Social competence in children and adolescents with nonverbal learning disabilities
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Children and adolescents with Nonverbal Learning Disabilities (NVLD) commonly experience severe social and academic difficulties. Youth with NVLD lack social competence. They display poor social perception and find it challenging to appropriately attend to the facial expressions, prosody, and body language of others. Children with NVLD are often unable to accurately interpret social exchanges. Subsequently, they have trouble determining which behaviors to enact and tend to respond to social situations with inappropriate or atypical behaviors. As a result, they are repeatedly isolated, neglected, and ostracized by their peers (Little, 1993). These negative experiences correspond with elevated levels of anxiety, depression, and suicide attempts (Fletcher, 1989; Rourke, Young & Leenars, 1989). This study sought to gain a greater understanding of how youth with NVLD process social information as their poor performance in this area increases the likelihood that they will experience detrimental life outcomes. This study examined the perspectives of children with NVLD and the perspectives of their primary caretakers and teachers. Participants consisted of 12 children with NVLD between the ages nine and 13. A parent and teacher of each child also participated. Data was collected via interviews, observations, and field notes. Grounded theory methodology was used to analyze data for significant themes and trends. Data analysis generated rich theory regarding how children with NVLD understand social interactions and nonverbal communication. Key traits of those with NVLD are detailed and findings indicate that communication across parties promotes social development.