A group of children at the park

What is Non-Verbal Learning Disability?

People with Non-Verbal Learning Disability (NVLD) struggle with a range of conditions that include social and spatial disabilities. Often they are marginalized and isolated; consequently, they can experience social barriers throughout their lives.

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Nonverbal Learning Disability describes a well-defined profile that includes strengths in verbal abilities contrasted with deficits in visual-spatial abilities.

Individuals with NVLD often have trouble with some of the following: organization, attention, executive functioning, nonverbal communication, and motor skills.

Someone with NVLD may struggle with:

  • Fine motor skills (using scissors, tying shoelaces, pencil grip, etc.)
  • Gross motor skills (throwing a ball, riding a bike, etc.)
  • Spatial awareness (bumping into people and things)
  • Organization and planning
  • Activities that require multitasking
  • Staying focused
  • Recalling visual information
  • Peer relationships
  • Reading social cues
  • Interpreting social interactions
  • Handling and understanding new and novel situations
  • Interpreting nonverbal communication (facial expressions, posture, tone of voice, etc.)
  • Understanding idioms, humor and sarcasm
  • Reading comprehension
  • Essay writing
  • Understanding charts and diagrams, like maps and graphs
  • Math skills (understanding fractions, geometric shapes and word problems)

How the definition was determined:

The definition on this site was written by researchers at Columbia University Medical Center in collaboration with members of The NVLD Project advisory board. There are numerous potential features of NVLD that are discussed often in clinical circles and that expert clinicians include in decision making about diagnosing a particular individual that are not included in this current definition. Such features were not included in this definition as they have no empirical evidence base at this time.

The NVLD Project recognizes the need for multiple perspectives in determining the most accurate definition of NVLD – toward this goal the NVLD Project is supporting researchers at Columbia University Medical Center to host a second consensus meeting in October 2018 (the first was held in May 2017), the goal of which is to bring together experts to discuss the definition and differentiation of NVLD as a syndrome.