It was interesting to read in the new blog of Stephen Drake (of Not Dead Yet fame)about the negative experience he has had with the diagnosis and literature of NLD.
My son started on the path toward his diagnosis in pre-school. I was having a really hard time teaching him to zip his coat and asked my daughter's OT for suggestions. She watched my son struggle and gave me a bunch of suggestions and some literature about sensory processing to read. The info was a lot of help and once he was no longer facing the northern NY winters with his coat flapping I was happy.
When he went to school he demonstrated a quirky mix of really high level abilities in some areas and struggles and dysfluencies in other areas. Sometimes teachers loved him and other times he drove them to distraction. They did test him again at some point and found that he had an average IQ (turns out that was a pretty meaningless statement because the gap in his scores is so wide, but I didn't realize that was so significant at the time.)
In 4th grade formal evaluations took place. The words 'Non-Verbal Learning Disorder' were spoken for the first time. We were told a lot of test results and I was given a spiral notebook of information and strategies. When I got home and read through that notebook I was devastated. It was chock full of 'will nevers' and 'can'ts.' After stewing in it for several hours I called our developmental pediatrician (who was also a personal friend) at home. The literature made it sound like my son's prognosis held less hope than we expected for my daughter who has Down syndrome. I don't really cry much, but I was crying then.
Where the more familiar learning disabilities were characterized with (among other things) higher scores on the performance side of the IQ score and lower scores on the verbal side, in NLD the verbal scores are higher and performance scores are lower. There are difficulties with large and fine motor skills, reasoning, social fluency.
After my conversation with my friend that night I fluffed up my pink feathers and gave myself a talking to: this was not our first brush with disability, we already knew things about my son that exceeded the "will never" list that we had been given for example:
-He has always had a pretty funny sense of humor,
-We had already seen him overcome learning obstacles and then excel with the new info.
-We had already seen much progress with things like social fluency.
-We already had evidence that he drew connections between pieces of information that he had learned (though his way of expressing this often made people shake their heads!)
-My own verbal vs. performance abilities probably have a similar configuration and I am making it...
And most of all:
-He was-and is-a great kid!
We decided to use the suggestions we deemed helpful and toss out the rest of the book (I literally ripped the book apart--I did not want to take the chance that he would ever find and read it!) We decided to trust him and ourselves.
Since that time I have found a couple of books I do like about NLD: Bridging the Gap: Raising a Child with Nonverbal Learning Disorder by Rondalynn Varney Whitney and Raising NLD Superstars by Marcia Brown Rubenstein are two.
We arranged for a 504 plan for my son which was really never implemented so in 7th grade he was given an IEP. His modifications include double time for certain activities, word processing instead of handwriting (handwriting is and has always been impossible--his legibility is fine, but the motor-planning takes YEARS!), separating input from output (he can't write while listening, but he has a long working memory so he can record his notes later), and help organizing.
With these supports in place he succeeds. He does well in school, does well on standardized tests, acts in school plays, reads fantasy novels, plays video games and avoids dishes and bedmaking like every other highschool kid.
PSAT scores are back with very positive results so now we are working on learning what he will need to know how to do (like advocate!) to succeed in college...
Can he? We certainly believe so! We do not ever accept "can't" without proof anymore... actually, I only accept "can't right now" these days (and that only after a fight!)
And the only expert I believe about my son is him.
PS: Are migraines common among people with NLD, does anyone know? Everyone I know with the diagnosis has them...
See my other posts about NVLD here.