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In 1995, located somewhere in a bitter, wintry town in Illinois, a young couple and their 9 year old son were about to have their second child. Following a standard C- section procedure, their seemingly healthy baby girl was delivered on November 21st at 9:30 am. After what seemed like an eternity of silence, she finally busted into an uncontrollable cry while being cleaned off and examined by the pediatrician. As if by instinct, her mother spoke words of love and compassion; resulting in the infant going silent, looking in the direction of a very familiar voice. Just like all newborns, she had a hole in her heart; one of the doctors announced to the parents his desire to crack open their baby's chest to fix the hole. Utterly horrified, her father kicked him out of the room, looking at his new baby worried about her health. Now, at the time, what they didn't realize is that approximately 75% of the hearts of babies heal themselves on their own, while the other 25% live on with the hole, exchanging blood between the two chambers of their hearts; often never experiencing any health complications. And so, with their baby girl, they brought her home on Thanksgiving day and celebrated the creation of a new life!
As their daughter began to settle into her new environment, they were having one hell of a time getting her to hold down any liquids because she would proceed to puke it up. After taking a trip to their pediatrician, they felt somewhat comforted to know that all that was going on was a bad ass case of lactose intolerance. So, they switched her formula, no problem, right? Wrong! Babies are never that easy - otherwise it would be too, well, easy. Without delay, she started to pick up her messy, stinky, old habit of puking; this time only doing it when she was startled, ruining so many clothes.
Upon reaching the age of crawling, they began to notice behaviors that they didn't experience with their son. Instead of the "traditional" form of crawling, she slithered; dragging herself where she needed to go by her elbows. While this was a strange behavior, they weren't necessarily worried; all they knew was how cute it was to watch. At around 15 months of age, which is considerable late for walking, she started to pull herself up; holding onto the walls and walking on the balls of her feet, basically the form of a ballerina. Now, this, they thought, was strange - their son seemed to hit his developmental stages in a normal timeline. However, their daughter, just couldn't even.
Pediatricians continued to insist that she was developing normally, just not in the way that you would expect. Despite this, her parents knew that something just wasn't right. They weren't the only ones who thought that things weren't right; once she reached preschool, her behaviors continued to baffle their minds, and nobody seemed to know what was going on. Her teachers began to take notice and promptly brought up their concerns to her parents. Their current example was from a lesson her teachers had recently done in their classroom. Students were making tiaras and crowns; choosing their own colors and patterns to design to their liking. However, when she was asked what color she wanted her crown to be, she promptly responded with,
"Diamond!" she shouted.
Her parents took note, yet they didn't quite understand what was wrong with that statement. Yes, diamond isn't a color, okay, whatever, but,
"Who doesn't want a crown made out of diamonds?" her mother thought.
With this, they scheduled an appointment with a specialist who would evaluate her and determine if she was on the spectrum or not, and which specific condition she had in order to give the proper treatment.
It was at this time, my fine, furry friends, I was diagnosed with NLD, commonly referred to as Nonverbal Learning Disorder. This condition is very similar to Asperger's. Back in the early 2000s, and even today, nobody really understands Nonverbal Learning Disorder, because the symptoms closely resemble so many other conditions. In a nutshell, it doesn't mean that I can't talk; simply means that I can't read body language, comprehend sarcasm (I can now!), understand tone of voice, can't tell how loud I'm talking, extremely awkward in any situation that involves people, and, last but certainly not least, severe, and I mean severe, social anxiety and depression.
Immediately per this doctor's instructions, my parents put me in a crap ton of therapeutic programs. Now, the elementary school that I attended did these therapies during the day, so, I'd start every Tuesday and Thursday with a battery of "exercises" to gain better control of my body. I had Occupational Therapy to help with writing because I could not for the life of me hold a freaking pencil without breaking it; I always pressed too hard, and gripped the pencil in strange ways. I did exercises to help me work on my balance so I could, hopefully, stop running into walls and falling all the time; they would have me sit on a yoga ball and lift one leg at a time, this strengthened my core, and I started to have an easier time with my posture. Meanwhile, I also participated in speech therapy, because my brain and my mouth weren't "communicating" very well, for lack of a better description. My parents and therapists came together and created an IEP, otherwise known as an Independent Educational Program, for my days at school, to make it a little easier. Kids made fun of me pretty badly because I'd get pulled out of classes for therapy, as a result, I really didn't have very many friends.
Every Wednesday following getting out of school, my mom would take me to Dr. Richard Falzone, who was the best therapist I've ever had, and I've had many throughout the years. He taught me Cognitive Behavioral Therapy so that I could learn how to change my thoughts around, hopefully making them positive. I was 9 years old when I began seeing him, and I've been in therapy ever since then; continuing to change my thoughts. Now, I can do it without even thinking about it; my brain just does it naturally. 13 years; I've been in therapy for 13 years! If you don't want to do the math, I'm now 22 years old.
I sincerely hope that you enjoyed this; however, I have many more stories to tell relating to this subject, that I totally intend to share with you in the near future; and I truly look forward to it! I'm grateful to have the ability of sharing my story to the world and it is my hope that I will help someone else out there to understand that they aren't alone; there are millions of people in the world, and one of them is bound to have the same experiences as you.