What is NLD?
A personal definition from SHARE president,
I consider NLD a disorder of invisible
gaps -- gaps between performance and potential, between rules that are visible and ones
that are hidden or invisible. Our children suffer from confronting huge chasms around them
moment by moment. What's worse, theyre invisible chasms, misunderstood not only by
our children themselves, but also by the adults charged with helping them. When confronted
with the astonishing articulation of young people with NLD, people often assume that their
abilities in other areas are as advanced. But unfortunately, these kids become victims of
our expectations. There is an enormous gap between what we expect of children who can
articulate so well and what they can actually do. These children get lost in the gaps we
perpetuate by expecting them to be a way we believe they SHOULD be. We need to
acknowledge, name and honor the gaps in their lives and bridge the gaps each time we see
Our kids are terrified by the chasms no one else seems to see. Imagine screaming at a child for not jumping into a raging river and swimming across. We wouldnt dare. But what if they perceive a raging river where we see only a
trickling stream? What good will it do to tell them to hurry up? I think that each time we explain an invisible gap to a child with NLD, we jump the chasm and carry with us an equally invisible thread. But like the silken strings in a spider's web, invisible thread can weave back and forth to build a supportive bridge. By filling the gaps with bridges that become obvious, sturdy, trustworthy and strong in our children's minds, we are developing a powerful intervention.
We need to find professionals who are kind and who acknowledge the gaps. We need theoretical architects who will not only build bridges for our children, but who will also help parents understand new fields, such as pragmatics, mathematics, body awareness, visual-spatial perception and friendships. Eventually, our children will have so much experience in traversing gaps that they will be able to access a thread from their spool of examples and begin to build bridges themselves.
When I was in school and we dissected the brain, I learned that memory exists in tracks. In fact, they look like tracks -- grooves going from one place in the brain to another. Neuroscience tells us that we actually build new tracks, new roads or bridges, if you will, with new experience. Kids with NLD need those grooves built to a number of areas so that they can access information from wherever they are at a given time. We cant ask them to build a new bridge at a moment's notice to get themselves to a familiar track. We need to develop a network of bridges that connect.
Some say the brain is plastic and that humans develop new tracks for areas in deficit. In fact, many believe that the deficit becomes invisible in the future once the supplementary tracks are in use. I dont know. I like to think
that a child with NLD traverses the chasm so many times that he finally learns to use the bridges he has built. Even when the bridge still feels more silken than sturdy, it can be seen and trusted. I think that's a good start.
Studies have shown that one factor more than any other enables children to overcome heavy odds against them: the presence in their lives of a charismatic adult. Dr. Robert Brooks describes such a person as one with whom they can identify and from whom they gather strength. I invite you to be the charismatic adult in the lives of the child with NLD -- and others -- and to advocate and educate the professionals who work with your child to be
charismatic and caring as well. These children, I think, have come to do great things. Theyre extremely fair, have no guile, and are consistently compassionate. Wouldn't it be nice if these qualities identified some of our leaders in the future?