“Julia’s visual-spatial difficulties cause her to be a hazard for herself and other students”
“Julia’s speech pattern makes her appear cognitively impaired”
“It appears Julia has a mild to moderate case of Nonverbal Learning Disorder”
These are a few [paraphrased] quotes from various IEPs and Neuropsychological reports I have from when I was growing up. I have read through these reports extensively trying to better understand me and find reasoning to why the way I am. The only conclusion I have ever drawn from these are that these are just labels and that my Nonverbal Learning Disorder (NVLD) does not define me or my life.
I was developing normally and hitting all my milestones at a normal pace until I had a febrile seizure at the age at two-and-a-half. Though it is just speculation at this point, my doctors believe that the seizure is either a cause or a catalyst to my NVLD and the messy-yet-awesome journey that I have endured my entire life.
The first sign I was a unique soul was when I was three and I could write out full words without anyone teaching them to me. I could read by the time I was four and I was one of the only kids in my Kindergarten class who could read above grade level. Though I was an avid reader and had an uncanny lexicon, my mom observed an increase in anxiety levels and delays in both my fine and gross minor skills. This was confirmed by my Kindergarten screening, which prompted me to be tested. The testing found that I was too young to have a definitive diagnosis, but I was placed into occupational, physical, and speech therapies to help strengthen my skills. I was officially diagnosed with a mild-to-moderate case of NVLD at the end of third grade.
Though the past twenty-something years with NVLD have been a roller coaster ride, I consistently pride myself on my resilience. I have been let down and I have failed more times than I could count, but each day I still get up and conquer the world. I don’t owe this all to myself. I owe much of it to my huge support system I have had growing up (and still do). I am grateful for being born in a family of educators and being able to attend a wonderful and supportive school district that allowed me to thrive and grow into the socially awkward hot mess of an adult that I am today.
Today, I am almost 24 years old. I graduated college in 2014 with honors and I work full-time in a law office as a paralegal. I just celebrated my one-year anniversary with my boyfriend and I am looking into MSW programs to become a disability advocate in my community. So many people have said “no” in my life because of my NVLD label, but I will always say “yes, I will.”
Julia Lange is a 20-something paralegal and disability rights advocate in Buffalo, NY with her black cat, Marcello. She has NVLD but has not let it define her life. Her sense of humor and ability to get right back up when she falls has allowed her to be a successful adult.Share your own story