Pia Savage

Odd Girl In

The Girl on The Bus

At 12 I learned my school expected me to fend for myself.

Posted Nov 07, 2014

If I had to define myself, being a person with nonverbal learning disorder (NLD) would be far far down the list.

I needed to understand that the problems I had were neurological and not symptoms of psychosis. (Though I could never understand how bad balance, for example, could in anyway be a "problem of the mind.")

 After meeting many people with NLD and their parents I had to re-examine my life and understand that I hadn't been a tyrannical child so many parents describe.

 I was a child with problems. I also understood the concept of time, loved change---such as traveling, visiting family, friends and places. Almost everything fascinated me. My parents encouraged that never thinking my being so fascinated by life was symptomatic of a disorder but was a great thing. Oh how naive we were back in the early 1960's to assume I was a very smart girl with a lot of quirks that (my parents thought) made me more interesting——except for the mood swings——and I was a girl who bled a lot. (Please don't tell me I have to spell everything out!)

 There never was a time in my life I was without friends. Though we moved to Long Island when I was twelve and I lost every social skill in a matter of days. I was that scared of the girl who told me she was going to beat me up because her best friend's boyfriend was looking at me. Obviously there was much more at play.

A school administrator inverted my bus numbers so I took the wrong bus home the first day. I was dropped off miles away from my house by an uncaring bus driver who ignored me when I told him I didn't live there.

I had to walk miles——somehow I figured out how to get North and walked over both the Northern State and Long Island Expressway until I finally saw a strip mall I recognized and hysterically crying called my parents who were even more hysterical. My father was out looking for me. My mother had to tell the school administrators not to leave. Can you imagine this happening now?

 And the icing was that I must have passed hundreds of adults in their cars or walking in the strip mall. Not one stopped and asked if anything was wrong. I was 5'1" tall and weighed 120 pounds--I would gain 35 pounds in the next six weeks. My face was the face of an immature ten year old.

 I had never had "an accident" in my life. I peed my panties like crazy that day at the phone. As much as I tried I couldn't hold it in. I hadn't used the girls room in school and had been trying to get home for hours.

 It was humilating though my father told me he would have done worse and my mother——well both my parents told me how brave I was. I can't express how involved my parents were in my life. My friends always say that my father invented helicopter parenting. But in the early 1960's even parents listened to older people and authority and the principal was both.

 The principal, a Nixon type Quaker, wasn't even ashamed. When my parents met with him about this he told them it was my fault for not speaking up though they showed him the piece of paper I had been given with the wrong bus numbers. They told me this many years later. And they told me that they argued with him but it was useless. Recently minted twelve year olds who were new students were responsible for being on the right bus. Not the school admin or the bus driver. It was such a horrible event to them neither could speak about it for years and when they finally could they would tear up which wasn't like them.

I realize now that was the day I began taking responsibility for everything that went wrong in my, or anybody I knew, lives. I remember thinking that I should have double checked with the bus driver or not been scared and should have said something when I didn't recognize the houses or street names. I was good at street names. But the bus driver didn't look nice. At the end of the line when I finally told him I didn't know where I was he told me to get off. They wouldn't have let me get on the wrong bus. I must be very stupid not to know where I lived.

 My records didn't arrive for six weeks. In the city I had been eligible to skip Seventh Grade. On Long Island I was doing so badly in regular classes that when the guidance counselor asked me, not my parents, if I wanted to be in the advanced classes I said "no" as I thought that was the answer she wanted me to give. I didn't want to burden my parents with this.

 I blamed my parents for that and brought it up too often as we all knew how different my life would have been had I been in classes with people who thought more like I did. I don't know if it's true or not—how can I? But I felt that if I had been actually learning rather than memorizing random facts I wouldn't have been so anxious.

Though many or most people with NLD are rote learners I'm not. I learn conceptually. I need ideas and stories to hook onto. Ironically until I learned about NLD I thought my problems sprang from having been in rote classes.

 By high school I had a "normal" if small range of friends. I began doing better in school. Not great but....

 College began the "Pia in Wonderland" years. I will never apologize for spending my first two years in college majoring in fun. I deserved it.

 My life was far from perfect but I enjoyed it. More than enjoyed it; I devoured life. I was lucky enough to live in Cambridge, MA then Manhattan for the better part of 35 years.

 Six years ago I moved to South Carolina to write a book. I began to learn a lot about NLD and needed to soak that knowledge up.

 I know I haven't been the most prolific blogger. I began this blog five and a half years after I began Courting Destiny which does have 1300 published posts——most in the first four years!

 I will be focusing on my book and throwing in excerpts that I think are relevant. I have always believed people learn more from being shown than being told (when it comes to the written stories.)

 I wish I had a list of places you could learn about adult NLD from but I don't.

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