A disorder characterized by the inability to understand nonverbal communication, the nonverbal learning disorder can also be diagnosed by a variety of other symptoms. Some of the symptoms or effects of this disorder can wreak havoc in a child’s life, unless the problem is detected at an earlier stage. Here’s an overview of the nonverbal learning disorder.
All of us communicate through a verbal medium in combination with a nonverbal medium. This nonverbal medium is also referred to as body language. Eye contact, hand gestures, smiling, frowning, etc., are all aids that help us put forth a message effectively. However, those who suffer from the nonverbal learning disorder (NLD) face trouble communicating nonverbally, though their IQ and verbal communication may be above average.
For instance, if they are given a map, they will not know how to use it. On the other hand, if they are given step-by-step verbal instruction, they will be better able to understand directions. This disability often affects the individual’s social interactions and has people assume that the person suffering from it is rude. There are several other factors that are affected by this disorder, exhibited by various symptoms. Here, we will provide you with an overview of this disorder.
Symptoms of the Nonverbal Learning Disorder
More often than not, children who suffer from this learning disability are assumed as gifted in the initial years because they display high verbal abilities. It is at later stages that a lot of symptoms show that something may be wrong. For instance, they tend to have a problem with social interactions, in developing skills that make them independent, such as eating on their own or wearing their own clothes, and several other such problems. This condition also affects their physical abilities or motor development. Some even display a difficulty in solving simple mathematical problems. Here is a list of symptoms that such children are likely to display:
- They may display great verbal IQ scores, but poor performance IQ scores.
- As mentioned earlier, mathematical calculations are a difficult area for such individuals.
- They are unable to understand abstract concepts or even develop them.
- Their vocabulary may be remarkable and they may have an excellent ability to verbally express themselves.
- They may display a lack of comprehension in what they read, particularly for things that are new.
- They may have trouble applying learned concepts to new and unique situations.
- Because of their inability to understand nonverbal communication, they may take every bit of information at face value as they do not understand tones and connotations.
- They do not understand humor or sarcasm, neither can they make sense of facial expressions or hand gestures.
- They can be quite gullible because of such traits.
- Those affected by this disorder can have trouble with motor skills displayed in poor handwriting, poor hand-brain coordination, and performing activities that require dexterity such as playing a particular sport.
- Such individuals may get lost easily and may have trouble distinguishing directions. Their visual-spatial perception is also affected by this condition.
- The longer such problems go undiagnosed, the greater anxiety and stress they can cause to the affected individual. Soon kids become withdrawn as they find it difficult to ‘fit in’. They are also likely to suffer from self-esteem issues.
This problem often goes undiagnosed and continues into adulthood because it is just perceived as a behavioral problem. It, therefore, gets only worse because as adults, such individuals are unprotected and face more challenging situations to be dealt with.
Studies have shown that this disorder may be caused due to problems in the right hemisphere of the brain that controls and processes nonverbal information. This hemisphere has the ability to understand novel concepts and distinguish between verbal and nonverbal messages. The right hemisphere may be weak due to developmental problems in the early years, some kind of injury, a tumor, or seizures. In some cases, there may be no obvious reason for the impairment of the right hemisphere.
Dealing with Nonverbal Learning Disorder
Individuals with nonverbal learning disorder are fighting a constant battle with very few weapons at hand. They have only their verbal abilities to take them forward, and can get very frustrated because they can’t seem to make sense of the world around them and vice versa. It is very important that they are given due care and attention so that they can survive with lesser difficulty. The first thing to do is to understand and accept that there is a problem, and learn everything you can about it. Visiting a psychiatrist and support groups will help to a great extent. Apart from these basic measures, there are several others that can be taken to help those affected to improve the quality of their lives.
- If this problem remains undiagnosed, parents often continue pressurizing their children to live up to their demands and expectations. Once it is diagnosed, it is important to give up such demands and concede to what the child is capable of doing. Provide an environment where she/he does not feel anxious or frustrated.
- Since they process verbal information better, it is important to use these techniques in instruction. As such, it helps to enhance their reading skills, and provide them with verbal instruction that they can comprehend.
- To enhance these skills, it is important that they be instructed without interruption, are taught to understand when a dialog has ended, and ensure that they are not distracted through the process.
- It is important to keep children who suffer from NLD away from peers who will make fun of this problem and are not sensitive enough to understand them. On the other hand, friends and social interactions are essential for them to develop at least some skill, so help them find friends who understand the problem and are willing to be patient enough to help them with this problem.
- Avoid criticizing them for their inability to grasp certain concepts and to catch up. It takes a lot of time, and you need to put in enough effort yourself. Step-by-step instruction is the best form of instruction for them. Provide them with constructive criticism if you must, and appreciate their effort.
- Have your child go to a school that will adopt appropriate methods to instruct and educate her/him. Such schools take special efforts and employ methods that give children enough time to incorporate various concepts.
- Visiting an occupational therapist is also helpful as such professionals will help children develop their motor skills to a certain extent.
Nonverbal learning disorder is a lesser known disorder but is not impossible to deal with. It does require time and effort towards helping such individuals becoming independent. Taking professional help and advice is the best way to deal with this problem.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informational purposes only and does not in any way attempt to replace the diagnosis of, and the treatment provided by, an expert.