Instructional strategies

At a Glance: Classroom Accommodations for Nonverbal Learning Disabilities

By Kate Kelly

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Nonverbal learning disabilities can affect kids in many ways in the classroom. For example, kids with NVLD may need explicit instruction to pick up on social cues or to understand jokes and other kinds of wordplay. Here are some classroom accommodations that may help.

183Found this helpful
At a Glance: Classroom Accommodations for Nonverbal Learning Disabilities

Kids with nonverbal learning disabilities (NVLD) need to be taught social skills such as how to read body language. They may also struggle with things like abstract concepts or changes to their routine. Here are some ways teachers can help.

Classroom Environment
• Create daily class routines and stick to them.
• Write the class schedule on the board.
• Provide several verbal cues before transitions.
• Assign a carefully chosen peer buddy to help the student manage transitions.
• Give the student plenty of time to preview and prepare for new activities like group projects, field trips and other changes in routine.
• Let the student choose where to sit. Many kids with NVLD prefer to be seated away from clutter or other visual distractions such as the window or door.

Teaching Techniques
• Use plain, clear language. Avoid using figures of speech unless they’re part of the lesson.
• Explain jokes and sarcasm as well as words that have more than one meaning.
• Review previous information before presenting new ideas.
• Break down abstract concepts and encourage the student to say, “Can you please explain that again?”
• Give an overview of the lesson before teaching it. Clearly state the objective of the lesson. This kind of priming helps the student get ready to learn.
• Break a big project into smaller steps. Make sure the student understands the overall goal and how the parts fit together.
• For a complex reading assignment, write notes in the margin to help the student zero in on certain points. Or ask the student to read it again and pick out key details.
• Provide written directions and speak slowly when giving directions. Don’t assume the student can generalize from directions given in the past.

• Give kids who change classes a laminated card with their schedule on it. This is especially useful in the beginning of the year.
• Give the student a copy of the teacher’s notes or prepare guided notes to fill in during class.
• Provide an extra set of books to keep at home to ease the stress of transitioning from school to home.

Classwork and Tests
• Shorten assignments to help keep the student from feeling overwhelmed.
• Avoid unnecessary copying from the board.
• Provide extended time for taking tests. A quiet room without distractions may also help.
• Adapt worksheets to cut down on the need for handwriting. For example, use “circle the answer” or “fill in the blank” questions.

• Watch for signs of overstimulation or frustration that could lead to a meltdown.
• Create a calming zone at school where the student can go to regroup and relax.
• Teach social rules such as how close to stand to people and other social skills.
• Use gentle prompts to teach the meaning of body language and other nonverbal cues. For example, “How do you think people feel when they fold their arms across their chest?”
• Respond to inappropriate behavior by immediately redirecting the student in a respectful tone. Explain why the behavior was inappropriate.
• Develop a consistent strategy for when the student repeats questions or gets stuck on a topic or idea (sometimes referred to as “perseverating”). It may help to specify how many questions the student can ask now. Offer to answer more later.
Graphic of At a Glance Classroom Accommodations to Help Students With Nonverbal Learning Disabilities
Graphic of At a Glance Classroom Accommodations to Help Students With Nonverbal Learning Disabilities

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About the Author

Portrait of Kate Kelly

Kate Kelly has been writing and editing for more than 20 years, with a focus on parenting.

Reviewed by

Portrait of Ginny Osewalt

Ginny Osewalt is certified in elementary and special education, with experience in inclusion, resource room and self-contained settings.

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