Nonverbal Learning Disabilities
Implications for Learning

A head shot of a young man facing the viewer. He has a perplexed look on his face.

Rourke (1989) states that these students have good linguistic skills, yet their nonverbal abilities are inferior to what would be expected. They seem to have deficits in mathematical skills, reading comprehension, and science subjects despite their strong decoding and spelling abilities. Lerner (2007) indicates weaknesses in executive functioning skills such as organization, reasoning and transitions. They can also experience emotional “meltdowns,” high levels of anxiety, frustration, and poor self-esteem.2

NLD is probably one of the most complex learning disabilities to work with in the school setting. These students often go without interventions or remediation based on the fact that they “seem bright” because of their verbal skills.

Common Accommodations

The following accommodations and classroom adaptations are a list of suggested accommodations, but are not comprehensive or exhaustive, nor will all accommodations listed be necessary in all cases. Other accommodations may be implemented based on the individual needs of each student as recommended by your campus Disability Services Office or other professionals.

Common Characteristics of a Student with Nonverbal Learning Disability Commonly Suggested Accommodations/Classroom Adaptations
Student takes up much of instructor's time wanting to talk about assignments, etc. Find an upper level student (tutor) for the student to meet with on a regular basis.
Student seems to be missing clues being given in class about what will be covered on tests and expectations for assignments. Send students specific instructions on what to study for the test and expectations for assignments, as giving nonverbal indications in class will be missed by student.
Lacks content vocabulary for subject. Suggest readings on the subject to increase vocabulary. Suggest student made a word bank of terms.
Seems to have difficulty finishing evaluations in given time. Most students with NLD will require double time to finish longer essay type tests. During this time, they need to be reminded of the time remaining and may even require someone help them figure out how much time to allot for each question.
  • 2. Lerner (2007).