One of the hardest things about having an NVLD is that for some it can take some extra time to truly understand which adults you work with really believe in you and how many of your peers are truly accepting and understanding of your unique deficits. If people are too kind to you it can seem like they just “feel sorry” for you or if they are pushing you to go the extra mile it can seem like they are being mean when neither is the case.
For example, one of the first times I experienced this was with Mrs. Bell, my secondary speech therapist. When she switched me from a group setting to one on-one-services I thought it was because she thought I was “stupid” and as an 8th grader after receiving group therapy for two years this was discouraging. The truth was she noticed I had potential and an excellent work ethic so she felt I deserved her individual attention to achieve maximum success. I eventually realized she was right as I saw with the individual attention I achieved greater progress with my personal communication and articulation skills. However, it brought a great deal of tension occasionally as being an insecure teenager I was very sensitive to the stigma of getting one-on-one services. Now, I look back and I can’t believe it took so long for me to see how she was an incredible supporter of mine.
Another example was with my gym teacher and track coach Mrs. Sharrow. All the way through my secondary school years the amount of care and support I received from her was significantly more than other students like myself. For the first few years I really thought she was just being nice to me and felt sorry for me because my sister excelled at everything. The truth was she noticed and loved my “Yes I can” attitude. As a result she wanted to do all she could to help me overcome obstacles such as opening my locker and improving my gross motor skills. Becoming Mrs. Sharrow’s regular distance runner for winter and spring track made me realize this and we had an incredible student-adult relationship as I saw how much she cared about me and believed in me. Years later we still have a remarkable relationship and now I laugh about how long it took for me to understand she thought very highly of me.
In terms of my peers, one of the times this affected me was my first year of cross-country. Jada, who was one of my dad’s students at Canton High was very nice to me but it was hard to tell if she was being a true friend or it was because she knew my dad. What gave me a clue she was being a true friend was when she hugged me and congratulated me after a race when my dad couldn’t be there. However what made me realize she was going to be a great friend was how her support continued throughout each track season and that we always had a great running friendship. Now, as I look back the vast majority of those I ran with truly became great friends and today many still are.
One reason for the challenge is because you can struggle seeing the complete picture. For example, you see students with similar disabilities struggle, forming friendships with peers, and being quieter around their teachers so you think that is going to be you. The truth is each student is different and if you are driven to succeed academically, socially, and personally you will receive more support compared to others who don’t. Just like how Mrs. Bell and Mrs. Sharrow supported me the way they did because I showed them I was motivated and driven. The same goes for your peers. They will support you as they will notice your drive to succeed and be accepted. While this is hard to understand, you will see that your goal setting and determination leads to having great friendships and mentors so it’s so important to see the whole picture and have confidence in yourself.
This being said, remember that when adults and peers are consistently taking the time to reach out to you, give them a chance as over time you will understand that the support is genuine and sincere as both your peers and the adults working with you just want to be in your support system. Now, if you’re being pushed too much, remember it generally means they know you are capable and ready to overcome obstacles and want to support you any way they can. If you do this, I strongly believe you will see which teachers enjoy supporting you and who your great friends are.
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.Share your own story