Learning Obstacles


This year, I am working with a student with Non-Verbal Learning Disability (NVLD or NLD), who could literally run a company. His verbal skills are beyond adult level as well as his knowledge of technology, particularly computers. And yet, there are areas of weakness that stand out because his strengths are so advanced. The areas he struggles with include working in groups with his peers, spatial relations, understanding body language as well as verbal cues, and doing math problems step-by-step to get to the correct answers. He has told me that some of the most difficult tasks involve creating a map on a poster board, reading social cues–such as tone of voice or sarcasm, understanding how to approach various math problems, and making and keeping friends. He is an exceptional child, who is brave enough to share his learning issues with the world in hopes of helping others:

“It’s simple, just watch,” he explains as he proceeds to tie the knot. As my fingers fumble and I make a mess of the rope, I hear soft snickers from the audience gathered behind me. Promptly, another child questions, “What’s the matter, are you stupid or something?” I retort that I’m not stupid and just have a little trouble tying knots. The problem is that they will never understand what it feels like consistently not to understand verbal instructions.

You see, I have been diagnosed with NVLD, or Non Verbal Learning Disorder. That means I have trouble with coordination and physical activity. However, my disorder does not stop there. I struggle in abstract reasoning and math to name a few. Yet, I do extremely well in English because I have a complex vocabulary, and my concrete reasoning is astounding. In essence, my strengths and weaknesses are apparent to everyone.

Over the years, I have had teachers who understand my gifts and me and those who cannot figure me out. Many teachers have a visual or kinesthetic teaching method, which leaves me out in the dark needing to teach myself. For instance, I learned to tie knots after an approach to learning that involved multiple written steps. A step-by-step process helps me learn what others can by watching.

Being understood is a daunting issue faced by people of all ages. Even if you’re not understood, it’s important to find someone who cares enough to spend the time and teach you the skills you need in a kind, gentle, and constructive way. For me, this person has been Julie, the Tutor Whisperer, but your person may be anyone, whether it is your parent, teacher, or best friend.

The moral of the story is everyone is on this beautiful planet for a reason. Some people have an easier path than others, but those who face the difficulties of life are the individuals who have integrity, intensity, and desire. These are the people that make the world great, and I’m proud to be one of them!