A few months back my husband and I took a stay-cation vacation week. We started that week off by cleaning, organizing, and getting rid of things we no longer need. As is the case whenever I move my belongings around for a move or a clean-up. I resurfaced papers I have saved from my NVLD journey and I revisited them. These documents are important to me through my path. The first that I found is my three year evaluation when I was in 8th grade. As a child with a diagnosis, every three years I would get retested and evaluated to gauge my learning improvements and my qualifications for continued special education services. My 8th grade evaluation is a favorite of mine. Although there is no diagnosis of NVLD in any of my evaluations until I was 28 years old, my 8th grade testing makes it very clear that NVLD is what I had been managing all along.
The other documents are from 2010, the year that I obtained neuropsych testing to try to make better choices regarding my next step when I found myself unemployed during the recession. It turned out to be the time I was officially diagnosed with NVLD at the age of 28. A vocational assessment test was done shortly after. The vocational assessment is testing specifically regarding work that fits the skills, experience, qualifications, and abilities of someone with a diagnosis looking for work.
My whole life I have felt lucky to have been born in a generation and time where there is more space in our culture to be open. However, I still don’t see people discussing their diagnoses. Many people have had testing like mine, but we still have not reached a place in our culture where it’s common for people to talk openly about how it feels to have a professional analyze your quirks and your identity and come back to tell you such a major part of who you are.
I am a huge supporter of diagnosis. I feel it was a gift to have first had my specific learning disabilities, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia diagnosis as a kindergartner, and then a more specific NVLD diagnosis added to the dyscalculia (math learning disability) and dysgraphia (disability of written expression, including, in my case, handwriting and spelling issues) diagnoses as an adult. But… I still… feel uncomfortable with having my weaknesses written down, analyzed by a professional. Full disclosure, it is uncomfortable to have a professional tell you who you are, and put that focus on your greatest weaknesses at that!
“In general she was on task 100% of the time,” stated the narrative of my 8th grade testing. This was done in January of 1997 and the examiner was observing me in my social studies class. I didn’t know she was there to observe me. Not telling me ahead of time was done intentionally. We were taking an open notebook test on African American History. It was pointed out in the evaluation that I didn’t ask questions or make comments, and that I was very diligent on the work. This all makes sense to me. I wasn’t quiet in class due to any sort of anxiety. Listening is a very effective way for me to learn. In a group setting formulating questions at this late stage in the learning process is not always helpful for me. Often that can take energy away from my mastering the reviewed information.
The write-up includes an interview with my social studies teacher and he referred to me as “a very attentive, hardworking, concerned student who has some very good ideas.” I had always taken school seriously and by middle school I had become a strong student. I loved my social studies class. It was one of the most challenging and interesting classes in my 8th grade curriculum. It made me proud, even to this day 23 years later, as I sat on the carpet of our living room floor taking a break from clearing the clutter of our home. The fact that this specific teacher felt this way about my abilities as a student meant something then, and means something now.
Reading further, I have no idea how I wasn’t diagnosed with NVLD as a child. The test was separated between Verbal and Performance subsets. So… um. Verbal and nonverbal skills?? My verbal skills were technically scored as high average, but for whatever reason part of the verbal testing was mental arithmetic. The examiner felt that the test should be taken out of the score due to the use of mathematics (I had all along been diagnosed with dyscalculia, which is math learning disability, after all). With that math score taken out my verbal IQ was in the superior range and I was in the 95th percentile. Then there are my nonverbal skills….
“Anna’s performance IQ score is significantly weaker and falls into the Low Average Range at the 18th percentile rank. This [Verbal/ Nonverbal] split is highly significant and occurred in less than 1% of the standardization sample… In general, Anna’s visual-spatial and visual-motor skills are very significantly weaker than her verbal comprehension skills- which are superior.” She also stated my social judgment skills were categorized as “very superior.”
Stay tuned for part 2!
Anna has dreamed about making the world a better place for people who think differently her whole life. She has worked as a newspaper reporter and in supported employment within community mental health to achieve these goals. When not writing her blog, This NVLD Life, she enjoys going on adventures with her husband and their cat, Mia. Anna is a Project Social Ambassador for The NVLD Project.Share your own story