Symptoms Of Nonverbal Learning Disorder

What Can Help With These Challenges

Asperger’s Syndrome vs. Nonverbal LD: The Same or Different?

There are a number of things that can help people improve skills and manage some of the difficulties. These include:

  • Social skills groups to teach people how to handle social situations such as greeting someone, joining a conversation, and recognizing and responding to teasing

  • Occupational therapy to build tolerance for outside experiences, improve coordination, and enhance fine motor skills

  • Cognitive therapy to help deal with anxiety and other mental health issues that can occur with these challenges

Schools might give kids informal supports in class to help keep challenges from getting in the way of learning. Adults may also be able to get accommodations at work.

How Do These Deficits Manifest In Kids With Nld

In addition to the different combinations of symptoms, kids with NLD also vary along a spectrum of severity.

One the one hand there are kids who are extremely high-functioning but socially awkward, a little clumsy, disorganizedwhat Bezsylko calls the absentminded professor type. Other kids are more pervasively affected, and they function with more difficulty in many areas. These kids often struggle to learn everything that isnt rote or literal.

At Winston Prep, a study of more than 100 students with NLD showed that there were 6 combinations of the 5 deficits. The largest group had all five of the deficits, but the second largest group had just two: social communication and executive functions.

Disability Definition Symptoms & Signs Of Nld

The definition of Nonverbal Learning Disorder is almost the opposite of what it seems to mean. People with this disability are actually highly verbal but are challenged when it comes to processing non-verbal information.

DefinitionNLD was first identified around 1985 by Byron P. Rourke, who wrote that Nonverbal learning disorder is defined as a dysfunction of the brains right hemisphere that part of the brain which processes nonverbal, performance-based information, including visual spatial, intuitive, organizational and evaluative processing functions.

It is believed that about 10% of children who have been identified with learning disabilities have nonverbal learning disorder. This means that nearly 1 percent of the U.S. population, nearly 3 million people, have NVLD or NLD.

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Trouble Picking Up On Social Cues

People with these challenges often have strong verbal skills. But they have trouble with communication that isnt verbal. They frequently miss social cues like tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language.

They might not realize theyre standing too close when the person theyre talking to takes a step back. They might not recognize that a frown means theyre talking about something thats inappropriate. Or that a certain tone of voice means the person is teasing.

Not getting the subtle, unspoken messages people send out makes it hard to form relationships. It can also leave people feeling isolated.

Learn more about social cues and nonverbal communication.

Understanding Behavior In Kids With Nvld


Kids with NVLD have many strengths. But those strengths can sometimes hide things that are challenging for them. This can be confusing for parents and teachers. But being aware of these contradictions is the first step toward helping these children use their strengths, build social skills and improve reading comprehension abilities.

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What Is A Nonverbal Learning Disorder Or Disability

A nonverbal learning disorder isnt an official diagnosis. Its a neurological condition that affects certain academic skills and causes social problems. Children with NLD can be highly skilled, even gifted, in non-affected academic areas. Its estimated that about one percent of children, both boys and girls equally, have nonverbal learning disorder.

Researchers arent quite sure what causes nonverbal learning disorder, but they do link the root of the disorder to the brain. Different theories suggest that the problem is in the right hemisphere of the brain, the frontal lobe, or the corpus collosum, the structure allowing communication between hemispheres.

Non Verbal Learning Disorder Nvld

NVLD-Non Verbal Learning Disability or Disorder. All I can say is wow! Is your child struggling with pragmatics and other issues, but you just cant find what fits? I learned so much at a presentation I went to today. Its not what you think it is. I thought it meant that the child was non-verbal. So many parents said that when they learned their child has NVLD and read about it, lingering questions had finally been answered.

Chris Rock recently revealed that he was diagnosed with NVLD and is currently in several hours of therapy a week.

Read on to learn what NVLD is, NVLD symptoms plus NVLD learning and IEP accommodations.

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Nonverbal Learning Disability Checklist

Individuals with this disorder often have above-average verbal skills, but on the other hand, they experience unexpected difficulties when it comes to visual-spatial information, which is why it is thought that there is a certain damage to nonverbal abilities.

Although there are several types of learning and each child leans towards one of them as a preferred method of knowledge acquisition, the child is usually able to understand and receive information through other, less preferred learning types. In the case of NLD, this is considerably harder. Therefore, this condition should not be mistaken for preference for the verbal type of learning.

There is no unique symptom checker for NLD, but persons with this condition may have problems with the following:

  • fine motor skills
  • complex motor skills
  • spatial disorientation
  • organization and planning
  • visuospatial memory
  • socioemotional skills
  • problems with staying focused
  • excessive talkativeness

In any case, in order to understand a symptom as a sign of the corresponding disorder, we need to understand its cause. A child with ADHD who cannot sit still and bumps into people behaves that way because of hyperactivity. A child with NLD, on the other hand, might do the same, but because they have a problem with maintaining balance and they are clumsy due to damage to motor skills.

Types Of Learning Disabilities

What Is Nonverbal Learning Disability?

Learning disability is an umbrella term that encompasses many types of specific learning disorders, including:

  • Difficulty with reading or writing
  • Inability to distinguish between sounds, letters, or numbers
  • Difficulty sounding out words
  • Tendency to put numbers or letters in the wrong sequence
  • Difficulty telling time
  • Confusion between right and left
  • Tendency to reverse letters
  • Difficulty grasping certain words and concepts
  • Disconnect between words and meaning
  • Difficulty expressing thoughts and emotions
  • Poor hand-eye coordination
  • Trouble with listening and following instructions
  • Inappropriate responses
  • Resistance to change
  • Inconsistent performance on a daily or weekly basis

While all children struggle with some of these things from time to time during their school years, people with learning disabilities tend to have a cluster of these symptoms that persist even as they get older.

According to the National Institute for Learning Development , frustration is a hallmark of this condition, since people with learning disabilities often excel at some things but do very poorly in other areas, and are often acutely aware of the gaps between what they can and cannot do.

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What To Do If You Notice Signs Of Nonverbal Learning Disorder

  • Take Notes

    If you see a combination of the NVLD symptoms listed above, make note of when and where you see these behaviors. These observations are important to have when speaking with a pediatrician or specialist.

  • Talk with Your Childs Teacher

    Bring your list of concerns to your childs teacher and ask whether these behaviors are affecting your childs performance in the classroom. Also ask whether he or she has noticed any other learning issues in your child.

  • Request an Evaluation

    While your pediatrician may not specialize in learning disabilities, he or she can rule out any medical issues related to the symptoms and refer your child to the right specialist. Once you have been referred to a mental health professional, he or she can test your childs speech and language, visual-spatial organization, and motor skills.2

  • Be Proactive and Trust Your Gut

    Since children with NVLD are often articulate and well-spoken, some educators may consider NVLD interventions unnecessary. However, the symptoms of NVLD will become more apparent with age so the earlier the intervention, the better. Stand up for your child to ensure that he or she gets the right accommodations.3

What Is Nvld Exactly

NVLD isn’t defined as a distinct disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Volume 5 , and how it presents varies from person to person. Generally, it’s characterized by verbal strengths as well as visual-spatial, motor, and social skills difficulties. “All I understand are the words,” said Rock.

Unlike learning disorders involving language, such as dyslexia, NVLD causes problems with other kinds of learning, including concepts and relationships. “In my opinion, it is more useful to think of the problem for someone with NVLD as the imbalance in thinking skills where they over-attend to detail and often miss the gestalt or big picture, rather than solely visual-spatial problems,” David Dinklage, PhD, the founder of Dinklage Associates, a neuropsychological assessment and consultation service for children and adults based in Arlington, Massachusetts, told Health.

While NVLD is often diagnosed later than dyslexia, attention deficit disorder , and autism spectrum disorder , Dinklage said the typical time is “late elementary school or middle school.” If it hadn’t been for his friend’s comment about Asperger’s, Rock, aged 55 at the time, might never have been diagnosed. “I think it is often undiagnosed and the child is viewed as just an oddball, or quirky and clumsy,” said Dinklage. “The ubiquity of video game playingespecially with boyscan help hide the social problems. I think that the missed cases are often never diagnosed.”

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How Is Nvld Treated

If NVLD is diagnosed in childhood, group social skills training is “hard but necessary,” said Dinklage. In addition, it’s important for the child to have regular supervised/mediated play time with one other child. “These kids get out of practice because the initiation of interactions is so hard, so parents have to make sure that doesn’t happen,” said Dinklage.

A bigger-picture approach should be at the center of all behavioral and educational treatment strategies, including keeping children in supervised shared interest groups, developing routines to handle situations that often come up, and active reading strategies. “Using cubes or other physical objects to make math concepts more concrete is helpful,” said Dinklage. “Fine motor planning and handwriting are often extremely difficult, so using a keyboard for all writing is essential.”

For adults who are diagnosed with NVLD, Dr. Paul said social skills training can still be effective, although it’s harder for adults than kids. Therapy is also important, added Dr. Paul. “Many people with NVLD have depression or anxiety from years of social difficulty and sometimes even social isolation.”

What To Do If Your Child Is Diagnosed With Nonverbal Learning Disorder

  • Find a Specialist

    A certified NVLD expert can work directly with your child on effective remedial methods including planning, studying, written expression, social cognition, and interpersonal communication. Look for a specialist who has full certification and continuing professional development in the area of nonverbal learning disorder.3

  • Request Classroom Accommodations

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Nonverbal Learning Disability Treatment

There isnt a recommended treatment for nonverbal learning disorder. There isnt enough information known about this disorder to know how to treat it. Despite a lack of formal treatment recommendations, there are interventions that have been found to help kids. Nonverbal learning disorder treatment involves parental support and guidance as well as therapy.

Mental health therapy can help kids with generalized anxiety and social anxiety that are part of this disorder. Play therapy and cognitive-behavior therapy are approaches that can help kids with NLD. Social skills groups at school, or conducted by the childs play therapist or CBT therapist, allow kids to practice skills and receive direct feedback. Occupational therapy is another approach that is practical and builds skills. Kids develop fine and gross motor skills, and they learn valuable life skills as well.

Parents can do many things to help their child increase skills. These suggestions can get you started:

Understanding the symptoms of nonverbal learning disorder and identifying what your child especially struggles with will help you better relate to them as well as help them understand what their brain prevents them from grasping. With support, patience, and practice, kids with nonverbal learning disorder can acquire life skills.

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What Makes Nlvd Unique

NLVD looks very much like several other developmental and learning disorders. This makes it tricky to identify. Because there are no official diagnostic rules, there is no clear way to distinguish it from those other disorders.

Researchers are trying to determine whether NVLD is a discrete learning disorder that should have its own set of diagnostic criteria. The American Psychiatric Association describes an “NVLD profile but not a diagnosable disorder.

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Nonverbal Learning Disorder Is Controversial

NLD is not mentioned in the latest issue of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the DSM V. NLD is also not listed as a disability under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act , though children with NLD may still be eligible to receive special education services. Experts have found that there is less activity in the right cerebral hemisphere of the brain in children thought to have NLD. Until today, NLD remains a controversial diagnosis, but when the symptoms fit your child, you know its real.

Because NLD fails to receive official recognition as a disability or disorder, its not as well known as other disabilities related to language, for instance, dyslexia.

No Conception Of Deception

Non-verbal Learning Disorder (NVLD) and/or Autism?

Far more than other children, kids with NLD rely mostly on language to learn about their world. Yet because they have trouble with abstract concepts, their language comprehension and speech lack nuance.

When an exasperated mom says, Dont let me see you playing with that toy any more, her child with NLD might continue to play with it, but turn away so his mom cannot see him. No wonder kids with NLD are often considered smart alecks.

Because theyre literal-minded, children with NLD tend to be naïve and virtually incapable of deception. These traits are often endearing, but they can cause heartbreak when a child reaches adolescence. For example, a teenage girl who cannot comprehend lying may not hesitate to befriend a stranger who offers her a ride home.

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What Are The Symptoms Of Nonverbal Learning Disorder

NLD varies from person to person, and is not defined as a separate condition in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Volume 5 . However, commonly reported symptoms include the following:

  • Trouble recognizing nonverbal cues
  • Early speech and language acquisition
  • Poor coordination seen as clumsy or always getting in the way
  • Poor fine motor skills
  • Always asking questions, to the point of being repetitive or interrupting the regular flow of conversation
  • Needs to verbally label information in order to understand it difficulty comprehending unsaid or spatial information
  • Visual-spatial difficulties
  • Extremely literal struggles with sarcasm, innuendo, or other linguistic nuances
  • Naïve or overly-trusting
  • Difficulty making generalizations or seeing the big picture
  • Overall challenges often masked by highly advanced verbal skills

Another telltale sign: Despite their verbal proficiency, those with NLD particularly children often exhibit poor reading comprehension. A child with NLD may miss the forest and the trees because of his intense focus on the leaves, says Priscilla Scherer, R.N. After reading a book about the Civil War, for instance, the child might be able to name and describe each battlefield yet fail to recognize that the conflict was about slavery and federalism.

Identifying Nonverbal Learning Disorders

Whereas language-based disabilities are usually readily apparent to parents and educators, nonverbal learning disorders routinely go unrecognized. Many of the early symptoms of nonverbal learning disabilities instill pride, rather than alarm, in parents and teachers who ordinarily applaud language-based accomplishments. This child is extremely verbose and may speak like an adult at two or three years of age. During early childhood, he is usually considered gifted by his parents and teachers. Sometimes the child with NLD has a history of hyperlexia . This child is generally an eager, enthusiastic learner who quickly memorizes rote material, only serving to reinforce the notion of his precocity.

Dr. Rourke and his associates have found that the dysfunctions associated with NLD are less apparent at the age of 7 to 8 years than at 10 to 14 years, and that they become progressively more apparent as adulthood approaches. Although this child has a history of poor coordination and was probably slow to acquire motor skills, typically initial academic concerns will generate from the fact that he is not completing and/or turning in written assignments during his late elementary school years. This child produces limited written output and the process is always slow and laborious for him.

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Signs Of Nonverbal Learning Disorder

Some signs of NLD:

  • Excellent recallthey remember everything they hear
  • Poor visual memorythey dont remember the things they see
  • Good at reading
  • Excellent verbal expression and reasoning skills
  • Difficulties with written expression
  • Poor handwriting
  • Spatial awareness difficulties, for instance problems with estimating size, shape, distance, and poor sense of direction
  • Inability to correctly read facial expressions or hand gestures, tones of voice, and social cues

Because the focus on learning in the early elementary school years is on reading, NLD can easilyand often doesgo unnoticed and undiagnosed. Reading ability is the sole indication used by educators to gauge academic success. And since NLD children read well, no one pays much attention to their other, very real difficulties.

Helping Children With Nld

Nonverbal Learning Disability: Misinterpreting Voice Tone

When we talk about communication, we usually think of words and verbal information. However, the truth is that most communication takes place through nonverbal channels such as facial expressions, posture, tone of voice. This is why people with NLD can have considerable issues with communication: namely, anything that has not been expressed verbally is prone to being missed or misinterpreted.

Simply put, their nonverbal communication ability is limited. This is why one of the symptoms of this condition is the need to verbalize things in order to understand them, where things are thought about in literal terms, while figurative meaning is difficult to grasp.

Just like all children with learning disabilities, it is important that children with NLD should be helped. However, there is a problem. NLD is hard to diagnose, as it has still not been defined as a separate disorder with unambiguous symptoms.

The manifestation of the disorder can vary from one child to another. Unlike some other disorders, NLD in children does not respond to medication. However, there are other ways to help persons with this disorder. NLD treatment includes:

Learning disabilities in children are conditions that should be seen as a challenge, not as an insurmountable obstacle. If everyone involved approaches them seriously from parents through teachers to therapists, the results can often be remarkable and help the child become happy, successful and accomplished.

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