Help for young woman woodworker with Nonverbal Learning Disability (NLD, NVLD).
October 31, 2008 9:31 PM   Subscribe

How can we assist our adult daughter who has Nonverbal Learning Disorder in finding/creating some sort of outboard executive function so she can pursue her interest in designing and building furniture?

I know that few people are familiar with NLD/NVLD, but I'm looking for anyone who is, who may have insight as to how to help our adult daughter...age 25...(who designs and wishes to build small pieces of fine furniture,) to acquire some sort of outboard executive function so she can actually finish items--she already has located venues who are willing to take her work on a consignment basis . She worked with a mentor who says she has exceptional talent, a real "feel" and "eye" for wood. She has attention to detail but is unable to manage time to organize, and gauge where to put her time and effort in order to actually follow through and finish a product (her therapist says she doesn't live in a temporal world). She's designed a number of pieces, but has only actually finished one item, and built several partial pieces. She tells us that when she is in the process of building an item, she has no idea where to put her effort and how to know when a particular part of the piece requires more or less time and effort. As an example, she created 4 different sets of legs for a small table she was making, sanding several to unusable nubbins because she couldn't gauge when they were suitable finished. She never finished it although she worked on it for months. The piece she has finished was done under the eye of her mentor who directed her in moving from step to step, while she did all of the work.

We appreciate input from people who specifically understand this disorder, as the nature of executive function, and the specific issues involved w/ NLD (sometimes called NVLD). To give you an idea of what she is up against, the Neuropsychologist who diagnosed her and worked in therapy with her for over a year has concluded that while she is well above average intelligence, her neurological functional deficits make her incapable of living on her own or holding a job and he feels she needs to be on SSI; we are in the process of attempting to do this. But she is unwilling to give up the idea of being a productive person and of course we completely support her in this desire. We have put together a woodworking shop for/with her. She's creative and artistic and wants to design and build fine furniture and we would so like to figure out a way to help make this possible for her.

thanks so much for any thoughts you have or direction to resources specifically dealing with adults and/or executive function.

Finally I am so appreciative of input from anyone who has personal or professional knowledge of NLD. However if you do not, just guessing at things that might work will not be helpful as that's what we and she have been doing for a long time. We read and study and research. I am currently in touch with an author on the subject who also has an adult child with the disorder. NLD is a very complex and knotty neurological problem, a relatively new diagnosis. There is very little information available, less for adults with the disorder. There is more for parents of young children with NLD and for educators of children in school but very little for adults who are trying to find a productive place in society.

so...we're looking for any time management/organization/executive function assists, or direction toward other resources. Of course we/she have tried many things that don't work...we just can't give up on the idea that we can find a way for this talented, persevering, hardworking bright young woman to be creative and productive and contribute to her own financial well-being as well as express her talent and creativity in a tangible product.

Thanks so much!
posted by mumstheword to Work & Money (4 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
This seems like a dumb question, but since you didn't mention it - has she taken any classes? A community college art class, even one that's not about woodworking, might give her some guidance to help her structure her process. Do you think she would be capable of studying this formally? I could imagine having the same difficulties as she's having building a table for the same reasons (I mean, apart from the disorder, which I'm not trying to minimize) but I know this is the kind of thing they teach in art school also. I just feel like it would be hard enough to teach oneself a craft without a formal structure, and then adding a neurological disorder would make it seem unconquerable to me.
posted by amethysts at 6:35 AM on November 1, 2008

It seems to me (and I know nothing about NLD, so grain of salt) is that you need a very detailed checklist.
1. Find tape measure
2. Measure wood
3. Check that amount of wood > project size
4. Decide which is the most detailed/important piece
5. Find the least knotty piece of wood
6. Remember to check both sides of the board
7. Cut the most important/detailed piece

So far, this checklist is generic, and could be used for almost any woodworking project. Your daughter might need lists more specific to each project, but having a list (Post it in the wall of her shop!) might help her move toward finishing projects. I use a checklist kind of like this myself, after making a truly stupid error with some very expensive wood.

If it seems necessary, each of these items could be assigned a reasonable amount of time (I would ask the mentor.) and she could use a timer. While I don't use a timer for woodworking, I absolutely use one for studying, and it has been invaluable.

On the other hand, ignoring the timer, it might be nice to have examples of finish. If her mentor could take a scrap of whatever project she's currently working, and sand it to the correct level, and stain/finish one side, she would have something to check against.
posted by aint broke at 8:04 AM on November 1, 2008

Best answer: I personally have little knowledge and therefore no good advice, but I'm wondering if you might want to contact CAST,, a non-profit based in the Boston area. I know that they've done quite a bit of research on executive function. I got to know them by being involved with helping to create a tool (basically a tricked-out calendar) to help students with poor executive function to complete research projects for school. However, it wasn't specifically for kids with learning disorders. The people at the organization were great to work with; if they can't help you, maybe they know of some tools or organizations that might be able to.

Best of luck.
posted by tk at 8:19 PM on November 1, 2008

Response by poster: thanks to each of you for taking the time to respond...I'm particularly looking into the Boston link.
posted by mumstheword at 8:24 PM on November 10, 2008

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