Nonverbal learning disorder

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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] Nonverbal learning disorder is a common co-existing disorder in people who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.[4] 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 often have strong verbal communication skills and rely on verbal communication as their main method of gathering information. As a result, they must often find ways to use verbal reasoning skills to compensate in areas where they have deficits, such as by "talking themselves through" a problem involving a large quantity and/or a wide variety of visuo-spatial and/or numerical data.

Despite these efforts, people with NLD can become confused and feel overwhelmed when the number and variety of nonverbal stimuli exceeds their processing abilities, especially when those stimuli must be processed in "real time."

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:


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.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b Treffert, Darold. "Nonverbal Learning Disorder (NLD or NVLD)". Wisconsin Medical Society. 
  2. ^ "Nonverbal Learning Disorders Association". 
  3. ^ a b c Fitzgerald, Michael; Corvin, Aiden (2001). "Diagnosis and differential diagnosis of Asperger syndrome". Advances in Psychiatric Treatment (The Royal College of Psychiatrists) 7 (4): 310–318. doi:10.1192/apt.7.4.310. ISSN 1472-1481. 
  4. ^ Semrud-Clikeman M, Bledsoe J (October 2011). "Updates on attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and learning disorders". Curr Psychiatry Rep 13 (5): 364–73. doi:10.1007/s11920-011-0211-5. PMID 21701839. 


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Non-verbal learning disorder

Nonverbal learning disability

Non-verbal learning disability

Nonverbal learning disorder and nonverbal learning disability

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