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Non-Verbal Learning Disabilities
The Impact of Having NVLD
Adolescents with non-verbal learning disabilities have a lot of trouble performing academically, yet they
appear quite intelligent. It is often difficult for people around them to understand why they are having so
much trouble in school because they are able to speak so proficiently. However, their problems with
academic work are usually quite severe, especially in math, and most particularly in the later primary
grades, as abstract math concepts become a bigger part of the curriculum. Getting thoughts onto
paper is difficult for students with NLD; they have trouble with automating letter formation, organizing the
letters and words, with their variant sizing and placement, and planning the whole process of putting
their thoughts on paper in sentence and paragraph format. There are also difficulties with
organizational understanding, attention span, especially as the material presented increases in
difficulty. In addition, as social understanding reaches greater depth (as children get older), NLDers
find the social demands exceed their abilities, especially as reliance on body language, social cues,
facial expression, tone of voice and choice of words complicates rapidly developing social connections.
As a result, they may miss the emotional content of words, and do not pick up more subtle messages
such as sarcasm. They may also have growing anxieties and fears, as the understanding of their
expanding world is limited, leading to confusion and insecurity.
Non-Verbal Learning Disability (NVLD or NLD)
Non-Verbal Learning Disabilities are complex and often misdiagnosed or missed altogether. The
single most important factor used to diagnose individuals with NVLD or NLD is the discrepancy
between language related tasks and non-language related tasks in testing situations. Probably the
most common intellectual assessment is the WISC (Weschler Intelligence Scales for Children).
Results on this IQ test are broken into two broad groups - the Verbal scale, and the Performance
scale. A statistically significant difference would meant that the verbal result is 15 points (one standard
deviation) higher than the performance. In these cases, a diagnosis of NVLD is made.
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