Questions and Answers
Question #46


Questions and Answers

Questions and Answers


Question # 46

There have been several reports in the media about children who have been the object of systematic bullying and other forms of abuse, primarily by their age-mates. As an apparent result, some of these abused youngsters have engaged in self-injurious behaviour (even suicide). Might NLD play a role in this?

In short: yes. My comments relate to no particular case that has appeared/been described in the media. My point: Children, adolescents, and adults who exhibit the syndrome of NLD are especially at risk for a number of potentially maladaptive behaviours that encourage the ridicule of others. Among these (as spread in Q&A #18 and #22) are the following: excessive gullibility and psychosocial clumsiness and awkwardness. Youngsters with NLD want to be “friends” with others, but are often rejected because of their “inappropriate” behaviours. They tend to be seen as misfits and worthy of scorn. Trying to make friends and encountering persistent rejection, they most often keep to themselves in an attempt to reduce the pain of social ostracism. They are easy prey for unscrupulous members of the “in-crowd.” As has been pointed out some time ago (Fletcher, 1989; Rourke, Young, & Leenaars,1989) , from adolescence onward they are particularly prone to depression and self-injurious behaviour. Many of the bullied children described in the media of late exhibit characteristics consistent with NLD. It is long-overdue for their plight to receive the attention it merits.
Bullies and others who “take out” their lack of self-esteem on the weak and vulnerable suffer from significant psychosocial disturbance, if not frank mental illness.
Unfortunately, some parents/caregivers allow or even encourage bullying. Equally unfortunate: Some parents/caregivers blame the bullied youngster under their care for being bullied. This turns up frequently in youngsters with NLD who are the objects of various forms of abuse by those in positions of trust and authority (e.g., teachers, coaches). A moment’s reflection will lead to the rather obvious conclusion that youngsters who are desperate for affection and love (such as those with NLD) will be easy prey for those who seem to offer this.

Caveat. None of the above is meant to imply that ALL children bullied exhibit NLD. It is always well to remember the non-sequitur mentioned several times in these Q&As, viz.: Although all apples are fruit, this does not imply that all fruit are apples.


Fletcher, J. M. (1989). Nonverbal learning disabilities and suicide: Classification leads to prevention. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 22, 176 & 179.

Little, L. (2002). Middle-class mothers' perceptions of peer and sibling victimization among children with Asperger's syndrome and nonverbal learning disorders. Comprehensive Pediatric Nursing, 25, 43-57.

Rourke, B.P., Young, G.C., & Leenaars, A. (1989). A childhood learning disability that predisposes those afflicted to adolescent and adult depression and suicide risk. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 21, 169-175.

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