Motor speed and tactile perception in children and adolescents with nonverbal learning disabilities

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Wilkinson, Alison Diane

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Individuals with nonverbal learning disabilities (NVLD) struggle in several different areas, including social competence, mathematics, visual-spatial skills, and novel material. However, diagnostic criteria have not yet been defined for NVLD. As a result, children with the disability are often under-identified. Some discrepancies exist in current theories of NVLD, and this study aimed to address some of the discrepancies and aid in identifying possible diagnostic criteria. In particular, this study examined motor speed and tactile perception in children and adolescents with NVLD. This investigation reviews existing literature on NVLD, including developmental information, as well as the Rourke model of NVLD (Harnadek, & Rourke, 1994, Rourke, 1993). In addition, empirical evidence is reviewed which suggests that NVLD is related vi to dysfunction of the right hemisphere of the brain. The relationship between NVLD and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is also described. Finally, a review of the nature of motor speed and tactile perception is provided. Various psychoeducational and neuropsychological measures were utilized in this study to identify eligible participants. Three groups of participants between the ages of 9 and 14 were identified for this study: 1) Children with suspected NVLD based on deficits in two out of three areas (social perception, mathematics, and visual-spatial skills), 2) Children with significant symptoms of inattention, and 3) Typically developing children. The groups were compared on several neuropsychological measures of motor speed and tactile perception. The results of this study suggest that measures of motor speed may not be useful in identifying children with NVLD. In addition, although measures of tactile perception may be helpful in diagnosing NVLD, performance on these measures should be considered only in conjunction with other deficits. Finally, measures of the integration of motor speed and tactile perception may not be extremely useful in identifying possible NVLD. Therefore, further research is needed to deliniate potential diagnostic criteria of NVLD, so that children with the disability can be identified and can receive appropriate interventions.