In my experience living a successful and happy life with NVLD seems to be about finding–or creating– niches. It can be a confusing path to find them, but they exist.
I was diagnosed with having some sort of learning disorder when I was in kindergarten in the late 80s, but I wasn’t given the name nonverbal learning disorder until I went back for neurospych testing when I was 28. Growing up, academics seemed to be the focus of treatment for the condition, but I knew there was more to it. By fifth grade I seemed to have gotten academics down, except for math. I loved science (when it didn’t have math in it). But the things that I found the most challenging about NVLD were the parts that were not academic. I feel this was because no one was working with me on those things the way the did academics.
Until I was about 18 I had trouble making close friends. I wasn’t picked on or bullied that much (I am extremely lucky in that regard). The problem was more that I felt… invisible. I knew it was something about me, some way I was not connecting with the other kids at school enough to be good friends with them. I started paying close attention to the way I interacted with people, but this made me very quiet and reserved and gave me anxiety. This was painful for me, because I have a friendly and bubbly personality.
I thought my trouble with developing close friendships was somehow related to my learning disability, but professionals and family I shared this with didn’t seem to agree with that. They thought I was just shy, and if I could conquer my social anxiety disorder I would be fine at making friends. Oddly enough, a therapy group for social anxiety, along with getting involved in theater, did break me of my troubles connecting with people senior year of high school.
Both helped me learn to interact with people outside of my family, to have back and forth conversations, and to enjoy the connection of conversation. Since that time I have found it easier to make friends. I have noticed I feel most comfortable with people with a sense of humor, people who don’t take themselves to seriously. I enjoy being around people who I can be my true self with, which is someone who finds humor in daily life, someone who is chatty, and laughs a lot. I have found a way to find my niche socially, and in my adulthood I have found many amazing friends, and a boyfriend who is right on my wavelength!
Professionally I have been through some challenges as well. I feel if a teen is in special education for a learning disorder it is important to not just help them pass their classes, but to teach them how their condition will affect life outside of school. This includes employment. I was so successful at school by high school I thought I wouldn’t have any trouble being very successful in the professional world. The thing is, however, I noticed jobs expect you to “learn by doing” and I learn by talking, listening, and reading. I don’t play around with computer programs or other things to understand them. I learn computer programs and step-by-step processes from one on one mentoring.
I had some very challenging times in my adult life figuring out how I learn the processes and computer programs needed for the type of jobs that would otherwise be a good fit for me. It was also hard to figure out what employers would allow for me to learn these things the way I need to. At this point in my life I will not apply to a job until I have had the opportunity to research the company and learn how they train new hires. In the right role at work I am a strong and successful employee. It has taken me until my 30s, but I have found my employment niche as well! And I know how to seek it out.
NVLD does not mean you will never find friendship, love, and a rewarding career. It does mean you have to be creative. You will need to be true to yourself to find all your niches to find success.
I’m in my mid 30s, living with my boyfriend in New England. I currently work coaching and assisting people with hidden disabilities to achieve employment success in the field of their choice (something I know a bit about)! I’ve worked as a newspaper reporter and science museum interpreter in the past. I have been driven all my life to succeed. I believe strongly in “spoon theory” and work on a life that allows for me to use my talents, and accept and respect my “can’ts.” I believe, like dyslexia, ADD, and HFA, NVLD comes with unique talents was well as the challenges we focus on.Share your own story