How to better understand the NVLD

Non-verbal learning disability or NVLD is a syndrome that hasn’t been properly defined and only recently literature that mentions NVLD has been emerging. Dr. Rourke is one of the few who has dedicated his life on researching all learning disabilities while trying to separate NVLD from the other learning disabilities which are more commonly known. According to him NVLD syndrome is a neurological disorder and is characterized with lower motor and visual skills leading to deficiencies in perception, socialization and non-verbal reasoning. On the other hand the individual diagnosed with NVLD shows high verbal skills.

NVLD is a disorder that usually goes together with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) making is harder for professionals to give a correct diagnosis since both of this disorders have very similar symptoms. Researchers believe that using alcohol, nicotine and other toxic substances while pregnant can lead to the NVLD disorder. In trying to clarify the NVLD profile in order to give proper diagnosis, the weaknesses and strengths that the individual with NVLD possesses are being recorded. It is important to note that most of these can be noticed just as the child starts going to school.

Kids with NVLD separate themselves from all the rest because they show great promise with skills like reading and spelling, their short-term memory is excellent and they can memorize large material that has been given to them for studying. However these children have problems with organization and higher levels of reasoning, they have trouble transferring skills and knowledge that they have earned to new situations. They also have bad handwriting and they almost never pick up on non-verbal cues.

When they reach high-school students with NVLD have problems with some parts of their math and science courses. Because of the lack of reasoning and organizational skills they find it hard to align numbers, carry a task until it is complete. They also find it difficult to understand spatial concepts, problems with directions, notice visual details like mathematical signs and other similar problems. Keeping in mind that their motor skills are not completely developed, sometimes even using a pencil can be hard for this students.

NVLD students find it difficult to properly notice their visual environment. That is why there is a tendency to find a huge difference between their Verbal and Performance IQ scores. The Performance IQ scores are much lower and part of the reason is that NVLD students have difficulty analyzing visual information, they don’t really have attention to detail and even when they focus on some visual details they usually misinterpret them.

Being unable to comprehend visual information has a huge impact on a student’s performance as well as destroying any chance of creating a positive relationship. They don’t comprehend social cues and social interaction and have trouble reading facial expressions and body language. They do not project how they are feeling and they can often be seen just standing there with a “blank stare” on their faces. It’s important to note that they don’t understand that certain actions bring consequences which creates problems for them when they try to adjust to the ever-changing social demands.

Students with NVLD try to compensate for these difficulties by trying to make their life a routine, establishing patterns for their social skills. If they find it hard to enter a group they usually just use the same phrase to start the conversation. However an individual with NVLD has problems controlling his language, resulting in continuous talking about a topic which he finds interesting not letting anyone else change it, constantly interrupting conversations and not realizing when it is his turn to talk. Because of this behavior, NVLD patients are marked as socially inappropriate.


The behavior mentioned above in the article is common for NVLD children, however not all of them display this behavior. When they are put in a positive, supporting environment where they have open lines of communication between home and school leading to an effective learning environment these children can react positively and with time lose the behavior listed above.

The tasks they are given need to be split into few parts and explained to the child using step-by-step directions. Also it is important to be patient with them when they are introduced to new material and constantly giving them praise when they accomplish something.

These children are highly verbal so their parents and teachers should verbalize with them as much as possible, constantly asking them to repeat directions and also talk to them about certain situations that other children would be able to make a conclusion about.

When their visual skills are being put to the test make sure it’s not visually overwhelming for them. It’s important to teach them how to write notes for themselves as they are going to need that skill when they start high-school.


Socializing with NVLD children can be stressful so make sure they are provided with clear instructions and be very patient with them. Role playing can be used in order to teach them how to notice and read facial expressions, body language and emotions. When they become students give them opportunities to interact with younger children so they can see how it is to have a leadership role and develop their sense of responsibility.


As noted above NVLD children are not aware of the consequences their actions produce and they get punished for that, but the problem is they won’t understand why they are being punished. That is why punitive measures should not be used on children with NVLD. Instead use criticism and clear expectations, because scolding them just brings additional social trauma in their lives. It’s important to add that this children don’t react well to ultimatums as it sets up fear and anxiety for them.


To summarize, if these children are put in an appropriate educational and social environment, it is certain that they will make progress. The progress will be slow at start, but using the strategies mentioned in this article after some time these children can achieve real success in school as well as form positive relationships.


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