Note For Anyone Writing About Me

Guide to Writing About Me

I am an Autistic person,not a person with autism. I am also not Aspergers. The diagnosis isn't even in the DSM anymore, and yes, I agree with the consolidation of all autistic spectrum stuff under one umbrella. I have other issues with the DSM.

I don't like Autism Speaks. I'm Disabled, not differently abled, and I am an Autistic activist. Self-advocate is true, but incomplete.

Citing My Posts

MLA: Hillary, Alyssa. "Post Title." Yes, That Too. Day Month Year of post. Web. Day Month Year of retrieval.

APA: Hillary, A. (Year Month Day of post.) Post Title. [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Nonverbal Learning Disability- One Person's Perspective

 This is a guest post by Katie C. talking about her experiences with nonverbal communication issues and what she's learned from them. I'll be talking about my experiences tomorrow, plus what I think of the whole issue.

Trigger Warning: Bullying, Ableist slur, Suicidal ideation

As a young child I had a very large vocabulary for my age. My mother always says I was the most polite 2-year-old ever, who said "please" and "thank you" when it was appropriate, pretty much without fail. I learned to read before I started school (age 4), and by the time I was in second-grade I was reading lots of novels and multi-book sagas.

My parents had absolutely no clue up until this point that I was "different." If any difference was noticed, it was that I was smarter, more polite, and generally kinder to other people than many kids my age. However, as I grew older, it became pretty apparent that I was not quite on the same page as everyone else when one day I asked my happily married mother, "Mom, are you and dad going to get a divorce?"

There was a major miscommunication here because of my inability to read nonverbal cues. When my mother and father would playfully argue with each other, they would often jokingly say "I'm callin' my lawyer!" By the tone of their voice and the context of the conversation, most people would have been able to tell this was just part of their "schtick," but I was horrified that they were going to split up because they kept threatening to call their lawyer.

It was around 3rd grade that my grades started slipping and there was obviously something making me stand out from the other kids (at least from my mom's perspective). I asked my mother many times if I had ADD or something, because while I was doing fairly well academically, I knew I was missing some crucial part of what was going on around me.

I had an incident in 3rd grade where one of my classmates took advantage of me. Some might even call what she did to me a form of molestation. But when she did that, my reaction was one of turning my anger towards myself. I thought my parents would hate me if I told them what we did. I stayed silent about what she did to me for almost a year. Like a good parent would be, my mom was disgusted at what my classmate did to me when she finally learned of it, and was very supportive (much to my surprise at the time). But the roots of self-hatred had been planted.

Fast-forwarding to 6th grade. I had just started at a new school, and had landed myself at the bottom of the social food chain. I had no idea why the kids hated me as much as they did (or at least as I perceived they did), but at one point, some kids literally created a "popularity list" with me and my few friends right at the bottom. The teachers were informed of this list, but it was crumpled and written in a horrid neon green pen making it nearly impossible for them to read.

I quickly figured out I was an easy target. I had braces, glasses, a unibrow, was shorter than everyone else in my grade, and I certainly didn't starve myself or make fashion a priority like a lot of the other girls did. I was missing a crucial element from this list, which was that I was deaf to what the kids were actually saying. "Great job, Katie," was taken at face value, but what it really meant was, "Way to screw that up, you retard."

I started having suicidal ideation for the first time in my life. My grades were suffering horribly, I felt alone, and isolated, and unwanted. One evening, I couldn't take the pressure any more, and begged my mother with tears in my eyes to get me a therapist. It was this therapist who shed light on my situation, and provided me with the diagnosis of a Nonverbal Learning Disorder.

I was so relieved to get this diagnosis. It opened up new paths to understanding myself. Around the age of 14, I began being able to read the nonverbal cues, thanks to a few school friends with perverted teenaged minds. Suddenly I understood that there was something called a "double" or "hidden meaning," which meant I finally knew that when my friend said "(Insert classmate's name here) wants to burry his bone in your yard," he definitely didn't mean that literally.

Now, I am an adult. I am usually on my game with picking up on the nonverbal cues. But I have to say, it's a double-edged sword. On the positive side of things, I am a social butterfly that can make many people on different parts of the spectrum smile. I don't feel quite as on edge about whether I am missing out on some crucial piece of data that is totally affecting the course of a conversation.

However, now I can't look at the world with the same, genuine innocence and kindness. I find myself acting less like myself a lot of times for the sake of other neurotypicals and how they may perceive a given piece of body language or phrase. I tend to read far too much into what a person says, when sometimes literalism is an appropriate form of interpretation. My self-esteem is much improved, but I still battle with self-doubt and a chronic sense of needing to apologize to the world around me, because of years of feeling I had to change what I was to be loved.

Long story short, I think there is a great deal of benefit to learning to read these cues in today's neurotypically-slanted society. But if we keep believing that these nonverbal skills are the most important part of survival, then we are going to miss a bigger lesson in teaching acceptance of differences, and that there a lot of people without any form of nonverbal cue skills who have a lot of great things to offer to the world through their innovation, intelligence, creativity, and passion.


  1. This is one of my favorite pieces about NVLD on the web. Beautifully written and so true.

  2. But if we keep believing that these nonverbal skills are the most important part of survival, then we are going to miss a bigger lesson in teaching acceptance of differences...

    ^ that that that


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