When I was in 8th grade, back in in 1997, I had one of the best neuropsych test results of my life.
Now that’s an uncommon sentence. The whole concept of testing someone’s cognitive profile usually doesn’t get people feeling excited. It is not fun to focus on your weaknesses, and of course when this testing is done for the purpose of learning disability evaluation it is usually not met with excitement and celebration. But there were parts of this evaluation that have been a major part of my NVLD pride throughout my life. You see, the person who did my three year evaluation at that time saw my ability profile in a way that no testing professional had before and, sadly, not since.
She compared my deficits to my strengths and explained that my deficits were disabilities because of how they effected my strengths.
This meant so much.
Still a bit confused? Well, I will explain it this way. Three years later, when I was a junior in high school at another school district in another town I had another 3 year eval. This time the test was not administered by an outside party. I took the test with my high school learning specialist. She felt my results showed that I did not qualify for services, in a way did not qualify as having a disability, because, she wrote, she compared my challenges to the average same-aged peer. She didn’t feel each specific skill area of nonverbal weaknesses were low enough compared to an “average” person my age. It didn’t matter how strong my verbal and social awareness skills might have tested at that time (they tested as superior and very superior respectively in 8th grade) but because my weaknesses were not considered weak enough compared to other people I was not considered needing the services that I, well, needed to increase my chances of a successful life in the future.
I understand this might not seem like a big deal to some, but it was huge for me. Years later, sometimes around 2009 to 2010, when I was unemployed during the recession, I was informed by a disability employment support professional that I was so hard for him to place in employment, to provide guidance on the right job for me, because of the combination of my “brilliance and my challenges.” Again, my disability was proven to come from the balance, the differences, of my talents and my weaknesses.
The more I explore my specific NVLD/dyscalculic/dysgraphic mind the more I see it come up again and again. I will have an area of skill in something, but in order to use that area of skill and talent I have to work around one of my areas of deficit. My success and fulfilment in my adult life often comes from finding ways to manage the area of deficit getting in the way of excelling in my area of skill. It might be challenges learning the step by steps and computer programs at a new job, having my writing slowed down and affected by spelling and grammar recall (or handwriting if I have to write by hand) or the delay I have in processing my own perspective when talking to others (my brain naturally focusing on other’s perspectives, and often later I will understand my feelings about something).
It is possible my high school learning specialist was correct. Maybe the areas of deficit really are not that disabling compared to the average person in each area of ability tested (except for maybe my fine motor skills. I can’t possibly believe that those are not that bad compared to the average person). But I am not sure how that distinction would benefit the neurodivergent person. I don’t live in the body of “the average person.” I live in my own unique NVLD/dyscalculia/dysgraphic mind and body. Every combination of skill and deficit effects the way I have to manage and live my life. It effects the way I show up in my relationships, it effects how I do my work, and manage my personal life. Each area of skill does not exist in a vacuum. They all come together to make me who I am.
Now, I don’t write this blog to process my thoughts on things that happened in my life. Well. Maybe I do a little. I think all those who write to be read are doing it because we have thoughts inside that we want to communicate outward into the world. But if I simply need to work through something I have a great personal and private journal for that. When I blog or write a post on the This NVLD Life facebook page I do it with a purpose. My intention is to put out ideas and perspectives on a person’s neurodivergent experience that I feel can help others. My hope is that the perspective I share can help in a few ways. I hope it can help other neurodivergent people to feel less alone, to grow in their personal neurodivergent perspective by hearing someone else’s (as other voices have been to me) and also to be seen by other people who have a more neurotypical life experience. I write for people in positions of power in society who might incorporate these thoughts into their work as managers, HR professionals, therapists, healthcare professionals, and also family members, coworkers, friends, and significant others that are in our lives.
I want people in positions of power in the diagnosing and evaluation of neurodivergent people to know that we exist as whole people. Our unique and less common minds (as neurodivegent people we all have less common minds) include a combination of talents and challenges and it does matter how they all fit together in us when it comes to how we live our lives and how much things show up as disabilities in our daily lives. I wish I would have had access to a professional like the one who did my testing in 8th grade during that crucial time in high school. I wish instead of pulling back on services when I was excelling academically, I received services that understood that I still needed help to be prepared for the life I would be entering into. I wish we had explored how my strengths and weaknesses would fit into adult life, how I could advocate for myself on the job some day (I was college bound all along). I wish I was provided some supports in how to plan out self accommodations through my life that focused on my strengths. My experience in services was only focused on making each deficit go away as much as possible, but nothing was done to prepare for how to manage the ones that did not are the ones that did not improve enough and will never get to that point.
I want better for the NVLD, all LD, and all neurodivergent young people that come along after me. We have some very unique and meaningful talents to bring to our jobs, and the communities we belong to. I want each of us to not be compared to our peers, but seen as our unique selves as we enter the world and make our unique mark.
Disclaimer: This blog is intended for the purposes of entertainment. It tells only one person’s personal story, opinions, experience and perspective living with NVLD. Each person with the diagnosis has different skills, challenges, perspectives, and personalities. This blog is not intended to provide medical or educational advice. Please speak to your doctor or teacher regarding yourself and/or a family member.
Writing Errors: This blog may have typos or errors from time to time. To keep to the goal of being honest and open with the way her LDs expresses in her life, the author has chosen to not have others proofread and chooses to leave in errors she was not able to pick up on herself at time of publishing.