What is like to Overcome an NVLD, by Eileen

By June 21, 2022 NVLD Bloggers

One of the hardest things about overcoming an NVLD is that it is not unusual to be underestimated, given our deficits. These can include deficits in academics, social communication, motor skills, and processing speed making it easy to be underestimated at times. For me, personally, being underestimated triggered self-esteem issues. However, I was very appreciative of the adults who always believed in me.

One of the first times I was underestimated was when we chose for me to take Regents Biology rather than the Pre-Biology course. First, this decision was something at first, so few agreed with, and at times, the disagreements became intense. For example, I was asked to drop this course several times and always said no, which understandably frustrated my support team. My resource room teacher was very sincere and felt that things would be less stressful for me by not taking this class. However, in my eyes, I knew I could do the work, and sure enough, I was right, as I was one of the four Learning Disabled students who passed the regents that year.

Another example happened in my English Courses. Many did not realize how much I knew about theater. The truth was I was very aware of the different writers and composers like Sondheim and Tom Sheppard and theater companies such as Steppenwolf in Chicago, Studio 54 in New York City, and The Vic in London. What my teachers were missing was I just didn’t go to family plays like the Lion King; I went to deeper shows like RENT, whose focus was on the AIDS crisis and struggling artists adjusting to the change of their neighborhood, and Bring da Noise Bring in Da Funk which tells the story about black history from past to present with tap dancing. It wasn’t until I did my major project on George Wolfe, who wrote the Bring da noise Bring da funk my teachers realized how knowledgeable I was.

Additionally, I was told I couldn’t be a runner by my 9th-grade counselor, and others agreed with him. I will always remember being called to his room and having him say to me,” I heard you joined track. With your motor and social skills deficits, you can’t be on the team”. Of course, I was my strong-willed self and said,” yes, I can, and my coach and my family have already met to go over how I can be successful.” He listened to what I had to say but, of course, added I hope you are prepared for failure as it hurts. Sure enough, he was wrong, and he was pleasantly surprised when I won an award the following year and admitted to me he had underestimated my abilities.

Thankfully as much as I was underestimated, I was also incredibly blessed to have wonderful adults in my life. It was my three coaches who had the greatest confidence in me. They set wonderful goals for me while I was on their teams, and if I had a bad race or practice, they spoke to me about it as they expected and wanted me to do the best I could. In addition, it wasn’t unusual that my coaches would talk to my teachers about making sure they never counted me out and that her determination was her biggest strength. Their belief in me is why they are forever very special people to me.

In terms of academics, the two teachers who believed in me the most were my US History teacher and my 11th and 12th-grade math teacher. There was never a day when I was expected to achieve less than my classmates. Having these teachers have so much confidence in me allowed me to pass the regents in these classes. Yes, given my NVLD, my math score was just above passing, and my history score was higher; however, their confidence was key to my personal success. Both of these teachers wrote my college recommendations and were the adults who believed in my intelligence and saw that I loved to learn. By having them in the same year, my self-esteem greatly improved, and through team meetings, my other teachers started to see my true ability too.

Overall as you read this, please understand through hard work and determination, you will have a lot of adults who see your abilities. Years later, I can honestly say that there are only two teachers who never did see my ability. That being said, when you are faced with being underestimated by those around you, just keep working hard to do excellent work. When you achieve successful outcomes, they will be proud of you and admit that they underestimated you and that they focused too much on your weaknesses and not enough on your strengths.


I will think the world of Penny Sharrow and Mark Henry for always supporting my crazy dreams!