Questions and Answers
Question # 2
Why is the Syndrome of Nonverbal Learning Disabilities
(NLD) characterized as a specific pattern of learning disabilities
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).