I have nonverbal learning disability. Well, not officially. Officially, I still have the diagnosis I was given more than 50 years ago: Minimal brain dysfunction. But NVLD is much more accurate. So, I’m disabled. But I’m also abled. Now, that word “abled” gets a little red line underneath to tell me that it’s not a word. Hey! Spell check! How can you lack something you can’t have?
The reason I went to see that psychologist when I was 5 is that I was asked not to return to my preschool. The same psychologist who told my parents I had minimal brain dysfunction also told them I would never go to college. Ha. My mom and Elizabeth Friedus started the Gateway Schools of NY for me. I skipped 12th grade, did college in 3 years, got my BA at 20 and now have 2 MAs and a PhD. So, I guess I’m also abled.
The things I am best at are those involving math and words (yeah, I know, NVLDers are supposed to be bad at math; we’re also supposed to have no sense of humor, sorry). I am a statistician. I’m also an author (see end).
A disability is like a mountain between where you are and where you want to go. There are four reactions: You can give up and turn back, you can go over the mountain (by working longer), you can go through the mountain (by working harder) or you can go around the mountain by finding a trick or using your strengths to overcome your weaknesses. Each strategy (yes, including giving up) has its place. The key to success, though, is first recognizing that there is, indeed, a mountain there and then making good decisions about which strategy to use in which situation. But it’s difficult to make general recommendations on which strategy will be right for which NVLD person, because we are all so different.
Peter Flom is an independent statistical consultant. He lives in New York City with his wife and two children. He is the author of “Screwed Up Somehow but not Stupid: Life with a Learning Disability” and the creator of www.IAmLearningDisabled.com.Share your own story