Non Verbal Learning Disability

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What is non verbal learning disability?

Non verbal learning disability is a developmental disability which may be seen in children who otherwise display excellent verbal, spelling, reading and memory skills, but show weakness in social, motor, visual-spatial and sensory abilities. Non verbal learning disability is a neurological disorder, with similarities with disabilities like Asperger Syndrome.

Non verbal learning disability may often go undiagnosed, and people afflicted with this disorder which is potentially debilitating, may suffer in silence.

The term, non verbal learning disability is misleading because, as has been mentioned, people with this disability may be highly verbal; their area of deficit lies in the nonverbal domain. They may be incredibly bright, and while they are children, they may be thought to be gifted because of their command over vocabulary, (apparent) reading ability and rote memory.

Early signs and symptoms

But parents with children afflicted with non verbal learning disability can sense quite early that something is missing. While they are preschoolers, such children may seen to be not adaptable, having difficulty in acquiring self help skills, in interacting with other children, seem physically inept, and they may show other symptoms that may not be alarming, but may cause concern.

Children afflicted with non verbal learning disability may get through their early elementary school years and may be able to handle their academic demands at this stage. But problems may occur when their fine motor abilities prove to be inadequate or they fail to decipher math symbols requiring subtraction or addition, or some other subtle disorder may throw them out of gear.

When these children enter middle school and they are required to handle more tasks by themselves, things start deteriorating. They often forget to do their homework, get lost, may appear to be unprepared for class, they may have difficulties following directions, writing essays, doing math or reading their textbooks, they may misunderstand their teachers and peers, and they appear to be anxious in public and often angry or annoyed at home.

They may be misunderstood and accused of being rude, lazy, uncooperative, when in reality they are honest, hardworking and persistent. Unfortunately, they have non verbal learning disability.

Non verbal learning disability and its social implications

People afflicted with non verbal learning disability are unable to interpret non verbal cues that are used in social situations that tell us how to behave with other people. For instance, we are able to read nonverbal clues that tell us that somebody is getting angry by our behavior, and so we modify our response appropriately to avoid conflict. The absence of such abilities creates problems in social situations and in interpersonal relationships. Children with NLVD may grow up to become anxious or depressed young adults, who may find it difficult to function normally in the social world.


NVLD requires early intervention, and therapeutic and psychological methods can be used to help the NVLD child improve his/her social skills.

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