IEP Goals for Students with Non-Verbal Learning Disabilities (NVLD)

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Behavior apt to situation and surroundings is a natural manifestation of human intelligence. However, those born with learning disabilities may show the inability to conform to behavioral norms. These children require additional training as a supplement to their basic skills-building curriculum. This additional training emphasizes addressing issues related to non-verbal learning disabilities; building these is possible through systematic IEP goals formulation.

Why non-verbal learning is important?

If basic skills like reading, writing, counting, or doing math reasoning serve as mandatory skills for independent living, the non-verbal skills learning helps to adopt a disciplined and acceptable way of demonstrating those skills. These skills help you to present yourself smartly and help avoid making errors too often. A few crucial purposes served by non-verbal cues are:

  • Achieving acceptance of the self in a community
  • Helps you show to the world you are important too
  • Dictates others to take you seriously
  • Allows you to learn rules or code of conduct and stick to those
  • Allows development of an environment conducive to everybody’s learning

So, yes! non-verbal learning is as important to learn as the basic skills are. Thankfully, there is a systematic approach to learn these too. This approach is driven by what educators popular terms as IEP goals for non-verbal LD students.

Thinking about how to pursue non-verbal skills development? Here is a little guidance. In this post, we will walk you through:

  • What is SMART approach for determining IEP goals?
  • State-Approved IEP goals for NVLD students
    • Social Skills
    • Expressive Skills
    • Motoric Skills

So, let’s begin!

What is SMART approach for determining IEP goals?

S.M.A.R.T. approach, as we have discussed in our IEPs for cognitive disabilities post, outlines that the IEP goals should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Brief explanation goes like:

Specific: Be discrete in goal designing. Take one activity at a time. For Example, X will pick a book 4 out of 5 times. Here, we are not saying X will pick and put the book; only picking action is emphasized. This is specificity in goal formation.

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Measurable: You can measure the progress in discrete values. Referring to the example above, the action of picking the book is measured for frequency of correctness in action, which is 4 out of 5 times.

Attainable: Goals should be feasible for the student in question. Depending upon the assessment done, teachers decide attainability criteria while keeping parents in the loop.

Relevant: The goal should be relevant to the age. It should be supportive of age-appropriate behavior.

Time-bound: The goal should be met within a specific timeline.

One specific example includes:

“———- will raise hand before speaking by 3rd May”

State-Approved IEP goals for NVLD students

Simply put, non-verbal learning difficulties mean the inability to follow or respond the language of cues. With the help of correct gestures, facial expressions, and overall body language, kids can communicate their ideas or needs without saying or writing. Further, the kids should decide an appropriate action in response to visuospatial cues spread around them. Hence, IEP goals help to work with a well-designed approach to develop following types of skills in children with NVLD:

  1. Social Skills
  • The student will display maintenance of personal space and speak in a respectable tone during informal play session by a specific date
  • The student will ask a friend to play, initiate a conversation, or praise somebody by using physical gestures like clapping or raising a hand to call or seek permission to speak
  • The student will show personal affinity with any particular friend by directing him to come close or sit on the same bench
  • The student will follow the rules of the game as explained to him

2. Expressive skills

  • The student will show aversion to doing a difficult task or ask for ways or additional information to do it.
  • The student will face the speaker while listening to him/her.
  • The student will maintain eye contact while talking to a peer
  • The student will show a contextual body response by scoring or conceding a point in a game
  • The student will accord the peer’s greeting by nodding his head or making any other decided gesture
  • The student will combine a word with a non-verbal behavior to request, reject or accept a prompt
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By a specific date, the student will do the above activities 4 out of 5 times

3. Motoric skills

Children suffering from Non-Verbal Learning Difficulties (NVLD) show a conspicuous absence of physical balance and poor development of gross and fine motor skills. Parents usually overlook these difficulties thinking their child to be just clumsy or having a different outlook than others. IEP goals focused on motorics or development of gross and fine motor skills include:

Gross Motor Skills IEP goals and Fine Motor Skills as mentioned in Redmond, Oregon Goal Bank:

  • Imitate a movement or explain it in one word given in the picture cue card
  • Follow the set of written or visual instructions in the sequence as described to him. For example, Stand – turn around – walk to the door.
  • Maintain a dance or yoga pose
  • Name the action or movement as presented to him in a picture
  • Assume prone, supine, kneeling, appropriate sitting, and other positions; further, move on to maintaining these positions
  • Roll from one position to another
  • Practice caution – while opening and closing the door, around the corner, while backing, and negotiating a staircase.
  • Develop transfer skills – from bed to chair and back, etc.
  • Understand and walk to the desired location
  • Copy peers’ pace while going from one place to another

All these gross motor skills goals can be further refined based on direction, speed to attain, skill-level desired, etc.

Fine Motor Skills IEP goals

  • Increase ability to grasp/pickup/release things first with the dominant hand, and then with the non-dominant hand. The teacher can define the inches and weight of the object and the frequency of the correct skill display.
  • Improve grasp-release pattern while using classroom materials: Pick books and put them in the correct place, etc.
  • Hold a pencil in different grasps such as mature tripod grasp, quadruped grasp, adopted tripod grasp, etc.
  • Hold scissors appropriately
  • Rotate paper using the non-dominant hand
  • Show gradual progress in fine motor skills games.
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How to identify IEP goals needs of an NVLD child?

A child with NVLD shows certain characteristics:

  • Display of socially withdrawn behavior like not befriending peers, nil participating in activities, or avoiding company.
  • Incoherent and cumbersome monologue
  • The confused look on the face most times
  • Puzzled behavior
  • Stumbling or colliding with things too often
  • Incorrect interpretation of instructions and directions
  • Below average math and visual discrimination skills
  • Attention deficit with respect to visual or tactile stimuli (Poirier & Gaucher, 2009, p. 614)

Summing up,

Learning needs of an NVLD child has a broader spectrum. It is essential to identify these needs at the very start. Mostly, people assume that children will shun their inhibitions with age, but it is not true. It is also assumed that NVLDs don’t affect academic performance; on the contrary, other issues start affecting academic performance too. Hence, using IEP goals for systematic skills-development of non-verbal nature is essential and should never be taken lightly or overlooked.


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