Sunday, April 27, 2008
Non-verbal learning disorder or NLD is a particularly poignant condition. Often misdiagnosed as Asperger’s Syndrome (high-functioning autism) or Savant Syndrome (a developmental handicap accompanied by extraordinary mental abilities in one or more fields), children with NLD typically excel in early speech and vocabulary development, and display a remarkable memory for things that interest them. Like the Aspie child, Olivia Bean in INSIDE OUT GIRL is capable of discussing the elimination habits of the Norway rat long after you’ve thrown out the dinner you no longer have the desire to eat!
Just like Aspie’s, kids with NLD tend to fall short with social, motor and visual-spatial skills. The subtlety of language eludes them. The subtlety of social innuendo eludes them. They tend to be the kids in 7th grade who show up wearing sweatpants pulled up to their armpits and the musty woolen liners of their winter boots—social suicide in middle grade. The other kids often pick on them and they can fall prey to relentless bullying.
And here lies the poignancy of NLD. Aspies tend to exist within their own isolated social bubble, uninterested in connecting with other children. Not so with the NLDer. The child with NLD—so sweet and naïve—typically wants to be loved, wants to be accepted. Every snub in the playground wounds them to the core. Olivia Bean longs for her birthday party so she can invite everyone from her class. But her father knows no matter how many invitations his daughter doles out, not a single child will show up. The NLD child wants social acceptance more than anything, and more often than not will never achieve it.
Just imagine your own child going through this.
Some of you might have seen Town House, my debut novel about the agoraphobic son of a rockstar who is too crippled by panic attacks to leave his Boston town house. Because I seem to be obsessed with the human condition, particularly any condition that causes a person to view the world through eccentric-colored glasses, much of my writing centers around people with disorders of some sort. People who, because of their conditions, might feel alienated, as if real life is happening at a different speed, at a different frequency. I like to think of them as the Eleanor Rigbys of the world. I should know, I'm one of the lonely people myself, having battled anxiety, panic attacks and on-again off-again agoraphobia most of my adult life.
So...my next novel, titled Inside Out Girl, comes out August 12, 2008, and features a learning-disabled ten-year-old who is constantly bullied. Olivia Bean has a non-verbal learning disorder (NLD), a condition often confused with Asperger's Syndrome.
Synopsis from the back cover:
Rachel Berman wants everything to be perfect. As an overprotective, single mother of two, she is acutely aware of the statistical dangers lurking around every corner--which makes her snap decision to aid a stranded motorist wholly uncharacteristic. Leonard Bean is broken down on the highway with Olivia, his rodent-obsessed, relentlessly curious, learning disabled 10-year-old daughter. To the chagrin of Rachel’s children, who are about to be linked to the most mocked girl in school, Rachel and Len begin dating. And when her father receives terrible news, little Olivia needs a hero more than ever.
But the world refuses to be predictable. When personal crisis profoundly alters Rachel’s relationship with a very wild, very special little girl, this perfectionist mother finds herself drawn into a mystery from her past and toward a new appreciation for her own children’s imperfect lives. INSIDE OUT GIRL (Harper Perennial, August 2008) shows that no matter how much our world can crumble around us, it is our strength that defines us. The challenges we face only enrich our lives and teach us lessons that will last a lifetime.