Growing Up with NLD (Third Edition)
by Deborah Green
($25; Silicon Heights Computers, Albuquerque, NM; 2000: 188 pp.)
Reviewed by Kelli Bond
For books about the lives of those with nonverbal learning disabilities (NLD) before September 1999, the public turned to those penned by adults with Asperger's Syndrome (AS) because of the close relationship between NLD and AS. While these accounts moved loved ones of individuals with "standalone" NLD as well as adults with a similar expression of NLD, they repeatedly went away with feelings that amounted to "Close, but no cigar."
Then along came Deborah Green's Growing Up With NLD. Its initial release represented a watershed that would change the perception of NLD and how it plays out from infancy to adulthood.
Now in its third edition, Growing Up with NLD is as inspiring and instructive as ever. The 23-page "Research and Information" section that follows Green's opening poem-along with the 24-page listing of resources toward the end-have been extensively revised and are much more solid
than they were in the first edition.
However, Green's 21 autobiographical essays (the original 18, plus three new) and eight poems will always be the heart of this book. They chronicle her own tragedies and triumphs, pain and passions as she traverses 30-plus years with NLD. A lifetime of wide reading (bolstered by an education culminating in bachelor's and master's degrees in English from highly selective colleges on both coasts) clearly inform the styling of Green's memoirs in both prose and lyric verse. Moreover,
each of the 21 stories now end with related tips for those working with young people who have NLD.
For those looking in Green's book to confirm the dire prognosis that has practically become boilerplate in the professional literature on NLD, they'll be sorely disappointed. Instead of the apparent lack of responsibility they've come to expect from individuals with NLD, they'll note Green's forthrightness about her areas of weakness and her past relationships with immediate family members. She uses a number of approaches to rectify and reclaim/reconcile.
The concept of rectifying takes root in "Coping Skills"-and blooms fully in the new "Dalcroze Eurhythmics: A transforming force in music and in life," as well as in "To Move or Not to Move."
"Coping Skills" shows Green building grace and reducing stress through Feldenkrais classes, and quelling anxiety through acupuncture. She reports these have led to improvements in listening to others and in noticing subtle body language.
"Dalcroze" and "To Move..." celebrates Green's gradual reclamation of her body in recent years, a true victory among individuals all too often disconnected from their own due to lifelong gross motor deficits and the repeated humiliation these evoke. She likens the former split from things physical to that of Laura in Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie. Green pushes past Laura's psychic paralysis to breathe, sing, walk, skip, gallop, jump, whirl, and twirl in time with those in the
Dalcroze groups. Among the things Green learned through collaboration with her Dalcroze classmates is that she could touch and nurture other people non-sexually. Such a revelation chalks up another win for adults with "standalone" NLD, who have been portrayed for too long as
near-automatons devoid of sensuality.
Extending the reclamation/reconciliation theme are "Parents and Parenting" along with "Sibling Rivalry." They clearly meld the perspectives of all involved with Green's feelings as situations
occurred and in hindsight. This global view, particularly when past relations have been as rocky as Green's with her mother and sister, is frequently missing from the accounts of individuals within the LD, ADD/ADHD, and higher-functioning autistic spectrum communities. Especially noteworthy is her frankness about possible overdependency on her parents and the fear of having few, if any, human supports after they die. Green's book is the first among those written by adults having developmentally-based processing disorders to openly grapple with the issue of parental mortality while one or both parents are still alive.
For those seeking to further differentiate NLD from AS, they'll find ample evidence in Green's book to support the contrasts.
Green naturally uses "we," "us," and "ours" where appropriate. Ordinarily, readers of the NLD and AS professional and popular literature would take these three words for granted-that is, until they
naturally compare Green's work with those of her AS counterparts and pick up the detachment, egocentricity, or both of the latter. Both impressions come partly from a notable lack of second-person plural pronouns even as authors with AS describe ostensibly warm or fulfilling
relationships. Such a void is attributed to the brain's hard-wiring in AS, leading those with the condition to perpetually find themselves "on the outside looking in" despite connections they might make with others.
This same phenomenon is said to bring about the widely-documented preference among those with AS for nonfiction, science fiction, and epic fantasy. Further difficulties accepting people or things in ways other than their intended function, use, or behavioral code underscore literal-mindedness -which, in turn, leads to trouble with the figurative language of materials outside the AS ken.
None of these proclivities apply to Green, as seen in her "Fantasy and Imagination" and "Reading: The Window to the Outside World" (both of which remain among Green's strongest pieces). They explore how picture storybooks, fantasies, romance novels, and other tales have shaped Green's values, her knowledge of the world, her empathy with people whose experiences were unlike her own, and her responses to challenges over the years. She writes of influential books (Madeleine L'Engle's classic A Wrinkle in Time among them) in terms of themes and specific human qualities that have resonated the most for Green. As is the case with many MENSA-calibre, lexically-endowed individuals such as Green, reading also ignited her imagination and blazed through her play (but not verbatim) as a child from age three onward.
Finally, for those trying to get other answers, additional stand-outs from Green's book include "The Magic of Music," "Novelty and Transitions" (the best-ever explanation on resistance to change),
"Writing and Computers," and "The World of Work."
Order Green's updated, groundbreaking Growing Up With NLD today at http://www.siliconheights.com/catalog/nld.html!
Founder, owner, and co-moderator of the NLD-In-Common listserv on eGroups, Kelli Bond also wrote "Nonverbal Learning Disabilities from 9 to 5" (published on NLDline). Based in Southern California, Kelli is a training/HR and communications consultant specializing in large-scale
technology implementations, business issues related to the Americans with Disabilities Act, and adult basic education. She may be contacted at email@example.com.