Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Nonverbal learning disabilities, Nonverbal learning disabilities-Psychological aspects., Learning disabled-Psychology, Neurobiology, Self psychology, Socioemotional disturbance, Neuropsychology, Right hemisphere, Learning disability


The purpose of this theoretical investigation is to explore how Nonverbal Learning Disabilities (NLD) influences a child's social and emotional development by examining the potential interrelationship between the literature on neurobiology related to NLD and literature on normative psychosocial development. NLD, a lesser-known learning disability subtype, can impact an individual's capacity to process and remember visual-spatial information. Individuals with NLD have difficulty with social interactions, as they cannot recognize or accurately decode another's nonverbal cues, such as facial expressions, gestures, body language and tone of voice. Due to repeated rejection from others in response to their social perception deficits, individuals with NLD often suffer from social withdrawal, depression and other socioemotional disturbances. In this investigation, socioemotional development in children is evaluated through the neuroscientific lens of developmental neurobiology and the psychodynamic lens of self psychology. An area of commonality in both theories was the importance of empathic experiences with caregivers in early childhood for maturation of the selfregulating structures in the right hemisphere and healthy socioemotional development. As NLD is considered to be biologically based in the right hemisphere, this thesis contends that a NLD child's inability to process his mother's nonverbal communication may have impacted the quality of his early attachment relationships, and thus influenced the maturation of the right hemisphere. This thesis offers recommendations for appropriate accommodations and interventions for clinicians, families and schools.




iii, 105 p. : ill. Thesis (M.S.W.)-Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2010. Includes bibliographical references (p. 93-105)