Possible Nonverbal Learning Disability
By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D
My 12 year old daughter (7th grade) was identified as gifted
and talented. She also has ADD and takes 20 mg of Adderall
every am. She spoke early and learned quickly when she was
younger. She has NO executive skills, procrastinates on
everything, is easily frustrated and becomes overwhelmed
when presented multiple processes. She sees a counselor once
a week too. School used to be a breeze for her until middle
school. She has begun to struggle with math. She gets the
how to, but can't seem to apply it in different situations
and circumstances. She also has a math tutor. Her grades are
still good (B's and C's).
She has a 504 plan for assistance
with her ADD. She receives accommodations for notes/ study
guides, refocusing, and checking her assignment notebook for
accuracy and clarification. She doodles rather than takes
notes and gets caught up in the lecture rater than taking
the notes. I had to fight for the 504 plan because of her
grades. She was tested for a auditory processing disorder,
but there were no significant discrepancies.
She was given the Cognitive Abilities Test in 2nd grade at
age 7 and scored: verbal- 89, quantitative- 105, nonverbal-
117, composite- 104. I feel that something is just not
right. I know these scores are in the average range, but
there is a significant discrepancy between her verbal and
nonverbal scores. The school does not want to test for a
learning disability, but could she have a non verbal
learning disability? If so, what sort of accommodations
would benefit her? What else can I look for to help her?
A: Firstly, a little about
Nonverbal Learning Disability (NLD). This diagnosis is
believed by some to be a neuropsychological disability;
however, there is no distinct diagnostic category. It
appears that quite a number of characteristics that is
associated with NLD may be similar to those that describe
more distinct disorders, such as Asperger's Syndrome and
specific learning disabilities.
Children suspected of NLD have specific and typical patterns
of strengths and difficulties. Strengths include high verbal
IQ scores, ability to memorize and repeat information
presented in spoken form, early language development and
auditory processing skills. Difficulties are seen in motor
skills, complex conceptual skills (problem solving and
details), ability to visualize information and understand
spatial relations, social skills (e.g., using and
understanding nonverbal communication) and activity level.
For activity levels, they appear to demonstrate at a younger
age and hypoactivity as they get older.
There are quite a few of the above characteristics that
appears to show that there is a possibility for your
daughter to have NLD, and the discrepancy in her CAT scores
does indicate some kind of concern for her verbal abilities.
Her problem with Math may be typical for a child with NLD,
especially in understanding math concepts and solve
problems. This may be made worse with her poor
spatial-organization ability, which causes difficulty
aligning problems on a page to solve them correctly. She
should be tested for a learning disability; however, because
this disorder does not have a distinct category, the school
may not have a provision for such students. For the school,
she may not be seen as having a learning disability.
You also mentioned that school was a breeze for her until
middle school. This is probably because as she matures her
deficits become more pronounced. With more school work and
social situations that require abilities such as abstract
thinking and nonverbal communication, it is not surprising
that her deficits in those areas will become more apparent.
You may want to see a neuropsychologist or a clinical
psychologist to determine if she has NLD. A battery of test
would be used to test abilities that include intelligence,
motor and psychomotor, tactile-perceptual, visual-spatial
and organizational, auditory perceptual, auditory and visual
attention/memory, problem solving, language, academic
achievement, and personality/adaptive behavior. These are
also the areas that you may want to help her with.
Professional advice need to be sought here.
An interesting article on
parenting a child with NLD. Best of luck!