Non-Verbal Learning Disability (NLD) is a relatively unknown condition, identified only in the last 30 years. It has many similarities with Asperger’s syndrome – an NLD child will have difficulty with social skills and with understanding non-verbal cues from others. They may experience a strong fixation with a subject and be severely distressed by changes in routine. Both are thought to be caused by abnormalities involving functions of the right cerebral hemisphere.
There are different schools of thought on whether the two are actually the same syndrome, with NLD being a milder version, or whether many Asperger’s sufferers also suffer from NLD.
The NLD child, unlike one with Asperger’s will exhibit poor gross and fine motor skills and problems with spatial skills, and will not tend to exhibit repetitive actions such as rocking and hand waving.
The name itself is a little misleading – its sufferers are anything but non-verbal. They learn best verbally, gaining little from discovery learning.
In her book ‘A Special Kind of Brain’ Nancy Russell Burger describes her learning journey on receiving her son’s diagnosis of NLD, how she tracked down information and came to terms with her son’s ‘special kind of brain’.
Her book is a guide to the condition and also to dealing with an NLD child. She describes how to parent your child, how to deal with and avoid ‘meltdowns’- severe bouts of anxiety. There is help on how to teach social skills such as conversation, respecting personal space and how to make friends and keep them.
The next hurdle you might have to face is with school, and getting the help any child with special needs requires just as much perseverance in the US as it does here. Then there are the issues of homework (NLD children find organisation difficult) and school trips and anything that is a change from their routine.
Special occasions which disrupt the routine are a big issue for the NLD child, and she has gained much experience on how to minimise the stress caused by holidays, moving house. Making sure the child is well informed with lots of notice is the best way to avoid a possible meltdown, and she has lots of techniques for this. Finally she has a wealth of advice on how to choose treatment for your child from a therapist, some social skills training and considering medication.
There is no UK organisation as yet, if you know of one please let us know and we will include it here.