Accommodating, Not Compensating: Creating Communities Where We Thrive, by Eri (they/them)

By November 10, 2022 November 14th, 2022 NVLD Bloggers

Since receiving my Non-Verbal Learning Disability diagnosis as a young adult (along with diagnoses of Autism and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder), I have made an important and transformative transition in my approach to navigating life. Rather than reactively compensating for my disabilities, I proactively accommodate them.

What does that mean for me? Prior to my diagnosis, I invested an incredible amount of energy in attempting to appear neurotypical. I attempted to compensate for my disabilities, hiding them from others as what I felt was a shameful, well-kept secret. Each day, I fought against my brain’s natural wiring, forcing me into a chronic state of overdrive in order to compensate for what I could not or struggled to do.

Once I received my diagnosis, I felt empowered to take a different approach. Rather than continually swimming against the current of my neurotype, I acknowledged my disabilities, shared the implications of them with others, and advocated for accommodations. For example, my severe executive functioning deficits have made it extremely difficult for me to maintain a clean and organized home. Despite years of trying different tactics and techniques to address it, it remained a source of deficit and embarrassment.

Buoyed by my diagnoses, I now had the language to communicate (both to myself and others) why I found these seemingly basic tasks challenging, affirm that it was not my fault nor a negative reflection of my character, and ask for help. For me, that has meant state funding that covers the cost of weekly, professional home cleaning and organizing. This has profoundly improved my sense of well-being as well as my relationship with my roommates. No longer exhausted from swimming against the tide, I now have more energy and focus to explore meaningful educational, professional, and community pursuits.

Critically, the success of this accommodation has been contingent upon my access to diagnostic and supportive services. I am fortunate to live in an area with excellent health care and disability resources, but many are left stranded in resource deserts that construct profound barriers to accessing appropriate assessment, diagnosis, and support. This is especially true for individuals with a primary disability of Non-Verbal Learning Disability, which has yet to be granted formal recognition in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

We must each work to change this harmful status quo. People with neurodevelopmental disabilities deserve access to the support and resources we need to reach our maximum potential and thrive. Therefore, I call on the American Psychiatric Association to formally recognize Non-Verbal Learning Disability, opening up access to a multitude of existing accommodations and services to those who experience it. In addition, I call on all federal, state, and local governments to properly fund these services, creating communities where people with neurodevelopmental disorders are included and supported throughout our lifespan.

Eri (they/them/theirs)

Eri is a community organizer and advocate who believes in creating affirming and just communities for all. They also have several neurodevelopmental disabilities, including Non-Verbal Learning Disability, that were diagnosed in young adulthood.

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