A Therapists Guide to Fix the Developmental Delay of Baby Milestones

girl with nonverbal learning disorderNonverbal Learning Disorder was unknown to me until recently.

 Despite many years of clinical treatment and working with countless children with learning and behavior problems, I had not heard of this condition. I don’t think many people have heard about it. But if you have a child with ADHD, or CAPD or who has social interaction problems or is on the Autism Spectrum, NLD (or NVLD) is something you should know about.

Some researchers and clinicians believe that NLD is sort of a mild form of Asperger’s Syndrome.

But there are other people who point out distinct differences in the two disorders. Regardless of how it is categorized, symptoms are specific and identifiable. There is a conundrum, however, which makes this problem easily overlooked or dismissed. The children with NLD are often very bright and capable students. They tend to have early speech and language development and have extraordinary vocabulary skills. They also have good rote memory, early reading and great spelling skills. They are excellent at verbal expression and have good listening skills and auditory retention. Yet these students often do not perform well in school once they get to middle school or beyond (demands of lower school make it easy to miss hallmark traits). Some end up flunking out of college. The puzzle is “why do these students with exceptional skills fail so miserably? “It seems that certain underlying skill deficits interfere with functioning.

The deficits are as follows:

Sensory problems – These children may have difficulty processing/tolerating sensory stimuli such as touch, taste, sound, and visual

• Social interactions – This one is very significant. Children, teens and young adults may have problems reading non-verbal cues in social situations. They may not be able to interpret body language, facial expressions and contextual cues during social interactions. They may not be able to transition easily or adjust to a new environment or new social situation. Social judgment is poor (not understanding what to say, when to say it, etc.)

• Executive function and visual-spatial problems – This set of problems includes difficulty with problem solving, drawing conclusions, understanding symbolism, inferential thinking, visual recall and difficulty with spatial relations. They also have problems with organization and sequencing. They may not be able to discriminate appropriate communication from other background noise.

• Balance and coordination/ graphomotor problems – Physical activities requiring balance and coordination are difficult to master. Dysgraphia and other writing problems may be manifest.

What does all this mean? It means that as learning materials and social demands become more complex, the skills which allow most students to meet those demands is absent or diminished in those with NLD.

 Many school subjects in higher grades require conceptual rather than concrete analysis. Diagrams require visual interpretation. Certain subjects require inference skills to master. And social interactions of teens and young adults require picking up on body language, interpreting communication and picking up on “vibes”. Teens are quick to ostracize and ridicule those who don’t fit in or who speak inappropriately. Teachers who don’t recognize the problem for what it is berate the student for underperformance and laziness. Some teachers and parents regard the student’s poor performance as intentional or oppositional. Nothing could be further from the truth. The truth is that they have a learning disability. Students with NLD can become depressed and alienated. Some develop psychological problems.

Nonverbal learning disorder defies traditional definitions of learning disabilities.

Typically, children who have normal range intelligence but have problems with spoken or written language are designated LD. These problems show up as difficulty with reading, writing, spelling, speaking or listening. They are associated with dysfunction of the left hemisphere of the brain. NLD is a dysfunction of the right hemisphere. The resulting deficits cannot be characterized as a learning disability under Federal guidelines. Consequently, NLD does not warrant services because it does not meet the definition of a learning disability. This is why it is so important to recognize NLD as a disability and give appropriate treatment and necessary accommodations.

In future posts, I am going to outline some of the differences between NLD and Asperger’s. I will also give specific treatment recommendations which can help with the balance issues, sensory issues and visual – spatial issues. I can also make recommendations to foster good organization and tips for social skills. Many children with ADHD might also have NLD. It is important to treat in order to give your child the best opportunity to achieve success and establish good self-esteem.

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