Nonverbal Learning Disabilities

Two young women and a young man sitting around a table in a study group. School books are open in front of them, and they are laughing and talking.

Michael was a third year history major who had been very successful in many classes. Low grades were reported in his science and math courses but even Michael acknowledged that he had only taken them as his distribution credits and did not enjoy them.

Now in his third year, Michael was having great difficulty in a particular class. He was putting the same number of hours into his studies but seemed to come up short on the tests. Other students in the class scored quite well on the tests and all walked away with a feeling that they had known what was on the test. This puzzled Michael, as he did not know what to concentrate his efforts on when studying for it. His upcoming final exam was causing him so much anxiety that he was more than willing to express his frustration to his instructor.

A meeting between the instructor and the teaching assistant revealed that during a “prep session” for the test, the TA had been permitted by the instructor to drop hints about what to focus on for the test. Michael had been present at the session and it was confusing as to why he had not picked up on those cues. Upon reflection, it became apparent to the instructor that the TA had mostly made innuendoes, and while reviewing a time chart with the class, had pointed to what was important rather than saying it. His classmates had all nodded, understanding that it was an important piece to learn. Michael had not understood the nonverbal body language and vague suggestions of what to concentrate on.

His instructor decided that it would be beneficial for Michael to be part of a study group of his classmates. He approached a group of students to see if they might be willing to study for an hour with Michael after the “prep session.” They were asked to ensure that they specifically discussed what they planned to study for the test and why. Michael also met privately with the TA who was asked to make a list of what areas he thought Michael should focus on for the final.

The study group proved to be beneficial for both parties as the other students soon realized that Michael had a wealth of knowledge in that area of history. He seemed to teach them what they hadn’t learned and they helped him focus on what the instructor was likely to ask on the final.