By Farida Raj
There are some children, who in the early years of learning, do well in academics. They are able to read, memorise and express their thoughts competently. They face a challenge with higher education. Their bigger problem is lack of social skills. This is known as Non-verbal Learning Disability (NVLD). The term is actually rather misleading because the individuals with this disability are highly verbal but have tremendous difficulty in the non-verbal areas such as tone of voice, facial expression or eye-contact.
For example, most of us take for granted the knowledge that when we notice a person frowning at us, it means disapproval or displeasure. It tells us that something we have said or done has irritated or upset the other person. The facial expression we see tells us to stop whatever we are saying or doing. If we did not notice this we would get into an argument. In our everyday life, when we interact with others, we depend on such social nonverbal signals to communicate effectively. Poor social skills mean difficulty in making and keeping friends, understanding body language, facial expressions and tone of voice. Some children are not able to read these signals which show that they might have a disability, let us look at an example; Rima, a class IX student was avoided by her classmates. She was not a part of any group activity. She talked endlessly about the topics that were of interest only to her. In short, Rima had absolutely no idea what her classmate thought of her.
Social skills play a very important part in our lives for lifelong success. Children who are lacking in this skill may talk too much or too quickly. They have difficulty in recognising their own feelings also they are not able to understand how others feel. Therefore, they are not able to behave appropriately with their friends at school and often end up having no friends. They feel confused and hurt when their friends reject their friendship. They either prefer adult company or play with much younger children. NVLD can cause children to grow into depressed and anxious young adults incapable of sustaining relationships.
Parents and teachers need to understand that when social growth doesn’t happen, their child’s life can be filled with humiliation and isolation. They may be able to help such children by seeking professional help to assist them in realising their potential.
(The author is a remedial educator)