Questions and Answers
Question #2


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Questions and Answers

 

Question # 2

Why is the Syndrome of Nonverbal Learning Disabilities (NLD) characterized as a specific pattern of learning disabilities (LD)?


In addition to the obvious fact that the NLD syndrome was identified within the context of research attempts aimed at the specification of reliable and valid subtypes of LD, there are several very important reasons for considering the NLD syndrome within the context of LD.

(1) New learning of any sort, especially in complex or novel situations, is very difficult for children who exhibit the characteristics of NLD. New learning experiences must be introduced very gradually to such children; they must be apprised verbally of all of the elements of the learning situations; these verbal descriptions and elaborations need to be repeated and expanded upon frequently; the initial phases of the learning process for such children are very slow and laborious.

(2) When faced with novel or complex learning requirements, persons with NLD quite typically fall back on the use of some overlearned procedure for dealing with the situation, without regard for the unique aspects of the new learning task. This excessive reliance on previously overlearned responses and techniques becomes less and less appropriate as development proceeds. That is, it becomes progressively less likely that individuals with NLD, left to their own resources, will learn new or complex task demands in an adequate manner. Instead, there is an increasing tendency toward stereotyped or even perseverative responding. Put another way, they exhibit more and more difficulty in learning in any number of day-to-day situations.

(3) Adaptability is the terminus ad quem, the raison d'etre, the final cause of brain-behavior development. Deficiencies in adaptability are, essentially, deficiencies in learning. In this sense, the rather debilitating set of learning problems experienced by the person who exhibits NLD are among the very worst that can be imagined from a psychological perspective. The social and vocational incompetence, the withdrawal, the psychic pain--all of these are terminal adaptive manifestations of failures of learning.


There are other important dimensions of this matter. Two in particular are related to school/academic issues (see Questions #8 and #36).


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