Nonverbal learning disabilities

6 Common Myths About Nonverbal Learning Disabilities

By Erica Patino

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Nonverbal learning disabilities (NVLD) are often the cause of confusion. People with NVLD actually have strong verbal skills, yet they still struggle to communicate and connect with others. If you’re new to the topic, this might not make much sense! We can help. Here are six common myths about nonverbal learning disabilities.

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Close-up of young child cutting paper with scissors with the teacher’s help
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Myth #1: Because they’re so verbal, kids with NVLD don’t struggle in school.

Fact: It’s true that kids with NVLD tend to be talkative and have a large vocabulary. They can also remember a lot of information and enjoy sharing it. But it’s not an academic advantage to have a nonverbal learning disability. While there are lots of ways to help kids with NVLD at school, NVLD can create obstacles related to spatial skills, organization and understanding abstract information. Kids with NVLD may also struggle with math, scientific concepts and reading comprehension.

Father showing daughter how to make a sandwich
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Myth #2: Kids with NVLD don’t pay attention.

Fact: When your child doesn’t follow your instructions for making pancakes or skips several steps on a school project, it can seem like she’s not trying hard or isn’t paying attention. In fact, it’s not unusual for teachers or doctors to initially suspect that a child with NVLD has ADHD. Kids with NVLD, though, are actually paying close attention to what’s going on around them. They just have trouble separating important from unimportant information. They process each piece of information as it comes in, instead of sifting through it for what’s most relevant. That makes it hard for them to stay organized and follow directions.

Young child being fussy and irritable at the table during lunch
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Myth #3: Kids with NVLD are just being stubborn.

Fact: Children with NVLD do tend to resist change and stick to routines. They’ll insist on taking the same route to school and playing the same position in sports. But what might look like stubbornness to some is actually a coping mechanism. Because they have trouble picking out important information, they can experience “information overload” if faced with a new way of doing something. Routines make life easier for kids with NVLD, so it’s understandable that they resist change.

Young boy sitting out of gym class
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Myth #4: Kids outgrow NVLD.

Fact: Although trouble with motor coordination and social skills may look like “growing pains,” kids with NVLD don’t outgrow these challenges. NVLD and the issues that come with it will remain throughout adulthood. NVLD might appear to go away, though, as children get older and learn to cope. For instance, motor skills training and social skills training can help kids with NVLD relate better to others and build self-esteem.

Young boy taking tennis lesson
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Myth #5: Kids with NVLD don’t like sports.

Fact: Kids with NVLD might really enjoy sports. Unfortunately they often have difficulty with gross motor skills, which prevents them from making smooth, coordinated movements. Because sports activities are much harder for them, they may become anxious about gym class and avoid playing sports altogether. If your child has NVLD and is interested in sports, explore sports recommended for kids who have trouble with motor skills, social skills and more.

Two grade school girls having a conversation
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Myth #6: Kids with NVLD don’t try hard enough to make friends and fit in.

Fact: No matter how hard they try to connect, kids with NVLD often lack key social skills needed to easily make and keep friends. They may not recognize that a shy classmate who’s smiling is trying to initiate a conversation. They may also misread another child’s aloof tone of voice as an invitation to play. Social skills training and other options can help them to better see and understand social cues.

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About the Author

Portrait of Erica Patino

Erica Patino is an online writer and editor who specializes in health and wellness content.

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Portrait of Mark Griffin

Mark Griffin, Ph.D., was the founding headmaster of Eagle Hill School, a school for children with specific learning disabilities.

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