Against the Odds: Steps Young Adults with NVLD Can Take to Find Professional Success.

Young adults with Nonverbal Learning Disorder (NVLD) face a unique set of professional challenges. Deficits in executive functioning can cause tasks that require time management and organization to seem especially daunting, and difficulties reading body language can create obstacles to understanding nonverbal social cues from colleagues and employers. Nevertheless, by implementing the following five strategies, you can improve your chances of achieving the professional success you deserve.

  1. Disclose the Strengths NVLD Has Given You

The decision to disclose to an employer is a personal one, and in some cases, a person may feel that he or she is better served by not disclosing.  There are also times when disclosing one’s NVLD will ultimately result in better job performance and satisfaction, helping the employer to understand how a particular employee can be successful within the organization. If you do decide to disclose, it is important that you do so in a fashion that will increase your favor among your employer, outlining what you have to offer him or her.

There is a tendency to focus on the deficits of NVLD; most of us have heard the clinical reasons why we may miss social cues, struggle with handwriting and math, and become easily lost in new places. However, while these explanations may be helpful for our own understanding, employers are more likely to be supportive and accommodating when we emphasize our strengths, focusing on what we have to offer them.

Individuals with NVLD often have a particular set of positive attributes: a strong auditory memory, a developed vocabulary, and an ability to recall details are some of the more well-known. These strengths may be an asset for an employer, and it is therefore wise to highlight them. A few examples could be pointing out our ability to remember the details of what was said during a conference to use our advanced vocabulary to enhance our presentations, as well as follow through on verbal instructions

     2. Talk it Out and Hear it Out

To an individual without NVLD, it may seem odd that somebody would need to verbalize the specific steps necessary to complete even a mundane task. However, doing so may be helpful for achieving workplace success. An everyday example could verbalizing the steps in sending a fax, from placing the paper on the copy machine to pressing the send button. If speaking out loud feels uncomfortable, you could begin by speaking quietly or even silently to yourself or explain to colleagues and employers that this technique helps you to become a more effective worker.

In addition to talking it out, many individuals with NVLD benefit from hearing it out. While completing a training or attending a presentation, it may benefit you to ask that this information be provided to you orally or in writing as much as possible. While asking for this accommodation may seem like an unnecessary imposition on your boss and colleagues, it will ultimately save them and you considerable time and energy, improving your work performance in the process.

  1. Create an NVLD Sensitive Organizational System.

Many employees have organizational systems, but making yours NVLD sensitive can be helpful. Individuals with NVLD often have difficulties prioritizing tasks in the workplace, as seeing the “big picture” can be difficult for this population. Therefore, organizational systems that fail to take this into account may be inadequate for your needs.

To be effective, an NVLD-sensitive organizational system may include a list of priorities, highlighting what is most important to accomplish and in what time sequence. At times, an employer will assume you understand what order tasks or projects must be completed in, even if he or she has not directly told you so. This may be due to the fact that he or she has communicated this information in a nonverbal way, or has perhaps assumed that you would infer it from previous information. Projects and tasks that require multiple steps may also seem overwhelming for individuals with NVLD. Therefore, it is critical that you create an organizational system that prioritizes specific tasks and projects and the steps you can take to accomplish them. Doing so with a support or contact person at your job may be helpful; If you are unable to find somebody at work, it may be helpful to enlist somebody else’s services.

     4. Find a Support Person

In addition to helping you create an organizational system, a support person can be a critical resource for understanding social dynamics at work. Individuals with NVLD will at times understand statements literally, failing to catch irony, tone, and sarcasm, as well as misreading or overlooking body language. This can have devastating effects for any employee looking to fit in at work. Therefore, finding someone who can support you, answering your questions regarding specific social dynamics, as well as helping you to become more aware of workplace interactions, is a critical form of support.

In today’s fast paced workplace, finding a support person can be a challenge. However, at least some colleagues and employers will respond with compassion when they understand why specific tasks and social dynamics are challenging for you at work, especially if have made clear your genuine desire to fit into the company culture.

Finding a support person in the workplace can be as simple as identifying a supervisor or colleague who shows interest in your professional growth and development. People are often willing to give their time to a fellow employee or subordinate if he or she has demonstrated a strong work ethic and interest in the company culture. However, if you are unable to find somebody at work, a variety of different professionals offer organizational and coaching services outside of the workplace to help you succeed, and they can usually found online.

     5. Connect with Others with NVLD Outside of Work

Struggling with the symptoms of NVLD may cause you to feel isolated at times. This is especially true when there is no one else at your workplace with NVLD. Therefore, it can be helpful to find a support network outside of work. This could be as informal as a meetup group, or as official as a confidential therapeutic group facilitated by a mental health professional. Sharing your direct experiences at work, and hearing how others have developed strategies for compensating, can provide emotional relief as well as professional support. It is also important to note that one can find an online support community, many of which are available via Facebook.

Lastly, working with a therapist who is familiar with NVLD can be helpful not only for managing the practical aspects of achieving professional success, but also for alleviating the many emotional stressors that occur as well, by helping create strategies that reduce anxiety, boost your self-confidence, and smooth difficult interpersonal situations. There is no one size that fits all for achieving professional successful, but utilizing some of these strategies can certainly can make a difference


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