The Black and White World
of the NLD Child
By Marcia Rubinstien, MA, CEP
Middle school can be tough. You are cool or you are not; you are popular or you are a dork. Some kids make the cut and some, mature beyond their years, choose not to play the game. Others struggle and end up on the sidelines as pathetic “wannabes.” But for many children with NLD who cannot read social cues or interpret nonverbal nuances, the chance even to compete is out of the question.
Children with NLD assess the world in terms of black or white: Classes are excellent or terrible; friends are best or worst; information is priceless or worthless.
Looking at everything through that all-or-nothing prism often results in negativity when they perceive things to be less-than-perfect; as negativity builds up it can become a catalyst for anxiety and frustration leading to a downward spiral that’s hard to manage for anyone, let alone a middle-schooler in the throes of early adolescence.
As if social uncertainty were not enough to ruin a few good years, middle school can be a daily nightmare of organizational, visual-spatial, motor, and conceptual minefields for kids with NLD.
They struggle to find classrooms, remember locker combinations, and navigate through the cafeteria with a tray, a backpack, and a prayer that nothing will spill to further cement their status as losers.
Ross Greene, author of The Explosive Child, suggests that we need to “gray up” these children to help them understand that there are possibilities for viable life along the spectrum between black and white. In essence, Greene maintains, we need to teach them to be more flexible. Collaborative Problem Solving (CPS), a method that also works well for children with Oppositional Defiant Disorder is well suited to help children with NLD achieve greater balance. CPS involves uncovering the reasons for their inflexibility and then working collaboratively to develop problem-solving skills.
For more information on CPS visit Greene’s website at www.livesinthebalance.org
Other Ways to Help Your Child with NLD
What else can you do to minimize the challenges facing your middle-schooler with NLD?
- Make sure that the diagnosis of NLD is supported by current testing and that experts have suggested appropriate academic and social accommodations
- Learn as much as you can about NLD so that you will have knowledge and information to help ease your child’s anxiety
- Do everything you can to make home a safe, consistent, and loving haven for your child
- If you believe that your school system is not acknowledging your child’s needs demand an alternative setting