What is Nonverbal Learning Disorder?

Nonverbal learning disorder (NVLD) is a learning disability that causes difficulty with motor, visual-spatial, and social skills. Children with NVLD are often well-spoken and can write well, but struggle with subtle social cues and comprehension of abstract concepts.1

  • 65% Of all communication is conveyed nonverbally3
  • 1 in 100 Children in the U.S. may have NVLD2
  • 1:1 NVLD affects boys and girls equally2

Early Signs of nonverbal learning disorder

  • Often misses social cues such as facial expression or tone of voice, making it hard to make and keep friends1
  • Needs to verbalize things to understand them1
  • Struggles with reading comprehension or mathematical problem solving1
  • Physically clumsy, often bumps into objects or people1
  • Thinks of things in literal terms and struggles with metaphors or abstract concepts2

What to Do if You Notice Signs of Nonverbal Learning Disorder

  • Take Notes

    If you see a combination of the NVLD symptoms listed above, make note of when and where you see these behaviors. These observations are important to have when speaking with a pediatrician or specialist.

  • Talk with Your Child’s Teacher

    Bring your list of concerns to your child’s teacher and ask whether these behaviors are affecting your child’s performance in the classroom. Also ask whether he or she has noticed any other learning issues in your child.

  • Request an Evaluation

    While your pediatrician may not specialize in learning disabilities, he or she can rule out any medical issues related to the symptoms and refer your child to the right specialist. Once you have been referred to a mental health professional, he or she can test your child’s speech and language, visual-spatial organization, and motor skills.2

  • Be Proactive and Trust Your Gut

    Since children with NVLD are often articulate and well-spoken, some educators may consider NVLD interventions unnecessary. However, the symptoms of NVLD will become more apparent with age — so the earlier the intervention, the better. Stand up for your child to ensure that he or she gets the right accommodations.3

What to Do if Your Child is Diagnosed with Nonverbal Learning Disorder

  • Find a Specialist

    A certified NVLD expert can work directly with your child on effective remedial methods including planning, studying, written expression, social cognition, and interpersonal communication. Look for a specialist who has full certification and continuing professional development in the area of nonverbal learning disorder.3

  • Request Classroom Accommodations

    Talk with your child’s teacher about making special accommodations for your child, for example:

    • For memorization activities, substitute copying text with active verbalization3
    • Simplify the layout of test answer sheets and make graph paper available for math assignments3
    • Provide one-on-one assistance for fine motor tasks such as folding or cutting with scissors3
  • Create an Individualized Education Plan

    A formal, detailed Individualized Education Plan (IEP) establishes goals and accommodations for your child within the classroom. Work with your child’s teachers and administrators to document the resources and evaluations your child needs to stay on track. Always request a copy of your child’s IEP.

Common Nonverbal Learning Disorder Myths

Myth:NVLD affects social skills, but not schoolwork.


Issues connected to NVLD can lead to trouble with math and problem solving as well as reading comprehension.4

Myth:NVLD is common among school-age children.


NVLD is much less prevalent than language-based learning disorders such as dyslexia.2

Myth:Children with NVLD are not smart.


Children with NVLD exhibit many strengths, including high verbal scores and early language development.2

Myth:NVLD and ADHD are different terms for the same disorder.


While children with NVLD are sometimes misdiagnosed with ADHD, the disorders and interventions are quite different.2

Myth:Symptoms of NVLD get better with age.


Typically, the issues associated with NVLD get worse — or at least become more apparent — as the child gets older, making early intervention important. Symptoms become more noticeable as the child encounters more social situations and has to apply abstract versus literal thinking.4


  1. Non-Verbal Learning Disabilities. Learning Disabilities Association of America. Retrieved from http://ldaamerica.org/types-of-learning-disabilities/non-verbal-learning-disabilities/
  2. Understanding Nonverbal Learning Disabilities. Understood. Retrieved from https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/child-learning-disabilities/nonverbal-learning-disabilities/understanding-nonverbal-learning-disabilities
  3. Nonverbal Learning Disorders. LD Online. Retrieved from http://www.ldonline.org/article/6114/
  4. Nonverbal Learning Disabilities. GreatKids. Retrieved from http://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/nonverbal-learning-disabilities/

Contact Churchill for More Info on Nonverbal Learning Disorder

For questions or more information about nonverbal learning disorder, contact Anne Evers, Admissions Director, at 314-997-4343.

Churchill's proven methods and well-trained faculty change the lives of children who struggle with dyslexia, ADHD and other learning disabilities.