First Example- Growing up I was fortunate enough to have widespread support though the family that made the strongest impression on us was the Pinkerton Family as never once did having an NVLD matter. This led to many hours of playing at each other’s houses. With our mothers loving the outdoors many winter days were spent playing in the snow and summer days were spent in our pool. In addition, Mr.Pinkerton had me on his baseball team despite my poor gross motor skills. Additionally during my high school years when the social deficits showed up more, the Pinkerton kids never once ended their friendship with me and their parents were always there for our family too. It truly set a great example for not being afraid to reach out to neighbors for support or be afraid to join outside groups.
Second Example- Another family that made a strong impression on us was the Adams Family. We connected with them because my parents knew they were also raising gifted and special needs children. Right away they became our best role models as with their children being older than us we could really live by their example. In addition, Mr. Adams and Mrs. Adams always answered any questions my parents had. A real plus for me though when I started high school was that Mr. Adams extended the same level of support to me which made him a tremendous advocate to me. Their family is truly another reason why it is so important to take advantage of the support systems around you.
Third Example- We were also close to the Baker Family and I became close to their son Michael as we shared a love for sports. What makes Michael incredibly special to me is that while he is a few years younger he always has made sure others were supporting me. He saw I was like my sister Ellen who was gifted in all ways.As a result I could then be who I naturally was. .Also recently at his wedding he gave me a hug and said you were my first friend and I hope your my last friend then added Emily, his wife, and I adore you. At first I told them they were good liars and they immediately told me it is true in such a sincere way. Michael’s friendship is a tremendous example of why I greatly believe parents need to be less afraid of having their children with an NVLD and similar disabilities be included in social gatherings whether it is informal like family gatherings or activities like sports. This happened with not just Michael but the other children of my parents friends as well that I knew every step of the way.
Fourth Example- Forming personal connections also gives you more opportunities to be fully included in all parts of school life. Overcoming an NVLD can bring social and personal challenges too so having peer and adult support is important. . Having wonderful connections helped give me the opportunity to be a three season runner as Jim Adams was the Cross-Country coach so it made others feel more confident about me joining as Jim knew my family well as did my track coach. In addition I was also able to stay in college prep courses as many teachers knew us and that I had an excellent group of role models which helped me become a more focused student. That being said I feel having personal connections makes a world of difference.
The Ending- Please understand I know I was lucky we had a great family next door to us as I started school and my parents were lucky to have an old friend living with similar challenges. However, each community has their own support groups and youth organizations such as Boys and Girls Club and YMCA’s that have programs and inclusion is so important to them. Where I live now the family center’s even have social and counseling programs for raising gifted and special needs children. Therefore, I can’t stress enough the importance of taking advantage of all it has to offer to start making the connections that will make a difference in your life. I say this because I watched many parents choosing to do the journey alone and honestly they face higher levels of isolation and more stress. In fact I know personally one of the individuals never was able to have a friend whereas the three families I discussed and many others are still so important in my life. So please use your support and I am sure it will enrich your life.
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.