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Status of NVLD in education


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I suspect my son with Developmental Coordination Disorder also has NVLD (WISC visual-spatial index is 78 and all the other indexes are in the average range, with verbal being his highest and more than 20 points above his spatial; reading scores on the WIAT are 10 points above his arithmetic, weak fine motor, poor motor planning, socially very naive). Although he did OK in math in the early grades he really struggled with Prealgebra and now Algebra. He needed extensive outside tutoring to pass Prealgebra and is barely passing Algebra even with the extensive tutoring. Given his visual-spatial WISC score I am anticipating Geometry (a graduation requirement) will be even harder. He also has a really hard time with academic writing (paragraph and essay organization and supporting his ideas with details are all very poor), but because his vocabulary and grammar are well above average he hasn't qualified for any writing support (he is allowed to type rather than handwrite, but does not get specialized instruction).

He was tested for ADD/ADHD in elementary school; the educational psychologist who evaluated him said he did not have ADD/ADHD, but suspected learning disabilities and particularly NVLD. The testing he did at school last year seems to support this. NVLD isn't in the DSM so it isn't a medical diagnosis, but does it carry any weight in education? He is having full neuropsych testing in a couple of months and if the neuropsych confirms he meets the criteria for NVLD, will that open any doors to further services? My school district is notoriously difficult to work with, so before I talk to them about modifying his IEP and adding services it is helpful to know what is typical in this situation in a more functional school district. I may need to go into due process over this so I want to make sure I am asking for supports that are warranted and effective so they stand a chance of being implemented.

 

 

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My son has a similar profile, and he received an ADHD diagnosis mostly for the executive functioning issues.  He later received a diagnosis of Other Specified Neurodevelopmental Disorder by a neuropsychologist when his testing showed a 27 point verbal/nonverbal discrepancy.  She said this is the diagnostic label they use for students with an NVLD profile.  

Like your son, mine has good vocabulary and his grammar is on par with peers, but his paragraph and essay organization and supporting ideas with details is a significant struggle for him.  He has a writing goal and gets support for organization and planning, as well as improving the length of his responses to meet grade level.

The IEP should address all identified areas of need based on data, rather than a specific diagnostic label.  I would focus less on the label and more on the data you need to support what you're asking for.  You can have the neuropsychologist focus in on executive functioning, writing, and social issues.  If your son is anything like mine, the Rey Complex Figure testing will be poor (mine was <2%tile).  The BRIEF rating scales would help identify EF issues, too.  If your son is old enough to be taking Algebra, he should be old enough to have testing for writing that would identify issues with topic and idea development, planning / organization of writing, as well as length compared to peers.  The WRAML has both a story memory and design memory test that can be useful for identifying discrepancies in verbal and nonverbal memory.  The WIAT essay composition test should include word count and thematic organization sub scores, and there are other writing assessments they can do as well.  Socially, I noticed that my son had a lot of things pop up on the Social Responsiveness rating scales when filled in by teachers.  

The neuropsychologist will include specific recommendations that will help you get started.  Pick the ones that are the most important for your son to push for, and what you have the most data to support.  Meanwhile, keep a close eye on anxiety and depression because these kids are notorious for having problems with this as the expectation to be more independent increases.

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Thank you, Driven_Cosmos, this is very helpful. Could you say what kind of support your son gets for organization and planning? My son is supposed to have that but it is mainly a study skills class, which is helpful, but not targeted to what he needs. My son's writing scores were wide ranging. The Essay score on the WIAT was below the 10th percentile but the other subtest scores were high enough to disqualify him. His TOWL scores were also above average, yet the writing he produces in class is very disorganized. I can speak to the neuropsychologist about whether there is another writing test that better approximates what he does in class; the TOWL writing sample was just a story, it didn't require any organization of information.

It looks to me like we already have the data needed to show he needs support in Algebra and Geometry, yet it is still hard to get. He is in a low level class with a special education teacher present, but I don't know how much the special education teacher works with him or what kind of help he is given. I think he needs preteaching and reteaching outside the class, but I am not sure my school does that. Overall it is a very frustrating situation and even being on an IEP I am watching him fall way below grade level in just about every subject.

Thanks for the mention to keep an eye out for anxiety and depression; he seems to be pretty happy so far, but I worry that will change once he realizes how far behind his peers he is and the implications for his future.

 

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Organization and planning is addressed in a few ways.  He has difficulties with time management and planning for getting homework done, so they have worked with him to make a weekly plan for getting his work done, worked with him to create and use checklists (which are usually not that helpful).  They also help him break down complex or long term assignments / tasks.

For writing, they have used checklists and graphic organizers.  They also work with him to identify what details from the text support his ideas, and on having all the required components of his essay.  I would say the implementation on the schools end for writing has been...so-so at best.  They seem satisfied once a student can write basic sentences, even in high school for a student with above average intelligence.  How does your son do on state testing for writing?  I was lucky to be in a state where topic and idea development on the essay was called out as a sub score and compared to other students in the district.

Here is a really good article about the TOWL, especially with older students who do not have severe writing problems (aka, cannot write simple sentences).  

https://www.smartspeechtherapy.com/test-review-test-of-written-language-4-towl-4/

Here's a great resource for scoring on the WIAT essay test, and it probably helps explain why your son's scores were so much lower on this.  

http://images.pearsonclinical.com/images/Products/WIAT-III/WIAT-III_Quick_Scoring_Guide.pdf

Does your son already have a math goal and achievement testing data in math? If not, getting this data and adding that goal may be your next step because then you can discuss what specialized instruction is needed to meet that goal (ex pre-teaching / reteaching).  Make sure your neuropsychologist does the math testing again.  You can compare current and previous results to make a case that in-class support alone is not enough.

And one final note--IMO virtually no public school district is a functional school district post-COVID.  I heard from a parent center advocate that schools are considering ALL students to be 2 years behind grade level, and that this is considered "normal".  It seems like the amount a student needs to decline to be considered below "grade level" is ridiculous these days, especially if you don't have pre-pandemic data.

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On 1/7/2023 at 8:50 AM, driven_cosmos said:

Organization and planning is addressed in a few ways.  He has difficulties with time management and planning for getting homework done, so they have worked with him to make a weekly plan for getting his work done, worked with him to create and use checklists (which are usually not that helpful).  They also help him break down complex or long term assignments / tasks.

My son is supposed to get this, too. It is weakly implemented though.

On 1/7/2023 at 8:50 AM, driven_cosmos said:

For writing, they have used checklists and graphic organizers.  They also work with him to identify what details from the text support his ideas, and on having all the required components of his essay.  I would say the implementation on the schools end for writing has been...so-so at best.  They seem satisfied once a student can write basic sentences, even in high school for a student with above average intelligence.  How does your son do on state testing for writing?  I was lucky to be in a state where topic and idea development on the essay was called out as a sub score and compared to other students in the district.

He is in a class that uses graphic organizers for writing so he gets this in a general way, but not exactly what he needs. I am not sure our state does a writing assessment at all, just math, reading, and science. There might be a writing section integrated into those tests, but I haven't seen a subscore.

On 1/7/2023 at 8:50 AM, driven_cosmos said:

Here is a really good article about the TOWL, especially with older students who do not have severe writing problems (aka, cannot write simple sentences).  

https://www.smartspeechtherapy.com/test-review-test-of-written-language-4-towl-4/

Here's a great resource for scoring on the WIAT essay test, and it probably helps explain why your son's scores were so much lower on this.  

http://images.pearsonclinical.com/images/Products/WIAT-III/WIAT-III_Quick_Scoring_Guide.pdf

Does your son already have a math goal and achievement testing data in math? If not, getting this data and adding that goal may be your next step because then you can discuss what specialized instruction is needed to meet that goal (ex pre-teaching / reteaching).  Make sure your neuropsychologist does the math testing again.  You can compare current and previous results to make a case that in-class support alone is not enough.

My son doesn't have any academic goals, just organizational. It was extremely difficult just getting him tested and qualified with organizational goals. Except for the essay score on the WIAT his academic achievement testing was average or above. However, the WIAT only tested arithmetic, not the complex and abstract stuff they do in high school. It is possible that if his current IEP were thoroughly and fully implemented he wouldn't need academic goals this year, but he definitely will for Geometry.

On 1/7/2023 at 8:50 AM, driven_cosmos said:

And one final note--IMO virtually no public school district is a functional school district post-COVID.  I heard from a parent center advocate that schools are considering ALL students to be 2 years behind grade level, and that this is considered "normal".  It seems like the amount a student needs to decline to be considered below "grade level" is ridiculous these days, especially if you don't have pre-pandemic data.

Thank you for the reminder. I know that every student is behind and struggling in some way. My daughter has been in private school since 2019, and probably experienced best-case-scenario for pandemic education. But even the counselors at her school have reported that students seem younger and less prepared than before the pandemic.

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