Strategies to help a child with NVLD
Non-Verbal learning disability

Successful strategies to help a child with NVLD

The strategies to help a child with NVLD (non-verbal learning disability) are very beneficial once they are put into place.

But, before I get to them, I want to be sure that you fully understand what NVLD is and how it affects our children.

Imagine witnessing your child not responding to non-verbal cues like body language or facial expressions. How would you feel?

What if your child has a strong vocabulary with matching verbal skills, but does not understand his friend’s sarcastic tone?

These are the signs of a non-verbal learning disability. With the previous examples given, you may now know how parents or even a child with NVLD may feel. But what exactly is a non-verbal learning disability? What causes a non-verbal learning disability? What are common symptoms of NVLD? And lastly, what skills are affected by NVLD?

These are some of the most common questions parents have when they find out that their child has an NVLD. I have listed successful strategies to help a child with NVLD and hope that they will help you too.

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What is a Non-Verbal Learning Disability?

A Non-verbal learning disability is a brain-based condition in which a child often faces difficulties in his or her academic and social performance.

Children with a non-verbal learning disability often have trouble tying their shoes or writing. Others experience trouble with problem-solving skills like solving mathematical questions or telling time using an analog clock.

The main take away is that NVLD affects a child’s social skills and the ability to interact appropriately in social settings. In most cases, speech, writing, and reading skills are usually not affected. But, if handwriting is in any way affected, reading my 10 easy ways to improve handwriting skills may help in some areas.

The rule of thumb to differentiate non-verbal learning disability from the language-based learning disability is that a child with a non-verbal learning disability has trouble understanding the communication and emotional aspect but not necessarily speaking.

The child does have difficulty with non-verbal communication like body language, facial expressions, and voice tone. In short, non-verbal learning disabilities affect skills like spatial relationships and abstract thinking, which all are located in the right hemisphere of a child’s brain. (See image below).

What causes a non-verbal learning disability?

Unfortunately, experts do not know what exactly causes non-verbal learning disabilities in humans. But, there are many thoughts as to what may be the cause.

One includes a deficit in the frontal lobe of the brain. Experts feel that this may also be related to the right cerebral hemisphere of an individual’s brain. The right cerebral hemisphere involves non-verbal processing like planning, working, organization, and thinking.

We know that a non-verbal learning disability often affects non-verbal language, such as reading emotions and body language. What’s not so known is that this disability can also affect their motor skills.

This deficit can leave children without the ability to properly plan and organize basic motor moves.

Strategies to help a child with NVLD
Successful strategies to help a child with NVLD

What are the common symptoms of NVLD?

Non-verbal learning disabilities include poor social skills, difficulty with reading comprehension, writing, solving mathematical problems, and motor coordination. You may also see the following in your child:

  • They may remember information but not know its importance
  • May have messy handwriting
  • Sometimes stands too close to people
  • Struggle with reading comprehension
  • Physically awkward
  • Talk in socially inappropriate ways
  • Over-dependent on parents
  • Struggle with words
  • Oblivious to people’s reactions
  • Literal thinking
  • Fearful of new situations
  • Struggles with math
  • Meticulous, but misses the big picture
  • Poor social skills
  • Uncoordinated

A child with NVLD is often misunderstood among his peers, family, teachers, and siblings because of the above-listed behaviors.

Teachers may think they are inattentive students, peers may consider them immature, and family members may not know what to think.

In reality, children with NVLD are like little professors who ask lots of questions. They have a good memory, good command of language skills, and good verbal skills. Symptoms may change over time as they get older and may create more problems that may develop into anxiety.

As mentioned earlier, some parents do not know what to do. In this situation, I would suggest that if you notice any of the listed traits above to seek help. Having your child evaluated by an occupational therapist will be a good first step in getting a lot of your questions answered.

Parents can consult immediately with a licensed psychologist or behavior expert. It is always best to be proactive to ensure your child gets the treatment they need to cope with difficulties and build social skills.

What skills are affected by NVLD?

Non-verbal learning disabilities have varied effects on different children. Children may be affected in the following areas:

Abstract Thinking 

Children with NVLD may have trouble understanding the ‘big picture’ although they meticulously put their efforts into details. They may have problems organizing their thoughts or understanding the larger underlying concepts behind simple topics.

Motor Skills

Children with NVLD may have problems with coordinating motor movement. You may notice that some will display difficulties with gross motor skills, such as trouble with running and kicking.

Some children will have difficulty maintaining balance or even riding a bike. Other children may have problems with fine motor skills like using scissors and handwriting. 

Social Skills

Kids with a non-verbal learning disability may have trouble picking up on social cues. They may share information regarding anything in a socially inappropriate way. Children also have difficulty in understanding sarcasm while others are teasing them.

They often may interrupt in the middle of the conversation because they usually think in concrete terms. This type of thinking often causes them to change the subject abruptly in the conversation.

Visual-spatial Skills

A child may have trouble understanding the details of visual imagery. Usually, kids with NVLD remember what they hear and forget what they see. 

Conceptual Skills

Children may have trouble grasping large concepts. They often have difficulty with problem-solving and cause and effect relationships.

Strategies to help a child with NVLD
Strategies to help a child with NVLD

Strategies to help a child with NVLD

It can be a difficult task to parent a child with NVLD. Learning how to manage the common symptoms of NVLD and build social skills will take time. But, with the right help and understanding of the disability, anything is possible.

Below I have listed different strategies to help a child with NVLD. These will benefit both the child and parent by giving them a deeper understanding of the disability. They will also allow them the opportunity to work towards proper options for treatment together.

Parent Behavioral Training

This training is by a psychologist or a behavior expert. They help parents learn the educational strategies to help build their children’s social skills. 

These tips include specific strategies and using successful tools to manage the day to day challenges. Parent behavior training is only for the parent, but they may need to meet your child on certain occasions. I have included a link if you would like to get more of an idea of what they offer and how the sessions will be set up.

The sessions can be virtual and are one of the first steps in your children’s treatment. 

Social Skills Groups

Social skills groups are a great way to help with the development of social skills. These groups help your child learn how to handle the different social situations. They help your child to improve relationships with peers and adults.

Social groups not only help with social skills, but they help with emotional regulation and problem-solving.

Therapy and Learning Center of GA offers social groups for children and other services such as occupational and speech & language therapy. These services are very beneficial to the treatment of children with NVLD.

Occupational Therapy

Children with NVLD can benefit from occupational therapy. Occupational therapists help children use their strengths to their advantage. OT’s help children improve fine motor skills such as handwriting.

They help build social skills, coordination while teaching compensatory strategies. Children also benefit from improved gross motor skills and motor planning after continued treatment from an OT.

Occupational therapy is also a service that is offered through your child’s school. If you feel that they may benefit from this service reach out to your child’s school and find out the procedure for them to be evaluated. Getting started with services early will often provide more benefit to your child and allow for more progression over time.


In a nutshell, NVLD is a learning disorder that a child will not grow out of, unfortunately. The strategies to help a child with NLVD that I listed above are suggested actions to take in order to help your child cope with the disability.

Even though this will be hard in the beginning because it is new, with treatment your child will learn how to cope. Your child will eventually build social skills and improve weakness in fine and gross motor skills.

With every child being different, this is a process that cannot be compared to another and each child will develop at their own pace.

If you’ve found these strategies to help a child with NVLD helpful, please use the share icons and pass it along to someone that may benefit from it. Thanks!

strategies to help a child with NVLD

About the author

Erika is a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant working in an elementary school setting. She wanted to create a blog and podcast that shows all sides of school-based learning. Her #1 focus is on providing parents of children with learning disabilities with relevant information in hopes of making each day a little more functional. So if you are interested in more content like this, please sign up below.

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