Special Needs

The symptoms and strengths of a child with NVLD

Non-Verbal Learning Disorder (NVLD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects children's ability to process and interpret nonverbal information. Children with NVLD may have difficulty with tasks that involve visual-spatial abilities, such as reading maps, understanding visual cues in social situations, and coordinating fine motor movements. They may also struggle with social skills, such as interpreting body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions.

Children with NVLD often have strong verbal skills, such as speaking, reading, and writing, but may struggle with math, science, and other subjects that require visual-spatial abilities. They may also have difficulty with executive functioning skills, such as planning, organizing, and completing tasks.

It's important to note that NVLD is a controversial diagnosis, and some experts argue that it may not be a separate disorder but rather a subtype of other conditions, such as autism spectrum disorder or ADHD. If you suspect your child may be struggling with NVLD, it's important to seek a comprehensive evaluation from a qualified healthcare professional who specializes in neurodevelopmental disorders. This can help determine an accurate diagnosis and develop an appropriate treatment plan.

Unique strengths

  • People with NVLD can have a highly analytical mind and a great ability to problem-solve, which can lead to success in fields that require detailed analysis, such as mathematics or computer programming.
  • Individuals with NVLD may have a strong memory for visual information, making them highly skilled in tasks such as memorizing maps, graphs, or charts.
  • Some people with NVLD have excellent verbal communication skills and can be highly articulate and persuasive.

Scientific facts

  • NLVD is characterized by issues in verbal cues, spatial relationships, and social interactions.
  • Children with NVLD may struggle with reading facial expressions, interpreting body language and understanding humor.
  • The exact cause is unknown, but some research suggests children with NLVD may have process information differently at the neural level.


  • Individuals with NVLD may not understand nonverbal communication, such as interpreting facial expressions or body language.
  • People with NVLD may experience difficulty with tasks that require spatial reasoning or organization, such as packing a suitcase or planning a route.

How parents and teachers can be more sensitive

  • Provide specialized tutoring and social skills training.
  • Use concrete examples and explanations to help individuals with NVLD understand abstract concepts.
  • Try to highlight what certain implicit movements or behaviours (i.e., facial expressions) try to convey.


Fisher, P. W., Reyes-Portillo, J. A., Riddle, M. A., & Litwin, H. D. (2021). Systematic review: Nonverbal learning disability. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

Garcia, R. B., Mammarella, I. C., Tripodi, D., & Cornoldi, C. (2014). Visuospatial working memory for locations, colours, and binding in typically developing children and in children with dyslexia and non‐verbal learning disability. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 32(1), 17-33.

Mammarella, I. C., Cardillo, R., & Broitman, J. (2021). Understanding nonverbal learning disability: A guide to symptoms, management, and treatment. Routledge.