14 Ways to Help a Child with NLD Succeed

By Marcia Rubinstien, MA, CEP

At a glance

Tapping into the many strengths that children with NLD have can help them to compensate for their weaknesses • Other strategies include developing a productive relationship with the classroom teacher, enhancing your child’s social skills, and supporting appropriate classroom and homework modifications and accommodations

Because NLD is a condition with clearly defined assets and deficits, successful interventions can be developed using a child’s strengths to compensate for weaknesses. For example, students who struggle with organization, flexibility, mathematical reasoning, and social skills can be helped through using their remarkable rote memory, attention to detail, auditory retention, and innate sense of fairness and integrity.

The following guidelines are designed to assist parents, educators, and others responsible for creating optimal learning conditions for children with NLD.

1. Train faculty and staff
All those who come in contact with these kids must be able to recognize the academic and social behaviors related to NLD. These are kids who ask a lot of questions, have difficulty with transitions, get lost in the hallway, or fail to recognize the face of someone they see every day.

2. Monitor progress and problems
Share a teacher-parent journal that goes back and forth between school and home several times a week.

3. Keep a set of schoolbooks at home
Assuming that your child with NLD has the executive function skills necessary to gather everything he’ll need at the end of the day adds stress to the transition from school to home.

4. Shorten homework assignments
For every 10 pages of homework normally assigned, a child with NLD might only be able to get through one or two, as the time and effort expended will be the same. While this suggestion should be adapted specifically to each child’s abilities, the point is to have the child do enough homework to reinforce learning without becoming overloaded.

5. Prepare and preview
Work with the classroom teacher to find an effective system to have new material given to your child at least one week in advance. Children with NLD often do best when allowed to gradually immerse themselves in new material until they feel comfortable.

Homework Helper
  • Homework should focus on mastery of concepts
  • Monitor the amount of written work since children with NLD have weak handwriting skills and tire easily even when using a computer
  • Keep tabs on how the workload is being handled and adjust accordingly
  • Since these kids have difficulty copying from the board, have homework assignments conveyed via text, phone, or email

6. Pair your child with a classroom buddy
The buddy can fill in missing class notes and explain the pacing of long-term projects. Since this might be the beginning of a friendship, give careful consideration to choosing the partner.

7. Maintain ongoing social skills training
People with NLD have difficulty understanding cause-and effect relationships and cannot anticipate the consequences of their actions. This can create problems when these children are forced to adjust to rapidly changing social demands. If the school can’t offer a trained professional, insist that they provide one from outside the system.

8. Ensure lunch and recess supervision to prevent bullying, taunting or exclusion
Some children benefit from lunch buddy systems where they eat daily with a carefully chosen group.

9. Respect children when they say, “I can’t”
They rarely lie. If they tell an adult (especially a teacher or someone other than a parent) they cannot do something, they are usually not being oppositional.

10. Request that all tests be taken untimed
Tests should also be taken in an area free of distractions. In general, classroom seating should take sensory needs into consideration. (See also IEP Planning: Examples of Accommodations & Modifications.)

11. Block out long-term projects
Insist that they’re clearly explained in one-on-one meetings. When an assignment is given, the teacher should make sure that the student sees the whole concept and not just the individual parts.

12. Have a full technology evaluation 
These students often have strong writing abilities, which should be supported with appropriate assistive technology.

13. Praise often and never discipline in public or punitively
Make sure your child understands why an action is inappropriate, and why the penalty is a logical consequence of that action.

14. Consider therapy
Although children with NLD are affected differently, many benefit from one or more forms of therapy, including occupational, physical, family and individual. It’s also important that family members, faculty, and school staff be aware of mood changes or atypical behaviors in the child with NLD.

Marcia Rubinstien is an educational consultant and the author of Raising NLD Superstars.

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