Non-Verbal Learning Disabilities, by Holli Rissberger

Friday February 27, 2015

Linda Burdett, an executive function coach, recently held a conference regarding Non Verbal Learning Disabilities (NVLD), and its prevalence and impact on those with Spina
Bifida. While many people with Spina Bifida have average intelligence, they are more likely to have some level of difficulty with learning. This is thought to be due to
brain stem malformation, and hydrocephalus. The chances of learning difficulties tend to be greater in relation the lesion level, with individuals having a higher lesion level having a propensity towards more learning issues.

Linda went on to give examples of NVLD which include difficulties with:

  • Math, word problems
  • Fine motor difficulties
  • Decision making abilities, reasoning, and judgment
  • Social skills
  • Coping with changes/ transition

There is quite a bit of overlap with NVLD and what is known as executive function. Web MD simply states that “Executive function includes the ability to: manage time and
attention, switch focus, plan and organize, remember details, curb inappropriate speech or behavior, and integrate past experience with present action.”

For those of us who can see ourselves or our children struggling with any of the above, Linda reassured us that there are many strategies we can use to mitigate this, the most important thing of course is to be aware. As parents or adults we can educate ourselves and seek out assistance. People with learning difficulties often just need different strategies to be successful. Some benefit from something as simple as breaking down a task into very small pieces, others find using a sequential check list helpful and for younger children sheer repetition or picture charts can be useful.

Linda has her Masters Degree in education, has many years of experience in the classroom setting, and is currently a doctoral student in Special Education at Syracuse University. She is also a tireless advocate in our community for those with Spina Bifida and is herself a mother to Lauren, a young woman with Spina Bifida.

Linda has recently secured a grant to fund a program through Stepping Stones Learning Center to provide consultation, information, and one on one couching for students with non
verbal learning difficulties.

If you have concerns regarding a child preschool aged to 18 years old, please contact Linda at 585-704-5463 or by e-mail at