Supporting Students With a Non Verbal Learning Difference

There are a myriad of ways that teachers can support students with a non-verbal learning difference (NVLD) in the classroom. Whether or not a special education teacher is assigned to assist students with studies, accommodations, modifications, additional resources and supports can be put in place to help students succeed. Since students with a NVLD learn best by verbal language skills, teachers should teach to their strengths, assisting in interpreting non-verbal communication, and using clear and direct spoken feedback when possible.

Accommodations and ModificationsStudents with a NVLD will ideally have an IEP (Individual Education Plan) to help direct teachers in implementing accommodations and modifications to support the student in the classroom. As most students with a NVLD struggle with organization, it is important that teachers monitor organizational skills on a daily basis. Use of an agenda to record and plan for assignment deadlines, daily homework and other school events is key. The use of graphic organizers for tasks and assignments can also be extremely beneficial for students with a NVLD – a visual representation provides a guide, or outline, that the student can use to approach and complete an assignment. Similarly, chunking assignments (breaking them down into smaller components) provides the student with a linear process and sequential format to help approach larger assignments in a task-by-task manner. Students with a NVLD should be allotted additional time for tests and assignments, and given opportunities to use a word processor and provide oral responses when possible.

Social and Behavioural CoachingMany students with a NVLD have difficulties interpreting non-verbal cues and navigating personal and social interactions; as a result, they may require assistance with social and behavioural expectations. Teachers can support students in this regard by explicitly labeling behavioural expectations – what is acceptable and what is not – verbally and with specific, contextual reasoning. Teachers may find it helpful to use ‘cues’ or hand signals to remind a student to use eye contact, lower their voice, assess personal space, or ‘wrap up’ their conversation. In order for these cues to be effective, the teacher must first verbally discuss with the student how and why the signals will be used so that this student can recognize and understand their purpose.

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