NLD and Families

By Marcia Eckerd, Ph.D


Because nonverbal learning disabilities are not well understood, parents of kids with NLD challenges often feel alone and unsupported—even by those who should be natural allies such as family members, school personnel, and medical professionals • Rather than trying to get help from those who aren’t willing to be educated, seek out people in your community who are experiencing similar struggles

Parents of children with NLD often struggle with feelings of isolation. Their kids are bright and verbal making their quirkiness, sensitivities, and apparently oppositional behavior that much more difficult to understand. As a result, these parents often feel ridiculed by others and blamed for their children’s special challenges. One mother I know was told by her brother, “You must be doing something wrong. Give me two weeks with that kid in my house and I’ll straighten him out.”

Most parents of children with NLD are well aware that unyielding strictness is not the answer; rigidity meeting rigidity only leads to meltdowns. Instead, these kids require unique parenting skills based on understanding, acceptance, and appropriate interventions. Blaming and punishment don’t make family life any better and don’t encourage positive growth in children.

Dealing with Family

Some family members may be open to education. But others are not. They’re convinced that diagnoses are excuses for poor parenting, bad behavior, lack of character, or poor motivation. Any family therapist will tell you that kids with an LD diagnosis can become the focus for all the usual family dynamics: sibling rivalry, good child/bad child favoritism, traditional splits and roles played out over and over.

For family members that are not open to learning otherwise, my best advice is to invoke the Serenity Prayer: Grant me the serenity to accept what I cant change, the courage to change what I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. If arguing is fruitless, stop trying. Simply say, “I’ll think about that” and move on. People have their limitations.

Although it may feel as if you’re giving up, you’re not; you’re simply accepting that you can’t make the situation what you want it to be. The alternative is to keep fighting the same losing battle over and over.

Look Elsewhere for Support

If you can’t count on your family for support, look to local LD groups or organizations for others whose children share your child’s diagnosis. You do need support from those who “get it.” There may be parents at your school, religious congregation, or in the neighborhood experiencing similar struggles to yours. I find when I talk about NLD, I often hear of a family member or friend with a child who has the same issue.

Rest assured there are people in your area who do get it. These connections are priceless for sharing ideas, experiences, and just feeling you’re not alone. It may take a Google search to find your state networks and local resources, but it’s well worth it. Here are a couple of suggestions to get you started:

  • NLDline offers resources as well as help to those interested in networking.
  • You can join a local Special Education Parents Network (SPEDnet) in your area for support.

Marcia Eckerd is an evaluator, consultant, and therapist who specializes in working with children with NLD and autism-spectrum disorders. This article originally appeared on as Aspergers, Nonverbal Learning Disorder (NLD), and Families. All rights reserved. Reprinted here with permission.

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