Jean Fisher reads this column in the North Platte (Neb.) Telegraph, and recently she mentioned it to her daughter Lori Hughes, who resides in Andover, Minn. The 40-year-old Hughes then emailed me about her 10-year-old son diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Nonverbal Learning Disorder (NLD).
‘Jon is a brilliant boy, yet with a lot of problems,’ said Hughes in a telephone interview. ‘He is smart and retains anything he is told or reads, but getting his knowledge out on paper is impossible for him to do.’
Hughes said a huge gap exists between Jon’s high verbal IQ and his lower academic IQ.
The National Institute of Mental Health website reports that ADHD affects about two million American children, and probably millions of adults. Professionals recognize three types of ADHD: predominantly hyperactive-impulsive, predominantly inattentive, and the combined type, displaying both.
‘He has ADHD, but most of his problems are with his Nonverbal Learning Disorder,’ said Hughes. ‘Jon has no notion of time, and he can’t read nonverbal cues such as facial and body expressions. For instance, if you see someone with their head on a desk, you will assume they are tired and leave them alone. Jon can’t read nonverbals and may ask that person to play, and sometimes they get irritated at him.’
According to a website devoted to NLD, NLDline.com, the disorder may involve social difficulties, lack of coordination, inability to comprehend nonverbal communication, and sensory sensitivity.
As for Jon, he often gets frustrated because of his disabilities and acts out by becoming angry with himself, pulling his own hair and hitting himself. And he has even questioned why he was born.
When he does that, ‘I just tell him he’s perfect the way he is, that I love him unconditionally, and then I praise him,’ said Hughes. ‘I then tell him what the right thing to do is, to correct his (inappropriate) behavior.’
At school, teachers sometimes forget that Jon has disabilities because he scores very high on standardized tests, and so they become frustrated with his behaviors. For example, he has a difficult time reading fiction because he takes everything literally, and he can’t focus long enough to copy down words his teacher writes on the board.
‘Be patient and love them with everything you have,’ said Hughes to parents in similar situations.