Non Verbal Learning Disorder

Many of us have some knowledge of ADHD but I believe not so much on Non Verbal Learning Disorder (NLD or NVLD) which is lesser known.  This is to introduce the information on NLD to parents with child showing the following symptoms* or for your general knowledge (this may be another big “D” present in the market after “ADHD”):

  • 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)
    (Source: )

I have worked with an education therapist on a 7 years old child suspected of NLD and did my thesis paper on Special Needs children with focus on this (but have to admit I lost much theoretical knowledge about this since it has been many year ago and one seldom can recognize an NLD child during their preschool years with identification of an ADHD child an easier task (the two may show similar symptoms but usually the NLD child will look as a very bright kid). Symptoms/Problems of NLD are more obvious from primary school onwards).

The rate is 1;1000 child having this.

My elder son was suspected of ADHD when he was in P1 but psychologist cleared him of this. Then subsequently I observed him for NLD that he fitted a few of the criteria but I personally cleared him of that as he didn’t map most of them when he grew up further…


Abstracted from

NLD, though not a standard medical diagnosis, could be classified as a recognized neurological syndrome characterized by the impairment of nonverbal or performance-based information controlled by the right hemisphere of the brain. Difficulties will arise in the areas of gross motor skills, inability to organize visual-spatial relations, or adapt to novel social situations. Frequently, a person with NLD is unable to interpret non-verbal signals and cues, and therefore he or she experiences difficulty interacting with peers in socially normative ways. A person with this neurological condition may frequently excel in areas of verbal ability, as well as have excellent spelling. Usually poor reading comprehension skills. A diagnosis of a nonverbal learning disorder has no correlation to level of intelligence.

NLD generally presents with specific assets and deficits. The assets include early speech and vocabulary development, remarkable rote memory skills, attention to detail, early reading skills development and excellent spelling skills. In addition, these individuals have the verbal ability to express themselves eloquently. Moreover, persons with NLD have strong auditory retention. While NLD does not effect levels of intelligence, individuals with the disability may have significant differences between verbal and performance IQ.

The four major categories of deficits and dysfunction present as follows:

  • motoric (lack of coordination, particularly on the left-hand side of the body, severe balance problems, and difficulties with graphomotor skills). (Dyspraxia).
  • visual-spatial-organizational (lack of image, poor visual recall, faulty spatial perceptions, difficulties with executive functioning[1] and problems with spatial relations).
  • social (lack of ability to comprehend nonverbal communication, difficulties adjusting to transitions and novel situations, and deficits in social judgment and social interaction). (Dyssemia).
  • sensory (sensitivity in any of the sensory modes: visual, auditory, tactile, taste or olfactory).

More info on:

PS: When your child appear to be "naughty", try to find the root of the problem (the root can be as simple as we are using the wrong parenting style!) It may not be as serious as the above or other learning disabilities (such as dyslexics), but it can be. Children with learning difficulty suffer a lot on their own if we cannot catch them in time to help them to cope appropriately…


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