As a clinician, I became aware of nonverbal learning disability or NVLD in the 1990’s. At that time, little was known about NVLD and the impact it has on people’s lives. However, we now know that NVLD is unlike any other learning disability, as it affects several areas of daily functioning, while dyslexia, for example, primarily affects reading and written skills. By listening and understanding the challenges faced by my NVLD clients, I gained valuable firsthand knowledge and anecdotal information about the disability. Although the severity and areas of challenge varies from person to person, the symptoms are indeed present and the struggle is real. The personal stories and challenges described by my clients are fairly consistent and similar to the descriptions provided by current researchers in the field. Based on the accounts of my clients, the following are some of the most common symptoms/challenges reported over the years: Read More
As a professional with NVLD (Board Certified Cognitive Specialist) and former special education teacher, I offer you a different perspective from these vantage points. Whether you’re a parent or an adult coping with NVLD, you’re all too familiar with often falling short of meeting the standards of neurotypicals (NT). NT’s comprise the majority of the population whose brains typically function in the same way. NVLD’ers are in the minority who think differently from NT’s, and thus are part of the neurodiverse (ND) population. NT’s are often unaware when communicating with someone who is neurodivergent as there are no outward visible signs to the naked eye. When ND’s fail to meet NT expectations they are often met with resistance. They are not privy to leeway, assistance, or courtesies that are extended to those with visible differences. Read More
As an independent college counselor specializing in working with students with learning disabilities (and the parent of a young adult with NVLD), I am often asked this question by parents who are anxious to find the ‘perfect’ college for their child.
The short answer is…there IS no perfect college for a student with NVLD, and I maintain that there may be no such thing as a perfect college for any student…but that’s a discussion for another day. Read More
These four tips from an expert will help you educate your kids — and talk them through their new homeschooling routine.
There exists some controversy regarding a diagnosis called NVLD (Nonverbal Learning Disorder). It is defined as a set of strengths in verbal memory and vocabulary, accompanied by visual-spatial, fine motor, and social difficulties that include decoding body language and understanding inference and humor. Many with NVLD also face challenges adapting to frequent changes and novel situations and struggle to see the big picture, focusing on the details of a story or essay instead of the main theme. Given that so many people have been classified as having NVLD, why it is not in the DSM. One possible answer was offered by the Colombia psychiatric social work professor, Dr. Prudence Fischer, who acknowledged that there is no agreed upon definition of NVLD, other than that it involves “visual spatial deficits” (Burkhardt, 2019). It is also the case that there is considerable variance within the NVLD population regarding how individual strengths and weaknesses manifest, with some individuals exhibiting strong social skills and others struggling with handwriting, for example. However, there is significant evidence that NVLD does exist as a neurological profile, which I will summarize below, as well as speak to the effort to have it included in the DSM.
When I work with learning disabled adults, including those who are NVLD and may have been traumatized by their educational experiences, especially those around misunderstanding NVLD or being misunderstood by teachers or colleagues, I find that clients who are actively engaged in psychotherapy with a capable practitioner are in the best position to do and feel better about their issues and themselves, than those clients who are not so engaged.
When I think about teaching young adults with NVLD, I sometimes step into a situation that is fraught with past failure, misunderstanding, and frustration on the part of the client and his or her loved ones. We have to work skillfully to set the stage for change and growth, and to help a client’s family understand that their loved one is not hapless, or willfully failing at the goals they have set for themselves. Families of NVLD adults can feel hopeless to understand, and feel discouraged from extending further help to their loved one. It is as if a tough love approach, which I have not seen work for any learning disabled student of mine in 25 years of private practice, is a last ditch effort by frustrated and worried parents to force change upon the NVLD person. Sometimes, this tough love is experienced by the NVLD client as a withdrawal of support just when understanding is most needed.
So you’ve just received a diagnosis that you have Nonverbal Learning Disability, or NVLD. Maybe right now you are feeling shocked; or maybe you had a feeling that something was “off,” and you’re relieved to finally know what it is. The big question is: now what?
NVLD is a kind of learning disorder that is not verbal in nature, as its name suggests. You may be a very verbal person, and a great reader, too! But NVLD can pose challenges when it comes to understanding all the information that you take in—be it from reading, social situations, linking big ideas together to analyze and form opinions or draw conclusions, etc.
Long ago, in 2003, my mentor sent a beautiful teen-aged boy to my practice who needed help managing his homework and his writing, she told me. I met the family in their home, and the first thing I saw was how exasperated the father of the boy was with him.
“Look,” he said after sizing me up like the litigator he was. “I think you’ll be too soft on him. I want him to get A’s an B’s, I want him to turn in his work, and work harder. It’s Harvard or nothing, you understand?” He was furious with his son, and frustrated that the boy just couldn’t keep track of his assignments, didn’t seem to understand what was wanted of him in the deduction-based inquiry based curriculum in Chemistry. Writing for English when musing on theme? Forget it.