By Mary Jones OTR/L, LMT, CIMT - March 10, 2012
Nonverbal Learning Disorder (NLD), also called Nonverbal Learning Disability, is a developmental disability which all too often goes undiagnosed. Individuals with this potentially debilitating disorder generally suffer in silence.
Maggie, however, had no such plans. She knew with acute defiance that she was not able to perform at the same level as her peers at school – and although able to maintain social norms within the academic setting, she became a beast at home! “I don’t understand it!” her mother would lament…”she is fine all day at school and then she lets rip when she gets home”. To her, and to any other parent reading this blog I would assure with a hearty ‘congratulations’ – as it became apparent that Maggie was merely ‘going through the motions’ during her school day, but at home she was able to release the pressure valve and vent a day’s worth of pent up frustration. As her academic level increased, Maggie fell further and further behind and her behaviors (as you can imagine) became worse and worse. Initially, believing it to be simply a matter of academics, Maggie’s mother hired a tutor to help her keep up. But over time, she realized that this was merely a bandaid to Maggie’s profound processing problems. And this is what led her to me, for Occupational Therapy services.
Maggie had found her fit – a room with swings and crash mats and plenty of opportunities to move and let off steam. As her vestibular and proprioceptive systems progressed, so too did her ability to express her frustrations to her mother through language in lieu of acting out. We moved on to set up a sensory gym in Maggie’s home, to allow her access for indoor movement opportunities before and after school. We continued to progress to a point and then, as with many programs, I could see that Maggie needed more. It was then that I introduced the Interactive Metronome Program – with modifications and accommodations to allow Maggie to participate not only with structured IM activities but also tasks set up on the swing, in a tunnel or on a ball. Her timing and rhythm made steady gains in response to the beat – and so too did her reading and comprehension skills. Just as Maggie was getting into the rhythm of the program – her insurance changed and she no longer had coverage for my services. Mom was at first outraged and then fearful of losing the gains that Maggie had made. We talked about options: they could not afford private pay for visits…and this is where the IM-Home program came into its own – they had a garage sale to raise money for the unit and signed up with a private ‘consultation’ program with me to keep Maggie on track.
Motivated by her newfound confidence and achievements, Maggie was willing to use the IM-Home as part of her Sensory routine, a 10 minutes before and two fifteen minute segments after school each day. Her auditory processing increased from ‘deficient’ to ‘normal’ after 6 weeks on this routine – Maggie had found the way to ‘unlock her world’. Does she still use it everyday? Well no, but she does come back to her unit to prepare for the pressures of FCAT testing and during the summer vacation. Both mom and Maggie are thrilled that they have a tool that will take her not just through school, but also on to college and beyond. ”It’s a relief for them to have a tool at home that they can go back to at any time to maintain and fine tune skills.”