Thriving With NVLD: Living With Nonverbal Learning Disorder (A Personal Story)
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Thriving With NVLD: Living With Nonverbal Learning Disorder (A Personal Story)


I was about 3 years old when I was
initially diagnosed with learning disabilities. I was, I mean I’m an
extrovert, so naturally I’m very chatty. So I would say things maybe that weren’t
exactly right time. In social situations, I would get more emotional. If there was
conflict, I was very uncomfortable to the point of tears. So over a three-year
process my parents found out that I was diagnosed with ADHD and Asperger’s. And then, as I kind of grew older and, you know, grew as a person and, you know, tried different learning styles and experiences, we found that maybe
Asperger’s was not the right diagnosis. So, when I was 18 years old, I was reevaluated, and it came to that I still had ADHD, but instead of Asperger’s I have a nonverbal
learning disability. My name is Abby. I’m 21 years old. I live in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada, and I have ADHD and NVLD, which stands for nonverbal learning
disability. Nonverbal communication is difficult, timing things and even
sometimes recognizing space is difficult. I used to have a tough time reading body
language, and I still do sometimes, but not as bad. Just an overall awkwardness
when it came to being in group situations. Spacial stuff is not as easy
for me. I’ve taken my time getting my license, I still don’t have the full one
yet. Another thing that NVLD definitely affects with communication is
texting. I find it very frustrating because I can’t tell how a person is
feeling. I can’t tell their emotions, because it’s
just text. A lot of the time I’ll misinterpret it, and think that someone’s
mad when they’re actually not mad, they’re just texting. In school, I
struggled with math. It was hard for me to really understand how numbers
worked, and especially a lot of the rules. I also struggled with science.
I was pretty aware of the ADHD when I was 6, in class. The
fact that I would try to focus in on what my teacher was saying, but then my
brain would go somewhere else. And I would just go on and on, and I would miss
almost the entire lesson. When Abby was struggling in school, both elementary
school and high school, it was pretty excruciating on a couple of different
levels. Seeing her suffer with frustration. She
was taking piano and voice lessons, and she would talk through practicing
instead of actually practicing. And I just knew that she was developing a
complex, I guess for lack of a better word, and feeling limited, feeling like
she couldn’t do things if she couldn’t do things perfectly. So it literally felt
like nailing jello to a wall, it was almost impossible. So I have a couple of
nephews that have been diagnosed with Asperger’s, and when Abby was diagnosed
with it, I noticed a distinct difference between them. And so I didn’t really
believe the diagnosis at first. I was 18 when I got reevaluated. I went into the
psychologist’s office and he said, “You don’t have Asperger’s,” which I was kind
of expecting. And then he said, “But you do have a nonverbal learning disability.” My
first reaction was, “What the heck is that?” It was difficult to see her struggle
through the rediagnosis. One thing I remember her saying is that I’ve carried
this label with me almost my entire life. I don’t know if she had certain
expectations of herself, because of the Asperger’s diagnosis or what, but the
adjustment was painful for her. I thought I had Asperger’s for 13 years. The whole
idea of having your identity wrapped into having learning disabilities is
sometimes, it almost stops you from doing things. I can’t do this thing because I
have ADHD, or I can’t be in this social situation because I’m not gonna read it
right. You know, it’s normal, but that shouldn’t let you wrap your identity in
your fears. It freed her up. She allowed herself to be encouraged, to find level
ground. I started to understand myself more, I started to understand, “OK, so
that’s why I do things.” That’s why, when I was little, I was incredibly socially
awkward. That’s why I was insecure when I was a teenager. One thing I love about
creative communication is it’s not boxed in, it’s more the box is open and there’s
colors and shapes coming flying out of it. So ironically, despite having
communication learning disabilities, I really feel like communication is a big
strength. So now I am in my last year of public relations in school, I’m going to
be heading on to a nonprofit placement at the local art gallery, and on top of
that I am working for the school under the Student Affairs Department doing
marketing communications. I love giving presentations, I love talking with people,
I love communicating through being creative. As I’ve gone through life and
have gained skills, writing has become an absolute love of mine. I wish the one
thing that people knew about NVLD is that we don’t really mean to not
understand what you’re saying. We don’t mean to misread communication. We don’t mean to, you know, stand really close to you. It’s just, it’s
how we were made and how we’re wired. She knows who she is, she knows what she likes. She’s forging her own path in life, where she’s learning to figure out what
it is she’s gonna do, where she’s gonna go, and what she likes to do. And it’s really cool to be sitting on the front lines and watching her grow.

57 Comments

  • magical birbs

    This video is so relatable!!?Thank you for posting this!! Spread the awareness!!!Why do the most people who understand NLD live in Canada? LOL I'm a teen who has NLD who was diagnosed when I was 6. I started being in a recorce room half days in the 1rst grade. Now I'm in classes with mainstream material but adapted except math. I have math issues(4rth grade level), Visual issues, grammar (you can tell by these run on sentences), spelling and really bad facial recognition. I have never have had a long lasting internet friend or Irl Friend because of some of these things. Many people think I have high functioning autism or they think I'm not capable of anything. But I don't have autism and I am capable!! (no offence to the people who have autism though.) (Neurodiversity is a good thing!!!!) I have never met another person with NLD before I hope I can eventually. Every teacher I have had has never even heard of Nld until My parents explained it. It has been some terrible 10 years. Atleast things are getting better. But good luck Abby I wish you well If you ever see this. I'm sorry you have had to not been able to know who you were for such a long time I can't imagine how hard that would be. -Birb

  • Ximana Rosales

    My sister has mMild Autism’. NonVerbal Learning Disorder and ADD. She takes medication for it and she does well wth them

  • Rylie Boll

    I have Nvld and ADD. My biggest issues are figuring out if someone is joking and math. It definitely has been a hurdle but I still was able to succeed. Now I’m a year ahead in math, but it took so much hard work. I can relate to her so much!

  • Tanya Derksen

    Thanks I was dignosed with nvld ,adhd or add too thought have Asburgars too can have both or not too it's complex not much support in community live here in feel often my own try help educate where I can trying contract with others do as well

  • yleineping

    This is great, I also have this (NLD), but can only find videos for little children, it is great to see someone my age and is almost mirror image of me, it brought tears to my eyes, also the stuggle of growing up and the long search of finding out what was "wrong" with me.
    Thank you very much for this video, I don't know you but it seems like you are a great person Abby, and I would love to meet you one day 🙂

    I know this is your story, so I hope it is okay that I write mine down here, I hope it helps others;

    When I was 6 years old, we began to learn how to read and write, I was slower than the other kids but extremely extrovert with a bundle of energy that I couldn't contain.
    My teacher thought I had ADHD and/or was autistic.
    She referred my parents to a center where they took IQ tests, turns out my visual IQ was below average and my verbal IQ far above average, even highly intelligent.
    When they showed these tests to my parents, my teacher flat out refused to believe it, no there is no way I was highly intelligent, even though it was the center that she referred parents to. My parents were extremely frustrated but did so much to help me with extra counseling, remedial teaching, and adjustments in school. Primary was a constant struggle with tests, failing things and talk about resitting grades.
    Primary school was frustrating, in any sense when finally I made the test at 12 and it was proved, that indeed I had NLD (or NLVD).
    I thought then, that it was over, until when I was 15 I applied to college (A-levels, they are like pre-university programs in the Netherlands).
    I had top grades and was pretty good in the interview, but they refused me because of NLD. (which legally, I found out after, was not in their right to do so, as I fulfilled the requirements).
    I was frustrated, angry and felt unjustified, and it was a struggle for me to find the motivation to apply to other schools in fear of refusal again.
    Later I did the same course in another college, they accepted me and I was overjoyed.
    Graduated from that course with an A* and send a letter to the college that refused me, saying that they shouldn't judge people with a learning disability, as with a little extra help, they might bloom further than any oter student.

    Now I am 20 years old, and while it was a relief to find out I see that not many of my friends understand it, I am now in college, and failing also partly there is no help given to me anymore at this age, when searching on the internet I can only find information and tips for little children, not (young) adults like ourselves, I think especially this has caused this video to make such an impact. and I hope in the future there is more that we can do.

    Thank you very much for this video, and I whish you all the best abby!
    (sorry for the long story XD )

    xx Yleine Aerts
    If understood ever want me to make a video about this to raise awareness and help other people with their "journey" I would be more than willing to help.

  • Katy Fusco

    Thanks for this. I have NVLD and ADHD and Anxiety and Aspergers. This really helped me to hear someone struggles like me. I feel so alone a lot of the time.

  • aine kline

    Thank you for this I also have nvld and its been a struggle. Would love to talk more just so I know I am not alone

  • Mathew Daniels

    Great video!! I love it. I too am ADHD and NVLD. I too have found that talking and writing are among my strengths. I am contemplating either teaching or becoming a journalist! You are awesome. Thanks for inspiring me.

  • Marije Groeneveld

    I have NLD too and i always thought that i was the only one. But after i saw the video and the comments i finally realised that i am not alone. ❤️

  • Abby Bell

    Hi everyone, I just wanted to thank all of you for watching, commenting, encouraging and sharing your stories! I feel so honoured to have had the oppourtunity to share my story!!

  • Robert Pinto

    I have NVLD too. I was diagnosed when I was 17. Looking back on many moments in my life I found many times to be very frustrating including school and social situations. Having poor depth perception was a huge problem for me, it made me clumsy and I would have a difficult time walking I would bump into people at times or walk to closely catching someone's shoe in front of me. It was embarrassing to say the least. Also with being able to read body language I have found it tough though ad I have gotten older I have invested time in learning about emotional intelligence and I have scored high on my level of emotional intelligence. I have also taken several IQ tests and I fell in the range of having an IQ between 140-150. So if you have NVLD like myself know that I and others are out there looking out for each other. I would be happy to share my experiences with anyone.

  • R U

    I have a 9 year old daughter who is diagnosed with non verbal learning disorder symptoms. How can I help her with her social skills? I live in Dubai.

  • Sean Murray

    Hello, I would like to say that it is nice to read the commentary of those who share the same disability as me. Our disability is an issue that is not well known, and there is no one in the limelight who can represent us and bring those of us together to share information. Hopefully more videos like this one are made in the future.

  • Camryn Hauler

    I also have nvld and capd and a form of math dylexia and a language processing disorder i absolutely loved hearing your story loved this video!

  • ורד מורגנשטרן

    Hi, thank you for sharing your story, it helps a lot of people to see that they are not alone.. there is a cure for that? something scientific or something that doctor is checking right now? it's interesting me because of the technology of today

  • Through the Telescope!

    She could still be very well on the spectrum. Psychologists mostly focus on the stereotypical manifestations of Autism. Autism is very vast and wide in itself, and everyone is different, meaning each person experiences varying degrees of symptoms,or not many of the traditional symptoms of Autism at all. It also manifests differently in girls and women,. I believe she is on the spectrum, as well as having the learning disability that she does.

  • MJade

    Oh my gosh i have both too! I haven't watched past the intro yet but i wanna tell you i am soo excited to👏💓. I just found out about this with myself i am almost 40 and im realizing i dont know anyone like me, this is such a relief. It makes me feel whole somehow, and hopeful 🙏ty !

  • Geo BignTall

    Hi …I’ve been struggling with this for years. People don’t understand what it’s like. i fight it everyday I have to work extra hard as I am A carpenter. I get soo depressed and I’m even a married man and no one understands the daily battle. I play video games to calm myself. I forget all the time aa d can’t even remember to lock my doors in the house. I need help and I can’t find it. It’s almost like people don’t care. So I pretend that I’m just normal all the time. I don’t like it and I don’t like people because their all about themselves mostly.

  • Laura Shaughnessy

    i also have NLD and i have BPD as well which is Borderline Personality Disorder i have high anxiety as well and live in a group home i really want to live on my own but have struggles with money and my diet too hang in there girlfriend it will get better

  • Rose B

    how do does the subject language arts in school not be impacted by nvld? I mean the grammar should not be an issue beacuse nvlders tend to be good at language vocabulary and rules but reading between the lines in story or literary work understanding metaphors poetry getting into the authors mind and answering questions like why do you think the author wrote this how do you handle that in school?

  • Rose B

    when I tried to learn piano I found it helpful to lable the notes with letters cde…. the teacher must half thought I was crazy

  • Rose B

    I meant like nvld is not just a social problems. Wouldnt also impact understanding academics. Especially with subjects that involve visual spatial concepts such as geography. Language arts wich involve understanding the overall big picture of a literary work or reading between the lines ( skills that use the right part of brain) understanding the pragmatics of language such as metaphores etc ( versus grammer and rules which apparently would be nvlders strenth since it is more rule based) i am surprised no nvld videos on you tube have coommented about academic struggles

  • BuggaBooPanda

    I plan on asking my doctor about this…I have Turners Syndrome and have researched about it and found the girls tend to have NVLD. I have a feeling I do have it…I’m kinda nervous. I want to be a nurse and I always feel like I’m clumsy and in the way. I can’t drive yet and panic with vague instruction. I hope I can get some help if I do and feel more confident in my future.

  • sunflowerskies3939

    Thank you! I have this too. Your story is so helpful and inspiring. Keep on doing what your doing.😄❤️🦋🦋🌸🌈🌈🌈

  • Melissa0774

    They say that when you have this disorder, you have trouble reading body language. But is it possible that in some people, this manifest as an unawareness of the body language signals you yourself are giving off, instead?

  • Erin

    Hi Abby, I've noticed you live in the same area as me. I'm in my 30's and I'd like to get diagnosed properly. What tips do you have?

  • chris wu

    I feel that I may have a permanent disability and 21 seeking an assessment for it.

    But searching through the internet of what could be happening to me, has raised several confusions. It seems I have multiple disorders..

    I was only responding to questions, Yes or No when I was in elementary, and my marks were horrible. I could never find friends…On the contrary I was friends with one teacher.

    I would play with rocks underneath the desk, by play..I don't mean imagining a story…I mean I would line up rocks into patterns.

    I was suspended several times and got into trouble. I recently uncovered a letter from my elementary school describing that I had intense social difficulties and they would request an assessment for me. (But my parents never did it, because they wanted me to be NORMAL) I wanted me to be normal.

    Growing up into high school..I did math and English 4 times, to finally get an 88 in math 12 and 73 in english 12. I had high marks 97 in Law 12, and 100 in physics 11. I constantly involved myself in volunteering, fairs in hopes I can advance my social skills. I also constantly went to work interviews. However without the help of my parents I never got my first job working in retailing.

    I worked in retailing for 1-3 years, temporary, shifting with different positions. The managers never sought to like me or keep me. I was the center of bad attention from my co-workers. They always said in washrooms, " why I am so weird"

    I thought changing work positions would change the way I am. So I tried for working in a bakery with a referral from my mom's friend. The manager still hated me…I found that I could engage in conversations with 40 year old women..possibility because they wanted to refer me to their sons.

    now I work as a dealer in the casino, players often complain about "how weird I am" they call me lazy, disinterested, stupid. Cause I'll sometimes be stuck with not knowing how to calculate 5x 10.

    It has come to a point where I am constantly trying, but I don't get any improvements. and has come to a point where I wonder what is wrong with me.

    I mean it would make sense..that I have lack of social skills if I didn't work, I just played infront of the computer playing games all day. It would make sense. But it doesn't make any sense, if I try really hard at something, and still don't change.

    I have extraordinary memory skills/typing skills but fails at certain math calculations, clocks, social skills, attention concentration.

    Does anyone know what disorder would fit me

  • Ms. Brightside

    WOW, My daughter is 18 now but very low IQ … this video shed light on the way I was thinking about how to help her

  • ChelleBelle

    I have nld… I struggle not with non verbal movements from other people. Instead I struggle with my own non verbal movements. I'm the introverted version and I don't mean to stand far away from people and jump in fear when they brush up against me. Learning to drive take driving lessons from a old pro. It will save your life. Learn how not to get lost by using anchor visuals like stores and malls to find your way. Being aware and preparing beforehand for your possible errors is key. And another thing… learn numerology it gives meaning to numbers.

  • Private

    I cry watching this video. I'm 44 and am just beginning to understand I've had learning disabilities that were never diagnosed until a few months ago. It has had a major effect on my personal and professional experiences my entire life. Abby I'm so proud of your honesty, strength, and self-awareness. I know from experience you must have self-awareness of how you learn, especially in the workplace, where employers and co-workers can be quite cruel to people who do not learn and think the way they do.

  • Ruby Casella

    I have NVLD to, but for me texting feels like a welcome relief from having to read body language, filling in awkward spaces in conversations
    I also find starting conversations vary tricky so for me it’s nice to start with a text. Although I have had the “are they mad or not” problem with texting

  • Devon Nolan

    Thank you for helping to bring awareness to nld. I was diagnosed when I was little and I have trouble putting my experience into words. This video made me cry. Hang in there

  • aine kline

    I also have nvld. The first person who tested me told my parents that I was just bored in class. I didn't get diagnosed till I was 9. I'm glad there are others besides me with it and I'm not alone. Also I got held back in kindergarten because I couldn't understand what was going on

  • Blyss1000

    I have been in living hell 55 full years of this since attempting recital 1964 with
    Dance Class four years old and just
    Unable to follow the steps and humiliation was my Mother’s response and that was only the beginning of Hell
    I diagnosed this past year by two non related burp psych tests. My horror is
    Knowing not in DSM ever ! So WRONG

  • Clare Boyle

    I have an NVLD too. it's extremely rare (Weaver Syndrome, 40 people on the planet have it.) I probably have Dyspraxia as well. I was told I was on the Autism Spectrum initially, turns out I am nothing like on the spectrum. Being judged for something I have no control over sucks

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