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Educators & Students with Learning Disabilities: Non-Verbal Learning Disorders

Useful for elementary and secondary administrators, librarians, classroom teachers, and parents and students with Learning Disabilities

Nonverbal Learning Disorders

Nonverbal Learning Disabilities

Neurologically based problems with visual-spatial, intuitive, organizational, & evaluative processing.

NLDs can be tricky to recognize and diagnose. Children with this disorder are unable to recognize and translate nonverbal cues, such as facial expressions or tone of voice, into meaningful information. Because of this, these children are sometimes mislabeled as emotionally disturbed because of their inappropriate responses to nonverbal stimuli. It is a developmental disability which all too often goes undiagnosed. Their can be confusion between NVLDs and ASDs (Autism Spectrum Disorders).

Individuals with this potentially debilitating disorder generally suffer in silence. The term "nonverbal" learning disability can be misleading. The individuals are highly verbal, with their area of deficit being in the nonverbal domains. They are often bright, sometimes incredibly so.   As young children they may be targeted as "gifted" due to their mature vocabulary, rote memory skills, and apparent reading ability. However, parents likely realize early on that something is amiss. As preschoolers, they have difficulty interacting with other children, with acquiring self-help skills, are not physically adept, are not adaptable, and present a host of other troublesome problems. As the child progresses through school, the academic work becomes more difficult, as much as the material is given in lecture form.

These students need a highly developed IEP. Effective remedial methods include direct verbal training in planning, organizing studying, written expression, social cognition, and interpersonal communication. Essentially--almost everything!

From NLD OntheWeb & LDOnline

Signs of Nonverbal Learning Disabilities

Signs of Nonverbal Learning Disabilities

  • Motoric problems (lack of coordination, severe balance problems, and difficulties with graphomotor skills)
  • Visual-spatial-organizational problems (lack of image, poor visual recall, faulty spatial perceptions, difficulties with executive function and problems with spatial relations).
  • Social problems (lack of ability to comprehend nonverbal communication, difficulties adjusting to transitions and novel situations, and deficits in social judgment and social interaction).
  • Sensory problems (sensitivity in any of the sensory modes: visual, auditory, tactile, taste, or [smell])."

From NLD OntheWeb & LDOnline

Non-verbal Learning Disorders Accommodations & Resources

NVLD Accommodations & Resources


  • Rehearse getting from place to place
  • Minimize transitions and give several verbal cues before transition
  • Avoid assuming the student will automatically generalize instructions or concepts
  • Verbally point out similarities, differences and connections; number and present instructions in sequence; simplify and break down abstract concepts, explain metaphors, nuances and multiple meanings in reading material
  • Answer the student’s questions when possible, but let them know a specific number (three vs. a few) and that you can answer three more at recess, or after school
  • Allow the child to abstain from participating in activities at signs of overload
  • Thoroughly prepare the child in advance for field trips, or other changes, regardless of how minimal
  • Implement a modified schedule or creative programming
  • Never assume child understands something because he or she can “parrot back” what you’ve just said
  • Offer added verbal explanations when the child seems lost or registers confusion

Excerpted from the LDA of California and UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute "Q.U.I.L.T.S." Calendar 2001-2002