

I believe 100% that NLD exists. I want to caution parents, teachers and other experts to be careful when looking at old research into NLD. That is especially true of the early research by NLD pioneers Byron Rourke and Sue Thompson. That research tends to state extreme and narrow definitions of NLD.

Most of their research was 20 years ago. It involved students (nearly all of them boys) with extreme difficulties. They painted very grim pictures of the difficulties these NLDers would have all of their lives with basic life functions such as social interaction, executive function and holding down jobs.

Because their subjects had such extreme impairments, their early conclusions were right…for people with extreme impairments. They also were quick to draw conclusions that NLD was caused by some brain trauma or brain disorders.

As the years went by, more researchers built upon the early work of Rourke and Thompson. The later research found a lot more people who have some traits of NLD, or milder traits of NLD.

And the later researchers found that that vast majority of people with NLD do not have the extreme impairments noted by Rourke and Thompson. They also found no known cause for most people’s NLD.

But the Rourke and Thompson outdated research is still out there, scaring parents.

It also convinces teachers and some experts that, because a student is not as bad off as the ones cited by Rourke and Thompson, there is no way that student has NLD.

Some of the early brain research that claimed there is physical PROOF that an NLDer’s brain is different…doesn’t really apply to people with milder types of NLD.

There is no obvious change in gray matter, in white matter, in the corpus callosem, or brain wave function in most people with NLD. MRIs and EEGs for most NLDers are normal.

It’s pretty clear my dd didn’t develop NLD because of birth trauma or some brain deformity. No, she inherited it from me. And I inherited my NLD from my mom. Each of us has our own unique traits of NLD, but we have some common traits, too.

My dd also got a touch of my husband’s dyslexia and got ADHD-inattentive from somewhere (my uncle maybe?)

fc11–my dd’s NLD was diagnosed by a developmental neuropsychologist. But because NLD is not listed in the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual, the neuropsych’s formal diagnosis was a term that is in the DSM: LD-NOS.

Her diagnosis of NLD was NOT based solely on the spread between her Verbal and Performance. (Her VCI was 34 points higher.) The NLD diagnosis was based on a long battery of tests including fine motor, gross motor, spatial processing, pragmatic language, abstract reasoning, reading comprehension, anxiety, etc.

Yes, some learning difficulties (including NLD) are caused by birth trauma or head trauma. But by far, most LDs and ADHD are not due to a brain injury or due to bad parenting. That includes NLD. –Sharon F, Post here

Other excellent resources: NLDline.

Also see Nonverbal Learning Disorder Overview, FAQ, and Parents’ Questions.

Not every single thing applies to me–for examples, I don’t have trouble staying in a chair, I can understand metaphors and non-literal phrases once they are explained to me, and I excelled in algebra–but so many things do that it feels like, at last, the explanation for my entire life.

I think that if I do have it, it’s a mild or moderate form, since it took me days, not years, to learn such things as riding a bike and tying my shoes.  I learned them later than other children did, but I’m not sure if that was from lack of ability or because no one had taught me yet.

As for swimming, however, I tried numerous times to learn how to do that during my adolescence, but failed.  So I still don’t know how to swim.

Recently, however, I sorted through a bunch of school papers that I’d never thrown out.  Though I graduated high school and college with a high grade point average and honors, I discovered many F’s and D’s in my middle school classwork, and many harsh comments from the teachers.

In 7th grade, my French and Social Studies teachers seemed to hate me, while my English teacher seemed frustrated with me.

The problems I noted most: not including everything I was supposed to, not turning the work in on time, not organizing the information or the numbers correctly, no organization at all when I worked out math problems on the homework and test papers, poor legibility, incorrect answers, all things that fit this NVLD.

I might write little comments in the margins if a sentence on a homework or test paper was funny to me or reminded me of something I was interested in.

I also struggled with maps in 7th grade Social Studies: The teacher insisted the maps be colored with colored pencils, with diagonal strokes all in the same direction, not in the round and every-which-way strokes which were easier for me to do.  I had a hard time filling in the names correctly.

I believe I had mastered grade school math by now, but struggled with middle school math, especially percentages and interest rates.  When everyone else in high school seemed to know how to figure 10% of something (just move the decimal point over one place), I didn’t, until a teacher said one day, “Of course you all know to just move over the decimal point.”

I never did master interest rates, or much of anything in middle school math.  I forget if I struggled in 8th grade math; I don’t even remember who my teacher was.  But in 7th grade, I fought so hard to get my math problems right, only to check the answers in the back of the book and find they were all wrong.  To be honest, I don’t remember if I went to the teacher for help.

Sometimes I wonder if NVLD is really a learning disability or just a different way of learning and looking at the world.  But when I look at my old school papers, I see it truly was a learning disability, undiagnosed because it’s not well-known and kids with it can be academically gifted in other ways.  (That’s explained in the articles I linked to, if you want to understand how that can be.)

It still affects me because I cannot figure out such things as compound interest rates or why credit card interest rate charges don’t match what I think they should be.  In elementary school, word math problems kept tripping me up.

When I was a small child, what age I don’t remember now, maybe two or three, my father was probably on a business trip, my mother was next door, and my brother was watching me.  Somehow in my mind, I changed “next door” to “the store.”

I had drawn a picture I wanted Mom to see, so I went to find her–at the store.  This was a little corner store, maybe a few blocks away, where we’d been many times, so I thought I knew the way (which, looking back, has been a common theme in my life when I’d get lost, not just as a small child but even as a 22-year-old adult).  But somehow, I missed it, and ended up wandering the downtown streets blocks away, at night!

I understood the pedestrian lights, having seen them on Sesame Street, and was frustrated because they kept saying “walk,” then blinking before I was halfway across the side streets, so I’d run back to where I started from, making it very hard to cross the street.

I didn’t cross the busy street running parallel to my sidewalk, fortunately.  I don’t remember being scared, but I was annoyed at not being able to find the store yet.  Shouldn’t I have found it by now?

Finally, a car pulled up next to me and a woman said, “Your mother sent me to find you.”  Fortunately, she told the truth and wasn’t some child abductor, because I believed her and she took me home before the police even got there.  (My mom says it was a male neighbor who found me, so I guess there must have been two people in that car.)

My mom was relieved, while my brother felt terrible because this happened while he was watching me.

Back in the 70s when I first started Kindergarten, it was common for parents to let even younger kids walk to school by themselves.  Even though the world was just as dangerous back then, at least in cities as large as mine (about 100,000), parents just taught their kids to look both ways, how to get where they were going, then let them go.

I’d wander the block all day long on my tricycle, but I don’t remember my mom being nearby–or anybody else’s mom being nearby them, either.  After a couple of blocks, I’d begin seeing all sorts of other kids about my age walking to school; there were so many of us crossing over a certain yard across from the school that the owner complained.

Almost nobody got driven to school, or from what I recall, even walked to school by their parents except maybe for Kindergarteners.  Some kids got bussed, but they appeared to be just the handicapped kids.

Apparently in those days, if you were old enough to go to school, you were considered old enough to know how to get yourself there.  My parents tell me that after a few days of my mom walking me to Kindergarten, which was eight blocks away, I insisted on walking myself home, saying I knew the way.

Well, I got very lost.  I kept looking for a large rock (used in landscaping) that I never saw, and didn’t turn on my street.  Fortunately, a kindly old man (in an age when it was considered okay for a kindly old man to talk to small children) found me and directed me home.

I don’t recall what happened after that–did I know the way after that and walk by myself, did my mom take me, what?–but I do remember my big brother walking me home that year, after which he went to middle school.

But soon I knew my way and–just a few days into Kindergarten, according to my parents, me barely five years old–I walked by myself.  So I do believe kids are more capable than they’re given credit for in these paranoid 21st-century times.

But I had this dangerous feeling that the rule of looking both ways before crossing a street, didn’t apply to me.  These were side roads next to a main road, so most of them probably had stop signs anyway, but it took a scolding or two from drivers and even from a girl my own age to convince me to be safe.

This is why, when training my own child to walk to school, I didn’t let him go alone until I saw that he could follow the safety rules and also wouldn’t get lost.

I don’t recall having any one best friend, or many friends at all, in my first three years of school, before switching to the “smart” school.  Maybe a few playmates, but not the same one all the time.

There was a group of kids who I wanted to hang out with on the playground, and kept trying to, but they kept shaking me off and getting mad at me.  I couldn’t understand why.  No, I wasn’t mean to anyone, so there was no reason I could point to that they would be keeping me out of their group.

I remember one of them making a comment that I was always writing (or was it talking?) about “Telle-oh and Sally-oh” (actually Telle-oh and Sally), two characters I had made up, best friends whom I wrote stories about all the time.  I complained about her snark to the teacher, who told me to talk to the girl myself.  I did, saying, I don’t always write about them: I write about other characters as well!

In second grade, one day I sat coloring along with the advanced reading group.  I asked a question about the picture, held it up, and the other kids in the group went, “Eww!”  I discovered that they all colored inside the lines, while I did not bother with that.

Also, my teacher often accused me of daydreaming because I wouldn’t raise my hand to answer questions while other kids did.  The truth was, I didn’t always know the answer.

One day in the advanced reading group, she asked us a question about construction equipment.  All the other kids put their hands up, but not me.  She scolded me, saying, “Put your hand up, Nyssa!  Put your hand up!”

But I couldn’t because I didn’t know the answer.  I knew virtually nothing about construction equipment, having little interest in it.  It was a shame that she misjudged me like this, because otherwise she was a wonderful teacher, very special to me.

In third grade and maybe fourth, I would make all sorts of characters with my hands, and use these “hand puppets” to act out various stories.  I remember doing this ever since I still slept in a crib.

In the crib it was human puppets, but I was dissatisfied with the typical human-hand puppet, with two fingers for legs and three fingers held behind and the rest of the hand for the “head.”  It didn’t seem like a real person at all, so I made my index finger the head (crooked over of course), my middle finger and thumb the arms (which touched at the hands), and the other two fingers the legs.

In Kindergarten, this human-hand puppet became a kangaroo, and I also made dinosaurs, which I liked to make scurry along the table until Melissa tried to smash one of them.  Then the human-hand puppet became a tiger-kangaroo.  (Don’t ask me where the name came from.)

As I walked to school by myself (Kindergarten through second grade), I liked to play games: I’d be a train, or ride a horse, or make up an entire story in my head about the Duck of Death (based on a dream, I think) or hand puppets which acted out the Convoy song that was popular at that time.

(Imagine: If my mother had driven me to school, like so many people do now, or hadn’t trusted me to walk to school myself like so many other little kids did in those days, I never would’ve had this elaborate fantasy life on the way, which I can still remember vividly.  It probably took me a good ten, fifteen or twenty minutes to make the trek, plenty of time to act out stories.)

I also played with these hand puppets in the bath, since I didn’t have a lot of bath toys like rubber ducks or the like.  (I would also make Barbie mermaids with washcloth tails.)

My brother used to watch a Krofft variety show that included the campy Horror Hotel and the strange, Gothic Lost Island.  A witch ran the Horror Hotel, and there was a vampire and a Frankenstein.

On Lost Island there was this girl with golden curls and a frilly, old-fashioned dress who kept going through a foggy wood, past what I perceived to be a huge brown spider’s lair, and she’d always run past it.

The spider had lots of legs, looking more like a ball with some 20 legs or so than your normal spider.  One day, Dr. Deathray threw her into the spider’s nest, and it jumped on her.  In the bath that night, I played out that scene with my hand puppets.

(That show haunts me to this day and for many years I kept searching for that hotel, the little girl and the spider.  No, it wasn’t Dark Shadows, which I first suspected back in the mid-90s.  It wasn’t until 2010 that I finally found out what the show was, but I haven’t been able to locate episodes online to find out what was really going on, was it a spider, did it eat her up, etc.  But if I ever actually find and watch that scene again, it’ll probably be completely hokey compared to the surreal and spooky, shadowy vision in my head.

(Just like when I saw The Bermuda Depths again after many years, and it was no longer the dark, Gothic, evil movie with the dreamlike cave, the evil turtle and the evil turtle’s evil, formerly human protegee who was like some unholy sea nymph.  Rather, it turned out to be some hokey 70s movie with a turtle with a grievance, and a sea nymph who was human and not so evil.)

The hand puppet characters had gotten quite varied by third grade, including a figure 8, dogs, cats, one or two humans, etc.  It was great fun, and in third grade, I began teaching them to a boy named Chad, who liked to sit with me on the bus and play with me at school.

But I soon discovered that my classmates and teacher found it babyish.  Chad and I got mercilessly teased on the bus, as if we were lovers.  So I began to stop doing the hand puppets in public, until finally I stopped doing it at all.  I do recall once, when the fire alarm went off at school, throwing up my hand puppets, so in that case at least, it seems to have been a kind of nervous reaction.

There were other things that I would do that seemed perfectly reasonable to me at the time, but other kids would make fun of me or laugh, and/or even the teacher would give me a funny look.  To them, it looked entirely different than what I was actually doing.  These weren’t habits, just something I did once because it seemed like a good idea at the time.

In fourth grade, I believe it was, though it may have been third, my teacher decided to bring in a bunch of stuffed animals which we could have at our desks.  I kept wanting to get one certain toy, which I think was a cat, or at the very least a puppet, because through it, I was able to talk to people.

During my early childhood, some people in the neighborhood (even an adult or two) kept accusing me of talking to trees.  But I didn’t do that; I was acting out various storylines, made up in my head, while walking or rollerskating around the block.

My fourth/fifth grade teacher was always complaining about me, even though normally teachers loved me.  She called me babyish for having to think before making a decision.  This angered me.  Why she called this babyish, I don’t know, since a person should think things through.

Once, she said I would probably grow up to be a hermit.  She didn’t seem to realize that this was not by choice.  I’m not sure if she was referring to a person who lives in civilization but mostly stays in his/her house, but at the time I thought she meant one of those weird antisocial guys who go off to live in a mountain cabin by themselves.  I had no clue why she thought I’d want to do that.

In sixth grade, after one of our holiday or vacation breaks (probably Christmas), I came back thinking of Rose Cavern (Tennessee?).  My family had just been to visit it, probably on the way back from Texas, and as an impromptu stop along the way.  I loved the stalagmites and stalactites, and just the whole, romantic thought of a cave and living in one or getting lost in one.

In Art class, we were to draw a picture of something that happened on our vacation.  So, of course, I drew a picture of the stalagmites and the stalactites, and a flashlight shining on them.  I tried it twice.  The first time, it didn’t look right, and the boy next to me said it looked like a spider.  So I crossed it out and turned the paper over, then started again.

I had some artistic ability, but my people were very cartoonish, long and narrow; trying to reproduce exactly what I saw in my head was very difficult.  I tried awfully hard to get the picture to look right.  I drew the stalagmites and the stalactites the best I knew how: long, pointy columns.

It wasn’t as good as a photograph, but I was only in sixth grade, my skills were not well developed yet, and I didn’t have a photograph to copy, just my memory.

I drew a circle around them to represent the beam of the flashlight; the rest of the cavern, not illuminated by the light, was black.  I was finally pleased with it, as well as I could be considering the lack in ability that I couldn’t help, and turned it in.

A few minutes later, the teacher held up someone’s picture.  “Look at this!” he cried.  We all laughed, including me.  Then he looked at it, realized it was the wrong side, and turned it over.

I realized it was my picture, now that the proper side was facing the class, and that I had been laughing at the crossed-out picture on the reverse side of my own picture!  I think he even had it upside-down before he turned it over, which may explain why I didn’t recognize it.

I blanched with horror.  “This student didn’t even try,” he said, tossing it in the wastebasket.

Note that I said before, “I tried awfully hard to get the picture to look right.”  He didn’t mention my name to the class, though anyone near me would probably have recognized my picture, but he humiliated me in front of everyone for not being a perfect artist, and accused me of not trying at all when I had tried dang hard to get that picture as good as it possibly could be.

I was probably too intimidated by teachers to realize that I could have told my parents what happened, and they could have complained about how their child was judged and sentenced as lazy without even a trial.

I could draw, better than many but not as well as the ones who are generally recognized as artists in grade school.  I liked drawing comics and illustrating my stories.  I couldn’t draw anywhere near as well as my brothers could.

But I drew often and well enough that my people–originally funny-looking creatures with long necks–eventually looked realistic.  I would draw pictures to help myself visualize main characters in books, especially historical fiction, in which I had to visualize not just people but fashions.  I would look at the pictures while reading.

To be continued….

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