December 2nd was National Special Education Day. It also marks the anniversary of the nation’s first special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA.) The IDEA was enacted in 1975 to ensure that children with disabilities are provided with Free Appropriate Public Education that is tailored to their individual needs.
The beauty of the IDEA is that it not only provides for free public education of all students with disabilities but promotes learning in the least restrictive environment. It may sound like a simple thing—least restrictive environment. But for students like mine, who are very bright but struggle with executive functioning skills such as organization and processing, it means the difference between making great strides as a student and losing all self-esteem.
My son has a nonverbal learning disorder or NVLD. It’s not listed in the DSM-5, the manual psychologists use to help make a diagnosis, and it’s difficult to classify without the specific aid of a neuropsychologist, which is an expensive option if insurance won’t cover it. It’s often misdiagnosed as ADHD or even a form of autism, having similarities with both neurodiversities, but with marked differences in learning strategies or treatment options. While high intelligence is often a hallmark of NVLD, so too is slower processing, high anxiety, short memory, and lack of organizational skills.
For children with NVLD, they can easily be classified as a problem child. They are often late for class (imagine my surprise when I discovered my child in the hallway in the middle of November, still looking at his daily schedule to figure out where his next class was. It never occurred to him to mention this struggle because for him it was the norm.) They often don’t receive the social cues others do (in particular, facial expressions can be difficult to understand.) They don’t comprehend why they aren’t as organized as their peers, or why their friends seem to have no trouble finding their way to the next classroom without consulting a map. This can lead to both anxiety and self-esteem issues. The day the neuropsychologist explained my son’s condition to him, it was like a weight lifted off his shoulders—he had proof he was not stupid. He is quite intelligent. He simply learns in a different way. While the cause of NVLD is unknown, weakness in the right hemisphere of the brain (which interprets visual and auditory information at the same time) is known to be a significant factor.
Because most people consider a “learning disability” to present as issues with verbal skills (reading or writing), disabilities in children with NVLD are often overlooked. Children with NVLD most often have strong verbal skills, but, as they say, miss the forest for the trees. They don’t understand when someone is sarcastic, often cannot recognize social cues, or have trouble identifying the overall message of a story. They have issues with abstract thinking, and they learn better in an auditory setting as they are able to remember spoken information.
Once my son’s teachers understood his different learning style, he began to do better in his classes. He grew more confident in his abilities and his anxiety lessened dramatically. He was able to add a social skills class to his regular work-load, so that he could learn how to identify responses in others and take social cues. He went from a child who saw no future for himself to one who is actively planning for college. Without the IDEA, he would have had no access to the social skills class while still remaining in his mainstream courses. He would have no idea how intelligent he is, and he would be struggling instead of working toward his future goals.
If you suspect your child has a learning disability, talk to their school. You can request a free evaluation, and if you are dissatisfied with the results, the school must give you clear information on how to dispute their findings. If your child is still not eligible for an IEP, they may be eligible for a 504 plan, which is much more flexible in terms of required conditions, but still allows your child to receive individual accommodations for learning.
Photo Credit: ElisaRiva
What’s your take on what you just read? Comment below or write a response and submit to us your own point of view at the red box, below, which links to our submissions portal.
Are you a first-time contributor to The Good Men Project? Submit here:
If you believe in the work we are doing here at The Good Men Project, please join us as a Premium Member, today.
All Premium Members get to view The Good Men Project with NO ADS.
A $50 annual membership gives you an all-access pass. You can be a part of every call, group, class, and community.
A $25 annual membership gives you access to one class, one Social Interest group, and our online communities.
A $12 annual membership gives you access to our Friday calls with the publisher, our online community.
Register New Account
Need more info? A complete list of benefits is here.