Now to continue from Part A. My next piece of advice is to make sure you are in a fully inclusive academic environment. This would mean each regular education course would include anywhere from 3-8 students with disabilities. The reason for this is students with an NVLD and similar disabilities need to learn the proper social communication skills. Whether it is making great friendships or being able to always behave appropriately in the classroom the full inclusion setting provides stronger opportunities for this to happen. Also, the student’s motivation level can greatly increase by being challenged more consistently and having greater personal connections in this setting. Thankfully it seems that many school districts use this setup but it is important to be sure this is taking place.
Also, if you’re recommended to see your school counselor every week, say yes to seeing them as having this service will make a difference. The truth is they can offer you meaningful support through using the right strategies and techniques. to help you cope with the social-emotional and academic challenges of not just the school day but also your overall development. This is especially true if your feelings of being overwhelmed lead to anxiety as they will support you individually while also reaching out to teachers to see if you’re keeping up with your course requirements properly as often falling behind leads to more stress and anxiety.
Now in terms of course selection, I believe that if you have fine motor skills deficits it is easier to take all academic courses throughout your high school years rather than taking classes like Art where you will struggle to do things like cutting and coloring independently. I can tell you not everyone will be accepting of this as it isn’t “normal” for a high schooler to need help with these tasks. In academic courses, you overcome your deficits in a supportive setting by seeing your teachers for extra help and working very closely with your resource room teacher. Emotionally it is often easier to overcome your disability as your classmates are less likely to see your weaknesses, unlike a “messy” art project.
Another piece of advice is don’t hesitate to ask your counselor if there is any possibility you can request the teacher for the course (s) that are the most challenging for you. For example, my counselors and resource room teachers were always very understanding when my parents and I spoke to them about how I couldn’t have just any math teacher given how severe my visual processing and spatial deficits were. This resulted in always having math teachers who were excellent at supporting students like myself and greatly valued student effort. This made the difficulty of the course less overwhelming as I knew through my determination I was still going to earn average grades.
Another piece of advice involving scheduling is to see if your classes can include 3- 5 students that you feel comfortable with for your first year of middle school. Social communication skills deficits will start to show up more often, as you adjust to a faster-paced learning environment, change classes each period, and are expected to be more independent. Therefore having peer support makes the transition easier. My counselor did this for me in sixth grade as I transitioned from elementary to middle school and because I had great support I ended up making more friends than most predicted given the nature of my NVLD.
The last piece of advice I will offer is for secondary students to always attend your yearly annual review meeting as being involved in the meeting helps with the personal decisions that are being made. I certainly understand attending these meetings may seem hard but afterward, you will see it makes a difference. I know this personally as I regretfully only attended 3 out 7 of my meetings and I can tell you the ones I attended I was much happier with the academic and personal choices that were made for me. I truly believe this was because my resource room teacher and counselor knew from listening to me talk about what is important to me.
As you read this, understand for these recommendations to happen successfully you need to be a hard worker, use open and appropriate communication, and demonstrate you want to be socially connected. Even the last recommendation listed, to have a successful meeting you need to care about your success. Additionally, by working hard I truly believe the academic and athletic recommendations will lead to great success. While this may seem like a lot I strongly believe that your IEP team will listen to you if you show commitment and you and your parents demonstrate professionalism throughout the whole process.
Eileen is a Project Social Ambassador and blogger for The NVLD Project. She loves helping others understand they can achieve their goals and dreams through hard work and dedication.