Meet the Project Social Ambassadors

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Michaela Hearst headshot

Michaela

Location: New York

Age: 24

College: Masters in Social Work (in progress), Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College; BA Psychology, Manhattanville College; AA Liberal Studies, Landmark College

Profession: Graduate student, tree climber, coffee drinker

Biography: Hey there! I’m Michaela. I’m a lover of nature, poetry, and iced coffee (in my humble opinion, the only coffee truly worth drinking). I was diagnosed with NVLD when I was 14. I always say that no two diagnosis of NVLD are alike. Mainly, my struggles are with slow processing speed, spatial relations and visual memory. I’m naturally extroverted, and I think of myself as a people person! I’m studying to become a social worker because I want to be able to help individuals with learning disabilities just like me! My hobbies include playing my guitar, drawing, and spending time outdoors.

Who is your favorite TV show character and why? Lieutenant Olivia Benson from Law & Order: SVU because of her incredible strength, persistence, selflessness, dedication, perseverance, and beauty inside and out.

Blog Posts:
NVLD: It’s In My Nature
Conquering Math with NVLD
Realizing

Benjamin Meyer headshot

Benjamin

Location: New York

Age: 33

College: Earlham College

Profession: Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

Biography: I was first diagnosed with NVLD as a child, and now as an adult, I have been fascinated in understanding how mental health professionals can not only better understand NVLD, but also provide practical strategies for young adults entering the workforce and while dating. I maintain a psychotherapy and coaching practice in Manhattan and also provide teletherapy for young adults who have been diagnosed with NVLD. I have been very fortunate to publish a couple of articles with the NVLD project, and I look forward to continuing to educate the general public regarding this unique neurological profile.

What is your most treasured possession? Probably my book shelf (I love to read).

Blog Posts:
Services That Help: Preparing Young Adults with NVLD for the Workforce
Dating Success: Strategies for Using Your Strengths with NVLD
Finding the Healing Touch: How Adults with NVLD Can Effectively Articulate their Sensory Needs to their Partners

Ariel Miller headshot

Ariel

Location: New York

Age: 26

College: Pace University

Profession: Current graduate student at New York University

Biography: I was diagnosed with NVLD when I was 5 years old. Currently, I am a graduate student at NYU studying professional writing. My passions include playing guitar, writing and reading. Before I worked through the struggles that came with having NVLD, I was very shy and isolated. Since breaking out of my bubble, I have made several friends. I have learned that although NVLD presents challenges, it is important to persevere and never give up. Anything is possible if you believe and work hard to achieve your dreams.

What is your most treasured possession? My Taylor guitar and MacBook Pro.

Emilee Harris headshot

Emilee

Location: Iowa

Age: 21

College: Grand View University

Profession: Political Research Associate

Biography: I was diagnosed with NVLD when I was in fourth grade. I really struggled with the diagnosis and became severely depressed. Luckily, I had my mother who was determined to not let me fall through the cracks and she advocated for me non-stop at school until I was given the services I needed to succeed. I was not expected to graduate high school, it was assumed by my doctors that I would probably drop out. I was able to graduate high school with honors and went right on to college. I followed my passions in politics through college where I earned honors in my degree field of political science and public administration. I now work in political research and spend my free time finding ways to advocate for disability rights in public policy. I hope to either attend law school and become a civil rights attorney who serves on disability rights cases, or to become a political advocate for disability rights. While NVLD is a major part of who I am, I do not let it define me and I use my struggles with it to build myself into a better person.

Who has influenced you the most in life and why? My parents and my daughter. If it weren’t for dedicated parents I wouldn’t be where I am today, and my daughter because she inspires me everyday to wake up with a smile and choose to be happy.

Gabriela DeMarco headshot

Gabriela

Location: New England

Age: 26

College: University of New Hampshire (undergraduate degree), New York University (master’s degree)

Profession: Social Worker

Biography: Hi! I’m Gabriela and I am a social work professional, working and living with NVLD. I am passionate about social justice, community connection and the human experience. My journey with NVLD was once focused solely on my challenges and failures, but has now transformed into a lifelong experience of healing and self-acceptance. I hope that there will be more awareness of NVLD in the future, and that the diversity within the NVLD community is more celebrated so young people and adults from all walks of life feel represented, valued and supported.

What is your favorite TV show? It is difficult in this day and age to choose just one favorite character! My favorite TV show is Grey’s Anatomy (by the amazingly talented Shonda Rhimes) and one of the things I love most about the show is that each episode connects to a “life lesson” or theme of the human experience. It inspires me to think and reflect! My favorite character has to be Dr. Miranda Bailey.

Blog Posts:
Embracing Limitations: An Alternate Perspective

Julia Lange headshot

Julia

Location: New York

Age: 25

College: Buffalo State College

Profession: Program Assistant for a Peer-Run Non-Profit Agency for People with Disabilities

Biography: Hi, I’m Julia. I’m a 25-year old vibrant young woman who has a beautiful appreciation for life. I was officially diagnosed with NVLD when I was eight years old and though it has been a challenge learning how to “life,” I have found true happiness. I have a black cat named Marcello, who is the light of my life. I enjoy art of all kinds and fashion. I love people and learning their stories, and through that I have been comfortable sharing my own. The opportunity to be part of the NVLD Project as a social ambassador is one of the greatest honors ever.

Who has influenced you the most in life and why? My mom has been the greatest influence in my life. She has been the fiercest advocate for me, and without her I wouldn’t be where I am today. She has sat through countless IEP meetings and has gotten me the services that I need. She taught me how to be my own advocate and I forever love her for that. I am glad for the opportunities that she has given me to succeed in life and she will be my best friend forever.

Blog Posts:
Resilience In the Face of Adversity
A Letter to my Future Partner About my NVLD

Megan Suggitt headshot

Megan

Location: Ontario, Canada

Age: 27

College: Ryerson University

Profession: Child and youth worker

Biography: My name is Megan, and I’m a graduate of the Child & Youth Worker program from Cambrian College and I’m pursuing my degree in Disability Studies at Ryerson University along with a certificate in Aboriginal Knowledges & Experiences. I was diagnosed with Non-Verbal Learning Disability when I was seven years old. I was continually told from a young age from psychologists and teachers “I wouldn’t amount to anything” and to “never consider post-secondary education.” I want to embrace my disability and construct a new dimension to humanity which moves beyond the label. I want to guide others out of their own darkness and illuminate a pathway of change. I am not defined by my disability, and my experiences have led me on a journey to cultivate change.

What has influenced you the most in life and why? My grades 6-8 special education teacher Mrs. R, who not only believed in me, she also inspired me to accomplish anything I wanted to in life despite my learning disability.

Blog Posts:
The Irony of Having Non-Verbal Learning Disability
Dear Mom & Dad With Love

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Project Social Ambassador- Katie- Headshot

Katie

Location: Ontario, Canada

Age: 21

Biography: Hi, My name’s Katie. I’m a 21 year old currently based in Ontario, Canada. I found out I had NVLD in grade 12. Identifying with this label has helped me to recognize why I experience, interpret, and understand things in a way that can seem a bit different to most people around me. I am excited to be writing for The NVLD Project because my struggles when undiagnosed proved to me how necessary it is for us to communicate and consistently work towards creating communities that celebrate diverse abilities and varied ways of thinking.

Blog Posts:
When Life Overflows: My Experience with NVLD, and How Research Can Help Those with the Disability to Swim Instead of Drown
How People and Patience Help Me Find Hope

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Linda

Location: New Jersey

College: Nova Southeastern University (graduate degree)

Profession: Learning specialist

Biography: I struggled in school during a time when not much was known about learning disabilities, let alone NVLD. Life was hard, but I learned through all my struggles and perseverance. Getting through college was no easy feat, but I never quit and graduated with honors. Determined to make a difference I became a public- school special education teacher to help misunderstood students. After 8 years, I left to start my own practice working with parents, children, and adults to learn academics and social skills. Working with individuals with neurodiversities is not just a job to me, it’s my life and passion.

What is your most treasured possession? I have two. My undergraduate and graduate college degree certificates, after I was told I wasn’t college material by my high school guidance counselor. My award from South Jersey Magazine for being one of the top ‘Super Women’ for making a difference in the community.

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Mandy

Location: Illinois

Age: 25

College: Northern Illinois University

Profession: Working 2 part time jobs while seeking full time employment

Biography: My name is Mandy. This is my first time doing anything like this but I think it is important. It sounds silly and cliche because everyone thinks their story is worth telling, and it is. Why is my story any different? I didn’t do anything special I don’t have a great talent. My brain is different but not “A beautiful mind.” I have a Non-Verbal Learning Disorder and learning about it as a teenager, I was under the impression it just meant that life is harder than the average teen but it’ll get easier. That was 10 years ago. I still have NVLD but now I also have a bachelor’s degree and depression. I don’t think I totally understand the impact the combination has on me, but I hope that we can explore this together through my posts.

What has influenced you the most in life and why? My dad has influenced my life the most. He was one of my biggest cheerleaders
growing up and he is also the first person to help me find resources to help me be as independent as possible.

Emma

Location: North Carolina

Age: 20

College: East Carolina University

Profession: Full-time student

Biography: My name is Emma and I am currently a Junior at East Carolina University. My major is Family and Community Services with a concentration in Family Science. My goal is to become a clinical counselor in the future. When I am not in school or studying I love watching Grey’s Anatomy, spending time with friends, hang out with my cat Frankie, singing, and being in musicals. My journey with NVLD started when I was diagnosed in the third grade. At the time I had absolutely no idea what all this was or what it meant. Throughout school I definitely had my fair share of struggles but thanks to my wonderful support system, I got through it. I feel as if NVLD is often miss-understood so I am so excited to become an ambassador and bring awareness to NVLD.

What is your favorite TV show character and why? I love Christian Yang from Grey’s Anatomy because of how strong of a person she is. She has gone through so much yet she continues to help people and live out her passion.

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