The one question I get asked more than anything about Matthew and his Nonverbal Learning Disorder (other than "what is that?") is "when did you first notice something was different?"
Well, we certainly knew something was up by the time he was 7, but in hind sight we could see a lot of the signs as early as two.
Matt was an early talker and always had quite the extensive vocabulary for his age. (we know now that it is all because of the NLD). He was a very smart little boy who knew a lot of "information." He loved to share his knowledge about things (he still does.)
There were lots of signs looking back that he wasn't getting a lot of the social cues when he as little and was showing signs of anxiety as early as two and a half. He played with other kids and seemed to be successful, for the most part in those early years. He was good with the rules because we had always verbalized the rules to him. However, from very early on he had great difficulty with things like tone of voice, and loudness. I felt like a broken record ... "lower the tone of your voice." "Don't talk so loud." "Use an inside voice." Now, of course, we see that that didn't mean anything to him.
He has always had dificulty moving from one activity to another. We were always "preparing" him for the next activity, giving him 10 minute warnings, and telling him in advance what to expect when we would arrive somewhere.
It's kind of funny. A lot of this stuff we just did instinctively, well before we even suspected that something was up.
When I look back at his pictures from when he was a toddler, or pre-schooler, I can see the look of confusion on his face much of the time. Now I can appreciate the anxiety he must have felt when he wasn't picking up all the non-verbal cues and was missing so much of his world.
I wish now that I realized just how much anxiety he felt in those early years so that could have helped him. ...the time when he was two and a half and we stopped at the fair and was watching someone bungee jump. As soon as they jumped he started screaming (we had no idea that he would even know what was going on!) ... the time when he was 3 and we had his birthday party and he started crying with all the kids sang happy birthday to him (it really put a damper on cake time, let me tell you.) ...when he would get very shy around people he didn't know (I know a lot of kids do this, but it was so out of character for him). Most days he was fine, but now I see that when he was in novel situations, or around people that he didn't know how to read, it was difficult for him.
I feel bad for the times he was disciplined for what we thought was defiance. Now we understand that he takes everything very literally and was trying his best to do what was right. I'm sure that our reaction only served to increase the anxiety he was feeling at the time.
Through it all, he had a very loving and sweet spirit. He loved to make people happy and tried so very hard to do what was right. He was very sensitive and kind ...and you know, he's still like that to this very moment.