An Introduction to Nonverbal Learning Disability

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Boulder Creek Academy
Image: bouldercreekacademy.com

Boulder Creek Academy, a therapeutic boarding school, provides individualized academic, emotional, and social interventions for clinically complex adolescents. For students with nonverbal learning disabilities, Boulder Creek Academy offers the structure and support needed to rebuild confidence and build success experiences.

A nonverbal learning disability, or NVLD, affects a child’s social skills. It often resembles Asperger’s syndrome, now diagnosed as part of autism spectrum disorder, in that it leads to difficulties in understanding such nonverbal cues as facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language. Because a person with NVLD does not respond to social interactions in a typical manner, he or she may find making and maintaining friendships very difficult.

Academically, a student with NVLD is likely to have a highly accurate memory but may not be able to interpret it correctly in context. He or she thinks in extremely literal terms and may indiscriminately share knowledge with others, thus appearing awkward or unusual to peers. In addition, the child may be physically awkward and present with coordination difficulties, which can manifest in messy handwriting.

Although a student with NVLD may struggle interpersonally more than academically, this same child may also have difficulty comprehending main ideas and accurately identifying important information. This sometimes causes trouble with exercises like reading comprehension and word problems, though these academic deficits are not necessarily present in all children with the diagnosis. Significantly more universal are anxiety, self-esteem issues, and trouble with transitions, which adults can begin to mediate by offering clear expectations and a predictable environment.

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