How NVLD Students Can Be Underestimated and Misunderstood Part A , by Eileen

By June 1, 2024 Eileen, NVLD Bloggers

As a student with an NVLD over the years, I was greatly underestimated and very misunderstood at times. Not only did I have a different disability from others but also wanted to challenge myself more than others. This was especially hard as so few could really understand how difficult it was for me to fully understand non-verbal communication and to appropriately keep up with the social demands. In addition, the school day could become very overwhelming with all the changes at the secondary level and working with multiple adults in the elementary school years.  Unfortunately, my experience doesn’t seem to be unusual and I would like to share my difficult experiences and offer insight on how things can become easier.

One of the first times I was misunderstood was during gym class when I was sitting in the corner of the gym rather than taking part in a tag game. This made my gym teacher frustrated as everyone else was already completely engaged in the game. However, the truth was that because of my gross motor skills deficits, I had no clue how to put on my jersey, and having social communication deficits it was difficult to ask for help too.  Therefore I just sat in the corner rather nervous and hoped no one would notice but of course, she did immediately. While interacting with me fortunately my gym teacher then learned I also struggled to ask for help and the situation never happened again. .

The next example happened when I was receiving some supportive services 1:1  as it caused me to shut down and become uncooperative with the adults working with me as a young child. This was so overwhelming for me.  The reality was in most situations this happened because there wasn’t another student in our group with similar academic and social skills so giving me individual care made more sense but of course, I couldn’t understand this. As a result, this caused adults to become very frustrated with me. Fortunately, Rhonda Fletcher, my APE teacher, was a problem solver and started to use the push-in model more regularly with me, and by doing this she was able to see how much I enjoyed her and realized 1:1 interactions could be very hard for me. As a result, the speech and occupational therapist became aware of this and went out of their way to make me more comfortable and in turn, each session became a better learning experience for me.

The following example happened in elementary school: teachers believed my reading level was lower than it was so I was grouped with the other resource room students for group work and projects. This was rather frustrating for me as  I would always finish first and occasionally they would copy my answers but because I had empathy so I understood if this was a math group they would be getting frustrated with me. One of the reasons why I was underestimated was due to the fact they didn’t understand my added speech impairment was motor-related not language-related. In addition, I had visual processing deficits so I read silently at a slower pace. Therefore it made sense but it was still discouraging, however, just like the other situations everyone eventually understood reading was a strength for me. This led to my teachers letting me work with non-disabled peers.

Now my last example for Part A. It was so hard for others to understand why transitioning to classes took longer for me. One of the first reasons was  it took me longer to open up my locker. This was because my fine motor skills deficits and my added spatial skills deficits organizing my locker took a few extra minutes too. In addition, once I got to my classroom having these deficits made getting prepared for each course rather difficult for me, and at times my teachers would have to delay the start of class. What was hard about this was it required the teachers’ aide to help me a great deal which made the other students with IEPs very frustrated as it seemed like she liked me more as she always helped me first before going to check on the other students. Fortunately, through open communication, my educational team developed a greater understanding of this challenge and did whatever they could to help so transitioning wasn’t a real challenge anymore.

Overall it is never easy but it is important to remember NVLD is a very misunderstood disability. So please be patient and be very honest about your feelings in a kind and understanding way as most difficult experiences can turn into positive experiences.


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.

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