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Non-Verbal Language Disabilities

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"Students with non-verbal learning disabilities present a perplexing challenge in the classroom, and the understanding the symptoms are an important first step. Once the disorder is recognized, targeted interventions can improve the outlook for students and educators" (Vacca, 1).

As with most learning disabilities and neurological disorders, non-verbal disabilities cover a broad continuum from mild to severe, with no two students showing identical behaviors. "A list of the most important social skills encompasses many that are necessary for academic and social success in school. They include listening to others, taking turns in conversations, greeting others, joining in ongoing activities, giving compliments, expressing anger in socially acceptable ways, offering help to others, following rules, being adequately organized and focused, and doing high-quality work. Knowing what these skills are is important; assessing the extent to which individual students have mastered them is critical in dealing effectively with antisocial behavior" (Kauffman, 211). "In its most severe form, the functional presentation of the disorder of being non-verbal is virtually in distinguished from Asperger's syndrome and high-functioning autism. It is the student who is milder from who may be perplexing to school personal. Lacking an understanding of the disorder, they may see a student who is extremely capable in some ways and extremely difficult in others" (Vacca, 1). Some teachers may feel that the student is purposefully controlling, stubborn, or emotionally disturbed. Behaviors may easily be misinterpreted as oppositional, mean-spirited, and sarcastic. Most students that have a non-verbal disability have deficits in areas that would make sarcasm possible, and they do NOT have the type and breadth of knowledge expected of students that are the same age as them. The students tend to have many experie4nces in which others respond to them in ways that do NOT make sense to the, they have learned to live with and to expect disconnection. In turn, they frequently give responses to make NO sense. "Students with emotional or behavioral disorders often do NOT know how to make and keep friends. They frequently behave in ways that anger and disappoint their teachers and classmates; they find it difficult or impossible to adjust to changing expectations when they move from one social environment to another" (Kauffman, 211).

The article gives characteristics of impairments that are related to non-verbal disability that manifest themselves in seven main categories of deficits such as:

 Visual Ð'- difficulty with visual-spatial organization, perception, and imagining

 Cognitive Processing Ð'- difficulty understanding connections between and among independent factors and relating these to the whole: difficulty understanding the "big picture"

 Language Ð'- flat tone of voice; difficulty understanding humor, multiple meanings of words, and nuances of language

 Motor Ð'- lack of coordination and small-motor skills related to handwriting

 Social Ð'- deficits in social understanding

 Behavioral Ð'- rigid behavior; difficulty with novelty and transitions

 Emotional Ð'- at high risk for anxiety disorder, panic attack, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and, in some cases, suicide

With the above listed characteristics of impairments it is common for the students with a non-verbal learning disability cause the student to feel uncertain, insecure, and anxious. To help students that may experience this; the article suggests helping ease the anxiety, the student MUST become dependant or have predictable routines what may seem to be ritualistic behaviors. "Unlike individuals with obsessive-compulsive disorder, who are aware of their obsessions and compulsions and do NOT want to have them, students with a non-verbal learning disability are attached to the rituals and resist changing them. They NEED to have them. Without them, life is too frightening, confusing, and unpredictable. These routines are escapes that vary from student to student. They sometimes are good in activities that are taken to the extreme" (Vacca, 1) OCD are repetitive, persistent, intrusive impulses, images, or thoughts about something, not worries about real-life problems. "OCD affects 1 in 200 children and adolescents, making it a relatively rare disorder. It may involve many types of ritualistic thoughts or behaviors such as:

 Washing, checking, or other repetitive behavior

 Cognitive compulsions consisting of words, phrases, sequence of numbers, or other forms of counting. Compulsions are repetitive, stereotyped acts that an individual feels he/she MUST perform to ward off a dreaded event, although these acts are NOT really able to prevent it

 Obsessional slowness, taking excessive time to complete simple everyday tasks

 Doubts and questions that elevate anxiety

Many children and adolescents with this disorder are NOT diagnosed, in part because they are often secretive about their Obsessional thoughts or rituals. However, OCD can result in significant impairments in social and academic impairments just to name a few" (Kauffman, 374).

A typical learning profile for a student with a nonverbal learning disability might include the following strengths: excellent auditory attention and learning capabilities; an advanced store of factual information; strong literacy skills; and excellent phonemic awareness, segmentation, and blending abilities. Students with a nonverbal learning disability tend to be verbal and have good receptive language abilities. (As they get older, their difficulties with oral organization and stating ideas succinctly become apparent.) They can follow sequential presentations and simply formatted visual aids and are usually able to follow verbal or written directions by rote.

Challenges for these students may include difficulty with handwriting, including weak spacing and letter formation. In math, they may have a limited sense of number concepts, place value, and estimation; difficulty aligning mathematical information properly to produce an accurate answer; and a tendency to misread mathematical signs (Spreen, Risser, & Edgell, 1995). Students may do poorly in geography because complex maps and graphs elude them. Art and team sports may present frustrations.

In language arts,

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