June 15, 2004
I would like to provide some information to the staff regarding Mary’s learning disability. Mary has Nonverbal Learning Disability (NLD). People with NLD have strengths in the verbal realm of functioning and weaknesses in the nonverbal realm of functioning. The weaknesses are best described using the following quotes from Sue Thompson, an expert author on NLD: "The NLD syndrome reveals itself in impaired abilities to organize the visual-spatial field, adapt to new or novel situations, and/or accurately read nonverbal signals and cues."
"Three categories of dysfunction present themselves: (1) motoric (lack of coordination, severe balance problems, and/or difficulties with fine graphomotor skills), (2) visual-spatial-organizational (lack of image, poor visual recall, faulty spatial perceptions, and/or difficulties with spatial relations), and social (lack of ability to comprehend nonverbal communication, difficulties adjusting to transitions and novel situations, and/or significant deficits in social judgment and social interaction)." You can learn more about these strength and weaknesses at www.nldline.com and www.nldontheweb.org.
Mary’s strengths are her love of science, esp. as related to animals, reading, verbal memory and vocabulary. Mary’s weaknesses are disorganization, distractibility, Dysfunction of Sensory Integration (Mary’s senses tend to be under-reactive or over-reactive), hyperactivity, inflexibility, literalness, poor facial recognition, poor fine motor skills, poor social skills and poor visual-spatial skills.
To ensure Mary has a fun, safe and learning filled time at Camp ______, the following Compensations, Accommodations, Modifications and Strategies (CAMS) are recommended. These CAMS should be implemented in a way that makes them as transparent (i.e. all campers in her group get daily schedule, rather than just Mary) as possible.
All directions/requests must be verbal. Be direct, explicit and concrete with all directions/requests. Also, keep directions/requests simple and clear. If Mary needs to be able to apply the directions to other situations, state the directions in generalized terms. Don’t expect Mary to understand how to do something by watching it be done.
Allow enough time for Mary to complete a project/activity before moving on to the next project/activity. If a project/activity is not to be completed in the time allotted, inform Mary of this before she starts working on the project/activity.
Allow Mary to do projects/activities that require fine motor skills on her own, but be ready to help her as soon as she shows signs of getting frustrated.
Assist Mary with writing letters by having her dictate her letters to another person who can scribe for her.
Avoid power struggles, threats, and punishment. Threats (such as "If you do this, then you will lose these privileges") only serve to destroy a sense of hope. Instead, defuse the situation by moving Mary to a new location, by placing her in a different activity group, or by redirecting her attention through verbal methods. If possible-negotiate the problem verbally, using concrete and specific verbal instructions.
Check often for understanding of rules and social expectations. Do not rely on a yes or no answer.
Do not negotiate with Mary if she seems upset, or if she seems to stubbornly stick to mistaken. Change the situation instead. If possible, discuss the problem later, when Mary is calm.
Do not touch Mary if she seems upset. When she is upset her sense of touch is over-reactive. She is likely to think she is being touched harder than she is and will hit or kick back.
If Mary starts chewing on inedible things (hair, shirt, rocks, etc), provide her with gum to chew or hard candy to suck on.
If you are talking and Mary becomes distracted, try incorporating animals into what you are talking about. This will quickly draw her attention back to you.
Mary recently overcame Pyrophobia (severe fear of fire). She still has some residual fear, esp. in new situations. She needs to be informed beforehand of fire drills. A staff member needs to be available to provide Mary support if she should become anxious during a fire drill and/or campfire.
One difficulty may be distinguishing between the need to explain all rules and expectations, and becoming entangled in non-productive arguments about why rules and expectations are in place. Be sure to explain and discuss rules and goals in direct, explicit and concrete language, but do not engage in lengthy arguments (unless, of course, the argument is actually an enjoyable debate of ideas). In many cases, non-productive arguments are Mary’s way to avoid dealing with areas of disability. For instance, if children must make their beds, you will find it easier and quicker to provide cheerful assistance and help her make her bed than to engage in a frustrating argument with her about neatness and orderliness.
Place my Mary into group activities with girls who are good role models for cooperative behavior.
Prepare Mary verbally for changes in routine as soon as you have knowledge of the change and continuing until the change has taken place.
Provide Mary a safe place to cool down when a situation/activity is overloading her senses.
Provide Mary with a daily schedule.
Provide Mary with a verbal warning, before any transition.
Provide plenty of positive feedback for cooperation.
Recognize that apparent confusion and awkwardness are real and unintentional. In addition, much sarcastic or inappropriate behavior is Mary’s own attempt at compensation for disabilities. If the activity requires visual perception, organization of materials, organization of numerous complex ideas, or understanding of an overall social experience, then inappropriate behavior may be her way of responding to a dilemma. With verbal explanation, the underlying dilemma might be solved, and the inappropriately sarcastic or disrespectful behavior will disappear.
When using abstract terms, sarcasm, figurative speech, idioms, slang, analogies and/or metaphors make sure Mary understands them and if she does not explain them.
If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail us at ___________ or call us at ___________.