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What is non-verbal learning disability (NLD or NVLD)?
A Nonverbal Learning Disability, is a developmental disability which affects nonverbal processing of information and nonverbal learning. Individuals with this disability are often highly verbal and do well in school in the early grades. It often goes undiagnosed and individuals with this disability begin to fail as they enter upper elementary and middles school. Poor grades are blamed on the the student’s lack of motivation or the parents lack of school involvement with their child.
As they work load increases and they fail, they will begin to “shut down” and often become a behavior problem. As young children they may actually 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 grade schoolers, these children often have difficulty interacting with other children, are not physically adept, are not adaptable, and present with a host of other troublesome problems that are of concern.
Looking up information, copying off the board and note taking are of particular difficulty for them. Fine motor difficulties, attention to detail in math as well as difficulty with abstract math concepts involving symbolic representation also get in the way.
As these children enter the upper elementary grades or begin middle school, they are left to handle more tasks on their own. Things rapidly begin to deteriorate. They get lost, forget to do homework, seem unprepared for class, have difficulty following directions, struggle with math, can't read their social studies textbook, can't write an essay, continually misunderstand both their teachers and their peers, and are often anxious in public and angry at home. They are accused of being lazy, rude, uncooperative, and worse. Nothing could be farther from the truth! They are hardworking, persistent, goal-oriented, and incredibly honest. They have NLD.
Often their biggest problem is with social skills. NLD is very much like Asperger Syndrome. It may be that the diagnoses of Asperger syndrome (AS) and NLD simply “provide different. The American Psychiatric Association is considering doing with the Asperger’s disorder diagnosis and considering it as simply a nonverbal learning disorder. Both are generally thought to describe pretty much the same kind of disorder, but to differ in severity—with AS describing more severe symptoms. In both groups often their biggest problem is with social skills. Children with Aspergers Disorder often make well drawn and detailed drawings, while child with NVLD issues tend to have greater difficulty with drawings
What are the signs of NLD?
- Great vocabulary and verbal expression
- Excellent memory skills
- Attention to detail, but misses the big picture
- Trouble understanding reading
- Difficulty with math, especially word problems
- Poor abstract reasoning
- Physically awkward; poor coordination
- Messy and laborious handwriting
- Concrete thinking; taking things very literally
- Trouble with nonverbal communication, like body language, facial expression and tone of voice
- Poor social skills; difficulty making and keeping friends
- Fear of new situations
- Trouble adjusting to changes
- May be very naïve and lack common sense
- Anxiety, depression, low self-esteem
- May withdraw, becoming agoraphobic (abnormal fear of open spaces)
Recommendations for Children diagnosed with NLD:
Keep the environment predictable and familiar.
Prepare for changes, giving logical explanations.
Provide structure and routine.
Pay attention to sensory input from the environment, like noise, temperature, smells, many people around, etc.
Help the child learn coping skills for dealing with anxiety and sensory difficulties.
Be logical, organized, clear, concise and concrete. Avoid jargon, double meanings, sarcasm, nicknames, and teasing.
State your expectations clearly. Be very specific about cause and effect relationships.
Modify homework assignments, testing (time and content), grading, art and physical education.
Have your child use the computer at school and at home for schoolwork.
Teach and assist organizational and time management skills.
Provide help with verbal skills to help with social interactions and non-verbal experiences. For example, giving a verbal explanation of visual material.
Provide social skills training with non-verbal communication (facial expressions, gestures, etc.). Help them learn how to tell from others reactions whether they are communicating well.
Assess how social and emotional skills are effecting school social and school progress.
Provide support with group activities.
Provide occupational and physical therapy, psychological, or speech and language (to address social issues).
Social Skills Recommendations for Children with NVLD
There are many ways to help a child with social/emotional skills problems. Here are some way help improve social and emotional skills: Encourage your child to develop interests that will build his/her self-esteem and help them relate to other kids. For example if your child is interested in chess or checkers pursuing this interest may open social doors for them with their peers. Talk to your child in public when discussing with them how they could improve the way they interact with other ids. For example you might point out that some kid don't feel comfortable when your child stands so close to them.
Pair the child with another child that he has something in common with. (This is a way to get some social skills experience in a small, controlled, less-threatening way.)
Provide small-group social skills training in school.
Help them practice the social skills utilizing role-playing. Teach your child that Bullying is unacceptable. Your child's school must make every effort to prevent it. If talking to the child's teachers and principal does not put an end to the victimization, ask the child's doctor to write a letter to the school, and pursue the issue up to higher channels in the school district if necessary. Classes in Judo or Kung-Fu may be helpful withgross motor coordination, focus and with helping to build confidence. Reassure the child that you value them for who they are. Pair the child with peers of similar age and functioning ability.
How can parents help kids with poor social skills?
According to Mel Levine, in a book chapter titled “Unpopular Children ” There are many ways parents can help kids with social skills problems.
Here are some ways parents can help their kids:
Steer your child toward a playmate they have something in common with and set up a play date. This is a way to get some social skills experience in a small, controlled, less-threatening way.
See if you can find a small-group social skills training program in your school system, medical system, or community. This kind of program will probably not be available in smaller communities.
Encourage your child to develop interests that will build their self-esteem and help them relate to other kids. For example, if your child is interested in Pokémon, pursuing this interest may open social doors for them with schoolmates.
Talk to your child in private after you have gone with them to a group activity.
You can discuss with them how they could improve the way they interact with other kids. For example, you might point out that other kids don't feel comfortable when your child stands so close to them. Help them practice the social skills you explain to them through role-playing.
Bullying is unacceptable. Your child's school must make every effort to prevent it. If talking to your child's teachers and principal does not put an end to the victimization, ask your child's doctor to write a letter to the school, and pursue the issue up to higher channels in the school district if necessary.
These kids need as few handicaps as possible, so make sure your child is getting the counseling, therapies, and/or medication they need to treat any other problems or medical conditions they might have.
Reassure your child that you value them for who they are. It's a little tricky to help your child improve social skills, and at the same time nurture their confidence to hold on to their unique individuality.