I have great trouble at family get-togethers. I am fortunate to have a few relatives I love seeing, but in most cases, I don’t find the family events warm. I find them overtiring, boring, and dismal. Relatives tend to fall into a few main categories with respect to how they see my NLD:
1) They ignore me and pretend I don’t exist.
2) They are supportive and listen to my issues.
3) They pathologize the NLD symptoms and make untrue assumptions.
4) They ask intrusive questions that aren’t their business.
I’m aware that I sound accusatory in making these observations, but after years of reviewing the events, I know what’s going on. Here are some suggestions for helping NLD kids in social situations:
-Talk with kid in advance about social event in detail.
-Be on hand to sit with kid any time he/she feels uncomfortable (especially a younger child, but even when older, this support can be necessary, particularly if people you’re not sure about are there).
-Have kid signal you when he/she feels tired, and respect kid’s need for an early bed time (NLD is arguably a physical syndrome as well as neurological).
-Don’t overload kid with too many events. Pick a small number and opt out of things that are too overwhelming. Give your child’s opinion weight: if he/she is anxious and/or tired, respect these issues and help with planning and damage control.
-Ask kid what he/she thinks about social situation and provide feedback.
-Ask kid what things make him/her anxious and what you can do to help.
-Tell your child you understand that social situations cause anxiety and that it’s not his/her fault, and that he/she has many talents and abilities.
-Respect your child’s right to confidentiality, and don’t tell sensitive stories without child’s prior permission to do so.
Childhood social situations are the foundation for relating well as an adult. If these observations help even one family impacted by NLD, then I will have done something very positive to reduce the suffering and stigma this LD too often leads to. With social skill training (make sure it’s age-appropriate, interactive, and not insulting), relationships can be emotionally supportive learning experiences.