Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Non Verbal Learning Disorder and Social Learning from the Beginning

One aspecct of Non Verbal Learning Disorder that many folks find challenging is a lack of social fluency. Fitting in can be very tricky.

For my son this is an area where he is continually growing so I thought that I would (with his permission) share some of our experiences.

When my son was little--long before he had a diagnosis--he would have reminded you of Lt. Commander Data from Star Trek: Next Gen. He spoke in a sort of clipped way, he did not use contractions, and the timing of his responses in conversation were delayed.

Over the years this dissipated. People that we camped with every year remarked at one point that it used to be when you greeted Tom he would take forever figuring out who you were and why you were talking to him before he could answer. "Now," our friend said, "when I say hi, he says hi--it's great!"

Neighborhood interactions could be a bit tricky between his hesitant style and his very literal thinking. Another 4 year old (or more likely, 6 year old) yelling "I'm going to KILL you," would send my son running home in terror.

He was about 4 when I explained that 'exaggerating' means saying something much bigger than you really mean to make things sound exciting. I would make a big show of saying "I told you a million times," or "That was the loudest noise in the WORLD!" and I would compare flying bugs to birds, or airplanes.

Once my son got the hang of it he LOVED it. He thought it was so funny.

And the next time the kid down the street yelled at my son that he was going to KILL hiim, my son turned to him and calmly said, "Exaggeration." Since the drama was gone the kids pretty much stopped pushing that button.

And I learned that I could explain social things to Tom and he could get it.

Not long after that I had the opportunity to mention to him that crying makes mean people meaner. He thought that was just awful (and so do I) but he saved what he could of his need to cry for the safety of home.

Another fun lesson was puns.

At dinner when I asked him if he wanted to put cheese on himself he would answer in horror, "No, on my spaghetti!"

Or if I asked if he wanted me to put his coat on he would tell me that it wouldn't fit me.

Which would have been hilarious, but he was serious.

So I pulled out the primer of punniness, Amelia Bedelia, and 'splained it to him... again, once he caught on, he couldn't get enough. He graduated to the Xanth "Trilogy" by Piers Anthony by the time he was 12 for the sheer joy of it. Frankly, I think much of his enjoyment is because his first thought is still so literal.

Next up: Joining groups.


rickismom said...

very interesting post. So you have to explain ALL instances like this, one at a time?

Terri said...

No, not all, there are things he gets right away. But when there are glitches we figure out where the gaps are and can often fill them in with some good explanations.

Karen said...

Hi -- I just found your blog and was so delighted to meet (on the page at least) a child so much like my own daughter! Your entry made me remember so vividly one day when I was tired and said I was going to crash, and she burst into tears of horror, certain I was going to be injured. There are hundreds of little daily stories like this one I'm sure you can match!

We, too, read Amelia Bedelia thoroughly. At the moment I have just come across Stephen Fry's new book on British puns and have ordered it for Emma (she's 13). She also thinks Monty Python is just the most hilarious thing in the entire universe; and she is totally devoted to Spock -- although, interestingly, she thinks she is unlike him despite the fact that if I say casually, "it's 5:30," she'll reply, "Actually, it's 5:28."

CLBoothNLD said...

I remember reading Amelia Bedelia when I was quite young, remember really having to think about why it was funny. I actually frequently felt bad for her, having to hoist the bread dough up by a chandelier in order to get it to rise. I thought it was so sad that people were laughing at her when she was just making an honest mistake.

I spent a lot of time trying to understand puns and homophones, and it took a while for me to find that sort of thing funny. I find that I have an additional problem where this is concerned, sometimes my brain will group syllables together in odd ways ("check into" turns into "chicken to") and I can never seem to recognize my mistake until something becomes really obviously wrong with the story or sentence. It can be funny, but also frustrating.

Honestly I'll be 25 in a couple weeks, and I frequently have to catch myself taking things too literally, or recognizing who someone is and why they are trying to talk to me. I have learned a pretty heavy distrust of people I don't know talking to me, from my public schooling days, which has become both obsolete and an impediment. I am working on learning how to see when people don't understand me or I don't understand them.

I've become notorious for my ability to talk with someone and both members find later that they were talking about something completely different.

I enjoyed the post either way, thank you.