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Experts Blog

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NVLD: What is it and Why is it Not in the DSM?, by Benjamin Meyer, LCSW

By Experts Blog

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.
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Combining Therapies for NVLD, by Benjamin Meyer, LCSW, and Susan Micari, MS.Ed, BCET

By Experts Blog

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.
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Recognizing and Helping NVLD Kids in the Classroom, by Susan Micari, MS. Ed.

By Experts Blog

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.
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You Have NVLD. Now What?, by Annalisa Perfetto, Ph.D.

By Experts Blog

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.
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Discovering NVLD: The First Time, by Susan Micari, MS. Ed.

By Experts Blog

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.
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The Paradox of NVLD: A Speech Therapist’s Perspective (Part 2), by Amy B.

By Experts Blog

As I wait for the technicians to install a third tire on my car in the past five months alone, it is difficult to repress frustration about the costly consequences of visual-perceptual deficits. Getting lost everywhere and relying excessively on signs or the presence of furniture to determine which direction to turn in to arrive at my classroom/office from the front office or to a patient’s room is disconcerting and exhausting at best. Within the past three weeks, I mistook another person’s car for my own (and went inside of it before frenetically seizing my belongings and an empty Publix cookie container that took residence in the stranger’s passenger seat), ran over a median that I didn’t see, took aberrant turns to just about every destination, was unable to locate the entrance to an indoor trampoline park (to take an aerobics class) on the campus of a school and church despite the fact that I had delivered speech therapy sessions there for approximately four semesters, and had no idea how to direct my friend to take me to a parking garage.
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The Paradox of NVLD: A Speech Therapist’s Perspective (Part I), by Amy B.

By Experts Blog

It can be difficult to suppress a grin when a few pairs of wary teenage eyes peer into the window of “The Language Production Studio.” As the high school students prepare to step onto the invisible but palpable social communication stage, I can sometimes see reflections of my past adolescent self from so long ago in their fleeting eye gaze, flat affect, anxious mannerisms, and manifestations of difficulty with transitions. The expectations have been clearly defined and some of them could recite the “conversational script” flawlessly, but the ostensibly simple role of initiating a greeting and a few conversational turns with the speech-language therapist may prove to be daunting when the spotlight shifts from the rules and the acquisition of knowledge of the skill to a spontaneous demonstration of it.
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Finding the Healing Touch: How Adults with NVLD Can Effectively Articulate their Sensory Needs to their Partners, by Benjamin Meyer, LCSW

By Experts Blog

Many people with NVLD face a unique challenge in romantic relationships: how to manage their sensory sensitivity. It is documented that some individuals with NVLD may have either an acute or blunted sense of hearing, taste, smell, or touch (Schatz, 2013). The senses can play a role in all stages of romance, from choosing a venue for a first date to deciding on when and how to touch for the first time. For someone with sensory sensitivity, these aspects of dating may be especially anxiety producing; it may also be more difficult for these individuals to develop a deeper level of physical intimacy as a relationship progresses.
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Is It NVLD or ADHD? Why the Confusion?, by Elizabeth Shoiry

By Experts Blog

Both attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and a nonverbal learning disability (NVLD) are life long neurobiological challenges. ADHD was first formally recognized as a disorder by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) in the 1960’s. Today, ADHD is one of the most commonly diagnosed and perhaps over diagnosed childhood and adolescent disorders.

In contrast, NVLD has yet to be formally recognized and is generally overlooked, underdiagnosed, and misunderstood. Moreover, NVLD is frequently mistaken for ADHD. One of the key dangers of misidentifying mental health disorders is the distress it can cause the individual and their family. A lack of proper identification can result in unrealistic demands, expectations and overestimations of the individual’s ability. Subsequent self esteem and self confidence issues, social and emotional concerns, as well as academic struggles and frustrations can give rise to a lifetime of challenges.
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