Non-Verbal Learning Disorder Academic Support Beyond Tutoring

Non-verbal learning disorder is a term that describes a group of disorders that are non-language based. Unlike learning disabilities (LDs) such as dyslexia, which is based in language, these disorders normally occur in the visual-spatial area (e.g. looking at bigger pictures, connecting concepts, and visualizing problems).

Students with non-verbal LDs tend to succeed in junior school where their strong language skills and verbal ability allow them to learn to read and write at normal levels. However, as they progress to higher grades they often struggle with connecting ideas and developing ‘learning’ skills. These students often have challenges with working logically through problems requiring the use of visual information (for example maps, graphs, data), moving in coordinated sequences and appropriately contributing to social situations.

Types of Non-Verbal LDs

Non-verbal LDs can be split into different areas, rather than types. Generally, they are sorted into the following:

Conceptual: difficulty grasping big concepts and problem-solving

Motor: trouble with coordination and movement

Visual: remembering what was heard, but not what was seen

Social: difficulty understanding social cues and sharing information appropriately

Abstract thinking: recalling small details comes easily but understanding larger concepts is much harder

Common Issues Associated with Non-Verbal LDs

Spatial difficulties: Students may have difficulties with their sense of direction, and estimation of size, shape, distance, and time.

Social isolation: Students can be thought of as lazy, anti-social, or defiant and rude which can lead to being isolated from peers.

Clumsiness: Students can appear awkward and “clumsy”.

Task time estimation: Students have difficulty estimating how long tasks will take and organizing them, particularly if the information is delivered in a non-verbal way.

Information application: Students may have trouble seeing the “whole picture” or knowing which details are important.

How We Support Students with Non-Verbal LDs

Making the non-verbal, verbal, by talking through social subtleties, teaching rules, or labelling emotions

Modelling explicit tasks and going through tasks by speaking aloud about the process and self-evaluation

Developing preparation plans and checklists for school activities and changes that can be expected

Providing clear verbal connections within academic work

Building basic self-advocacy skills to promote social success

Get Started with Non-Verbal LD Support Today

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Further Reading and Resources


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