Henry, a new 7th grader at Summit Middle School, arrived at school mid-morning after an appointment with his pediatrician for his annual physical. He stopped at the office to get a pass, then hurried to Mr. Jones’ Social Studies class. He arrived a few minutes late because he went down the wrong hallway and got disoriented. Mr. Jones acknowledged Henry, took his pass, and mentioned that they were going over a chart of the gross national product for Latin American countries in the decade between 1990 – 2000. Mr. Jones called on another student, identified a country and a year, then asked her for the gross national product produced for that year. After receiving the correct answer, Mr. Jones called on Henry. He identified another country and asked Henry to study the chart and then name the year and the correct gross national product. Henry looked perplexed, stared at the chart, but could not come up with the answer and did not want to guess. After a long and awkward silence on Henry’s part, Mr. Jones called on another student to provide the correct answer.
Most of us can empathize with Henry and assume that he felt some degree of embarrassment. But we may also wonder why a simple chart with the countries listed on one axis and the years listed on the other axis would be so difficult for him to interpret, knowing that the intersection of the straight lines would yield the answer. We can also assume that Mr. Jones had this same thought, since it is highly unlikely he wanted to embarrass Henry and merely wanted the answer for class discussion. Henry, however, has NVLD/NLD. He finds it extremely difficult to process any information that comes to him visually-spatially. This is especially true in this case because Henry missed the verbal-sequential explanation that Mr. Jones gave to the entire class at the beginning of the period on how to interpret the charts. If Henry had received that verbal-sequential explanation, the outcome of the above incident may have been entirely different. Do you also know why Henry would turn down the wrong hallway after having been in school for a week? He was not used to going from the office to Mr. Jones’s class, so he did not have the normal visual clues he relies on to navigate the school. Due to his NVLD/NLD, he cannot rely on his visual memory of the school’s layout like many of us can.
Another quick example involves how would you like directions given to you to get to a new destination. Do you want me to draw you a map? Do you want verbal directions using North-South-East-West? Do you want the directions written out, step by step in a verbal-sequential format? If you are very poor with maps and judging E-W-N-S directions, with a definite preference for the verbal-sequential directions, then you may understand NVLD/NLD better than most and relate to difficulty in processing visual-spatial information.