Non-Verbal Learning Disabilities
Non-Verbal Learning Disability (NVLD) is the name for a syndrome that describes and summarises a collective number of deficiencies that affect emotional, social and cognitive functions. This can include affecting visual-spatial skills and awareness, motor skills, the development of organisational skills, the forming of social relationships, the ability to conceptually reason or rationalise and ability to make inferences.
It is thought that Non-Verbal Learning Disabilities are caused by dysfunction in the right hemisphere of the brain through injury or developmental problems.
Understanding The Effects Of Non-Verbal Learning DisabilitiesThe term ‘non-verbal’ learning disability may be a little misleading, in that it does not literally and categorically describe a disability in speech or language tasks only. The ability to process verbal information and speak is controlled by the left hemisphere of the brain. However, people with a non-verbal learning disability may experience difficulty with language skills and communication.
This is because language and speech require abilities that a person with Non-Verbal Learning Disabilities may experience difficulty with; namely organisation and comprehension. However, on the face of it, many people with Non-Verbal Learning Disabilities have excellent verbal skills, with children often excelling in comparison to their peers. But their ability to really comprehend narrative and the jist of a story or conversation is impaired.
This can manifest itself by the person perhaps not complying with an otherwise inherent social etiquette; not taking turns in conversations, talking at length and making inconsequential contributions. Therefore it is not surprising to learn that it is believed that some people have been misdiagnosed with similar disorders such as Dyspraxia and Asperger’s Syndrome.
Knock-On EffectsThe impairment of visuo-spatial skills has a considerable knock-on effect in terms of social interaction and sense of self. A person with a Non-Verbal Learning Disability will have difficulty understanding and deciphering facial expressions, tone of voice and gesticulations.
The processing a range of expressions and meanings to build an overall picture is therefore hindered. There is also often an impairment when giving body language and expressions a verbal label, as well as understanding subtext, metaphors and abstract thinking, such as ‘as bright as a button’ or ‘in the doghouse’. Humour is often misunderstood or not comprehended, and sometimes a person with Non-Verbal Learning Disability will laugh during inappropriate moments, as they do not always understand the context or relevance of emotions.
This misunderstanding of ‘emotional semantics’ can lead to all sorts of problems, often resulting in difficulty in building meaningful relationships or perceiving risky situations. As they cannot always interact with their peers, children and sometimes adults with Non-Verbal Learning Disabilities they may resort to other means of gaining attention, sometimes resorting to disruptive behaviour, or alternatively becoming withdrawn.
Visuo-Spatial learning is an intrinsic part of developing a perception of the way in which the world is organised, and a dysfunction here can lead to a distinct lack of development in ‘self’, leading to future struggles, such as psychotic disorders, thought disorder and body image problems. One major issue is that a person with Non-Verbal Learning Disabilities may not have an awareness of the their own difficulties.
Non-Verbal Learning Disabilities And SchoolingAs one might expect, a lack of awareness of this disability can make any treatment or management of the disorder difficult. Carers, parents or guardians do, however, play a significant role in developing cognitive skills. This is because a child with Non-Verbal Learning Disability is more likely to explore and interact within an environment if they have developed a strong attachment to their carer. This in turn can help with social functioning and understanding concepts such as personal space and recognising emotional cues.
In terms of learning disabilities in an academic environment, problems tend to stem not necessarily from lack of intellectual development, but rather emotional intelligence. Problems with distractibility and concentration, and giving up easily are all common behaviours associated with NVLD. They may also have problem with organisational tasks, typically in subjects such as mathematics and geography, and telling the time.
There are a number of ways to aid learning and motivation for people with NVLD. Firstly, there should always be supervision during peer interaction to help understanding, adjustments and adaptations within social situations. Kinaesthetic sports may improve motor skills and aid any problems relating to body image. It is also beneficial to utilise their excelled verbal skills by asking them to use verbal interaction whenever possible; for instance, verbal feedback and description of social situations.
There may also be emphasis on building social skills and social etiquette. This can be done in a therapeutic capacity, at school or in the home. Reducing distractions and keeping tasks and instructions simple will also avoid confusion.