Nonverbal learning disorder

Nonverbal learning disorder

A nonverbal learning disorder or nonverbal learning disability (NLD or NVLD) is a condition characterized by a significant discrepancy between higher verbal and lower motor, visuo-spatial, and social skills on an IQ test.[1] Some proponents of the category believe that this discrepancy is attributable to dysfunction in the right cerebral hemisphere.[1][2]

NLD involves deficits in perception, coordination, socialisation, non-verbal problem-solving and understanding of humour, along with well-developed rote memory.[3] As most people with Asperger syndrome (AS) fit the criteria for NLD, a diagnosis of AS is often preferred.[3] In this instance, some researchers assert that an AS diagnosis is more clinically useful than an NLD diagnosis, and argue that NLD would be an example of excessive diagnostic splitting. However, NLD can also occur with other disorders. As with Asperger syndrome, NLD exists on a spectrum, and those affected can experience it in a range of ways. Those with an NLD diagnosis can experience some or all of the symptoms, and to varying degrees. Ongoing debate surrounds the relationship between Asperger syndrome and NLD, as research on the condition is ongoing and procedures can differ from AS research.[3]



Non-verbal communication

People with this disability may misunderstand non-verbal communications, or they may understand the communications but be unable to formulate an appropriate response. This can make establishing and maintaining social contacts difficult. Eye contact can also be difficult for people with NLD, either because they are uncomfortable with maintaining it or because they do not remember that others expect it. Similarly, knowing when and how to use physical contact and recognizing emotions in others and expressing them for oneself can be problematic.

Verbal communication

People with NLD will often tend to lapse into "cocktail-speech," talking too much and too quickly. People with NLD have strong verbal communication skills and must often rely on verbal communication as their main method of gathering information. Trying to process too many non-verbal stimuli can confuse them.
People with NLD often have strong verbal skills, and learn how to use those to compensate.

Numerical and spatial awareness

Arithmetic and mathematics can be very difficult for people with NLD, and they often have problems with spatial awareness. Problematic areas may include:

  • Recognizing faces
  • Paying attention in noisy environments
  • Navigation
  • In mathematics: the confusion of X-axis and Y-axis
  • Remembering the names and locations of places
  • Map reading, or plotting or remembering routes. People with NLD are often best-served by giving landmarks along with repeated directions.
  • Estimating the speed of cars while crossing the road
  • Self-awareness of where their body is(frequently bump into other people and objects)
  • Backing out a car


People with NLD often have motor difficulties. This can manifest in their walking and running, which are sometimes stiff, or in difficulty balancing. They may also be more likely to run into things, due to judging distances poorly. Fine motor skills can also develop abnormally, causing difficulty with writing, drawing, and tying shoelaces. NLD sufferers are often labeled as "clumsy" or "stiff".


People with NLD, more than many others, fear failure. They may feel that they have to do too much at once, and then do not know where to start. This allows them to stagnate, and then do nothing. Sometimes they try to multitask and again end up doing nothing, which can lead to frustration. They may experience the world around them as a chaos, the actions that they must perform well and quickly creating a sense of helplessness. Clumsiness in performing tasks may be criticized by teachers or in the workplace, causing further fear of failure.
There is a high incidence of suicide in the NLD population.[citation needed]



Nonverbal learning disorder

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  • Little, L. C. (Jan 2006). "Wonders and worries of parenting a child with Asperger syndrome & nonverbal learning disorder". MCN. the American journal of maternal child nursing 31 (1): 39–44. doi:10.1097/00005721-200601000-00009. ISSN 0361-929X. PMID 16371824.  edit
  • Sundheim, S. V. (Oct 2004). "Psychiatric implications of language disorders and learning disabilities: risks and management". Journal of child neurology 19 (10): 814–826. ISSN 0883-0738. PMID 15559896.  edit
  • Panos, P. P. (Jul 2001). "An evaluation of a case of agenesis of the corpus callosum with Rourke's nonverbal learning disorder model". Archives of clinical neuropsychology : the official journal of the National Academy of Neuropsychologists 16 (5): 507–521. ISSN 0887-6177. PMID 14590164.  edit
  • Lajiness-o'Neill, R. B. (Mar 2002). "Neuropsychological findings in two children diagnosed with hamartoses: evidence of a NLD phenotypic profile". Child neuropsychology : a journal on normal and abnormal development in childhood and adolescence 8 (1): 27–40. doi:10.1076/chin. ISSN 0929-7049. PMID 12610774.  edit
  • Richman, L. W. (Jul 2002). "Learning disability subtypes: classification of high functioning hyperlexia". Brain and language 82 (1): 10–21. doi:10.1016/S0093-934X(02)00007-X. ISSN 0093-934X. PMID 12174811.  edit
  • Niklasson, L; Rasmussen, P; Oskarsdóttir, S; Gillberg, C (Jan 2001). "Neuropsychiatric disorders in the 22q11 deletion syndrome". Genetics in medicine : official journal of the American College of Medical Genetics 3 (1): 79–84. doi:10.1097/00125817-200101000-00017. ISSN 1098-3600. PMID 11339385.  edit
  • Little, L. (Jul 1999). "The misunderstood child: the child with a nonverbal learning disorder". Journal of the Society of Pediatric Nurses : JSPN 4 (3): 113–121; quiz 121–4. ISSN 1088-145X. PMID 10472543.  edit
  • Ellis, H. G. (May 1999). "Asperger syndrome: a simple matter of white matter?". Trends in cognitive sciences 3 (5): 192–200. doi:10.1016/S1364-6613(99)01315-7. ISSN 1364-6613. PMID 10322476.  edit
  • Kowalchuk, B. K. (Mar 1989). "Adult suicide versus coping with nonverbal learning disorder". Journal of learning disabilities 22 (3): 177–179. doi:10.1177/002221948902200307. ISSN 0022-2194. PMID 2708895.  edit

Non-verbal learning disorder

Nonverbal learning disability

Non-verbal learning disability

Nonverbal learning disorder and nonverbal learning disability

  • Mccann, V.; Pongonis, J.; Golomb, R.; Edwards-Brown, M.; Christensen, K.; Sokol, K. (Aug 2008). "Like father, like son: periventricular nodular heterotopia and nonverbal learning disorder". Journal of child neurology 23 (8): 950–953. doi:10.1177/0883073808315415. ISSN 0883-0738. PMID 18660478.  edit
  • Yalof, J. (Aug 2006). "Case illustration of a boy with nonverbal learning disorder and Asperger's features: neuropsychological and personality assessment". Journal of personality assessment 87 (1): 15–34. doi:10.1207/s15327752jpa8701_02. ISSN 0022-3891. PMID 16856784.  edit

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