Skip to main content

Genius, Non-Verbal Learning Disorder (NVLD/NLD) and Autism Spectrum Disorders

Patty has advanced degrees in preventive medicine and health psychology, with 35 years of work in allergy and other autoimmune treatment.

Some people are different and use different ways of expression.

Some people are different and use different ways of expression.

Movies and television programs include many stereotypical references to people who are different. One of these is the "weird genius" who cannot quite understand other people's thoughts or emotions.

This stereotype comes dangerously close to pigeonholing folks who are on the autism spectrum and individuals who may have non-verbal learning and expression styles.

In my work, I learned early on that people labeled with learning disabilities are, rather, people who have learning and expression styles that are different form the majority and who are quite interesting.

I have worked with youth who have "different" learning styles from the general American population, as well as with those that have demonstrated what is termed "learning disorders" and "learning disabilities."

Sometimes, these are not real disabilities, but only individual differences.

From this, we achieve the term "differently-labled" when applied to some that seem to have learning disorders. Some professional groups may feel that there are no learning disabilities at all, but only differences in learning styles.

More and more learning disorders seem to be connected to neurology (study of the nervous system, including the brain).

Links exist between ADD/ADHD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, some aspects of several personality disorders, Tourette's Syndrome, and several other mental and physical health conditions. This overlap is one of the dangers in armchair diagnosis by non-professionals, so always consult a licensed healthcare provider about these situations.

Research is underway in America to examine all of these types of conditions and the underlying neurological functioning in order to better understand what we can do to manage them, treat them, or even prevent them. It is a complex and time consuming endeavor.

Non-Verbal Leaning Disorder (NVLD or NLD) is under investigation in the State of Michigan at Michigan State University. The Departments of Psychiatry and Psychology have joined to gather in cooperation to look at NVLD and its impact on our nation's youth.

For a limited time, children are being sought to participate in a controlled study that will help researches and doctors learn more about this condition and how to manage it.

NVLD Neuro-imaging Study


  1. Male youth ages 6 though 18.
  2. Normally Developing or Socially Challenged, either one.
  3. May have a diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome, High Functioning Autism, NVLD, or ADHD.

Each accepted participant in the study will be given:

  1. A Short Neuropsychological Screening activity and $60. This will be an examinationintelligence via an IQ score, executive brain functioning level, and the extent of visual-spatial development.
  2. A brain scan (picture) to keep and $40. This will consist of an MRI of your child and screening by a qualified, licensed radiologist.


Scroll to Continue
  1. Does your child have difficulty making and keeping friends?
  2. What are the differences between "normally" developing children and those with difficulty in social development?


  • Dr. Semrud-Clikeman (517) 432-4212. Email:
  • Dr. Fine (517) 353-5035
  • Michigan State University - Departments of Psychology and Psychiatry

NOTE: If this study is filled or concluded, ask about other, related trials.

  • Semrud-Clikeman, M., Fine, J.G., Bledsoe, J. and Zhu, D. (In press). Amygdala and hippocampal differences in children with Asperger Syndrome, Nonverbal Learning Disability or healthy controls. International Journal of Neuroscience.
  • Fine, J.G., Semrud-Clikeman, M., Bledsoe, J. and Mushielak, K. (In press). A critical review of the literature on NLD as a developmental disorder. Child Neuropsychology. Prepublication online March 2012: DOI 10.1080/09297049.2011.648923
  • Semrud-Clikeman, M., Fine, J.G. and Bledsoe, J. (2011). Presence of cysts on MRI in children with Asperger's Disorder and Nonverbal Learning Disabilities. Journal of Child Neurology, 4, 471-475.
  • Fine, J.G., Semrud-Clikeman, M., and Zhu, D. (2009). Gender differences in BOLD activation to face photographs and video vignettes. Behavioral Brain Research, 201, 137-146.
  • Fine, J.G., Semrud-Clikeman, M., Butcher, B., Walkowiak, J. (2008). Brief report: Attention effect on a measure of social perception. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 38, 1797-1802.

Facial Expressions

Facial expressions triggered by electric stimulation. Guillaume Duchenne, 1862 (public domain).

Facial expressions triggered by electric stimulation. Guillaume Duchenne, 1862 (public domain).

The Astounding Hannah Camille: Musings of Someone with NLD

  • Thoughts and Feelings: Musings of Someone with NLD
    This is an eye-opening Blog by a college graduate with NLD. She progressed from dropping out of high school to college graduation and enrollment in grad school. As she succeeds in life and explains NLD from the inside, she will help us all.

Support for Those With Social Emotional Learning Disabilities

More On Social Emotional Learning

NVLD is actually not a single condition or leaning disability, but a cluster of conditions that make up a neurological syndrome.

Some Definitions

NVLD is actually not a single condition or leaning disability, but a cluster of conditions that make up a neurological syndrome.

Thus, it is a syndrome (set) of conditions and behaviors that is based in the neurology of a human being -- in the brain and nervous system, how it is put together, how it is developing, and how it is working.

NVLD has PLUSes and MINUSes. It is not all bad.

The PLUSes are called assets - 1) early speech, 2) early vocabulary development. 3) uncommon memorization ability and excellent verbal memory (hear it, remember it), 4) fine attention to detail, 5) early reading, 6) advanced spelling ability, and 7) almost adult verbal abilities in expression, even at a young age. Those having this syndrome look like geniuses and in some aspects, they are..

The MINUSes:

These are deficits and include 1) physical motor problems (coordination, balance, writing, and drawing); 2) visual-spatial-organizational (problems with images, little visual recall, inadequate spatial perceptions and relational concepts, and poor executive brain functions like logic, and decision making; 3) social (this is a big one) - inability to "get" nonverbal communication, inability to deal with change and newness, and poor social judgment & interactions; and 4) the senses oversensitivity to one or more of a) visual, 2) auditory (sounds), c) tactile, d) taste, or e) olfactory (smell).

Some of these "symptoms" do sound a lot like ADD/ADHD and Asperber's and other "lesser knowns" which are included in this definition of the syndrome --


When a "normal" person is very tired, stressed, or has not had enough food, is dehydrated, is suffering electrolytic imbalance, is having an allergic reaction to something, or suffering under several other circumstances (including possible brain tumor), some learning disability symptoms can occur to them and any of us. Do not jump to conclusions - - Please consult a doctor.

Psychiatrists, Doctors Mr. and Mrs. Houk of the Houk Institute near St. Louis, Missouri have taught me much about brain function, brain mapping, and the broken brain in seminars held each spring in Central Ohio.

More Information on Brain Health

© 2008 Patty Inglish MS

Comments and Experiences

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on January 28, 2013:

There is the possibility that he does not have NVLD and was misdiagnosed. Seek a second opinion professionally and if Dx is confirmed, this is where mental health therapy comes into play. Next, check out the adolescent-specialty psyhotherapists, psychologists, and counselors.

Best wishes.

DLLW on January 27, 2013:

How do you help a 14 yr. old boy accept his diagnosis of NVLD? My son has been diagnosed with this condition, but states he does not have this. We are trying to get him to work with a therapist, however he still continues to say that her testing results are not accurate. Are there or is there anyone in the Massachusetts area that can help us? Thank you for your time.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on November 05, 2012:

Try the Learning Disabilities Association of Canada at

Linda on November 05, 2012:

Hi my name is Linda and I live in Ontario Canada. I am looking for a NLD organization in Canada and can't seem to find one, Can you help? I was hoping to join and do some fundraising. My son was diagnosed when he was 3 years old and he is now 22years old. He did really good with his life so far and I just feel I need to do more to make sure all children can get the help they need and also I'd like to make people more awear of this. Lots of people are still not aware of NLD and I really feel as though I need to get it out there. To help my son as he is getting older, he still has a lot of problems with facial expressions, but he is learning. Thank you for your time and I hope you can help me find a Canadian program that I can join.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on August 27, 2012:

That is good news, theartautism. These tech tools are good more much more than we figured.

h.a.n.d.s. from canada on August 27, 2012:

my son is 4yo and nonverbal. because of his sensory needs, he wasn't open to working with workbooks or move beyond basic toddler and preschool learning games through play. Recently with the help of a tablet, I found out my nonverbal child knows his numbers and alphabet without doubt, I can't wait to see what else he has absorbed in the coming months. Thanks to all of you who work with children who have obstacles to learning through standard practices.

louromano on March 18, 2012:

I wish now that I had known why I had diffcilutties earlier in my life as at time sit would have helped me to ask for some assistance. For example colleges these days have staff who can help a student keep organized and learn study skills etc.

Michelle Sarabia, M.A. on February 22, 2012:

I am someone who was diagnosed with NVLD as a college student in my early adulthood, when I was unable to pass Calculus. A few years ago, I was diagnosed with Aspergers, when I had difficulty with colleagues at work that would ask me for help with a student (I'm a special education teacher), and then get mad at me for posing workable solutions... I was told that I had to be sympathetic to the teachers rather than the students. Sigh. Anyway...

I think one big need in the NVLD world is to get it recognized by ADA.

Another is better and accurate "popular" coverage by media so that employers and educators develop better understanding for their students/employees.

And finally, diagnostic criteria should focus less on the perceptions of others and more on the experience of the person with a "difference." By doing so, those learning about the label are subtly directed away from how the "difference" affects people around the individual, and more on how the world affects the individual. Consider that these are indeed physical differences, and how the current diagnostic system for conditions like NVLD, ADHD, and Autism would look if applied to say, orthopedic impairments.

Brian Leekley from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA on January 27, 2012:

Thanks for the informative hub.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on January 25, 2012:

Take him to his mental health counselor immediately or have him go to Student Health Services at school. They want to help.

Patricia on January 25, 2012:

I need help...quick! My 19 yr. old son is NVLD. Socially doing quite well. He is in his first year of college and residence. He came home last week-end and broke down with the stress and anxiety of school. I was able to get him back to school but he is working so hard and getting grades from excellent to a course he failed and is repeating at night. He is in all out panic that he can't do this. He has convinced himself that he won't make it and is so frightened of thefuture. So am I ! Any advice at all is truly welcome.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on September 24, 2011:

As in the pastor's son's case where the boy was completely symptom free by age 19, grandparents can help by paying attention to the child, talking to him, answering him or commenting if he does say anything - but don't plead with him to talk. Read him stories, have art supplies ready. Let him type words on a keyboard in a Word document, so some physical activities, play music he likes - or see what he does and does not like. Sing! Dance! Smile and hug him, even if he doesn't always like it.


marlo on September 23, 2011:

my grandson has just been diagnosed with nvld at age 6. how can i help him.we have a close relationship and i think he trusts me

Brian Middleton from Southern Utah on July 01, 2011:

As a person with NVLD I have to say this hub is informative and accurate. Love it, love it, love it! Thank you for the awesome hub!

disability product on February 25, 2011:

Superb blog post, I have book marked this internet site so ideally I’ll see much more on this subject in the foreseeable future!

Disability Products

ss sneh from the Incredible India! on November 24, 2010:

Hi! Very informative hub! -- Thanks

Mysti on September 01, 2010:

My daughter is currently undergoing testing where dyscalculia and nvld is the possible issue. However, my daughter doesn't seem to endure the social differences, or the clumsiness (though, shes not extremely coordinated). Any one seen this is their nvld child??

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on July 22, 2010:

That (McD) is goofy, isn't it, TheManWithNoPants?

TheManWithNoPants from Tucson, Az. on July 21, 2010:

This was awesome. I know it doesn't directly pertain, but I've had a.d.d. all my life. I've got a pretty high I.Q, but learning over all didn't come easy. Luckily I had a mother who didn't accept excuses when it came to grades, coupled with great teachers and professors. It's really something. I'm smart enough to own and run a business, but not smart enough to work at Mc Donald's. lol

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on May 17, 2010:

I'll be sure to be reading your hubs, embee77. first-hand information is always wanted. Cheers!

embee77 on May 16, 2010:

Patty - As a relative newcomer I am enjoying reading old and new articles on subjects I'm interested in. Right now I'm working to gain my last layer of confidence, having grown up with undiagnosed learning and attention disorders in the 50s and 60s. What you say about NLD is right-on. I do think there are some additional areas of weakness and strength. My hubs, of which there are only three so far, deal with this topic, too. Thank you for bringing accurate and thorough information on the subject to the "table.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on April 14, 2010:

Be sure to read the link to Hannah Camille and her daily success through the experiences of NLD.

Robert in BC Canada on November 06, 2009:


I am a 57 year old psychologist and was diagnosed with NVLD about 5 years ago. In repons eto Tim I suggst a book called "What Color is Your Parachute" this is an exxelent tool in finding out what a job seeker likes to do and is good at doing. The key issue in my mind would be what excites your daughter and makes her feel more alive doing it. The worst thing would be a job that she found boring or uninteresting IMO.

In my own life I have alwsy been rather unorganized and disordered and it has helped when I had a boss or a colleagues who appreciated me for who I am and what I can do vs how tidy or timely my paperwork was. That can a key issue in fitting in and being able to keep a job in my experience.

I wish now that I had known why I had diffcilutties earlier in my life as at time sit would have helped me to ask for some assistance. For example colleges these days have staff who can help a student keep organized and learn study skills etc.

stanwshura on November 03, 2009:

I have to say this is one very ambitious, solid piece - and being packed with a lot of what looks like labored info, rather generous as well. As one who is so "blessed" (maybe or probably? a consequence of pediatric hydrocephalus and/or its treatments) and a related major brain surgery to remove a cyst at age 9 in the spring of '81 (lesse - graduated '90 at 18 from 12th minus 9 to the recalled 3rd thus 9 and '81 - yep!). Hee hee. Just thought I'd share a fly-on-the-wall's-eye view of my thinking process, as merely remembering the details is not in the cards for me. I remember it was 3rd grade - why that stuck, I don't know - maybe something having to do with the VERY uncomfortable spectacle of returning to school after a long absense.

Anyway, I am a whiz at "no paper" computation, and a math geek in general. No - no "Rainman"-level freakery, just high smarts/comfort with numeracy and a rock-solid number sense, and well as an insatiable appetite to sharpen both.

Yes, I was a rather precocious kid with regard to verbal (written and oral) expression. Life experience and a painfully acquired 'Gestalt' of general knowledge (which has always been and remains quite sub-par compared to my peers - again, it takes me *AWHILE* to pick up on the stuff of life that is not direct-taught), has resulted in what I regard as a - well, yeah, damn it - a decent or better grasp of the writing craft, at least for the short forms.

I'm also a musician, having been playing the piano for some 30 years now (actually a little more, I'm 37). I have "perfect" pitch, and teach on the side. My day job is severe special ed - and I can't imagine this is an accident.

Anyway, just wanted to say "wow" to your piece and tell you I think it's gonna lead many of your readers to a better and broader understanding of NVLD. :)

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on August 09, 2009:

Thank you both for reading and commenting!

Charles - Thanks for adding the links; they will likely assist interested readers with more and significant information.

The Toylanders on July 10, 2009:

Thanks for this education: My daughter has this condition.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on May 13, 2009:

Hi tim - What would your daughter like to do? I think I'd start there. However, did she receive any employment readiness training in high school? - The courses would have helped her look at her interests and abilities and begin to come up with what she might like to do and be good at.


tim on May 13, 2009:

I'm wondering if anyone can suggest jobs best suited for kids with NVLD. We have a daughter is is graduating high school and searching for a carreer path.


Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on November 25, 2008:

This is a good point - I have always gone to work to work, not to socialize. And while the gossips don't like it when someone won't join in, they can be handled. Godo manners are always needed - Good Morning, Good Bye, etc. -- And a bit of socializing occasionally is OK - group outings, holidays, etc.

Work life would be much easier if cues were stopped and people said what they needed to say, with good manners of course. But that's too easy, isn't it? :) Some fish turn different colors - a cue hard to miss. Human cues are not so clear.

Megan on November 24, 2008:

I have NBLD (diagnosed my sophomore year of college) and I'm finding this site extremely helpful and a good resource with which to be able to teach others. It's hard to keep jobs because of the socializing and misreading of cues, or just because I a have a hard time with hand-eye coordination.

On another note, I graduated with a 4.0 GPA, have two jobs, and I'm now 24 years old, and I was 17 when I received my drivers license (though, I'll admit, I get cracks that I'm not the best driver all of the time).

NVLD is a disability, yes, but smart and capable people worthy of employment and lifestyles like any "normal" person. Don't condemn us, just accept us, and you'll see life a little bit differently.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on August 10, 2008:

I share your hopes and aspirations on these issues, Health Conscious. Thanks very much for your visit and comments.

Health Conscious from South Florida - USA on August 09, 2008:

It is heartwarming to know that so many are exploring how to help those who are not considered normal to live fulfilling lives. This is especially true when the number of cases is growing so much.

There is one area I wish would be explored more is the interaction of all the different synthetic chemicals so prevalent in today's society. It seems like we want to turn a blind eye to the idea that these chemicals are interacting together to cause these anomalies in human development. Between this and the way a majority of our food is produced, logic seems to point to this type problem only increasing and humans are no where near being intelligent enough to create man made cures.

We all thank those of you who endeavor to help those who are challenged and only hope that the scientist will remove the blinders and see that the environment we have created might be the cause. I am very encouraged by the idea of concentrating on natural nutrition and elimination of synthetic chemical in reversing some of the initial growth anomalies. At the very least, this path will decrease the numbers of those alterations in individual human development.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on August 09, 2008:

Sounds like some possible symptoms of NVLD, but he certainly was good with mathematics, wasn't he? Reminds me of the man who could memorize all the serial numbers on dozens freight train cars as they went by - there's an old flim clip of it that is shown on TVLand or History channel sometimes.

topstuff on August 08, 2008:

Thanks for the post,i saw a child showed on a tv show with surprising abilities to add up very big numbers, subtract and multiply them,all very correctly but lacking coordination & interaction.There was nothing told about his abnormality.Now i guess he was suffering from NVLD.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on August 08, 2008:

I found a comprehensive summer institute on video about NVLD replacing dyslexia and the buzz-word disorder of the 21st century, and added it.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on August 08, 2008:

Thanks for the comments, Judy and Catlyn. In Ohio, we have mainstreamed many of these youth into regular classes. Adults with NVLD, we have helped to achieve theri GEDs and good careers. It's possible!

Catlyn from Somewhere in the OC on August 08, 2008:

Excellent information! I work with kiddos with Aspergers and had not even heard of NVLD.

Related Articles