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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NVLD is often indicated when a child struggles with:

  • Handling novel problem-solving situations
  • Interacting with peers and processing social signals
  • Difficulties with math especially understanding fractions, geometric shapes, and sometimes word problems
  • Staying focused
  • Making a plan for how to approach a new task

Children with NVLD may struggle with:

  • Gross motor activities like throwing a ball or riding a bike
  • Fine motor activities like cutting or letter formation
  • Understanding charts and diagrams like maps and graphs
  • Organizing their thoughts and materials
  • Sensory integration, either overstimulation or a need for more stimulation

How the definition was determined:

The definition and rules for differential diagnosis of NVLD on this site were written by researchers at Columbia University Medical Center in collaboration with members of the advisory board. The definition is based on a review of the literature. Features were included in the definition only if they were validated in a peer reviewed empirical paper.  A recent paper that reviewed and presented all such research on NVLD {Fine, 2013 #364} was a main resource. 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 conference in 2016-17, the goal of which is to bring together experts to discuss the definition and differentiation of NVLD as a syndrome.