Nonverbal Learning Disability

Nonverbal learning disability (NVLD) is one of the least understood learning differences. In fact, the learning difference is not in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the handbook that classifies mental disorders used by mental health clinicians. Subsequently, many evaluators are not trained in diagnosing and identifying the disorder. It is estimated that 1 % of the population has NVLD but this could be an underestimate due to the limited education on the learning condition.

NVLD impacts more than just learning. The processing disorder is known to have deficits in a person’s visual-spatial and nonverbal abilities. It is often characterized as a person having an advanced vocabulary and strong verbal skills, with weakness in visual spatial abilities. These weaknesses impact a person’s mathematics skills, understanding of abstract language, written expression, and fine and gross motor. In addition, many individuals with NVLD experience attention and anxiety difficulties.

NVLD often coexists with Asperger’s Disorder, an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Many researchers believe that NVLD is not a stand-alone condition, but instead are characteristics of Asperger’s Disorder. However, many researchers believe that NVLD is a learning disability that can impact many different academic areas.

            There are many signs that your child may be struggling with nonverbal learning disorder. Read below to see a list of frequent difficulties.

1.     Has difficulty in mathematics, especially word problems

2.     Has problems with organization

3.     Difficulty with written expression. May have problems organizing thoughts on paper

4.     Was slow to learn how to tell time

5.     May frequently get lost in new places

6.     Has problems understanding figures of speech

7.     Has messy handwriting or problems tying shoes or fastening buttons

8.     Clumsy- slow to ride a bike or difficulty catching a ball

9.     Trouble adapting to change

10.  Is anxious in new social settings

If you feel like your child might be experiencing any of these difficulties, a full Psychoeducational Evaluation is recommended.

Written by: Amy Rollo, M.A., LSSP, LPC-S

Amy Rollo is a Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor and owner of Heights Family Counseling. Amy has been practicing for fifteen years. She has doctoral level training in the areas of child and adolescent counseling, marriage and family therapy, and adult counseling. Amy Rollo provides counseling and evaluation services in the Houston Heights and surrounding areas. Amy’s goal in counseling is to journey with her clients in order to foster positive changes and growth in their lives. Read more about Amy's counseling style by visiting