Adventures in NLD land: What color is my room?

The other day I was trying to describe how my disability works.

Those of you who  have tried to do this about NLD will know that it isn’t easy.  Describing some LDs is easier: Dyslexia involves trouble with reading; dyscalculia involves trouble with math. There are subtleties, but the general notion is clear. But what exactly does NLD cause trouble with?  Sometimes I say “space and time” but that’s not very specific.

One problem I have is visual memory. Or, rather, my problem is that I have very little visual memory. But most people don’t seem to really get it when I say that. Oh, they know the words….. but they don’t get it.

I pointed out that I don’t, offhand, remember what color my bedroom walls are. This struck her as remarkable. It turns out that she could easily remember the color of all the rooms in her apartment. She thought this was pretty usual; she didn’t think of herself as having an unusually good visual memory.

So, when I got home, I looked at my bedroom walls. They are yellow. The ceiling is white. I now remember that. But I remember it verbally “walls are yellow, ceiling is white” rather than visually.

Let me know in the comments if you are similar to me (if you have NLD) or to my friend (if you don’t have NLD). And let me know if this helps you understand NLD.


  1. I have NLD. I’m sitting at home right now, and until a few seconds ago, I was thinking our whole home was brown paneling. I was stunned to find that our kids’ rooms each have a blue wall!! Granted, we haven’t lived here long, but….
    A possibly-interesting aspect of this visual memory thing: I went to a high school that burned down the year after I graduated. I sometimes had “school nightmares” (where my homework isn’t done, etc.) In the years following the school burning down, I have found that I cannot remember what the school looked like and find myself confusing my nightmares with the real thing. For some odd reason, this sometimes distresses me!

  2. It seems to me as if visual cues were not pertinent. Visual perceptions do not fit together into some meaningful whole, so, there is no use to keep it in mind. More sometimes visual representations are deceitful. This can be stressing.
    During holidays we had a trip in a nice old town in Europ with old narrow dark streets. I became anxious because I allways saw black spots on the pavement, and I couldn’t identifie whether they where shadows or some dog shit.
    Problem waw solved by stopping wearing open shoes and looking upward.

  3. Mary Lynne Foster says:

    I have a pretty good visual memory, which probably helped me become an early reader. When teaching children to read, we rely heavily on them remembering what the words look like. I have had children that seem to be unable to remember a word from one sentence to the next. I think there can probably be several causes for that. First, they may, as you do, have difficulty remembering visual information. They may, like my son have a type of vision difficulty called a convergence disorder. This means that their eyes do not work together. They often see double unless they force their eyes to focus. Obviously this is very tiring! Finally, they may have a working memory deficit. They don’t remember what they have seen or heard long enough to store it in short term memory.
    This is why taking just one approach to teaching reading (or anything really) is not effective. Phonics demands that a person distinguish and remember the letters of the word and their sequence, while connecting that sequence to a series of sounds. Sight words require recognizing and remembering a lot of discrete units. Teaching reading strategies that target multiple ways to decode a word helps all readers to find the strategies that work for them. For instance, we teach “Say the letters”, Use picture clues”, “Think about what would make sense,” “Read to the end of the sentence then back up and reread”. These all target different ways of approaching an unknown word. After a while children will settle on the strategies that make the most sense for them.

  4. Thanks for your comment!

  5. I agree. SOunds like you were a very good teacher!

  6. Mary Lynne Foster says:

    Thanks; I’m okay – there are a lot of great teachers out there! I enjoyed your blog very much. I had not heard of the specific thing you are talking about; not giving importance to or remembering visual information and processing it through words. I can think of a couple of children in our first grade last year whose behavior this might explain. I’ll pass this on to our Teacher Assistance Team next year.

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