Nonverbal learning disorder

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A nonverbal learning disorder or nonverbal learning disability (NLD or NVLD) is a neurological disorder characterized by significantly higher verbal scores and lower performance scores on an IQ test.[medical citation needed] People with NLD often have poor motor, and visuo-spatial skills.[citation needed] No clear numbers are available regarding either the prevalence or incidence of the nonverbal learning disability syndrome. It does appear, however, that the incidence of NVLD has been on the rise over the past 10 to 15 years.[medical citation needed]

NLD involves deficits in perception, coordination, socialisation, non-verbal problem-solving, and understanding of humour.[1]


Non-verbal communication[edit]

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 (because processing its input overtaxes their nonverbal cognitive resources and/or because they are nervous about its sending or receiving inaccurate messages) 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[edit]

People with NLD may be described as talking too much and too quickly, and they may be early readers, good at grammar, and good spellers. Verbal communication skills are often strong, and people with NLD often rely on verbal communication as their main method of gathering information and maintaining social contact with other people. As a result, they often depend on verbal reasoning skills to compensate in areas where they have deficits. For example, they may "talk themselves through" a situation involving a large number of and/or a wide variety of visuo-spatial and/or numerical data. People with NLD can become confused and feel overwhelmed when the number and variety of nonverbal stimuli exceed their processing abilities, especially when those stimuli must be processed in "real time."[medical citation needed]

Numerical and spatial awareness[edit]

Arithmetic and mathematics can be very difficult for people with NLD. Young children with NLD are often seen as brighter than their peers.[medical citation needed] However, as these children enter the upper elementary grades or begin middle school and they are left to handle more tasks on their own, things can rapidly begin to deteriorate. They can have problems with finding their way, remembering assignments. They can struggle with math and misunderstand teachers and peers. They can be accused of being lazy or uncooperative. An NLD person's math skills are typically several years behind those of their peers. Teachers and peers are often confused by this because the NLD person has good language skills.[medical citation needed]

Many children with NLD often have difficulty with learning Geometry and acquiring analytical skills to interpret certain information that is associated with spatial ability.


People with NLD often have motor difficulties. This can manifest in their walking and running, which sometimes appear stiff. They may have difficulty with activities requiring good balance and feel unsteady when climbing up or down. They may also be more likely to run into things, due to judging distances poorly. Fine motor skills can also be poor, causing difficulty with writing, drawing, and tying shoelaces. Those with NLD are often labeled as "clumsy" or "stiff" by teachers and peers. Learning a musical instrument such as the guitar and piano can prove to be especially challenging for children with NLD. Hand–eye coordination, rhythm, tempo, and visual processing are often involved with learning such instruments effectively. Athletic involvement is also negatively impacted by the symptoms of NLD, as several motor skills are required to play many sports.


Nonverbal learning disorder has been observed to co-exist with other learning problems, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorders.

Nonverbal learning disorder is a common co-existing disorder in people who have ADHD.[2] This tends to make diagnosis for both conditions rather challenging as it may become difficult to identify the symptoms of each disorder separately.[medical citation needed]

NLD can also occur with other disorders. As with Autism Spectrum Disorders, NLD exists on a spectrum, and those affected can experience it in a range of ways.[medical citation needed] Those with an NLD diagnosis can experience some or all of the symptoms, and to varying degrees.


  1. ^ 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. 
  2. ^ Semrud-Clikeman M, Bledsoe J; Bledsoe (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.