Whitney Gordon                                                                                                       Gordon 1


Research Paper


Nonverbal Learning Disorder

            I would like to share with you some things about a severe learning disability that is called Nonverbal Learning Disorder.  Nonverbal Learning Disorder (NLD) can affect one socially, visual-spatially, organizationally, in learning motor skills, and also in reading nonverbal language.  I am writing about this disability because I personally have to live my life everyday with it.  Also, I am writing this to inform friends and family members of people who have NLD that when in a conversation you need to speak verbally in order for the person who is afflicted with NLD to understand you.  Not only is it hard for a person with this disability to recognize the nonverbal actions of others, it is also hard for these people to adequately express there nonverbal language in order to be understood by others.  "The term nonverbal learning disability refers to a neurological syndrome believed to result from damage to the white matter connections in the right-hemisphere of the brain, which are important for inter-modal integration" (Thompson 1).

            Nonverbal Learning Disorder is a learning disability that can cause you to be looked at differently because you do not learn at the same pace as other people around you.  People seem to categorize you as a "dumb", "unintelligent", or a "slow" learner.  "People with NLD have good rote language skills but when it comes to functional daily use of language, they have difficulties with tone, of voice, inference, written

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expression, facial expression, gestures, and other areas of pragmatic speech" (What is NLD? pg1).  "NLD also interferes with the ability to comprehend adequately what one has read, and also it makes it difficult to understand certain math skills and also it causes poor physical coordination" (What is NLD? pg2).  A lot of people think that having NLD is no big deal because it cannot be seen, but it affects people in their daily life activities greatly.  It affects people greatly in the ability to make proper "social judgment and adjustment to transitions and novel situations" (What is NLD?  pg1). 

            Many professionals believe that this disorder can be caused by a "brain injury in the right hemisphere of the brain, maternal use of drugs or alcohol during pregnancy,  genetics, prenatal damage, damage at birth, or damage after birth" (Green 13).  "Damage of the right hemisphere can also occur when infants or toddlers fall onto a hard surface and hit their heads" (Green 14).  Professionals do not know the actual cause of nonverbal learning disorder because it has only been studied for the past three decades.  But, it is important to note that girls are more likely to have NLD than boys are.  It is also good to make note of the fact that everyday more cases of NLD are being diagnosed, and researchers are coming up with more information about the true cause of Nonverbal Learning Disorder everyday.

            Sadly, like all other learning disabilities, Nonverbal Learning Disorder, is not curable.  A person afflicted with the disability will have to live with this all of their life.  The main things that one can do is learn to accept it, compensate for it, and receive the best treatments in order to handle it. Importantly, there are "many forms of therapy" (What is NLD pg 1). Some treatments are more affective than others depending on how

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severe your NLD is, and how much trouble is causes you in daily life situations.  Some types of treatments available for NLD to my knowledge are to see a learning disability specialist, psychologist, social skills coach, and a psychiatrist.  All of these people help one in different areas of one’s life.  Some other forms of treatments are support groups made up of other people with NLD, special education classes or schools, such as Acacia Academy , speech and language pathologists, and developmental psychologists.

            Nonverbal Learning Disorder affects people socially in many ways.  It affects people the most in their friendships and relationships with others. People with NLD have extreme “difficulty sustaining relationships” (Mamen 21).  It is said also that during the prime schooling years of children with NLD that they have a “lack of friends, tendency to be a loner, and that they prefer adult company and playing with children who are much younger” (Mamen 19).  People who have this disability also seem to be labeled as a person who “talks too much, and that they tell people too much information” (Allen 33).  “People with social skills problems may also talk too loud, be silly when it’s time to be serious, or give others the idea that their opinions do not matter” (Allen 20).  Because of their lack in nonverbal communication, this can cause extreme problems for people with NLD in any sort of relationship or social situation.  It is important “not to overwhelm the person who has NLD with ideas, and interests because their problem is seeing ideas in black and white (Allen 34).  Also, “the most important social rule for people with NLD is eye contact (Allen 35).  Some people with NLD have extreme trouble focusing their eyes on the person that they are conversing with, and tend to look around at other events that


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are going on in the particular social situation.  In all, people with NLD have many problems in friendships and relationships, but there one can try their best to compensate for their social errors, and hope for a good outcome to that particular relationship.

            Nonverbal Learning Disorder affects a person who is afflicted with it greatly in their ability to perform academically.  Many people who have NLD have extreme problems in the ability to write neatly.  This problem is called “dysgraphia, which is the official name of this handwriting problem” (Allen 39).  One of the best ways that teachers and researchers say to cope with dysgraphia is to “arrange with teachers and professors to shorten the writing aspects of schoolwork” (Allen 40).  Using a computer, or word processor, instead of writing out assignments can also help in the ability to compensate for the dysgraphia.  People with NLD also seem to have trouble in math skills and in reading comprehension.  Some ways to help combat these troubles are to receive tutoring, have note takers, listen to all books on tape, and tape lectures and classes.  Although people with NLD struggle with academic problems, there are many ways to compensate for their problems and receive the best of help that they can from their teachers and schools.

            Last but not least, the person with NLD is also affected greatly emotionally.  Their emotional and social problems seem to outweigh their academic problems by a lot.  Importantly, “people with NLD are much more likely to have trouble with anxiety and depression than people without it because they have more to cope with and have to carefully think through the social situations that come naturally to other people (Allen 56).  People with NLD also tend to have “meltdowns” or “temper tantrums”.  I personally

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have a lot of experience in having these.  It can be described as an out of body experience.   During this state once cries, screams, and shouts things that absolutely do not make sense at all.  The only thing that will subdue the person with NLD is breathing deeply, relaxation methods, and talking to people about what is actually stressing them out.  “There is a direct correlation between the meltdowns and our unrealistic expectations of them, the complexity of their environment, or both” (Tanguay 89-90).  During traumatic times the NLD person will be so overwhelmed that she needs help coping emotionally.  Stress is also something that an NLD person has to deal with on a day-to-day basis.  “Too much stress can make you edgy and even affect your body by giving you body by giving one a stomachache, headache, or nausea” (Allen 60).  Some ways to reduce stress are to “try to work your schedule and life so you can avoid unnecessary stress as much as possible, get help with organizing schoolwork and paperwork, and leave for school, work, or appointments ten minutes early” (Allen 61).  Although a person with NLD is very emotional and tends to get wrapped up in their own emotions and the people who are very close to them emotions, there are ways to deal with them so that they are not so dramatic and overwhelming.

            Social deficits are so common for NLD people that it is extremely unfortunate.  The world of somebody who has NLD can seem like a social mess, and so confusing at times that it is overwhelming.  But, there are ways that one can compensate for all of their social misfortunes.  One important strategy is to “understand your problems and what Nonverbal Learning Disability is” (Allen 58).  It is also wise to do research on NLD


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so you know what is going on inside of you, and what you can and cannot control.  There are also ways that you can use your strengths to compensate for your weaknesses.  “Some strategies in helping the person with NLD are using the person’s strengths in memory and rules to offset other problems, provide extra help in management of time and organization, use predictable, accepting people to problem solve solutions, emphasize self-advocacy through scripts and role play, and have understanding that the person with NLD is hesitant to ask for help” (Allen 4).  Ways that you can prepare for the social world so you will be able to compensate for your deficits effectively are to be ‘taught social skills verbally, preview and prepare for social situations, always be validated after a social blunder, receive help in deciphering meanings, consider social skills training groups, and consider professional counseling” (Thompson 133-142).  Also, “because individuals with NLD make considerable progress in areas of weakness when instruction is appropriate, accurate diagnosis and appropriate instruction can have great benefit for their lives” (Foss 1).  People also have to keep in mind that “people with NLD have many wonderful traits such as persistence, reliability, honesty and a desire to succeed” (Allen 5).  It is really hard to live day and day out knowing that you are going to make social errors and mistakes, but thankfully we have interventions, therapies, and ways to compensate for all of the social mistakes that a person with Nonverbal Learning Disorder makes everyday.

            Interestingly, Nonverbal communication is very important in everyday life.  A person with Nonverbal Learning Disorder misses so many things by not being able to read nonverbal gestures, cues, and signals made by other people, and at times themselves. 

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“A classic set of studies made by Albert Mehrabian showed that in face-to-face interactions, 55 percent the emotional meaning of a message is expressed through facial, prostural, and 38 percent of the emotional meaning is transmitted through tone of voice.  Only seven percent of emotional meaning is actually expressed with words” (Duke, Nowiski, Martin 7).  Non-verbal communication consists of body language, facial expression and tone of voice.  “Some aspects of nonverbal language and messages that come along with them are: what emotion shows on your face-your expression gives other people messages such as “I like you,” “I don’t like you,” “I’m puzzled by you,” and “I am hostile toward you,” how you talk-if you talk too slowly, other people may lost interest in what you have to say, and if you talk too much it send the message that you are more important than the other person, how close you stand to people-if you are very close, it means that you are very close friends with the other person, and if you stand far away from a group it could mean that you think that the group is boring or unpleasant.” (Allen 29).  There is multiple meaning to just about everything that is said.  No wonder the people afflicted with NLD are so lost in the world of nonverbal communicated feelings and emotions. It often feels like one needs to learn sign language just in order to understand the cues that people are constantly sending each other.  This whole nonverbal experience can be extremely frustrating.  In the end, people with Nonverbal Learning Disorder have extreme trouble recognizing and understanding nonverbal cues, but in the long run, there are many ways that one can learn how to better understand these certain cues.


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In conclusion, this paper has helped me by letting me learn more about Nonverbal Learning Disorder, how it affects people in everyday life, and what you can do to reduce the severe deficits that accompany.  The main things that NLD can affect you in again are in social situations, visual-spatially, organizational, in learning motor skills, and in reading nonverbal cues.  Although there is no cure for this developmental disability, there are plenty of remedies, therapies, and treatments that one can undergo in order to control the disorder in a better orderly fashion.
















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   When I was born, your heart was glad

    For I was your shining lass or lad.

    You lay me gently in my crib.

    And let me cry against your bib.


    I ask you now, as I grow older

    To let that love grown never colder

    For I still need that gentleness and tender streak.

    I need it every hour, every day, every week.


    For you see, life is very hard for me.

    I feel locked in a prison with words my only key

    Even at seven, I stumble and fall.

    My hands cannot throw or catch a tennis ball.


    Math is a nightmare. Science is no better.

    I would love to write if I could only form the letters.

    I get lost when I walk around the block.

   All I can do is talk and talk and talk.


   I know that sometimes you get upset with me

   Because I chatter more than a chickadee.

   I know that you'd like me to be fearless and strong

   I know that you'd like me to do no wrong.


   But I'm scared and I'm frightened by this bewildering life.

   I never wanted or asked for such pain and such strife

   When I cry and I yell, it's because I feel stress

   It doesn't mean I love you less.


   Please give me a hug when I return home from school.

   And don't insist that I follow your rules.

   For I live in my own world with my own set of boundaries.

   If you want to release me, words are the keys.


   Tell me you love me and tell me I'm all right.

   Tell me "Good morning" and tell me "Good night"

   Let me know when I do something well.

   I might have succeeded, but I really can't tell.


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Praise me for courage and gentleness and love

Praise me for my kindness to a cat, dog, or dove

Praise me for trying when things are so hard

Praise me for learning how to shuffle a deck of cards.


What's normal to most children is extraordinary for me

 I don't respond to pushing--encouragement is the key

 I will always try my hardest, so don't yell and fret

 I will achieve my goals--I just haven't gotten there yet.


So if I seem to move too slowly or walk a different beat

Please remember that life for me is a daily challenge and feat

And tell me often you love me. And tell me often you care.

Your reward will be to look inside of me, and know exactly what's

Is there.


I may never be a hero who receives public cheers and fame.

I am simply a young child who struggles with doubt and shame

But I keep on trying and fighting, thought the battle is often weary

And I keep on struggling, though my eyes are weak bleary.


I face isolation, failure, and fear as the sum of my childhood life

                                   And every taunt and torment stabs me like a knife.

                                   But your lifeline of words strengthens me and holds me hard

                                   Through words, you have given me courage, and changed my dark

                                   Into light


                                   I am still a child now, and I still am often failing

                                   But your lifeline of words will help to make my life smooth sailing.

                                   And when I am older and have let go of your hand

                                   I will call you up and tell you "I can. I can. I can."


                                  (Allen 1)








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Works Cited

Allen, Kathy M.A. "Star Shaped Pegs, Square Holes: Nonverbal Learning Disorders and the Growing up Years." Unicycle Press, 1996. Livermore , CA .

I read about social skills, dysgraphia, and just everyday problems that people with NLD experience.


 Allen, Kathy M.A. "Success for Young Adults with NLD." 2000. www.nldline.com/Kathy_Allen_article=on_nld_for_school.Nov10/2003.

I read a very good detailed definition of what NLD actually is.


Green, Deborah. "Growing up with NLD." Silicon Heights Computers, Oct. 2000. Albuquerque , NM .

It was very interesting.  It was an autobiography, but it gave me information as well. Also, I realized that I share many aspects of Deborah's characteristics concerning NLD.


Mamen, Maggie Ph.D., C. Psych. "Nonverbal Learning Disabilities And Their Clinical Subtypes: Assessment, Diagnosis, and Management: A handbook for parents and professionals." Centrepoint Professional Services, Inc, 2001. Nepean , Ontario .


I read about the different subtypes of the disability and also about the services one can get for help in managing the disability.

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Tanguay, Pamela B. "Nonverbal Learning Disabilities at Home: A parent's guide." Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2001. Philadelphia , PA.

What I read had to do very much for me.  It was very weird.  But, it was very interesting.


Thompson, Sue M.A. "The Gram: Nonverbal Learning Disorders Revisited in 1997. www.ldaca.org/gram/thmpsn1.htm 2003.

I read about Sue Thompson's opinions and thoughts of NLD, and what she has learned and witnessed about NLD.


Thompson, Sue. "The Source for Nonverbal Learning Disorder." Linguisystems, Inc, Oct 1997. East Moline , IL

I read about how each person gets affected differently by NLD.  Also, I read different case studies and stories about people with NLD, and how they manage on living their everyday life.


“What is NLD?” Nonverbal Learning Disorders Association. www.nlda.org/whatis.html November 2003.

I read about what the assets include, what the three categories of deficits are, and also about NLD strengths and weaknesses.


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Works Consulted

Duke, Marshall P. Ph.D., Nowick, Stephen Ph.D., Martin, Elizabeth A.M. Ed. “Teaching your Child the Language of Social Success.” Peachtree Publications: 1996.

I found out that children with NLD can survive and succeed in life.


Foss, Jean M. “Nonverbal Learning Disability: How to Recognize and Minimize it’s Effects.” December 2000. www.ericec.org/digests/e619.html

I read about a girl named Laura, and her difficulties.  I also learned a little more about what the disorder encompasses, and also how to provide some coping strategies.


Semrud-Clikeman, Margaret, Hynd, George W. “Right Hemispheric Dysfunction in Nonverbal Learning Disabilities: Social, Academic, and Adaptive Functioning in Adults and Children.” Psychological Bulletin, 1990.


Vacca, Dorothy M. “Understanding Learning Differences: Confronting the Puzzle of Nonverbal Learning Disabilities.” Educational Leadership, Vol. 59, Number 3. Nov 2003. www.nldline.com/dorothy-vacca.htm

I read about the characteristics of NLD, and about two teens with NLD, and what schools should know about NLD students, and also what the classroom strategies are.


 “Your child Development and Behavior Resources: A Guide to Information and Support for Parents.” www.med.umich.edu/llibr/yourchild/nld.htm 200