Nonverbal learning disabilities

I Just Found Out My Child Has a Nonverbal Learning Disability. Now What?

By The Understood Team

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If you recently found out your child has a nonverbal learning disability (NVLD), you may feel unclear about what to do next. These steps can offer guidance about ways to help him at school, at home and as you help him plan his future.


Learn all you can about nonverbal learning disabilities.

NVLD doesn’t look the same from one child to the next. Its signs can be confusing and may change over time. To better understand this brain-based condition, read about what it is and isn’t.

It’s also important to understand the difference between NVLD and other issues. NVLD and a type of autism that used to be called Asperger’s syndrome look a lot alike. They can cause similar challenges, like the ability to connect with others, but there are differences between them.


Investigate treatments and therapies for nonverbal learning disabilities.

Occupational therapy can help children with NVLD improve their physical coordination, organization and planning skills. Speech therapy can help kids get better at communicating in social situations. Social skills groups can also teach kids how to interact appropriately with others their age. Your child’s doctor or school may have more ideas for helpful services.


Look into school supports for nonverbal learning disabilities.

Schedule a meeting with the school to talk about whether your child is eligible for special education services. Bring any reports you may have from doctors or specialists. These could help with the IEP or 504 plan process. The school may have done its own evaluation, too. (If not, find out how to request a free educational evaluation.) It’s helpful to know that kids with NVLD who receive special education services typically qualify under one of two IDEA categories: “specific learning disability” (SLD), because of their trouble with math, or “speech or language impairment” (SLI), because of their trouble with pragmatic language.

Talk about what supports and services might be helpful, such as accommodations for NVLD. If your child doesn’t qualify for an IEP or a 504 plan, talk to the school about informal supports that could help.


Help your child be a self-advocate.

Talk to your child about how NVLD could make learning or socializing difficult for him. Listen to his concerns and acknowledge his feelings. This may encourage him to share more about how NVLD affects him and develop the ability to speak up for what he needs, both in and out of school. Help him recognize his strengths and challenges. Then discuss what self-advocacy can look like in grade school, middle school and high school.


Understand the possible emotional impact.

Having NVLD can affect your child’s emotions. In some cases there may be a higher risk for mental health issues. That’s why it’s important to know the signs of anxiety and depression. Don’t wait to contact your child’s doctor if you’re concerned.


Learn ways to help with nonverbal learning disabilities at home.

Role-playing is just one simple way to help your child practice social interactions outside of school. There are also lots of ways to help your child learn to pick up on social cues, like body language and facial expressions. You can even turn watching TV into a learning experience.

Find ways to help your child navigate the holidays, a time of year that involves a lot of social interaction. You can also explore Parenting Coach, where you’ll find a collection of age-specific tips for helping kids with social challenges.


Find support.

Visit your local Parent Training and Information Center (PTI) to learn about possible services near you. Connect with other parents of kids with nonverbal learning disabilities in our online community.

You may relate to one mom’s story about coping with her child’s NVLD during the holidays. And read personal stories, like a message from a young adult with NVLD to her teenage self or the story of a successful statistician with NVLD.


Stay in touch with the school.

Keeping in touch with teachers can help you keep an eye on whether supports and services are working. Continue to ask about teaching techniques that could help, like developing a strategy for if your child repeats questions or gets stuck on an idea (this is sometimes referred to as “perseverating”). If you’re unsure how to kick off discussions with teachers, try these conversation starters.

About the Author

Understood Team Graphic

The Understood Team is composed of writers, editors and community moderators, many of whom have children with learning and attention issues.

Reviewed by

Portrait of Bob Cunningham

Bob Cunningham, Ed.M., serves as advisor-in-residence on learning and attention issues for Understood.

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