The NLD revolution

As a filmmaker with a Non-Verbal Learning "Disability "(NLD), it is almost only natural that I make a documentary about my disability. I was 16 when I discovered I was gifted with NLD and in the few short years of knowing about my disability, I have met some wonderful and amazing individuals who’s stories deserved to be shared, experienced, and felt around the world. Documentary, I go across the world to meet my brother’s and sister’s who share something very special with me: NLD. [from the documentary Facebook]

Gemm Learning (1) declares that 10% of the community identified as having a learning disability have a Non-Verbal Learning Disability (NLD). The disability is set-off by disruption from birth in the right cerebral hemisphere of the brain. Identification of this disability is recent (first formally identified in 1975) (2) and is often misdiagnosed as ADD or ADHD. NLD has significant overlap with the diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome (AS). This be ing said, the “diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome is often preferred and is certainly the most clinically useful,” (Fitzgerald and Corvin). There is some controversy over whether NLD belongs on the Autism Spectrum, but certainly many people with NLD also have an ASD diagnosis.

NLD affects fine and gross motor skills (eg. balance, coordination, perception, handwriting), social skills (eg. picking up on non-verbal cues, understanding sarcasm or innuendos, eye contact, body language, physical contact, recognizing emotions) and visual-spatial development (eg. maps, directions, math, understanding where one is in space). Many struggle with short-term memory and problem solving skills. NLDers may talk too fast or too much. They tend to struggle in math, have poor handwriting skills and are clumsy. Scientists have proven that “more than 65% of all communication is actually conveyed nonverbally” which furthers the struggle NLDers face, (Thompson).

I personally feel that the worst thing about having NLD is that when you struggle to understand (particularly in academics or work, but even in relationships) due to your disability, you come across as being lazy, stubborn, uncaring, etc. because you are viewed as a bright, capable student. This being said, many NLDers have high IQs, verbal skills and vocabulary. We have high attention to detail, even if the big picture is lost. NLDers have exceptional long-term and rote memory, as well as reading comprehension. We “are hardworking, persistent, goal-oriented, and incredibly honest,” (Tanguay, Pamela B.).

Many NLDers unfortunately struggle with anxiety due to a fear of failure that can be over-whelming. This reflects in some with an urge to multi-task and take on too much. We also tend to have depressive disorders due to the isolation felt from our disorder being misunderstood by others. It has been speculated that this may increase the rate of suicide in people with NLD, but there is little data to support this to date. I have been diagnosed with both anxiety and depression related to my NLD. I hope that this documentary assists fellow NLDers to be understood and ease their stress and feelings of loneliness. I know many NLDers I have spoken to feel that they are misunderstood.

As someone who is undiagnosed but shows definite signs of NLD I welcome such a documentary being made.

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