Disability Part 2: Nonverbal Learning Disability

Welcome to my first blog post of the year! The topic of this post is one that has been on my mind for some time. I have shared my experience as a person with a disability on my blog before, but I have had yet to go in to detail about what my disability is. Issues that people with disabilities face is one topic that I am passionate about, and one of the reasons I started this blog. I want to raise awareness on the issues we face. In this post, I want to discuss learning disability, and raise awareness on a little known type learning disability called nonverbal learning disability. 

If I were to tell a friend that I caught a cold, they would know exactly what I am going through. Chances are that I am dealing with a cough, a sneeze, and a runny nose. A name and a diagnosis leads to understanding. That type of understanding was what I craved for growing up, and what i’m still looking for in my adulthood years. I came close to that when I was diagnosed with Turner syndrome in my early teen years, and when I was officially diagnosed with learning disability in early adulthood. However, it’s not enough.

In previous posts, I have mentioned that I’ve recognized how different I am from my peers from the time I was a very small child. My Turner syndrome diagnosis answered a lot of questions for me, especially when I started to do a little research on the condition. I found that girls with Turner syndrome often have learning difficulties, and when I was diagnosed with learning disability, I was relieved to finally have a name for what I was experiencing. However, the diagnosis was Learning Disability NOS, NOS meaning not otherwise specified. Learning disability is a catch all term for a group of neurologically-based processing conditions. According to Learning Disabilities Association of America

These processing problems can interfere with learning basic skills such as reading, writing and/or math. They can also interfere with higher level skills such as organization, time planning, abstract reasoning, long or short term memory and attention. It is important to realize that learning disabilities can affect an individual’s life beyond academics and can impact relationships with family, friends and in the workplace” .             

Examples of different types of leaning disabilities are

As already mentioned, learning disability is a general catch all term. “Not Otherwise Specified” is also a general term, and is often used to give a general, nonspecific diagnosis. When someone is given a diagnosis of learning disability NOS, it means the psychologist doing the testing recognizes the patient has learning difficulties, but can not pinpoint what his or her specific learning disability might be. As happy as I was to have a diagnosis, I still wished I could have gotten a diagnosis that was a little more specific and provided more answers. However, I understand why I was given the general diagnosis. Out of all the learning disabilities that I mentioned before, the only one that is not considered an official condition is nonverbal learning disability.

According to the U.S. National Organization for Rare Diseases, girls with Turner syndrome often “have difficulties with directional sense, learning math, nonverbal memory and attention. Affected females may also experience difficulty in certain social situations”. Most of the symptoms mentioned are symptoms that I have, and are also symptoms of people with nonverbal learning disability. Unfortunately, learning disabilities like dyscalculia and nonverbal learning disability do not get as much attention as language based learning disabilities that cause issues with communication, reading, and writing. Moreover, nonverbal learning disability is not included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which is now on it’s fifth edition (DSM-5), therefore psychologists can not use the condition as an official diagnosis. Another issue is that since people with nonverbal learning disability often have issues with nonverbal communication and poor social skills, the condition is often compared to Aspergers Disorder. Nonverbal learning disability is also compared to Autism and ADHD, and children with NLD are often diagnosed with one of those conditions, which some experts believe does an injustice to the patients because they don’t get the help they really need with the wrong diagnosis

Do I have nonverbal learning disability? Would be I diagnosed with the condition if it was recognized as an official condition? I’m not entirely sure. All I know is that I do have many of the symptoms recognized as symptoms of people with NLD. If It were to be made an official condition, then maybe there would be more answers. More answers means learning more about oneself, and learning how to handle struggles due to disability, and learning how to advocate for yourself, starts there.

Interview with Amanda Gene

Hello everyone! I am so excited to be collaborating with fellow blogger Amanda Gene! Amanda’s blog is a personal blog that covers her life experiences, particularly her experiences as a person with a disability. She also uses her platform to let other people with disabilities share their experiences too! I have mentioned on my blog and social media many times that I am a person with a disability, and Amanda asked me to do an interview for her blog to share my experience! I am so honored! You can click here to read the interview! Amanda’s blog and story is so inspiring, so be sure to checkout Amanda’s other blog posts as well! Thankyou for visiting and supporting my blog! Once again, happy holidays, and I will see you in the next post! 

With love,

Charli

Disability: Seeing the Unseen

“We hire Shaun and we give hope to…people with limitations that those limitations are not what they think they are, that they do have a shot!”

Dr. Aaron Glassman The Good Doctor Episode 1 Season 1

I’m a little late to joining the bandwagon as the show is already in its second season, but I started watching a show called The Good Doctor. For those who don’t know, the show is about a man named Shaun Murphy who is a surgeon. He also happens to be a man with autism. I’ve been really enjoying the show so far, and was inspired to tell me story about my own experiences as a person with a disability. 

There is one word to covers the two reactions people with disabilities generally receive: doubt. There is either doubt in the person’s capabilities, or there is doubt that the person has a disability at all. In the show The Good Doctor, Shaun Murphy fits into the first category. His memory, visual spatial skills, and analytical skills are far above average. He is an asset to the hospital he is working in. However, many of his coworkers can’t see past his very apparent disability. I, on the other hand, fit into the latter category. My disability is invisible, and I often find myself having to prove that I actually am a person with a disability. 

From the time I was a small girl, it was apparent to everyone in my inner circle that I was a little different from my peers. Spend enough time me, and one would definitely be able to see my deficits, but only if that person is paying close attention. 

“You don’t seem like a person with a disability to me”, a friend once told me. 

Little did she know that it’s that same sentiment that often makes it difficult for me to get the help I need. The specific kind of disability I have is learning disability. There are different kinds of learning disabilities, and most of them are language based. That means people with those types of learning disabilities have trouble with spoken or written communication. The most well known language based learning disability is dyslexia. Communication is not a problem for me though. In fact, I’ve been told that I express myself very well, especially through writing. 

For me, the problem lies in processing. Many activities that might take other people minutes to complete can take hours for me, however, this would not be easy to notice through mere minutes of conversation with me. 

“I wish I had your brain.”, a classmate from college once told me. She did not understand that it was not a superior intellect that made me successful during my time in college. It was my work ethic and perseverance that made me successful. Like any other person, I work extremely hard for what I want, and in some cases I have to put in even more effort than the average person. 

For Shaun Murphy from The Good Doctor, his disability is front and center for those who meet him, and masks his capabilities. They don’t take the time to understand him and realize that his disability is only one part of who he is. That is a reality for many people with disability. In my case, people don’t take the time to understand that some disabilities are invisible, and you never know what someone might be going through. My take away from the show The Good Doctor and my experiences is that we might all have our different stories to tell, but there is one thing that connects us: the desire to be understood.