International Journal of Art & Design Education

Drawing on the Wrong Side of the Brain: An Art Teacher’s Case for Recognising NLD

Volume 22.3   2003



Secondary art teachers sometimes agonise over students who struggle, but are frustrated by the general failure of the special educational needs system to recognise such problems as worthy of intervention or as more widely significant. Until recently, any analyses of such learning difficulties have found no support in educational psychology. This paper argues for the usefulness of the profile of ‘non-verbal learning disorders’ (NLD), which recognises visual-spatial problems associated with the right brain hemisphere. This diagnosis remains controversial and is unrecognised in the UK. The paper looks at examples of work by a student of high academic ability that seem to bear out this profile, discusses them in relation to ‘right brain’ approaches to drawing, and briefly examines some of the positive and far-reaching implications for art teachers of the growing recognition of NLD.