QUESTION: I just need to know what is possible for a person to achieve with a non verbal learning disability.  I have been diagnosed twice with it, once at 28 and 44 and the problem I am having is i can't find anyone who either knows what it is or how to help someone whom has it.  I just feel its a waste to see a therapist if they have no knowledge of what it is. There aren't a long term studies documenting how people fair with these disabilities fair over the long term.  All the information online about nvld is geared towards children and how to help them, not adults.

ANSWER: There is really no limit on what a person with NVLD might achieve. That is, within reason. There are certain occupations that would likely be difficult for you - those involving keen visual spatial skills, but it is unlikely that such pursuits would interest you.

You're quite right that there is little research to date on older adults with NVLD. This is such a new diagnosis, virtually unheard of twenty years ago, so there are no long-term studies. Yet.

The closest cousin to NVLD is likely Asperger's Syndrome (AS). At first glance, the two may seem quite similar. Here are some of the similarities:

- strong verbal skills
- in grade school you may have taken readily to reading
- there may be sensory sensitivities
- the nuances of social interactions will be difficult
- anxiety may affect many aspects of life

There are a couple ways to differentiate the two diagnoses:

- when confused, a person with NVLD responds well to verbal explanations, while a person with (AS) could be further confused with this talking
- when unsure, a person with NVLD could become further confused if shown a visual representation of the problem. This visual model would likely make things clearer for the AS person.

A boon to someone with NVLD is their strong verbal skills - a real asset in this world. But being a good communicator means more than just taking in information by listening or by expounding on your knowledge. Most jobs and pretty much getting along anywhere involves give and take in conversation (called reciprosity). Good reciprosity requires an understanding of the nonverbal cues given off by body language and facial expression.

You need to know when you have talked too long and are boring someone by not letting them have their turn to speak or not including their interests. These are subtle cues that people with NVLD and autism spectrum disorders don't automatically read, such as:

- the other person makes less and less eye contact
- their gaze may be on the ground or on other objects or people
- they may take a step away
- they may turn one shoulder, pivoting away from you
- they may shift from foot to foot
- their facial expression may be blank

Apart from AS people having stronger visual skills, there are many similarities between NVLD and AS. You may have better luck finding a therapist experienced with adults who have AS. Many of the stategies effective wtih AS you'll likely find helpful.

Here are a few books that may be useful to you and links where you can take a look. Some are geared toward adults and some are about kids, but the theories still apply.

- The Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships ( I would start with this book. It's written by Temple Grandin and Sean Barron, people in their 40s and 50s who have high functioning autism. Page 119 is the key point of the book. It's my guess that you will relate to much of what they are saying.

- The Hidden Curriculum: Practical Solutions for Understanding Unstated Rules in Social Situations (

- Your Life is Not a Label - A Guide to Living Fully ( This is written by Jerry Newport, a man in his 50s who has AS.

- Exploring Feelings: Anxiety: Cognitive Behaviour Therapy to Manage Anxiety ( This book is aimed at adolescents or teens but you may get ideas from them. Cognitive Behavior Therapy is a common approach with some therapists, so you may find one who will be helpful to you.

- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Adult Asperger Syndrome (

- Employment for Individuals with Asperger Syndrome or Non-Verbal Learning Disability: Stories and Strategies (

- The Source for Nonverbal Learning Disabilities (

- Asperger Syndrome and Difficult Moments (

- Asperger's Syndrome and Sensory Issues: Practical Solutions for Making Sense of the World (

- The Social Success Workbook for Teens: Skill-Building Activities for Teens with Nonverbal Learning Disorder, Asperger's Disorder, and Other Social-Skill Problems (

- Take Control of Asperger's Syndrome: The Official Strategy Guide for Teens With Asperger's Syndrome and Nonverbal Learning Disorders (

- Insights into Sensory Issues (

- Sensory Perceptual Issues in Autism and Asperger Syndrome: Different Sensory Experiences, Different Perceptual Worlds (

- Preparing for Life: The Complete Guide for Transitioning to Adulthood for Those with Autism and Asperger's Syndrome (

- What Does Everybody Else Know That I Don't?: Social Skills Help for Adults (

- PeopleSmart: Developing Your Interpersonal Intelligence (

- Social Literacy: A Social Skills Seminars for Young Adults with ASDs, NLDs, and Social Anxiety (

- Conversationally Speaking : Tested New Ways to Increase Your Personal and Social Effectiveness (

I agree with you that there is not a lot written on NVLD in adults. So, you have to get creative when you're seeking information. Look to other diagnoses that have similar characteristics and see what parts apply to you. I've listed quite a few books in the list above, partly because I don't know which specific areas are causing you difficulty and partly to show that there will be sections from each that likely apply to you.

Having NVLD is not all bad, just as having AS is not all bad. NVLD has strengths and challenges inherent in the diagnosis and characteristics. Focus on the strengths and use these strengths to find your way around the areas that cause you difficulties.

At any age, you can grow and learn. You are not bound by a label.

As Jerry Newport says in his book, "Your Life Is Not a Label", the diagnosis does not define you. It's a way of explaining why some things may be hard for you and others easier. When you have a diagnosis, that serves as a starting point for learning more about the cluster of characteristics that often go along with that label and for finding strategies that have worked for people who are similar to you.

Best wishes,

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank You for responding quickly.  The problem I am having is unlike some people whom feel a sense a relief after getting diagnosed with NVLD because they can finally put a name to why they are the way they are I don't feel the same.  I can't say oh now i get it. I acted and did the things I did because i had undiagnosed nvld.  I can't say the reason I dropped out of college 25 years ago when I didn't want to was because I had undiagnosed nvld. It may account for the fact that I didn't rectify what i considered the biggest mistake of my life later and go back when i had several chances, ending up going to five college after dropping out the first time never graduating, and recently having another opportunity to go back to my original college and after a year of deferring re-enrollment ending up not going. At this point its "I have NVLD, so what" Has it changed the way I feel about life not really. I am still very unhappy that i dropped out of college 25 years ago when i didn't want to, and not going back two months ago when I had the opportunity to do so. The only good things that have happened in the past two months is that i finally found a therapist through a fellow nvld Facebook group member whom works with people whom have learning disabilities and i have the opportunity to meet with the psychologist who diagnosed me at 42 to go over my testing.  Am i optimistic that these two things will be helpful not really based upon past experience with mental health professionals.

ANSWER: Peter, I can understand that receiving the diagnosis was not a life-changing experience. You're still the same person after learning you have NVLD as you were the day before.

All the label might do is put a name for any "differentness" you might have felt and it does give you a direction to search in if you go seeking information on what the diagnosis is. Understanding the common characteristics of your diagnosis can help, in as much as you can then learn what strategies other people have used to get around their areas of weakness.

It's hard to live with regrets and missed opportunities. But being in your 40s means that there is still lots of time to get a college degree. At your age, I began a Master's program. In my mid-50s I started a Ph.D. Age is not the factor here.

Can you think of the reasons why you initially dropped out of college? Quitting school when you're in your late teens/early 20s is probably more the norm, than being atypical. I've heard that only about one quarter of people who being post-secondary school actually finish their degree.

Do you think that fear of failure or anxiety over your initial college experience kept you from attempting it two months ago? Is college actually something you really want to do or is it something you think is expected of you?

In 25 years, college has changed. There's are lots of ways of approaching it now tht were unheard of when you were a kid. Most campuses now have disabilities services - a place you can register and receive assistance. It varies, but generally you can find services and accommodations such as:

- having your exams spaced out so you're not faced with two finals on the same day
- writing your exams in a quiet area either alone or with a few others rather than with hundreds of fellow students
- the possibility of taking your exams orally rather than writing out your responses
- assistance with note taking
- access to software programs that will read your text to you
- access to voice recognition software so that you could present your work orally into a microphone and the program will turn your words into text
- permission to take a reduced course load
- tutoring
- organizational assistance
- counseling

Many people with various kinds of learning disabilities also have executive functioning difficulties. This comes out when they have to organize their work load, juggling assignments and classes and tests and projects. Executive functioning involves time management, prioritizing, sequencing and organizing - all skills needed for a successful college experience. Sometimes an external person giving a hand with this can make a big difference.

Another thing that trips people up about college is anxiety. The more the work piles on, the more anxious the person becomes. The greater the anxiety, the more powerless the person feels and the less work they can accomplish. Some people have anxiety to the degree that they benefit from prescription medication. Depression can also be a factor.

A typical college load might be five classes a semester. For some people, that's fine, but it's becoming more and more common for students to take just three classes at a time. This may allow some time for a part-time job; for other students, this work load is simply more manageable and they can be successful rather than overwhelmed. You'll need to check the regulations at the colleges near you but where I live, a student with a disability can take as few as two classes per term and still be considered a full-time student for student loan purposes. I think it's better to take fewer classes and have a successful experience rather than tackle the full monty and end up quitting.

For early birds, attending classes at eight o'clock or eight thirty three days a week works well. Other people feel that their brain isn't really in gear until many hours later. I rather like night school classes - one evening a week. Online classes abound now and if you'd rather work alone from your home, that's an option.

Perhaps when you meet with the psychologist, you might consider being upfront about what you would like to get out of your sessions. Think about exploring the possibilities of the effects of depression and anxiety.

I'm not sure it's reasonable to expect great insights from the psychologist. Instead, the psych might help you find your own insights into past choices and provide guidance as you choose which future paths you will follow and work with you on the skills you'll need to be successful there.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: I am going to make four points and leave you be.

1. I dropped out of college when I didn't want to 25 years ago.
2. There was no reason.
3. I don't believe everything happens for a reason.
4. I am tired of therapists trying to convince me otherwise.

Thank You

I get what you're saying although I'm not sure I agree. There's a reason behind every choice we make, even if that reason may not have been consciously thought out or been sound. You eat breakfast for a reason. You write to All Experts for a reason.

The only purpose in determining what your past reason might have been is so that you can alter the circumstances that led to that reason and choose a different outcome. Sometimes this means changing the way we think about something. (That's part of cognitive behavior approaches that I gave you links to yesterday).

You sound tired of rehashing old stuff. That was then and this is now. What do you want to do now? Dreams and goals change Are you hung up on college because that was at one time a goal? Or is college still important to you now? If so, then go. Maybe begin small and in a different fashion that you did 25 years go, but if it matters to you, then just do it. College is different when you're an adult instead of a kid.

Consider talking to your psychologist about the possible ways that depression affects a person's life as well.


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Dr. Sharon A. Mitchell


Sharon can help with parenting and educational concerns. She has worked in teaching, special education, counseling and consulting for over thirty years and gives workshops to educators and parents on working with kids with autism spectrum disorders. Sharon speaks from both the education and parent points of view, having an adult son with Asperger's.


Sharon has spent decades as a special education consultant with a school district and autism consult for the province's Department of Education, giving workshops and individual consults. Currently she works as regional autism consultant for a health district in between teaching university classes. She is an Amazon bestselling author or a series of novels, each depicting a child who has an autism spectrum disorder. Sharon's Master's thesis looked at the long-term outlook for persons with high functioning autism and Asperger's. Her Doctorate focused on strategies to help those with autism spectrum disorders.

Website at and sits on Autism Today's Panel of Experts (

Author of "Autism Goes to School" - a novel about autism that that became an Amazon bestseller. Get this Amazon bestseller free at In the next book, Autism Runs Away, Ethan is only in grade one and already has been kicked out of one school due to his tantrums and pattern of running away when in a panic. Now in a new school his mom remains glued to her phone, waiting for the call to tell her that they don’t know what to do with a child who has autism. Sara is about to learn if this new school is up to the challenge. ( Autism Belongs is the 3rd book. Manny's life has shrank to the confines of their house. His parents are desperate not to rock his world because the aggression has gotten to much worse. Where will this lead? Is there a chance that Manny could actually belong out in the world? You bet! Get a free sample at Book four, Autism Talks and Talks, is about a 12 year old girl who has Asperger's. She's bright, inquisitive, highly verbal, but lacks social skills. Try a free sample at Book five, Autism Grows Up features Suzie, a bright, twenty-one year old whose life collapsed after she finished high school. Now, she lives in her mother's basement, spending nights on her computer, afraid to broach the world outside their door. Autism Grows Up is found at Prefer a boxed set? Get the first 3 books bundled together at Co-author of bestseller, The Official Autism 101 Manual (

B.A. in Psychology, B.Ed. in Special Education, M.A. in Educational Leadership PhD. in Psychology Management, specializing in autism.

Awards and Honors
B.R.A.G. Medallion for the novel Autism Goes to School - Book 1 in the School Daze Series. ( Like Autism Goes to School, the third book in the series, Autism Belongs, also ranked #1 on Amazon ( Manny is not like other children. He doesn’t talk. He doesn’t leave the house. His parents desperately try to arrange their world so that Manny does not get upset. Because, when he does, well, the aggression was getting worse. At ten, Manny was becoming difficult to handle.

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