Mom, I have noticed that you have been giving us a lot of treats lately.
Are you trying to fatten me up because you plan on eventually eating me?
Well, I would have thought so up until two weeks ago, but lately, comments like this make my chest tighten, my heart ache, and my eyes fill with tears. Elliot, who has become somewhat famous for his quirky insights, has just recently been diagnosed with NLD, a nonverbal learning disability. Elliot wasn't trying to be funny when he asked if I planned on eating him; he was trying to understand why his mom, who is typically all about whole foods and anti-snack packs, just filled their house with convenience foods. Top this off with watching his mom, just the night before, chase her friend's toddler around the house squealing: "I could eat you up . . . you are so cute!", and voila, Elliot surmises his mother is one of those cannibalistic witches they warn children about in fairy tales.
For you and I, neurologically typical people, as we are referred to in all the books about NLD, we would interpret these same incidences to mean that Krista must be under a lot of stress lately and is turning to prepackaged foods to save time and to find comfort in their salty, sugary goodness. As for the toddler incident, we all know that Krista is baby crazy, and that "I'm going to eat you" is a figure of speech used to express an overwhelming response to a person's cuteness. How do we know this? Well, we have grown up observing and learning from the patterns, responses, and behaviours of the people around us. Using all the components of communication, we are able to process and eventually make sense out of the world around us, but this is not the case for people with NLD. Having a nonverbal learning disability, according to Rondalyn Varney Whitney in her book Nonverbal Learning Disorder, means you have difficulty processing and understanding nonverbal cues, and here's the kicker . . . research shows that between 65-90% of all communication is nonverbal. HELLO!! No wonder Elliot feared I was in the preliminary stages of a sadistic plot to devour him. For him, these two seemingly concrete examples of my inherent cannibalism negate the past ten years of his experience, when I have been devoted to nurturing him, loving him, and teaching him. He heard me say I like to eat children, he has read countless fairy tales, and he has learned about how farmers fatten up their livestock to sell at the market for people to consume; therefore, in his mind, he made a logical deduction to explain my unusual behaviour. This is the reality my boy lives in everyday. This is why his fingernails are chewed down to nothing. This is why he ends each and every day with a gargantuan temper tantrum. This is why the world terrifies him!
And this is why I am back to writing on my blog. Life has not become any less hectic; in fact, it has become even busier with Elliot's diagnosis because we are in the midst of a ton of research and we are trying to devise strategies to help him, to wrap our heads around what this diagnosis means for his future and our family, and to set up new routines to help him alleviate all the stress and anxiety that comes from misinterpreting the world around him. But, after waking up for the past two weeks nauseous and barely able to breathe, I realised that I have to find a way to alleviate some of my own stress if I am ever going to be any help to my boy. So, here I am, writing again, expressing my fears and my thoughts, and trying desperately to make sense out of my own world, and do you know what, it does make me feel better. I don't feel so alone. I feel like maybe, just maybe, I can be the mom Elliot needs me to be to help him navigate through this crazy world, and, hopefully, by chronicling my family's experiences with NLD, I will help others who may be struggling with a similar experience or uplift those who may feel inadequate amidst a world of "normal".
For my past readers, don't fear; my blog will still be filled with the zany antics of Shenanigans Inc, but now, we just have a better understanding of why life is so crazy here across the river. Also, you may have noticed that I have added NLD to the title of my blog. I did this because I want people who are researching this syndrome to be directed here rather than the countless articles that outline a life of uncertain doom and gloom for people living with NLD. I truly believe that through love, patience, knowledge, understanding, and intervention, Elliot will live a life filled with joy and purpose, and that we, his family,will be better off for sharing it with him.
Tune in tomorrow for how we arrived at this diagnosis.