Dyssemia and nonverbal learning disability

Technically, dyssemia is a coinage from two psychologists — Stephen Nowicki and Marshall Duke — to provide a name for a subset of difficulties found with nonverbal learning disabilities/disorders. It’s not quite as official as saying “nonverbal learning disability.” Most people, instead of calling it dyssemia, just call it NLD or NVLD. However, while I don’t always agree with the psychologists’ blanket statements in their books, I am glad that they coined the term, dated or vague or lesser-known as it may be. While using “dyssemia” runs the risk of invoking what I call “syndrome satire,” I think in some cases it might be more accurate, especially for adults. [Aside re: satire — see Anne Karpf’s The Human Voice: the Story of a Remarkable Talent. Her comment on adult dyssemia: they used to call it other things, “misanthrope, for example, or antisocial bugger.”]

The main reason is simply that the phrase “learning disability” almost invariably connotes school-age children, and much of the diagnosis and treatment revolves around performance in school subjects and the necessary accommodations thereof. The proportionality of the literature, too, makes learning disabilities almost the exclusive property of children. I’m unclear about what happens to the grown-ups. Once a child grows up and leaves school, they may still have a learning disability, but is it incongruous to say so once school learning has stopped? Or, as in my case, there may be an adult who has already gone through school without being diagnosed or treated, and may get a diagnosis or recognize it later in life. Since the parts about school performance no longer apply, what do you call it? So, I like “dyssemia” because it focuses on the more general difficulties between brain and body, which exist outside of school. Anybody else have any thoughts, or terms you like to use?

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4 Responses to Dyssemia and nonverbal learning disability

  1. huytongirl says:

    I am so much in agreement with this. Every bloody search I do on a topic like this – and Asperger’s, which seems like a variation really – it’s the same – children, children, children, my son, my 5 year old, my 6 year old. It isn’t something which disappears when you turn 18. The lack of info on adults drives me crazy.

  2. hand2mouth says:

    I know… it’s frustrating and also a little eerie. I understand the importance of early intervention and things like that, but the strange almost “cut off point” in the literature implies that the adults just disappear. Perhaps that’s not the intention, but the effect is jarring. It seems to be common for a lot of other disabilities, too. I wish I knew why.

  3. bee says:

    How do we differentiate symptoms of dyssemia from the effects of childhood tauma/abuse that result in social skills reduction and anxiety disorders like panic?

  4. hand2mouth says:

    I suppose it would be hard, at least in some cases. I’ve read that with nonverbal learning disability, there’s often physical evidence of damage to the right hemisphere of the brain. As far as abuse or neglect, though, I guess it would be hard to attribute that unless you knew that something was going on. It’s fascinating, too, because I do think that abuse or neglect can change children developmentally more than people might think. And that’s sad, because among other things, people sometimes assume that the effects of bullying or abuse are easier to get over than they may actually be, depending on the circumstances. I’m not a medical person, though, so. I’ll put some articles into a new comment in a bit; I don’t know if I’m making a lot of sense right now.

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