Nonverbal LD Can Worsen Over Time

The dysfunctions associated with nonverbal learning disabilities can worsen as your child grows older.
My nine-year-old daughter, who has a nonverbal learning disability, will be entering the fourth grade this coming September. This year her teacher and special-education teacher were awesome. I have just had my team meeting for next year. Both teachers noted that as school came closer to the end of the year, my daughter grew less and less attentive. Neurologists diagnosed my daughter and they ruled out ADD. They want me to put her on medication. I really don't agree with drugs as a rule. I feel that teaching her to adapt and focus with her own mind is more important.

Can a nonverbal learning disorder worsen as time goes by or do more symptoms appear as a child gets older and the schoolwork becomes harder?

Also, she's been dancing for six years and in Girl Scouts for three years. She wants to quit. Would that be a mistake? She is a good dancer and I have seen a remarkable adaptation in her social skills bit by bit over the years.

Byron Rourke, Ph.D., one of the most well-known experts in nonverbal learning disabilities (NLD), has noted that the dysfunctions associated with NLD become "progressively more apparent (and more debilitating) as adulthood approaches." Certainly as the course work-load increases, and students are expected to work beyond the concrete level of understanding -- and become more independent and flexible in their organization and planning -- problems can increase. The rote memory skills that were helpful in the lower grades are not sufficient for success as these children progress through school. Social-skill difficulties can also increase with age.

Many times children with nonverbal learning disorders are misdiagnosed as having ADHD. If ADHD has been "ruled out" by her neurologist, I don't understand why he wants to medicate her.

As for her dancing and Girl Scout participation, I can see how these two activities could really support her growth and social development. Have you talked to her about why she wants to quit? Have you sought out the leaders/teachers of these groups to see if there have been any social conflicts that could have contributed to her reluctance to return? If accommodations could be made in her schedule, perhaps she would agree to return to at least one of these activities on a limited basis. For now, at least, the choice to participate or not has to be hers. Is she interested in trying another activity that would allow her to interact with other students in a non-academic sphere?

If you would like more information about the social/emotional as well as academic needs of children with nonverbal learning disorders, have a look at Sue Thompson's book, The Source for Nonverbal Learning Disorders. She offers a wealth of suggestions for accommodations and supports that might work for your child.

For more than 20 years, Eileen Marzola has worked with children and adults with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders, and with their parents and teachers. She has been a regular education classroom teacher, a consultant teacher/resource teacher, an educational evaluator/diagnostician, and has also taught graduate students at the university level. Marzola is an adjunct assistant professor of education at Teachers College, Columbia University, and Hunter College of the City University of New York. She also maintains a private practice in the evaluation and teaching of children with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders.

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