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