How to Help a Child with Nonverbal Learning Disorder

Although our society gives prime importance to strong verbal skills, there are many other ways through which we can obtain and process new information. We use nonverbal cues such as body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions to determine the meaning of what others are saying. We infer meaning beyond that which is directly stated in the books we read. We generalize learning from one situation and apply it to another, somewhat different situation.

Individuals with Nonverbal Learning Disorder have difficulty with at least some of these things, depending on the severity of their disorder. Children and adolescents with this disorder tend to have academic and social problems, especially as they get older and the tasks expected of them become more complex.

Instructions

  • 1

    Do not assume that a child with nonverbal learning disorder understands things just because he/she has good verbal skills, a good verbal rote memory and an impressive vocabulary. They may take things very literally, as children with NLD often do. Therefore, cause and effect relationships, metaphors, multiple meanings, categories and classifications of objects, and part-to-whole relationships should all be explicitly explained to them. Also, try to simplify and break down abstract concepts when teaching them about such things.

  • 2

    Reduce the academic workload and modify the schedule of the child with NLD as required. Getting through a normal school day is often exhausting for such children. Their difficulties with generalizing previously learned information make it necessary for them to use much more mental energy to accomplish every day tasks than is used by their non disabled peers. In addition, NLD children tend to be hypersensitive to sensory stimulation so lights, noises, smells, etc. may bother them more than other kids and thus make them feel more overwhelmed.

  • 3

    Give directions verbally, and avoid penalizing a child with NLD for tardiness. Children with NLD tend to have spatial problems, which can result in them getting lost frequently and being tardy to class. Spatial difficulties can also affect map reading, telling time using an analogue clock, and math skills. A peer helper may be able to help them find their way around.

  • 4

    Social skill deficits are perhaps the most heartbreaking of deficits typical of nonverbal learning disorder kids. They want to fit in, but misread social cues, or miss cues entirely. They need to be specifically taught to read nonverbal communication, such as tone of voice, facial expressions, etc. A friendship group run by a school counsellor, social worker, or psychologist may be helpful in this regard.

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