Nonverbal Learning Disability

Nonverbal Learning Disability describes a well-defined profile that includes strengths in verbal abilities contrasted with deficits in visual-spatial abilities.

Individuals with NVLD often have trouble with some of the following: organization, attention, executive functioning, nonverbal communication, and motor skills.

NVLD Characteristics

A significant discrepancy between verbal comprehension and perceptual reasoning abilities, in which verbal skills are greater than perceptual skills, is a necessary feature to make the NVLD diagnosis, but it is not sufficient in the absence of sustained academic, professional, social, and emotional difficulties.

Relative Verbal Strengths and Perceptual Deficits

Children with NVLD have strengths in verbal reasoning, such as a well-developed vocabulary, rote learning skills, strong factual recall when information is presented without context, and remembering concrete details from a story. In contrast, they have trouble understanding the “big picture” and identifying the main idea in a narrative. Children with NVLD also struggle with life skills that require an understanding of spatial relationships, such as recognizing how parts fit together into a whole, completing jigsaw puzzles and building with blocks, learning routes for travel, and manipulating objects in space.

Fine Motor Control Deficits

Children with NVLD have trouble developing fine-motor skills and may have poor handwriting, difficulty learning to tie their shoelaces, and problems using small tools and utensils.

Executive Functioning and Attention Deficits

Children with NVLD may have weak executive functions or difficulty sustaining their attention. However, whether these problems are essential attributes of NVLD, or are simply common co-occurring issues in children who come to clinical attention, is unknown. These children may have trouble handling new tasks, solving problems and remaining flexible in their thinking. They may also have difficulty staying focused, completing multi-step instructions, organizing tasks and materials, controlling their impulses, and they may have other symptoms associated with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Social Difficulties

Children with NVLD are usually interested in social relationships and have the capacity for empathy, but may report feeling isolated and complain that they do not have satisfying relationships with their peers. Children with NVLD can have trouble understanding humor, which may contribute to their social problems. Clinicians believe that children with NVLD may suffer from depression and anxiety disorders more than children without NVLD, although this clinical impression currently lacks strong empirical support. A significant discrepancy between verbal comprehension and perceptual reasoning abilities, in which verbal skills are greater than perceptual skills, is a necessary feature to make the NVLD diagnosis.

Academic Difficulties

Children with NVLD may have difficulty learning math concepts and procedures. In early years of school they may have trouble with numerocity, telling time, the value of coins, and greater-than and less-than relationships. In later years they may have problems translating fractions to decimals and associated procedures. Identifying and describing geometric shapes and reading graphs and charts may be difficult for children with NVLD. Children with NVLD may have trouble with certain language-based tasks in school that require understanding the big picture or solving new problems. For example, beginning in 3rd or 4th grade, they may have trouble with reading comprehension, as opposed to in earlier years when the focus was on sounding out words and the structure of stories. Children with NVLD may have a hard time answering inferential questions about literature. They also may have problems interpreting metaphors and understanding multiple meanings of words in a text. For similar reasons, they may have difficulty writing essays and trouble identifying information and evidence that support their point of view or thesis.

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The NVLD Project is dedicated to raising awareness, building support, and creating helpful solutions for children, adolescents, and adults with Non-Verbal Learning Disability. This goal is accomplished through a variety of programs, including educational workshops, research, and community outreach.  Long term, The NVLD Project seeks to define and establish NVLD as a valid disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).