Students with non-verbal learning disabilities (NVLD) experience a wide variety of learning challenges. NVLD manifests itself differently in each individual. Understanding NVLD is very important to devise an effective teaching method for students. Each student must be assessed in order to determine which symptoms they have, and accordingly, what can be done to address them. Students with NVLD experience trouble with visualizing concepts, math, or organization, as well as understanding social patterns, or how to reason in abstract terms.

Some students may experience only one or a few of these difficulties, while others may experience all of them. Determining each student’s weak spots will be essential to develop the right learning strategies to help them.

Understanding Non-Verbal Learning Disabilities

NVLD encompass a wide range of learning and attention disabilities and affects the capacity for building social skills. These disabilities don’t affect speech; rather, they present a number of different symptoms which may be present in varying degrees.

Some indicators that your child may have NVLD include:

  • The child is uncomfortable with, and cannot deal with change
  • May interact in socially inappropriate ways
  • Has poor physical coordination
  • Is overly focused on details as opposed to understanding ‘the big picture’
  • Doesn’t understand social cues; cannot properly read facial expressions
  • Thinks in very literal terms
  • May be overly dependent on parents
  • May struggle with math, reading comprehension, and have poor handwriting

It’s important to remember that recognizing these signs is an essential step towards devising effective teaching methods for students with NVLD.

What Learning Difficulties NVLD Children Face?


As mentioned above, NVLD doesn’t affect everyone in the same way or to the same degree. Nevertheless, the following skills are typically affected by NVLD:

  • Social skills – Individuals may not understand how to interpret social cues, sarcasm, teasing, etc. They may have problems making friends, or may be disruptive in class.
  • The capacity to think in abstract terms – When learning, a student must be able to understand individual components and connect them to the larger concepts. Students with NVLD tend to get stuck on details and miss the big picture.
  • Conceptual skills – Trouble grasping bigger concepts, problem-solving and cause-and-effect relationships.
  • Visual and spatial skills – Problems with visual processing and spatial relations. They may have trouble recalling things that they have seen.
  • Motor skills – These include coordination, movement, and balance. This can affect their ability to write or use everyday items such as scissors.

Learning Techniques

By understanding what skills are affected by NVLD and accurately spotting its symptoms, schools can devise effective teaching strategies. According to childmind.org, Winston Preparatory School is an institute which has developed an effective curriculum for students with NVLD. The curriculum assesses each student’s needs. The five areas in which a student is assessed on include: visual and spatial awareness, math concepts, integrated comprehension, social communication, and executive functions.

Once assessment is completed, a specific approach can be devised for each student. Here are some of the most effective learning techniques to use for students with NVLD:

  • Social Learning–

Since students with NVLD struggle with understanding social cues, they may have problems with other students or may interject into conversations or lessons at inappropriate times. To help them, Winston Prep has devised a strategy requiring them to reflect on situations in which these students may have struggled socially. By doing so, the student is allowed to see what social cue they missed or misread, and how it contributed to the situation. This may help students internalize the pattern and take steps to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.


  • Focus Techniques–

Students with NVLD fret in new situations, especially when confronted with new tasks. This makes them anxious to the extent where their ability to focus becomes impaired. For this reason, it is helpful for them to learn focus techniques. For instance, deep breathing exercises can help prevent students from becoming overwhelmed. Furthermore, new assignments or tasks should be broken down into smaller, step-by-step instructions that these students can approach with ease.

  • ‘Talk It Out’-

One of the characteristics of students with NVLD is that they tend to talk enthusiastically. Talking is a mechanism that they use in order to reinforce important concepts and make connections. Therefore allowing them to talk through their work may prove beneficial.

  • Avoid Punishments–

It is critical to remember that students with NVLD experience frustrating learning challenges. For this reason, it is essential that teachers are patient with them. This requires not punishing them for making mistakes or taking too much time. Punitive action can be very detrimental to the learning process of these students and must therefore be avoided.

The best way to teach a student with NVLD is to first understand and establish which learning challenge they face. By identifying it, appropriate steps can be taken to help such students learn more effectively. Ultimately, whatever learning strategy is adopted to help these students, time, repetition, and patience are necessary ingredients for long-term success.