What are nonverbal learning disabilities?

By Gail Belsky

Expert reviewed by Bob Cunningham, EdM

At a glance

  • Trouble with social skills is a key challenge of NVLD.

  • NVLD isn’t a formal diagnosis, but the difficulties can impact learning.

  • There are ways to help people improve skills and manage the challenges.

Nonverbal learning disabilities (NVLD) is a term that refers to challenges with a specific group of skills. These skills aren’t language-based like reading and writing are. They’re nonverbal skills, and they include motor, visual-spatial, and social skills. 

NVLD isn’t an official diagnosis. But the challenges are real and can have an impact on learning and on working. They also make social interaction very hard. 

People with these difficulties often have strong verbal skills. But they may not know when someone’s being sarcastic. They may talk a lot, but not share in a socially appropriate way. There’s also a physical aspect. People with NVLD often have problems with coordination. 

These are lifelong struggles, but they aren’t related to intelligence. With support, people may improve these skills and learn social strategies that can help. Still, they’re often misunderstood and judged, and they may have a hard time fitting in.

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