Non Verbal Learning Disability

Understanding Your Non-Verbal Learning Disability

A simple way to describe a Non-Verbal Learning disability would be to say that the important features of language such as reading and “verbal output” (talking, conversation, answering questions, etc.) are not usually affected. This is not completely true in all cases, however. In some individuals some language abilities are indeed somewhat impaired. What then determines a NLD?

Specific criteria or rules have been set. These are:

1. They are better able to identify simple objects by touch than complex objects

2. Sight word reading surpasses basic math fact skills

3. Basic and/or ‘rote verbal” skills surpass comprehension and more complicated skills.

4. Complicated visual-spatial-organization skills (where things are in a space) and quick eye-hand coordination (catching a ball) are weak.

5. Have difficulty remembering patterns of numbers, colors, letters, etc.

6. Simple Motor Skills are better than those that need involved hand-eye coordination, especially if speed is desired. (For instance, they can hold the pencil better than they can write quickly with it.)

7. They do not adjust easily to new situations, these situations weaken both problem solving skills and their ability to learn from the world around them.

8. They can explain or talk out almost any task better/faster than they can organize it.2

If these “rules” apply to your situation then you may want to be evaluated for a Non-verbal Learning Disability. It is unlikely that an individual will have made it to adulthood without something having been noticed, however, it is often just a feeling on the part of the caregiver that “something” is wrong.

This is often a hidden disability, with caregivers knowing that “something” is different about the child but not being able to quite put their finger on what it is. This leads to more and more frustration for both the child and the caregiver.

These LDs normally appear as early as infancy when a baby will appear unresponsive to those around him/her and not engage in play behavior. Visual, spatial and motor difficulties appear as a toddler, making the child appear clumsy and needing special care to prevent injury. The child has problems learning such things as feeding and dressing themselves and playing with others. Temper tantrums are unbelievably severe.

Briefly there is a period of time where the child appears to have a speech problem before verbal skills unexpectedly take off to a high extent leading caregivers to overly reinforce this unusual strength in their child. The child will attempt to become overly dependant on their caregiver during their toddler years. If rebuffed, they will become withdrawn.

These children generally suffer from very high levels of stress and have low self-esteem due their many difficulties. They often suffer from other problems as well such as depression, or ADD and may have been misdiagnosed with Autism or Asperger’s syndrome due to some similarity in symptoms. Unlike other diagnoses, however, NLD children desire contact and interaction. If this describes you or someone you know, please talk to a teacher or other trusted person. There are many strategies that can be used to help.


1. Daley,S.A (March 2004). Nonverbal Learning Disabilities: An
Introduction. Retrieved May 19, 2009 from Harvard, GSE Academic
Web site:

2.Pelletier, Ahmad, & Rourke (2001). Questions and Answers
Classification rules derived for 9- to 15-year-old children .
Retrieved May 19, 2009 from , Web site: