What Does it Mean?


crowd of protesters holding signs
Photo by Life Matters on Pexels.com

The need for discussions about the Black Lives Matter movement and racism is a very real and saddening sign of our times. How do you start this discussion? How do you discuss if remarks are racist or not? In the presence of higher-level language deficits in those with a non-verbal language disorder or social communication disorder, there may be a need for consideration. Helping them to differentiate if remarks are or are not will be important.

Middle school-aged youngsters through college-aged years will need special help for their own protection and well being. because of the fact that from a neurological standpoint. higher-level reasoning, problem-solving, and self-regulation of your own behavior is developing at this time. The baseline functioning of those with nonverbal language disorders (NVLD) or Social Communication Disorder (SCD) will already be below what is typical.

If you are talking about the movement and concept of racism with an individual who has been diagnosed with They may not perceive what has actually occurred if they feel that they have been a victim of racist remarks and behavior. Maybe it was and maybe not. I say this because, those diagnosed with NVLD display problems in understanding communication that is not verbal which includes body language, tone of voice, and facial expression.

For example, I recently had a discussion with a college-aged male adult of Mexican-American descent who felt he had been a victim of racism in an interaction with a healthcare professional. He was accused of being a “drug seeker” when asking for a narcotic that had previously been prescribed and found effective for him in alleviating pain on a short term basis. The stakes were higher now and he felt that he would need the same medication over a three or four week period to tolerate pain from a post-operative dental procedure. He had been told that it would heal within that time frame, but could not tolerate the pain. He could not work, sleep, and was in pain when eating, drinking, or breathing because of this. The healthcare provider hung on him, after hearing his request for the drug. He was left in a situation with no solution for pain relief. This may not have been an ideal way in which to end a discussion with a patient; but, there were lessons when actions spoke volumes. This man felt that his feelings were not validated, he had taken a risk in talking with the doctor – needed help and felt very badly that there was no satisfactory answer or solution to his problem at that time.

In processing this interaction through discussion, great insight was obtained. Regardless of his racial or ethnic background, he had not perceived why this professional may have expressed himself by referring to him as a “drug seeker”. The followings issues arose:

The fact that a narcotic taken over a month-long period could be highly addictive needed to be discussed.

Talking about the need to consider other options was not at that moment on his mind, but was really necessary.

We processed together how the tone of voice and behavior may have had a negative impact on the outcome of this discussion. After all – he had wanted only one thing, saying nothing else would work and essentially made a demand.

At the time that the surgical procedure had been performed was there another factor visually in terms of his appearance when he initially went for treatment. It made him stop and think. His hair was mid-back length, uncombed and he had old clothes on that were very worn out when he initially had met the doctor.

Wonderful that in our discussion, he was able to share really being shaken up by the fact that someone had perceived him and put a label on it “drug seeking”. He said in response, “That’s really bad..being a drug addict is a label that sticks with you and it is not a good thing”. He said that he “just want to feel better so I can sleep, eat and work without pain”.

The discussion was closed by asking him if he now thought that his initial interpretation of the doctor’s remark was truly racist. Something to think about….