What is a Nonverbal Learning Disability?

This describes what nonverbal learning disabilities are and where people can find more information about nonverbal learning disabilities all from the perspective of someone with a nonverbal learning disability


1. What is a Nonverbal Learning Disability?

A nonverbal learning disability is a neurological syndrome that is characterized by: Weaknesses: Impaired abilities to organize the visual-spatial field Difficulty adapting to new situations Trouble reading nonverbal signals and cues Difficulties within the right hemisphere: Motor skills (lack of coordination, balance problems, and trouble with fine motor skills such as in handwriting) Visual-spatial-organizational (poor visual recall, trouble placing objects in space, etc.) Reading facial expressions and other nonverbal cues Trouble in math: Have issues with problems that have different processes such as more abstract word problems Geometry (spatial alignment) Poor social skills—don’t have “street smarts” and can be very naïve and innocent at times, have trouble making and keeping friends Interpret information literally Anxiety and depression as well as low self esteem—these problems are very common and could be quite severe


Strengths: Verbal IQ is higher than their performance IQ but not in all cases Excellent vocabulary and more than typical verbal expression at a young age great ability to remember things good attention to detail early reading skills knowledge related to many topics


Testing, Evaluation, and Educational Plans for NLD

Testing and Evaluation


IQ tests such as the WISC-III which is a series of tests that try to measure verbal and performance IQ: If the performance score is more than 10-15 points below the verbal score that could be a sign of issues in the right hemisphere Not uncommon for the verbal IQ to be in the very superior range on the verbal scale

Educational Plans

IEP or Individualized Education Program:

Parent Toolkit for the IEP and more information can be found at: http://www.ncld.org/publications-a-more/parent-advocacy-guides/parent-toolkit-ieps-for-students-with-learning-disabilities-

Can be used to give accommodations to the child with NLD so teachers can implement them in the classroom Shows exactly how the child is doing academically and what might be necessary for them to perform better Contains goals for the child that the student’s IEP team and parents think they can achieve in a year: The IEP team consists of members of the school staff that could include special education instructors, classroom aides, or teachers of the student Can tell how much time the child spends with nondisabled children and whether they can participate in extracurricular activities Can provide for special services that could assist the child such as speech therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy Compensations, Accommodations,  Modifications, and Strategies: Compensations: Giving extra time to get places and verbal cues to navigate through space Flexible expectations because of their special needs and abilities Not trying to enforce independence unless they are ready for something especially when faced with a new situation and independence should be introduced gradually in controlled environments Don’t punish social awkwardness Peer buddies who can help the student between periods and provide for their needs Reviewing past information before presenting new concepts and pointing out similarities and differences Discussing cause and effect relationships of events and situations


Accommodations: Motor Skills: Simplifying test answer sheet layouts such as on Scan-Tron test sheets so that credit isn’t lost for a correct answer placed in the wrong column or space Minimize paper and pencil tasks and use a word processor for all written school assignments because typing doesn’t require as complex spatial and fine motor skills Give additional time for writing assignments especially ones that require larger quantities of writing Assistance might be needed for projects involving graphs, folding, maps, or craftwork Visual Spatial: Modifying timed assignments A schedule of activities and a written out or typed schedule for older students Prepare the student in advance for changes in routine Communication Issues: making sure instructions are understood explaining metaphors, emotional nuances, multiple meanings, and relationship issues answering questions whenever possible and practical teaching when it is appropriate to ask for help



Modifications: Learning environment where there is regular contact with non-disabled classmates Being in group situations where they can discuss what they know with their classmates Extra time to adapt to changes In routine or more time spent with one teacher
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