Non Verbal Learning Disabilities

Young boy sitting alone holding his kneesHas trouble interpreting nonverbal cues like facial expressions or body language and may have poor coordination.

Non-Verbal Learning Disability (NVD or NVLD), is a disorder which is usually characterized by a significant discrepancy between higher verbal skills and weaker motor, visual-spatial and social skills.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Has trouble recognizing nonverbal cues such as facial expression or body language
  • Shows poor psycho-motor coordination; clumsy; seems to be constantly “getting in the way,” bumping into people and objects
  • Using fine motor skills a challenge: tying shoes, writing, using scissors
  • Needs to verbally label everything that happens to comprehend circumstances, spatial orientation, directional concepts and coordination; often lost or tardy
  • Has difficulty coping with changes in routing and transitions
  • Has difficulty generalizing previously learned information
  • Has difficulty following multi-step instructions
  • Make very literal translations
  • Asks too many questions, may be repetitive and inappropriately interrupt the flow of a lesson
  • Imparts the “illusion of competence” because of the student’s strong verbal skills


  • Rehearse getting from place to place
  • Minimize transitions and give several verbal cues before transition
  • Avoid assuming the student will automatically generalize instructions or concepts
  • Verbally point out similarities, differences and connections; number and present instructions in sequence; simplify and break down abstract concepts, explain metaphors, nuances and multiple meanings in reading material
  • Answer the student’s questions when possible, but let them know a specific number (three vs. a few) and that you can answer three more at recess, or after school
  • Allow the child to abstain from participating in activities at signs of overload
  • Thoroughly prepare the child in advance for field trips, or other changes, regardless of how minimal
  • Implement a modified schedule or creative programming
  • Never assume child understands something because he or she can “parrot back” what you’ve just said
  • Offer added verbal explanations when the child seems lost or registers confusion

Excerpted from the LDA of California and UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute “Q.U.I.L.T.S.” Calendar 2001-2002