Friday, August 5, 2022

Review of Screwed Up Somehow But Not Stupid: Life With a Learning Disability by Peter Flom

This review was written by Eugene Kernes  

Book can be found in: 
Genre = Psychology
Book Club Event = Book List (09/10/2022)
Watch Short Review

Interview with the Author


“It’s not clear to others why we have difficulties.  Contrast this with someone who is blind or wheelchair-bound.  Their problems are more disabling, but also more visibly obvious.” – Peter Flom, Preface, Page 6

“By definition, a nonverbal learning disability (NLD) is a kind of learning disability, or LD, in which nonverbal communication is a huge problem.  Many years ago experts treated LD as a single disorder, believing all LD individuals have much in common.  This led to research comparing learning-disabled people to matched controls who were not LD.  It was also marked by a very narrow idea what types of deficits could be called LD.  This approach is inadequate because LDs are marked more by their differences than their similarities.” – Peter Flom, Chapter 2: What Is NLD? Part 1, Page 13

“Another way of thinking about the differences between NLDers and NTers is the things you do automatically are difficult for many of us, like reading facial expressions.  Further, while it’s difficult to imagine having a learning disability that you don’t have, I think it’s harder to imagine having an LD in the autism ballpark because it’s harder to isolate the challenges.” – Peter Flom, Chapter 2: What Is NLD? Part 1, Page 16

Excerpts provided with permission from author

This is a guide on how to understand and help those with a nonverbal learning disability, an NLD.  A nonverbal learning disability is a type of learning disability, which has difficulty with nonverbal communication.  Trouble with processing nonverbal information.  Those with an NLD are not just different, they are differently different.  Different because of the different way information is processed.  They think differently.

Nonverbal information such as emotions, body language, and facial expressions are influential factors in communication, but NLD individuals cannot readily understand nonverbal signals.  Can take time to process the information, but the pauses can cause misunderstanding.  What neuro-typical individuals do automatically, is difficult for an NLD individual.

NLD individuals cannot be generalized, for each is a unique case.  Everyone who has an NLD has different problems.  NLD individuals tend to think in words, and have trouble integrating nonverbal and verbal information.  Can be literal, and have a focus on details.  The meaning of nonverbal information needs to be taught.

A Disability: 
Being labeled an NLD does not change the individual, it does change how the individual is approached.  Being labeled means having more information and can use that information to get help and support.  There are many labels that can fit an NLD, which can fit well or not, but they do not define the individual.  A label is a good start into a search about what can help NLD individuals, but as they are all different what works for an individual might not apply to others.  Because of the differences, educational plans for NLD are often vague.

Considering NLD a spectrum would be inappropriate, as it is inappropriate for autism.  They involve many aspects of behavior, thought, and interaction.  Author prefers to consider them as a ballpark, for there is a center but the center spreads in all directions.  

NLD is a disability, not just a difference in learning.  Preference for disability than just learning differences because with the latter can be demeaning and harmful.  Differences are not legally protected, while disabled are.  With a disability, more services become available as to their evaluation and finding appropriate education.

More On NLD:
The disability it a non-obvious, for it is about what happens in the mind.  There are many with perceptive and obvious disabilities that are more disabling.  Being non-obvious causes difficulty in understanding why NLD individuals have difficulties.

Nonverbal communication to an NLD is like talking in a different language.  Nonverbal signals are not properly perceived.  A neurological impairment that affects abilities, but not related to speech.  Common difficulty areas are reading body language and faces, discerning tone, temporal and special memory, and other nonverbal abilities.

Like many with disabilities, NLD individuals can become negatively characterized.  Better to avoid making assumptions about intelligence, attention skills, or how similar others are.  NLD individuals can fail like everyone to understand something, but that does not mean they are intellectually impaired.  NLD tend to have difficult understanding emotions, and tend to look away from people.  The nonverbal information can become overwhelming.  NLD also tend to be bad at small talk, as they need more substance topics. 

What can help NLD is to teach them social skills, for they will not easily pick those up on their own.  Many behavior issues are not done on purpose, but are coping mechanisms.  NLD are trying to fit in as best they can.  NLD also have difficulty adjusting to novel and complex situations.

Need to recognize strengths, weaknesses, and how to get around difficulties.  Different approaches on exist on how to tackle difficulties.  Depending on the context will determine which is better.   

NLD is usually contrasted with the neuro-typical but it is not clear how neuro-typical individuals perceive things.  Even with neuro-typical individuals, they can fail to understand emotions because emotions need practice.  A more isolating culture would not provide its members with enough emotional practice making them appear to be NLD.  Understanding emotions, like everything else, takes time and effort which later becomes automated.  
NLD have a very wide range of symptoms, and behavioral problems.  Everyone might fit into the NLD ballpark in some way.  Although it would be wrong to make comparisons between the NLD differences, there needs to be a better filter for who is an NLD individual.  What this book does is create an understanding of what an NLD is, which can be used to search for more information on how to help NLD individuals.

Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?  Why do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•What is a nonverbal learning disability?
•What does it mean to be neuro-typical?
•What are types of nonverbal information?
•How does communication use nonverbal information?
•Why is NLD a disability rather than just a different type of learning?
•What does the NLD label do for the individual who has NLD?
•Is NLD on a spectrum?
•What makes NLD individuals difficult to understand? 
•What happens by holding up people who succeeded with a disability as an example for potential?

Book Details
My edition was provided by the author. 
Publisher:         Peter Flom
Edition ISBN:  9780692611692
Pages to read:   91
Publication:     2020
1st Edition:      2016
Format:            eBook

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          3
Overall           3