Similarities & Differences of Nonverbal Learning Disorder and Asperger's Disorder

February 28th, 2023

Published February 28th, 2023 by Kidzsolutions

Non-verbal Learning Disorder, or NVLD, affects a person’s visual-spatial, social, and motor skills. It is similar to another common disorder: Asperger’s Disorder, or AD, is a high-functioning form of autism that impacts someone’s ability to communicate and socialize. NVLD and AD, while many believe it to be the same thing, are not. While they do share signs and symptoms, there are some key characteristics that make them different. Here are some of the similarities and differences of Nonverbal Learning Disorder and Asperger’s Disorder:


Both NVLD and AD make it difficult for those diagnosed to recognize and understand nonverbal communication cues. This can be seen in how they process spatial distance. It is also seen in their inability to perceive facial expressions, changes in tones of voice, and other gestures.

These disorders make it hard for some to keep meaningful relationships and/or collaborate with others. This is because others may perceive their lack of social skills as rudeness or apathy. People may also believe those with NVLD and AD are odd because of their interests or their social awkwardness, which makes it hard for them to fit into crowds. As a result, people with these disorders may respond to rejection by having emotional outbursts and isolating themselves from others.

People with Nonverbal Learning Disorder and people with Asperger’s Disorder also face difficulty with executive functioning, or planning, skills. This might be because they prefer to stick to a consistent schedule and find change to be stressful. Many prefer consistency because those with NVLD and AD are also diagnosed with social anxiety, which brings along fears of uncertainty and low self-esteem.

Those with Nonverbal Learning Disorder and Asperger’s Disorder have extremely strong memory and can memorize information they have heard rather than seen.


The routes to diagnosing NVLD and AD are different. For example, someone can approach diagnosing Nonverbal Learning Disorder by doing a comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation. Alongside this, a NVLD diagnosis also takes into consideration a person’s psychiatric and social/familial past, as these things tend to aggravate symptoms. Meanwhile, an AD diagnosis is based more on details from a person’s history, school reports, and observations. However, a neuropsychological evaluation is beneficial for an AD diagnosis as well.

How those with the two disorders process emotions varies. Those with NVLD feel a normal range of emotions, but they cannot express them as well as others and cannot perceive them in others when shown non-verbally. People with AD have a contrasting emotional range; this is because they do not know when or how to appropriately express their emotions.

People with NVLD and AD showcase contrasting academic strengths. Children with Nonverbal Learning Disorder typically go on to do very well with more vocabulary-based lessons, such as reading and writing, while those with Asperger’s advance in more analytical subjects like math and science.

Nonverbal Learning Disorder and Asperger’s Disorder are not categorized in the same disorder criteria. This is because NVLD is a learning disability, while AD is a developmental disorder. 

Despite this, studies show that many people, around eighty percent, who are diagnosed with either of these disorders also have the other. Because of this, people can approach treatments in the same way. Some treatments include therapies such as applied behavior analysis (ABA), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and occupational therapy (OT), executive functioning coaching, and social skills training.

Recognizing the differences between these disorders will help you provide your child with the type of testing and treatment best to help them grow in their personal, familial, and social environments.


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“Asperger's or NVLD: Has Your Child Been Misdiagnosed?” My ASD Child,

“Asperger's Syndrome: Symptoms, Tests, Diagnosis, and Treatment.” WebMD, WebMD,

Bethel, Stephannie. “Non-Verbal Learning Disorder (NVLD) and/or Autism?” Stephanie Bethany | Autistic Adult, Stephanie Bethany | Autistic Adult, 2 Apr. 2022,

“Non-Verbal Learning Disorder.” Government of Alberta Personal Health Portal,

“Nonverbal Learning Disorder vs Autism Spectrum Disorder.” Discover Seven Stars, 2 Dec. 2022, disorders are associated with, learn better by hearing information

“Quick Facts on Non-Verbal Learning Disorder.” Child Mind Institute, 27 July 2021,

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