Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

Laura Lemle Ph.D

Living Independently With Non-Verbal Learning Disability

NVLD presents many challenges that can make living on your own difficult.

Scott Webb/Stock Snap
Source: Scott Webb/Stock Snap

My daughter, who has nonverbal learning disability and is now in her 20’s, is living on her own and is in school working on her master’s degree. I am doing everything in my power to teach her life skills so when I am not here one day, she can function on her own to the best of her ability.

How to start? Where to look? What kind of place should she live? Since she is a young adult, I wanted to involve her in the process. The easy part was her openness to my helping her find an apartment. The challenging part was, and still is, performing the tasks of daily living that are easy for many, but difficult for her. She is afraid of fire and cooking can be scary for her. Most recently, a paper towel caught on fire when she was cooking because the rack was too close to the stove. If she did not have spatial issues, she would have most likely been attuned to this detail and made an adjustment to where the paper towel holder was placed. She did not understand the spatial relationship, and consequently had to deal with extinguishing the fire.

Another aspect of looking for an apartment was the importance of finding a place near public transportation. This would allow my daughter to navigate on her own. She has no sense of direction, which is common with NVLD. However, she has successfully learned the subway system where she lives. This has not only made her feel good about herself, but also gives her a sense of independence. It can be helpful for people with NVLD to live in a city because they often cannot drive. This is true for my daughter.

Other challenges include managing her budget. Unlike others with NVLD, math is not a challenge for her. However, budgeting her money is not the easiest thing for her to do. This is a constant and she has to pay close attention to the money she has. She has managed to stay within her limits because she has to, but she does not always plan optimally.

Planning in general is challenging for her, as it can be for this population. This has been highlighted by the complexity of working, going to school, cleaning, doing errands and getting school work done on time. She is constantly working to juggle all of these tasks successfully. I know others who don’t have NVLD can struggle with these issues as well, but for her, I believe it is more difficult. The way I try to help address these issues is to have her break them up into their component parts and prioritize. I also hired a graduate student to assist her so she can work with someone outside of the family who is close to her own age. Together, they work on organizing, time management and other tasks of daily living including cooking and grocery shopping.

All in all the road to independent living is a process, a process I am happy to say my daughter is actively engaged in achieving. Support, motivation and recognition of her differences are allowing her to achieve her goal. She is not there yet but is on her way. This is a road less traveled and where it will end up is unknown. But for now, she is happily in a good place.