Lindamood-Bell Learning Center

Signs & Symptoms of NLD

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Nonverbal learning disabilities (NLD) impact one’s ability to manipulate, integrate and learn from nonverbal information. Kids with NLD have trouble understanding the “big picture.” They may also have problems with reading comprehension, math, and implied meaning. Because social interaction relies heavily on the exchange of nonverbal cues, children with NLD are often socially awkward. They may be adept with language and verbal reasoning, making their disabilities less obvious to detect. NLD often does not surface until middle or high school.



Is this your child?

  • Talks a lot, but says very little
  • Sees the trees, not the forest
  • Focuses on details; misses the main idea
  • Does not see the big picture
  • Does not read facial expressions, gestures, or other nonverbal cues
  • Misses subtleties and nuances
  • Is socially awkward
  • Has few friends-especially among same-age peers
  • Processes information in a linear, sequential manner, missing multiple dimensions
  • Confuses abstract concepts yet can recall sequences
  • Shuts down when faced with pressure to perform
  • Has poor handwriting


Despite the name of this disorder, those who have NLD are far from nonverbal. In fact, verbal skills are their greatest assets-what they often lack is the ability to moderate or modulate these skills. Children with NLD have difficulty understanding cause-and-effect relationships and anticipating the consequences of their actions. They are often overly literal in their interpretation of social cues, missing the nuances others intuitively understand. The same problem often plagues their reading, especially as they move up in school. Comprehension often falls off as they have trouble inferring, interpreting, and reading between the lines of complex assignments.




Children with NLD typically have good reading skills, often outpacing their peers in elementary school. Because they have excellent verbal memory, they often possess a large store of information and have a well-developed vocabulary. They tend to learn best via listening.

Not all children with NLD display the same mix of assets and deficits. However, suspect NLD if your child has a combination of several of these learning behaviors:


  • Remarkable rote memory
  • Attention to detail
  • Strong auditory retention


  • Weak visual-spatial abilities
  • Weak visual discrimination abilities
  • Poor organizational skills
  • Difficulty with inference and abstract reasoning
  • Inflexible adherence to logic
  • Problems with mathematical reasoning
  • Difficulty reading nonverbal cues
  • Impaired fine motor skills

See also . . .

14 Ways to Help a Child with NLD Succeed

The Black and White World of the NLD Child

Evaluating Your Child for Nonverbal Learning Disabilities

Strategies for Parenting Children with NLD

6 Building Blocks of Social Competency