Signs & Symptoms

Non-Verbal Reasoning

Is your child having difficulty with patterns and logical reasoning?

It’s a fact. Some of us like words more than numbers or pictures. A more visual brain is required for activities like building models, reading graphs, or finding your way around a building. Measuring, diagramming, and taking data also fall into this category.

If these activities are harder for your child, he may be more of a verbal type of learner and will likely require different instruction in school.

Although non-verbal, children may use verbal mediation to solve non-verbal puzzles. For example, a child might say, ‘first I will do the edge pieces, then the similar colored pieces, and then I will complete the puzzle.’ However, even though some verbal strategies help, these tasks are essentially non-verbal.

Generally, children who struggle with non-verbal problem solving have a harder time in math [2]. Math problems rely on the brain’s ability to form mental models, to visually represent concepts, and to understand how objects fit together.

What do challenges with Non-Verbal Reasoning look like?

  • Perplexed by problems?
  • Shying away from building with blocks, or making models?
  • Crying over the instruction booklets for Lego sets?
  • Having a harder time learning to do math problems?
  • Preferring letters over numbers?
  • Liking reading books more than reading graphs?
  • Struggling when trying to build things?
  • Preferring to act in a play rather than do a science experiment?

Why is Non-Verbal Reasoning happening?

Clinically, visual problem solving is called ‘non-verbal reasoning.’ Like doing a Rubik’s Cube, you have to ‘see it’. On an IQ test, non-verbal tasks include building with blocks to make a printed design, discerning patterns, and determining how to balance a scale. These tasks are measures of non-verbal reasoning skills. Individuals with weaker visual processing or non-verbal intelligence may find that talking through the logical steps is the best way to effectively solve a math problem. People who struggle with these reasoning skills are likely to have difficulties in math, engineering, or geography.

How can I manage Non-Verbal Reasoning at home?

If you suspect your child has difficulty with non-verbal reasoning, it would first be important to consult with a School Psychologist or Clinical Psychologist and have an IQ test to confirm. School psychologists typically only administer IQ tests as part of an evaluation for special education. If your child is not being considered for specific services, it will be necessary to consult a clinical psychologist instead.

In terms of strategies for someone who struggles with non-verbal skills, the following is recommended:

  • In order to play to your child’s strengths, it can be helpful to assign meaning to all non-verbal tasks. Tell the child how this number relates to something in real life. For example, if there were three swings on the playground and two friends were already on a swing, how many would be left?
  • Or go out to the swings on the playground and give the child a chance to experience this ‘problem’.
  • Tell stories to bring meaning to non-verbal images. When looking at a map, tell the child a story about what happened in these different regions. These stories should have feelings, sights, and sounds. The use of stories will allow the child to put context to visual or graphic representations.
  • If your child’s skills are very low in terms of non-verbal skills, a consultation with the school may help. Academic testing may be required if your child’s math skills are low. A 504 plan or IEP may be necessary if your child struggles in math, science, or technology.

How can Clear Child Psychology help with Non-Verbal Reasoning?

If your child is struggling with this symptom to the point that it is getting in the way of his or her learning, relationships, or happiness, it’s time to seek professional help.

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