Nonverbal Learning Disorders

Nonverbal Learning Disorders

Often Twice Exceptional


NVLD is believed to be caused by a deficit in the right cerebral hemisphere of the brain, where nonverbal processing occurs. The nonverbal processing area of the brain does not provide automatic feedback that tells the individual how to react in a certain situation.






It is difficult to know an exact number of kids who have NVLD since it is not exactly clear of what this category of learning disabilities includes. Estimates show that around 1 in 100 of kids in the U.S have NVLD. There is an equal chance of diagnosis between boys and girls.

co-morbidity: percent of children with autism who may also have NVLD
0 %

Nonverbal Learning Disabilities (NVLD) is a neurological condition often distinguished by a significant difference between higher verbal skills and weaker motor, visual-spatial and social skills. Differing from language-based disabilities, kids with NVLD have trouble understanding communication that is not verbal, such as body language, tone of voice and facial expressions.


Though most of the symptoms in individuals with NVLD include poor social skills, it is important to know that difficulties in reading comprehension and/or physical coordination may also occur. Some symptoms and signs to keep in mind are:

  • Trouble recognizing nonverbal cues (facial expression, body language)
  • Poor psychomotor coordination (bumps into objects, clumsy)
  • Challenges using fine motor skills (writing, tying shoes)
  • Verbally labels everything to comprehend circumstances, spatial orientation, directional concepts and coordination
  • Difficulty following multi-step instructions
  • Asks too many questions; repetitive and inappropriately interrupts
  • Pays attention to details but misses the bigger picture

Overlapping symptoms such as underdeveloped social skills, impulsive behavior, or trouble focusing on certain tasks, means that NVLD is often mistaken for ADHD, especially in children. There is also a lot of overlap in the symptoms of autism and NVLD and studies suggest that up to 80 percent of kids with autism also have NVLD.

Twice Exceptionality (2e) and NLVD

Twice Exceptional” is a term used to refer to individuals with one or more disabilities presenting alongside one or more exceptional strengths. Some characteristics of gifted learners overlap with characteristics of children with NVLD as they have large vocabularies, outstanding memory and auditory retention, strong attention to detail, remarkable rote learning and average-to-superior intelligence.


COGx programs do not directly target all the core issues of NVLD. However, learners with NVLD may struggle with cognitive flexibility and other Executive Functions, which COGx programs directly target in an individualized way. Many students with NVLD also have unrelated learning struggles. In this case, COGx programs can be designed with the unique needs of NVLD learners in mind. For example, many students with NVLD struggle with receiving feedback, which is a critical component of learning and can drastically affect a student’s attitude towards learning. COGx sessions can be customized to ensure exercises and feedback are given in a way that allows the learner to understand, internalize, and feel supported.

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