NLD refers to a pattern of cognitive and neuropsychological strengths and deficits that significantly affect an individual’s ability to learn and function in and outside of an academic setting. This pattern has been associated with genetically anomalous conditions such as Turner Syndrome, William’s Syndrome or De Lange Syndrome, and has been associated with conditions that cause certain structural abnormalities in the brain, including (but not limited to) Callosal Agenesis, Early Shunted Hydrocephalus, Spina Bifida, or Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Often, however, the condition is idiopathic and the cause, although unknown, is presumed to be developmental. Individuals with NLD frequently exhibit cognitive and neuropsychological assets in simple motor skills, auditory perception, and rote learning. They are often quite adept at the deployment of selective and sustained attention for simple, repetitive verbal material (especially that delivered through the auditory modality), and this becomes very well developed. Over time, they frequently exhibit very well developed receptive language skills and rote verbal capacities; they have a large store of rote verbal material and verbal associations, and a very high volume of speech output. All of these characteristics tend to become more prominent as they get older. Individuals with NLD often concurrently exhibit deficits in tactile perception, visual perception and spatial organization, complex psychomotor skills, and the learning of novel material.
For a child or adult with NLD, as long as stimulus configurations remain novel, they are often dealt with very poorly and inappropriately. The capacity to deal with novel experiences often remains poor and may even worsen with age; thus, individuals with NLD often tend to be quite rigid in their daily routines and their interactions with others. They often will have difficulty in specific academic areas, particularly in mathematics or sciences that require the application of math, but at times with reading comprehension if concpets are primarily implicit or abmiguous. Socially and behaviorally, the deficits are frequently more pronounced as a person gets older. Significant deficits are apparent in social perception, social judgment, and social interaction skills; these deficits become more prominent and problematic as children get older. There is a marked tendency toward social withdrawal and even social isolation with advancing years. Individuals with NLD are often characterized during early childhood as afflicted with some type of acting-out or other “externalized” disorder; however, such children are very much at risk for the development of “internalized” forms of psychopathology. Frequently, there are indications of excessive anxiety, depression, and associated internalized forms of psychosocial disturbance that tend to increase as children move into adolescence and adulthood. Children who exhibit the syndrome are frequently perceived as hyperactive during early childhood. As they get older, they tend to be characterized as “normo-active” and eventually hypoactive.
Dr. Dean J.M. Mooney, Ph.D., NCSP
Jonathan Gilmore, M.S., C.A.S.