Nonverbal Learning Disabilities

Nonverbal learning disability is the brain-based condition characterized by poor visual, spatial, and organizational skills; difficulty recognizing and processing nonverbal cues; and poor motor performance.

Section 1

  • Fine motor skills


  • Gross motor skills


  • Spatial awareness


  • Organization and planning


  • Activities that require multitasking


  • Staying focused


  • Recalling visual information


  • Peer relationships


  • Reading social cues


  • Interpreting social interactions


  • Handling and understanding new and novel situations


  • Interpreting nonverbal communication


  • Understanding idioms, humor and sarcasm


  • Reading comprehension


  • Essay writing


  • Understanding charts and diagrams, like maps and graphs


  • Math skills

Section 2
Navigation School System

Classroom Materials and Routines

  • Create a daily class routine that changes as little as possible.


  • Post-class schedules, rules, and expectations; make sure the student sees them.


  • Make a laminated card with the student’s schedule on it.


  • Provide verbal cues before 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.

Introducing New Concepts

  • Give a short review or connection to a previous lesson before teaching new ideas.

  • Give an overview of a lesson before teaching it and clearly state the objective.

  • Use simple, concrete and clear language.

  • Explain figures of speech as you use them.

  • Explain jokes and identify sarcasm and words that have more than one meaning.

  • Break down abstract concepts and rephrase if needed.

Providing Instructions and Materials

  • Speak slowly when giving directions.

  • Provide written directions even for assignments you’d expect a student to be able to generalize from the past.


  • Provide guided notes to use in class and to help the student zero in on key points of complex assignments.


  • Provide a rubric that describes the elements of a successful assignment.


  • Shorten assignments to avoid overwhelming the student.


  • Adapt worksheets to cut down on handwriting. For example, use “circle the answer” or “fill in the blank” questions.


  • Break a big project into smaller steps, making sure the student understands the overall goal and how the parts fit together.


  • Use organizers and mind-mapping software.


  • Provide the test format ahead of time so the student can focus on content.


  • Provide extended time for taking tests.


  • Provide a quiet work space as needed.


  • Provide an extra set of books to keep at home.

Building Self-Regulation and Social Skills

  • Proactively identify signs of over-stimulation or frustration.


  • Use a nonverbal signal with the student to indicate the need for a brain break.


  • Identify a calming zone at school where the student can go to regroup and relax.


  • Teach social rules like how close to stand to people and how to interpret body language and other nonverbal cues.


  • Pre-correct and prompt to help teach social skills.


  • Respond to inappropriate behavior using respectful redirection.


  • Develop a consistent strategy for when the student repeats questions or gets stuck on a topic or idea


  • Joining a swim team or participating in martial arts provide a high degree of structure and discipline that often work well for children with ADHD.

  • Children who thrive when competing against themselves might do well in tennis.

  • Wrestling is suitable for a child with aggressive tendencies or endless energy.

  • Horseback riding has long been used therapeutically and is a good choice for a child who needs to brush up on behavior modification techniques.

Section 3
Professional Papers and Useful Resources 

Teaching the teachers how to strength the student with nonverbal learning disability

Personal story of someone who has a nonverbal learning disability

An analysis of the criteria used to diagnose children with Nonverbal Learning Disability (NLD)

Introduction of nonverbal learning disability

Helping children with nonverbal learning disability: What I have learned from living with nonverbal learning disability

Nonverbal Learning Disabilities, Socioemotional
Disturbance, andSuicide: A Reply to Fletcher, Kowalchuk and King, and Bigler