Criticism happens to everyone, but it’s more complicated when someone has a learning disorder like NLD. First, we often have trouble reading nonverbal information, even if it’s just accepting a compliment or saying something funny. Second, negative feedback is easier to deal with when you can respond to it on the spot.
Since NLD makes improvising really hard, sometimes we have to mull over the criticism, put together the pieces, check out the problem with someone else who understands our NLD issues, and then respond. We go through all these steps in a state of doubt–did I say the wrong thing; was I wrong; what if I had done or not done xyz; how much credibility do I really have; did I get my point across; does so-and-so recognize my needs; did so-and-so consider my perspective; did I consider so-and-so’s perspective, et cetera.
As these and other questions swirl around, much of my confusion remains, I feel a keen sense of inertia (and being stuck), great stress, (sometimes) sadness, and frustration. Then I ask myself the question many who are unaware of NLD ask: if I’m so smart, why do I keep having these slip-ups?
I tell myself to have compassion, and that mistakes are just ways to learn. Still, NLD makes it all much harder. Instead of clearing up things on the spot, I must wait until I can reflect (read: dwell) on an issue, and sometimes ask for a second opinion, before I know the best way to respond. As I dwell, the problem feels worse than it is, and I worry unnecessarily. I cannot overstate the importance of making sure all with NLD have safe outlets to vent to, like mentors who are social coaches.
Perhaps it’s common for people with NLD to have friends older than us because they tend to want to share their life experience. I have a number of friends my age, but when a problem confuses me, I tend to ask my friends who are parents because having children sometimes results in great respect for learning differences. I feel much older than my age due to my life’s difficulties.