One of the things I have learned growing up with an NVLD is that it is important to take regular education courses and to be part of activities with neurotypical students. While we struggle to learn the proper interaction in social situations, we can do fairly well learning through experiences with the proper role models. Yes, it requires extra work on your end. In the end, it can make a tremendous difference.
In 10th grade math there were many classmates who knew I had social and communication challenges so they got me involved in their unacceptable behaviors and I was, of course, the one who got into the most trouble. Since I never picked up on the social cue that it was the time to stop misbehaving, I was the one who was caught. Luckily for me, the teacher knew my family and spoke to my parents about it and as a result they switched me to a different section where there were more students who modeled better behaviors. My behavior started to change right away.
On the cross-country team my behavior was always excellent. The team was full of mature and smart teenagers. As a result I could live by their example and follow their lead. What I mean by this is I never heard anyone yell back at the coach so I learned not to either. I never saw anyone interrupt him while he spoke to us so I learned not to either. I was able to control my tone of voice better on the bus because those around me were not acting in a loud manner. This continued since the athletes who were younger than me were also smart and mature and the cross-country group from other schools that I was friendly with acted in a similar manner. Having excellent role models was a tremendous help to me as I wanted to be accepted by my peers and I knew I couldn’t if I let my social challenges get out of control.
The pattern of behavior continued throughout my high school years as I wasn’t a model student in those classes where good role models were not present. For instance, I was great at Applied Chemistry and American History. I tribute this to being connected with my peers as one of two LD students in my American History class and one of several LD students in my Applied chem class. The social part of my disability was a tremendous reason my parents said no to the resource room only section of English and Social Studies class, where many of my LD classmates were. I have always wanted to be accepted. These classes would have modeled their less than desirable behaviors which would have affected me both academically and socially.
I look back to my high school years and do believe I achieved much more growth than others with similar challenges because of my parents decision to put me in more challenging classes and cross-country where I had better role models.
While this may upset the resource room teachers and counselors reading this, one of the things I have learned is that often they don’t recommend taking on the harder challenges. It could be because NVLD continues to be a very misunderstood disability so they aren’t sure whether it is better to take the harder path or to play it safe. To me personally, taking the easier path is one of the biggest mistakes that can be made as I know being able to have stronger role models makes all the difference in the world. I was fortunate as my mom’s training at Syracuse University believed in this and my dad believed in this too. However, for your team to allow you to do this they must be able to prove you have a strong desire to succeed academically and socially as some of the adults may question this decision. Additionally, the adults involved need to feel that the overall integrity of the class won’t be compromised and that you will be a proactive member of each setting.
As an NVLD student, I hope you understand how important it is to challenge yourself and have positive role models. Being around others who challenge themselves in regular classes can do wonders for your self-esteem and also allows you to learn the proper social skills to be a better friend too. I am where I am today because of all these experiences. Through dedication and hard work I believe you will experience the same growth and overall success.