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Nonverbal LD, ADHD, and Post-Traumatic Stress

LD and ADD/ADHD Expert Advice from Eileen S. Marzola, Ed.D.

Q: My 13-year-old son has been diagnosed with nonverbal LD, ADD, and Post-Traumatic Stress. He attends a school we both love, but he'll have to leave when he turns 14 this fall. The school understands the nonverbal learning disability (NVLD), but his previous placement only dealt with his behavior. The behavior is significantly less of a problem in his current placement. He has OT to deal with his struggle with the mechanics of writing. He hates to write. He loves to read and verbalizes well beyond his age.

I'm looking for another school. We're willing to consider boarding as an option. Also, what are good questions to ask about teaching methods for nonverbal LD?

A: Students with nonverbal learning disorders are often overlooked educationally because they often "look" and "sound" like there is nothing wrong with them. As a means for compensating for their difficulties, they are very verbal. They may have superior verbal IQs and frequently have excellent memory for rote verbal information, so early reading and spelling skills are often quite strong.

However, they often have difficulties in other academic areas, particularly writing. They may have significant gross- and fine-motor difficulties. They may also struggle with visual-spatial-organizational tasks. The greatest area of difficulty for children with nonverbal difficulties is usually in their social interactions. Children with nonverbal learning disorders are very "concrete" in their interpretations of social situations. They will not "read" nonverbal social cues and that's where they get into trouble with peers.

When exploring schools for your son, definitely ask how they accommodate the needs of children with nonverbal learning disorders in their settings. Sue Thompson has written a wonderful book, The Source for Nonverbal Learning Disabilities, that is very helpful to both parents and teachers who deal with students with nonverbal learning disabilities. She has many suggestions for both accommodations and interventions that you can use as a guide during your search process. For a good resource on schools, try Peterson's Private Secondary Schools or SchoolSearch Guide to Private Schools with Programs or Services for Students with Learning Disabilities. You can order the SchoolSearch Guide directly by calling 617-489-5785.

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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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