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Possible Non Verbal Learning Disorder (NVLD)

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: My daughter who is nine scored 111 on the verbal portion of the K-BIT test scored a 74 on the non-verbal portion of the test. I think I should be concerned but I don't even know what to be concerned about. Can you help me understand this and why there is such a significant difference?

A: The verbal subtest in K-BIT makes up the verbal score measure verbal skills by assessing a person's knowledge of word meanings. Additionally, the verbal tasks measure the child's verbal concept formation, reasoning ability, and range of general information. The verbal score measures the Broad Ability known as Crystallized Ability, which reflects the amount of specific knowledge that a person has acquired within a culture and the person's ability to apply this knowledge effectively. The nonverbal score measures the person's ability to solve novel problems, those that are not specifically taught or trained. To solve the problems presented in the matrices subtest, the examinee needs to perceive various attributes in the pictures, generate hypotheses about how the pictures go together, and test out the hypotheses to arrive at a solution. Thus, the matrices subtest measures Fluid Reasoning and Visual Processing.

It clearly appears that your daughter has trouble with the measures of fluid reasoning and visual processing. The large discrepancy usually indicates a nonverbal learning disorder (NVLD). However, NVLD is a spectrum and many people with NVLD do not have significant social impairment or might be good at some types of learning, say certain areas in Maths. For instance just like someone with a verbal learning disability may actually have great receptive language but poor expressive language; someone with NVLD who may be socially fine but unable to do a jigsaw or has rather messy handwriting. You may need to see if your child fits in any of the NVLD criteria.

Even though the verbal-performance discrepancy is not used to directly diagnose a learning disability, it is like a red flag – it alerts parents and teachers to the child's strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, a full analysis of the individual subtests that comprise each score should be looked at and if scatter is this large, it surely warrants further investigation.

Research has indicated that a discrepancy towards verbal has also been linked with Asperger's syndrome but not with other pervasive developmental disorders. Relatively low verbal score has been considered an indicator of dyslexia and relatively low performance of dyspraxia. Studies have also suggested that hyperactivity in children is associated with relatively low performance IQ. You should get a thorough view of what these results indicate and I suggest you do it as soon as possible as early intervention can be very beneficial.

Hope that helps. Good luck!


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