Benjamin Meyer, LCSW

benjaminmeyerlcsw@gmail.com | PHONE 347-768-3909


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Unseen Challenges: The Unique Needs of Young Adults with “Invisible Disabilities” in the Work Place.

 

As learning differences are increasingly studied and new interventions have been created, a relatively new term has been devised to describe those with less noticeable cognitive, mental health, and health-related challenges: “invisible disabilities.” (Association, ND). While historically these individuals may have been under-supported in the academic context, as a result of increasing research and the breadth of understanding and applicability of the ADA (American with Disabilities Act) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act people with “invisible disabilities” are accessing higher education at a higher level than ever before, and universities are providing more services to accommodate them. As of 2016, 67% of students with learning differences are enrolling in college within eight years of high school graduation, which is similar to the percentage of the general population (Casteneda, 2016) However, what happens when these students graduate and enter the workforce, where the accommodations they may have grown accustomed to are no longer available? With only 46% of individuals with learning differences reporting full-time employment (Cortiella, 2014), it is clear that more support is needed. While there are comprehensive programs, both privately and publically funded, designed to help young people on the autism spectrum and with visible cognitive and physical disabilities to prepare for and maintain employment, fewer services are available for those with invisible disabilities, whose challenges may require less clear or explicit accommodations. However, these individuals, who are frequently not diagnosed until early adulthood, also face challenges in the workplace, and although these challenges may be subtle, they can also be devastating. They may pertain to understanding the nuances of interpersonal relationships in the office, integrating into a workplace culture, or demonstrating the executive functioning skills essential to multitasking. I offer a few tips to help these young adults become successful.

A common complaint I hear in my practice is: “I interview so well,” but then when I start the job I have all of these challenges.” Some clients also report feeling that they have deceived and disappointed their employers, who may have picked up on a candidate’s intelligence and interview skills but discover later that he or she is struggling to integrate into the office culture, multitask under pressure, or simply understand his or her role in a specific positon.    Unfortunately, these deficits may lead to poor performance reviews and ultimately job termination. However, there are specific supports that these individuals would benefit from that are not offered in traditional employment training programs.

Individuals with invisible disabilities will sometimes feel overwhelmed by their job requirements, but this often stems from situations in which their job role is not clear. At times, employers will expect their employees to intuitively figure out the requirements and limits of their specific positions, as well as when to ask for guidance. Due to the nuances of job roles in today’s economy, employment training that would help those with invisible disabilities to gain confidence in asking for role clarification is a critical but often neglected service.

Individuals with invisible disabilities may feel anxious in the workplace when they are asked to multi-task in a fast-paced environment. Compounding this is the challenge that many face in understanding their employer’s implicit priorities. For example, an employer may view finishing an expense report, which is critical for the bottom line, as more important than working on the company website, but may assume that the employee understands this rather than communicating it directly. The employee, however, may have missed this message. Support programs therefore should work with employers as well as employees to facilitate clearer communication.

The challenges in the workforce are made more complex by increasingly nuanced social norms and expectations, which young adults with invisible disabilities may not pick up on. Specifically, they may be a challenge for them to figure out how and when to join a conversation or what topics are appropriate to bring up in a work setting, as opposed to a university or more informal setting. Some of these individuals may not realize that revealing personal information may be inappropriate at work, while others may not know how and when to contribute to a collegial conversation at work. Self-advocating and asking for support when assignments or tasks seem overwhelming, as well as handling criticism from a boss or colleagues, are critical tools that must be practiced over time. Working with a therapist or another kind of service provider who can help to address these issues through role-play and collaborative brainstorming is a critical step for developing strategies and self-confidence.

While there are many challenges that young adults with invisible disabilities face in the workforce, there are services that should and could be developed to assist them. I have outlined a few suggestions that may be helpful.


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How to Be Honest: Discussing Physical Attraction Towards Others and Pornography Use in Relationships

Some of the most sensitive and challenging topics for couples are physical attraction towards others and pornography use. Couples will frequently avoid these topics for fear of provoking each other’s insecurities and jealousy. However, the truth is that the guilt and embarrassment that stop couples from sharing also hinders emotional and physical intimacy. With a Canadian study finding that women whose partners openly disclose pornography use are more likely to report relationship satisfaction and lower levels of distress (Borreli, 2014), many relationship experts are stating that discussing pornography and outside physical attraction is an essential ingredient for healthy relationships. However, what is less well-known is how to discuss this topic with your significant other. While every couple is different, and there is no prescription for everyone, I offer a few tips below.

  1. Make Sure It’s Not Just About You

Clarity in your intention plays a major role not only in helping your partner to hear that you may be attracted to others or use pornography from time to time, but also in preserving the trust and intimacy of the relationship. One simple step is to ask your partner how he or she feels about your sharing these topics, while realizing that doing so may elicit feelings of shame, embarrassment, and inadequacy. It is also important to ask yourself why you want to share. Do you want to deepen your trust and intimacy level with your partner by being honest, perhaps expressing your own feelings of guilt or shame, or do you simply want an occasion to objectify someone else? Are you also willing to hear from your partner about his or her attractions or pornography use? When we love somebody, that person may be able to intuitively discern what our motives are, so sharing, especially in the beginning, is best done by couples when the goal is to promote intimacy and connection. For example, there is a significant difference between stating that you always thought your co-worker was sexy and stating that you would like to be more open about your fantasies and desires to build honest and healthy communication between you. Choose your words wisely and make your intentions clear.

It may also help to empathize that your attraction may vary quite a bit; sometimes, you might admire someone who is skinny, and sometimes you might find somebody attractive who is slightly overweight. Explaining to your partner that the diversity of your attraction may lead you to be attracted to others, including those who are not glamorous or models, may humanize the process for both of you. One might say, for example, “I really find him/her attractive, even if they’re not skinny or athletic, although I appreciate those qualities in you.” The idea is not to take away from what your partner’s attractiveness, but to celebrate another person’s distinctive style and beauty as well, which does not make your partner any less beautiful in your eyes.

At times, there may be attractive qualities in someone else that your partner is also happy to develop. You may point out, for example, that a mutual friend is wearing a nice sweater, and that you believe it would look gorgeous on your partner as well. You can even suggest that a mutual acquaintance has developed a healthy physique and that you would like to begin working out with your partner so that both of you can get in shape. Again, the key is to articulate steps that empower you and your partner to engage in activities together that would increase your attraction for one another.

  1. Make Sure the Pornography Is Something You Can Share

Pornography can be many things: degrading, sexy, empowering, and kinky are some adjectives that come to mind. However, if you are into porn, think about how your fantasies may be able to include your partner. At times, it may be something you can share in the bedroom. If you have a fantasy that is ignited from a pornographic video, ask your partner if he or she might like to act it out with you. Sharing a voyeuristic fantasy, for example, may actually be a turn-on for your partner, especially if you are able to imagine viewing a specific act together. However, it is much too challenging to include your partner if the material is degrading and/or if you impose your porn use and fantasies without first exploring your partner’s openness to these topics. Ask your partner if your fantasy is something he or she is willing to explore with you and even if it may be exciting on some level.

  1. Reaffirm Your Love

There is a special reason why you choose a particular person. Yes, there may be attractions to others at different times, but there is really only one person that you choose to be with. However, we often forget to express this. When your partner feels loved and understands that he or she is the only one you have deep feelings of commitment for, insecurity is less likely to arise and can be more easily soothed. Therefore, it is important to articulate why you chose your specific partner over everyone else. Attraction does come and go, but love is something that can last if we bring our true and honest selves to it, difficult as that may be at times.

 

Borreli, L. (2014, January 7th). Why Couples Who Confess To Watching Porn Are Happier And Have Better Relationships. Retrieved from Medical Daily : http://www.medicaldaily.com/why-couples-who-confess-watching-porn-are-happier-and-have-better-relationships-266505

 


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Dating and Asperger’s

Dating Success: Strategies for Those on the Spectrum And With NVLD

It is well-know that young adults on the autism spectrum and with Nonverbal Learning Disorder (NVLD) often struggle with understanding nonverbal body language and social nuances such as humor, figures of speech, and sarcasm. The difficulties of dating for those with NVLD and on the spectrum have been documented, with blog posts stating that due to deficits in understanding body language and emotional reciprocity, young adults will often struggle to establish and maintain relationships.[i] Less well-known are the strategies that young adults on the spectrum and with NVLD can use to build on their strengths and ultimately find a long-term partner. I outline some of them below.

Before specifying  strategies for dating success, it is important to recognize the  many strengths that these young adults have. Tony Atwood, the world-renowned expert on Asperger Syndrome, asserts that many young people with Asperger have attractive qualities, such as openness and honesty, loyalty, and attentiveness.[ii] These qualities are shared by many young adults with NVLD.

Practice Won’t Make Perfect, But It Helps a Lot If it’s Fun.

When a young person practices his or her dating techniques through role-playing, the fear of judgement can create significant discomfort. However, when the process is fun, involves laughter and excitement, and affords creativity, young adults on the spectrum and with NVLD can learn to develop what is known as a “theory of mind,” or an understanding of how others think and feel. Dr. Lana Pena Morgans writes not only does she allow the teenagers she works with to lead social skill building activities, but she also helps them by having them engage in dramatic performances, building their understanding of characters and the audience. Furthermore, she states that “it is so much safer getting directions as an actor, than receiving direction on your own personal social skills!”[iii]

If young adults can also imagine dating as a play, during which they act out different dating situations, learning skills and supporting one another in the process, this can be an effective strategy for acquiring skills while having fun.

 

Try Places To Meet Like-Minded Individuals

It is also important to point out that online dating, although an increasingly popular resource, may not work well for young adults on the spectrum or with NVLD, especially if it requires them to understand nuanced social rules. As stated by the New York City dating coach Jeremy Hamburg in The Atlantic, “Online dating is its own world. How can you expect someone with autism, who is already poor at picking up on rules, to succeed in a world that has a totally separate set of rules?”[iv]  However, some young adults may prefer this dating method, especially if it allows them to avoid immediate face-to-face interaction. Also, it is important to note that there are websites available for those who wish to date on the spectrum, such as Aspie-Singles and AutisticDating.Net.

Practice and Take Pride in the Small Steps

 

   Work on Accepting Yourself

Perhaps one of the most painful challenges for any young adult on the spectrum is a history of past rejection. Therefore, one of the areas that is important to work on is self-acceptance. For many, this is easier said than done, especially after multiple rejections. It has also been my experience that many individuals with NVLD and on the spectrum need not only to be reminded of their strengths, but also to consider how they can use them while dating. At times, this process may be facilitated by working with a therapist or somebody who is trained to work with NVLD or those on the spectrum and who understands the specific challenges that this population faces. There are a variety of organizations that  work with this population, including the group practice I am affiliated with, Spectrum Services of New York, and the Asperger Autism Network, AANE.

 

 

 

 

 

[i]Weaver, Rheyanne (2016) Tips for Being in A Relationship With a Man Who has Asperger’s or Autism.[blog post] Retrieved from http://www.empowher.com/mental-health/content/tips-being-relationship-man-who-has-aspergers-or-autism.

[ii] Atwood, T (2009). Romantic Relationships for Young Adults with Asperger’s Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism.  Interactive Autism Network: Linking the Autism Community and Researchers. Retrieved from https://iancommunity.org/cs/articles/relationships.

[iii] Pena Morgens, L (2014). Not Another Role Play!  Asperger/Autism Network.

[iv] Al-Nasrawi, R (2013, November). Online Dating, on the Autism Spectrum. The Atlantic. Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/11/online-dating-on-the-autism-spectrum/281710/

[v] Atwood, T (2009). Romantic Relationships for Young Adults with Asperger’s Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism.  Interactive Autism Network: Linking the Autism Community and Researchers. Retrieved from https://iancommunity.org/cs/articles/relationships.


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Five Steps Young Adults Can Take to Manage Loneliness Post-College in NYC

Five Steps Young Adults Can Take to Manage Loneliness Post-College in NYC 

It is no secret that New York City can be a lonely place. Despite its reputation as being one of        the most fast-paced and action-filled cities in the world, many of the young people I work with face challenges in establishing meaningful friendships. They may attend many social events, join different young adult groups, and even try to meet up with college friends, but still feel lonely at the end of the day. While everyone can feel lonely in NYC, young adults often face the additional challenge of adapting to a less predictable social environment than they may have experienced in college. Due to the spread-out nature of the city, young adult groups may also lack continuity, and new acquaintances may rarely be seen again. Indeed, NYC is in many ways the polar opposite of a contained campus community, but these five strategies can help you establish friendships in NYC.

  1. Think Quality Not Quantity

With an abundance of social opportunities for young adults, one can become overwhelmed by meeting new people, but have little opportunity to form quality friendships. While it may be tempting to attend five new crowded events that are well publicized and in your neighborhood, the long-term benefits of seeking out activities and social groups with regular meetings, continuity among members, and opportunities for forming deeper friendships often outweigh the difficulties be inherent in finding such groups.

  1. Do What you Like.

This city offers many activities through which it is possible o meet young people. Many of my clients complain that they had to leave behind their favorite activities such as sports and the arts after they move to the city. However, if one looks hard enough, he or she can find their favorite activities right here in the city, and doing so at least once every two weeks; These groups can include meetups, young adult religious groups, and even weekend long excursions with other young adults. All of these activities offer the opportunity to become familiar with others who have similar interests, ultimately creating meaningful and lasting friendships.

    3.  Join Other Young Professionals

Many young adults are entering a professional fields for the first time, which can create challenges as well as a desire to meet others going through similar professional experiences. Therefore, finding a professional group that meets frequently and offers other activities such as evening socials and opportunities to learn about others in the profession is a potentially rewarding opportunity. Examples could include the NASW for social workers, or a legal networking meetup for young attorneys.

    4.   Make Arrangements in Advance

Unlike College, were it is easy to see friends casually and spontaneously, most young adults in New York have busy schedules and long commutes. Therefore, it is often necessary to plan meetings with potential friends weeks in advance. Creating a regular schedule in which one maintains regular social appointments is critical for developing a consistent and supportive group of friends.

    5.   Have Patience

It can take many months and sometimes years to establish friendships in New York The city is huge, with lots of different opportunities to meet others, so if it does not happen right away, don’t give up, but continue to think about strategies you can develop to meet other likeminded individuals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Benjamin Meyer, LCSW


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My Story and What I offer

I would like to tell you a personal story that motivated me to be the psychotherapist I am today. I hope to convey to you my genuine personal and professional expertise in managing a nonverbal learning disorder, a complex neurological profile that consists of a specific set of strengths in verbal and written memory, with weaknesses in visual-spatial learning, fine motor skills, adaptability to novel situations, abstract reasoning, and decoding body language (Frankenberger Carly, 2012). My story begins during my early childhood in Berkeley California, when I exhibited a fascination with books about World War II, often memorizing different battles and important events that I was eager to share with my parents and anyone else who would listen. I also had a precocious vocabulary for my age, and as the son of two university professors, it seemed natural that I would fit one of the descriptors so often used to describe children with this neurological condition, “little professors” (Schonfeld, 2009). Teachers also took note of my compassion and kindness towards other children, especially to those who were excluded or bullied; in retrospect, this may have been motivated by my own sensitivity to feelings of difference due to my NVLD.

While on the outside, I may have fit the profile of an advanced and engaged learner, I was not without challenges; starting in pre-school, I struggled to tie my shoes, draw pictures, and at times, even to navigate between different parts of the school building. By the second grade, my parents were aware that something may have been amiss, and I received a neuropsychological evaluation that showed a strong discrepancy between my verbal and performance scores. For elementary and middle school, I attended a specialized private school where teachers were trained to work with students with learning differences. Subsequently, I attended a small private high school, where small class size and extra attention from teachers facilitated the learning process for students who had struggled in more traditional academic environments. Through very hard work and personal sacrifices, I was able to graduate with honors and acceptances to various branches of the University of California, as well as a variety of liberal arts colleges. My final college decision was based on selecting an institution that would support my unique interests and strengths in international relations, political science, and social justice, which I had developed thanks to my advanced vocabulary and writing skills. I ultimately selected Earlham College, a small Midwestern liberal arts college with a Quaker heritage and a long tradition of support for social justice. I graduated in 2007 with a strong GPA and a major in Peace and Global Studies. Following stints as an international volunteer in Chile and El Salvador, I decided to complete a Masters in Social Work degree from New York University, where I graduated with honors in 2011.

After graduation, the demands of independent life in New York City were complicated by my NVLD. I found the transition to the work force highly stressful, especially in a field such as clinical social work, which requires multiple transitions, crisis management, multi-tasking, and decoding body language from clients, employers, and colleagues in a fast-paced environment. Initially, I struggled to find systems to not only organize and prioritize between different tasks, but also to cope with what felt like constant anxiety every time I left for work in the morning, dreading what seemed like mundane tasks to others, such as folding letters and filling out forms. After some initial setbacks, I developed a few compensatory strategies, such as breaking down my day to allow for extra time for filling out forms and other kinds of onerous paperwork, asking colleagues to assist me with tasks that required fine motor skills, completing some forms on the computer, and consulting my co-workers regarding interpersonal dynamics that seemed especially difficult to decode. I was also able to make schedules and lists to help me stay organized during the day. Despite some setbacks, I am proud to say that I have been providing psychotherapy and practical advice to children, adolescents, and young adults with learning differences, helping them to reach their full potential in the classroom and on the job, while also assisting parents to advocate for their children’s needs and obtain the most effective programs and services. I also work with young adults to help them feel comfortable in advocating for their needs in the work place, assisting them in acquiring the services and developing strategies that will help them to be successful. At times, individuals with this neurological condition will not receive a diagnosis until young adulthood, due to the fact that NVLD is frequently considered “invisible” in that its characteristics are frequently less conspicuous than in other learning differences (Konigsberg, 2011). Therefore, I work with clients to better understand their disability and its impact on their daily functioning.

The challenges I faced in the workplace stemmed in part from the need to quickly transition between a variety of different social and professional environments, each with its own rules and expectations. A common symptom of NVLD in children is difficulty with transitions and adaptations, especially when new visual and spatial information are involved (Patino, 2014) As a young adult, I struggled with the fluid transitions young adults are expected to navigate on a daily basis. For example, while enrolled in a training program for therapists, I had been encouraged to share my thoughts and feelings regarding specific dynamics in therapy sessions, and continued to do so in my place of employment. However, I quickly found myself out of sync with the norms and expectations of my workplace. I experienced similar challenges while adapting to different social situations, sometimes feeling overwhelmed by increasingly harsh and judgmental world of dating. At times, I felt frustrated, demoralized, and alone, but I didn’t want to give up. I felt that rather than exclusively focusing on concrete skills, I needed more time to process the complexity of the interpersonal relationships and transitions I was experiencing. I thought that I would be best served by a psychotherapist who specifically understood my neurological profile and the challenges it created in navigating some of the complexities of the adult world. Ultimately, by examining the specific dynamics I found challenging at work and in the social arena, such as deciding how and when to disclose my learning disability, and practicing reviewing and interpreting different forms of non-verbal communication, I began to identify and implement different strategies for finding employment and social success. Ultimately, I was able to reach a level of personal and professional success, and I would like to help others do the same.

There is no doubt that young adults with NVLD face a unique set of challenges that arise from an increasingly independent lifestyle, where multiple deadlines must be met, interpersonal communication happens at a quicker pace on a verbal and non-verbal level, and multiple adaptations and transitions are expected in different life arenas, from the social to professional. Based on my own experiences, I have found that by using our strengths in verbal expression to interpret and understand social nuances in interpersonal and professional relationships, as well as create systems to ease the transition between different environments, young adults with NVLD can become successful in all facets of their lives.

In the work place, one of the first skills that I learned was to verbalize all the steps I needed to complete during the day. I wrote out a daily planner that afforded me more time for the tasks that I knew to be especially difficult and/or challenging, while verbalizing each part of the task. If I had to fold or file a specific set of papers, I made sure to verbalize to myself each of the step involved, making statements such as “first I fold across the middle, then I file in the third cabinet above the right hand corner.” Sometimes, I wrote out a specific set of steps and read them to myself before the work day. I use similar strategies to help my clients complete assignments at work. I also help young adults with NVLD to use their verbal strengths to explain their needs to their boss or supervisor. Some young adults with NVLD may feel uncomfortable or unsure of how to best disclose their specific learning disability, especially if we do not want to be perceived as “different” or “special.” Therefore, I role play different situations during which clients practice disclosing their learning difference to their bosses and supervisors, until they feel completely comfortable doing so.

In the social world, young adults with NVLD may benefit from processing and understanding specific social interactions with a supportive psychotherapist who also understands their specific needs and challenges, and who will also work with them on building social confidence. As a therapist, I draw on the strengths of the individual, helping him or her to walk through social situations that may seem confusing. Since body language can be challenging for young adults with NVLD, I may coach them to focus on the words that are being said, and then to consider the tone and context in which they were said. I may also demonstrate different posture and facial expressions to help clients interpret the nuances of body language.

Disclosing NVLD to a loved one can be challenging, especially without the confidence that one’s partner understands this neurological condition. Dating an individual with NVLD can also be difficult for the other partner. Therefore, it is especially important for a young adult with this neurological profile to develop a greater sense of comfort in identifying and expressing the ways that NVLD affects their interactions with their romantic companion. I also remind clients of their unique strengths, as many individuals with NVLD are also kind, compassionate, and articulate individuals who are capable of maintaining meaningful romantic relationships.

I help my clients to develop the professional and interpersonal skills they need to lead productive professional and personal lives. I am also proof of the fact that with the right support, young adults with NVLD can be successful, and finding a psychotherapist who understands this unique neurological condition is an important asset for achieving this success. Please call me for a free initial 15 minute phone consultation, and I look forward to speaking with you.

 

Frankenberger Carly, E. (2012). Non-Verbal Learning Disabilities: An Emerging Profile. Retrieved from NLD on the Web: http://www.nldontheweb.org/nldentrylevelreading/nvldanemergingprofile.html

Konigsberg, N. (2011, March 28). NLD – an invisible disorder you should know about. Retrieved from Milestone Mom: A Therapist’s Guide To Making Milestone’s Happen: http://www.milestonemom.com/nld-an-invisible-disorder-you-should-know-about/

Patino, E. (2014, May 21). Understanding Nonverbal Learning Disabilities . Retrieved from Understood: https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/child-learning-disabilities/nonverbal-learning-disabilities/understanding-nonverbal-learning-disabilities

Schonfeld, R. (2009, April 17th). The Paradox Of The ‘Little Professor’. Brooklyn, NY, USA.

 


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Overlooked: What Makes Many Young Adults with NVLD Attractive

It has been well documented that many young adults with NVLD can find dating to be overwhelming due to their difficulties reading body language and understanding social cues, but what positive attributes do these individuals have may be frequently overlooked? Do young adults with NVLD have qualities that make them more attractive to potential partners? I was inspired to think about this while reading the blog of Dr. Kenneth Roberson, a psychologist in San Francisco, who specializes in autism spectrum disorders. While describing adults with Asperger’s he stated, “They are usually loyal and dependable. Competing to get ahead is less important than solving problems and meeting challenges. Conscientiousness, faithfulness and devotion to duty matter more than ambition, especially if that ambition would cause others to suffer.” I wondered if the same could be said about young adults with NVLD. Can we also be more loyal and kind? Obviously, it depends on the person, but I outline some potential positive characteristics below.

A blog from Ask Meta Filter states that adults with NVLD can be “more trusting, honest, and open than average.” This can be a positive characteristic in a relationship, especially when it comes to expressing one’s true thoughts and feelings. Many people in therapy complain that they would like their partners to be more “open and honest.” Of course, young adults with NVLD may also struggle with when and how to be open in social situations, but over the course of a relationship, a trusting and honest demeanor and communication style may be very attractive qualities.

Another valuable quality is attention to detail, especially in terms of a strong auditory memory. A partner who can remember what was said during an earlier conversation, or who is able to identify the specific details of what his or her partner stated, may be able to demonstrate care and sensitivity, even if nonverbal communication and white lies may be more difficult for a person with NVLD to grasp.

Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind when considering the potential strengths of young adults with NVLD is that many may have a deep compassion and understanding for those who have been classified as “different” or have experienced various life challenges and difficult circumstances. Because many individuals with NVLD have been misunderstood and criticized by teachers, professors, employers, peers, and colleagues, they may have often developed compassion for others going through similar life circumstances or challenges.

What makes somebody with NVLD attractive is obviously highly variable and depends very much on the dynamics of a specific relationship, but there may also be strengths that are too often overlooked. As mental health professionals, it is critical that we keep these strengths in mind when working with individuals with NVLD instead of focusing exclusively on the perceived deficits.

 

 


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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