Friday, May 13, 2011

How to tell your NNT they are NNT

 [author's note: I totally had this post done yesterday and then blogger decided 'No, all your hard work writing clever things WAS FOR NOTHING' and then it deleted half the work I did on this post. So now I'm all annoyed and the post isn't as good ad the one I wrote yesterday.]
One of these things is not like the other.

So, you have a kid who is NNT? How do you tell them that they are different from all of the other kids?

This is a hard thing to do, but it's well worth the effort

This is a process of realization, not a one step and out the door kind of thing.

this is the beginning of your journey

The first step: Don't panic. Take a deep breath. 

Step 2: know the facts. 
You should know what kind of NNT your child is. Talk to the doctor who made the diagnosis and see if they have an resources about the NNT. Do a google search and read the wikipedia page. The more you know about the diagnosis the better advocate and ally you can be for your child.

Step 3: Tell your kid
If you kid was anything like me, they thought that they were retarded. Like that there was something wrong with them. They thought this because someone either implied it or said it to their face. Or both. Let me tell you what you already know: there is nothing wrong with your kid. Their brain is wired differentlyPromise Promise that any trauma that might occur from telling your kid that they are different is significantly less traumatic than letting your kid go through life thinking that they are broken, dumb or that there is something wrong with them.

Step 3a: Use a metaphor.
Brains are super complex and not much is known about being NNT. So it might be helpful to use a metaphor. Cautionary note: please explain that it is a metaphor, otherwise your kid will think that there are wires in their brains. The metaphor that helped me was the wiring metaphor, saying that I was wired differently, my brain processes information in a different way than other people. NOT WRONG. JUST DIFFERENT.

Step 3b: Use the diagnosis.
So, this one might just be me. But I found it super helpful to use the exact works that were in my diagnosis. This was helpful because as I got older I found I had to explain to adults and my peers why I was acting the way I was. Knowing the words associated with my diagnosis was helpful to learn to self advocate.

Step 4: Tell them that you love them.
I think this is the best way to end any conversation, especially hard conversations.


Side note: using the diagnosis as an excuse
So, I've read comments on a lot of other blogs that say that parents don't let their kids use their NNTness as an excuse. Good for you. It's not an excuse. But I feel like there's an explaination that might be helpful.

NNT isn't an excuse to not do things like chores or homework.

But it can make certain things more difficult, like predicting and generalizing about homework and chores.

For example: If trash day comes once a week, and it comes on Monday, then it is expected that the trash will be gathered up earlier, therefore you should gather the trash on Sunday night. This seems like a simple concept, yes? However, sometimes NNT brains don't make connections that follow the If Then Therefore formula. You might have to explain the formula and generalize about trash day before that behavior becomes predictable.

Honestly, you spend so much time trying to convince people that you CAN do things it doesn't make sense to waste time telling your parents that you CAN'T do something.

Bonus Side Note: what I remember about being told I was NNT
I was diagnosed when I was 6 or 7 years old. We lived in a small town in rural New Mexico. In order to get tested we had to drive to Albuquerque. It was a very long drive. We got to the doctors office and a man who looked a little like Santa timed me while I drew pictures of shapes.

There were little desks and he sat the little desk even though he didn't fit at it. After I was finished drawing, he told me that I had Nonverbal Learning Disability. It meant I had a hard time reading emotions and copying things down from the board at school. He told me I was unique. I told him I liked being unique.

Then in the waiting room there was a tick in SeaStar's hair. It was really gross and The Matriarch pulled it out of her hair with tweezers. She put it in a bag and SeaStar had to go to the hospital.

So that's what I remember, a man who looked like Santa and a tick in my sisters hair.

Different way of viewing the world


  1. Thank You NNT. My 10 yr old son was just diagnosed as having ASD, and I have been wondering how to tell him. Your suggestions are truly appreciated.

  2. my 9-year-old was diagnosed with asperber's a few years ago. i realized recently that we'd never really explained it to him, although we are very open about it at home, school, the doctor's office... and have been going over scenarios in my head, hoping i can verbalize it in a close-to-right way. i've been reading over your blogs a few at a time, and found this today. it helps.

    thank you.


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