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Sunday, June 8, 2014

Ask the Expert: Unraveling the Clues

From Smart Kids with LD

By Marcia Brown Rubinstien, M.A., CEP
June 4, 2014

Question: My 7-year-old daughter has no trouble with schoolwork (she tests years ahead in reading and verbal skills), but has difficulty with transitions and is constantly in trouble for silly and inappropriate behavior.

Although she gets along well with children several years older, her ability to connect with her peers has nose-dived. She is being teased and harassed by children in her class, and doesn’t understand that someone mean to her is not her friend.

She is always testing the limits at home, and has started to have temper tantrums again. A diagnosis of high-functioning autism was discarded because she is so bright. She is now known throughout the school as a problem, and is excluded from after-school activities.

Any suggestions you can give me would be very welcome.

Our Expert Responds

Your daughter’s profile matches the characteristics of non-verbal learning disabilities (NLD), Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) or high-functioning autism. Kids in all these categories can have learning areas in which they function as gifted and talented, but other areas—specifically social and conceptual—in which they have marked deficits.

The problem behaviors in school and the tantrums at home are probably reactions to overstimulation. At school, work with her teachers to find ways for presenting material that are appropriate for your daughter. When that happens, she may well become a student they adore.

The meltdowns at home have nothing to do with good or bad parenting. They stem from neurological issues, and once they begin there is nothing you can do to prevent them, although there are many things you can do to avoid them. Try to figure out what triggers her tantrums and avoid getting into those situations when possible. Usually these kids feel quite remorseful when the meltdown is over.

It’s interesting you note that she “tests the limits.” Kids with NLD like to know the rules. They are comforted by knowing exactly what’s expected of them. They become insecure when confronting new things, which is why transitions are often difficult.

In academic as well as social situations, these kids need “pre-programming” in order to feel comfortable. Ask her teachers to tell you when there will be new material such as a new unit or change of books, so that you can slowly introduce it at home.

The most difficult thing about disabilities in this category is the inflexibility in adapting to new things. Their rigidity causes these children great anxiety, and ultimately the persistent anxiety can turn into pessimism and depression when they are older adolescents and adults.

The most important thing to enhance their development and prevent anxiety and depression is to guarantee a school environment that is safe and consistent. With consistent and appropriate intervention, you can positively impact your daughter’s present and future.

I urge you to seek as much information as you can about diagnosis and accommodations, and to fight for your daughter’s right to a safe and appropriate education. To learn more about NLD, see the articles listed below. To learn more about Asperger’s Syndrome and high-functioning autism see Autism Speaks.

Related Smart Kids Links

Marcia Rubinstien is an educational consultant and the author of Raising NLD Superstars.

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