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School-Based Interventions : Nonverbal Learning Disability
Interventions for Social and Emotional Difficulties

  1. Provide direct instruction about what is communicated through body language

    Brainstorm, demonstrate and role-play with the student examples of conversation-encouraging nonverbal communication cues such as a smile, eye contact, leaning toward the speaker vs. conversation-discouraging cues such rolling the eyes, finger pointing, sighing, backing away. Play "charades" often.
  2. Teach the student about feelings/emotions using visuals and role-playing

    "When someone is silly, they can make silly faces, play silly games or play tricks on another people."
  3. Teach the student to gauge the intensity of other's emotions, and provide statements to respond to high/low intensity states

    Be as precise and descriptive as possible when labeling feelings and emotions. Use a range of feelings words to expand the student's vocabulary (e.g., "bored," "afraid," "surprised," "worried," "confused," "angry.") Click here for examples of social stories:
  4. Teach the student to recognize literal interpretations; explain multiple meanings of words/phrases

    Demonstrate and visually show how the same word can mean different things depending upon the context. Have the student create and keep a dictionary or book of multiple-meaning words. top


  • Write out exact expectations for any situations where the student may misperceive complex directions and/or proper social cues

    Write expectations on the board prior to a field trip to a museum. ("At the museum, we are going to 'look with our eyes' and not with our hands. This means we are going to keep our hands close to our body and look at the artifacts with our eyes only.")
  • Group the student with good peer role models and place the student in cooperative learning situations

    Pre-assign the student to small groups with positive peer role models. For example, instead of individual in-class silent reading, allow the student to discuss a book and answer questions with two to three appropriate peers. top

Specialized Instruction

  • Provide supervised lunch group, and/or playground activities

    Support interactions with peers during recess and exploratory free-play periods. Set up opportunities for sharing materials interactively and taking turns (organize a kick ball game at lunch and "referee" to ensure the student is interacting with peers).
  • Provide direct social skills instruction, and role play appropriate social interactions

    Practice game-playing skills (taking turns, making choices, following rules) through alternative activities (group projects) and/or within classroom assignments (in-class cooperative assignments).
  • Use specific peers to accompany the student during transitions, or during nonstructured times

    Pair the student with a specific "buddy" during bus rides. Assign seats for the student and "buddy" during lunch. Allow a desirable shared activity during recess such as watering plants, playing a sport or game, or playing on the computer together.
  • Teach the student specific vocabulary to help him/her decipher conversational intent

    Directly teach the student to say "I am not sure what you mean" or "that doesn't make sense to me, could you please say it in a different way?"
  • Develop a self-talk script to de-escalate when the student is frustrated or has a misunderstanding

    Directly teach the student when to use self-affirming statements such as "I can do this, I know I can do this." Click here for examples of social stories:
  • Signal the student when he/she needs to lower his/her voice or activity level

    With the student, develop agreed upon nonverbal signals (raised hand, bringing hand down) to reduce voice volume or activity level.
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