Picture It

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Dyslexics are in the main visual thinkers. Most knowledge and thoughts are stored as pictures or in image form and time is needed to translate these into words. 

People with dyslexia typically forget what they hear and are poor auditory learners, however, they remember what they see and once something is known it is not forgotten. They also remember what they understand and need the ‘why’.

Dyslexics are Aha! learners who may take longer to get a concept but are helped by new ways of seeing it rather than repetition which frustrates them. They still need repetition but this requires stealth!

They often arrive at conclusions intuitively especially in maths (without knowing how they arrived there).

Their emotions are bound up with their mental functioning. When they feel good (and supported) they can fly. When upset, confused or angry, their work degrades.

They are holistic learners who see the interconnectedness of all things and their possibilities. As a result, they find it hard to summarise and they find multiple choice activities difficult.

Visual spatial learners ‘see’ what is described in their mind’s eye, making movies in their heads, or creating mental structures of an idea. They remember what they see, conceptualise or experience better than what they hear.

Spatials do better when they can look at pictures, models or other visual representations of the whole.

Dyslexics have 3 major issues when writing stories:

*Their minds move too fast: images move through their minds and they are unaware of sequence and organisation.

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*They write telegraphically – expecting the reader to fill in any gaps (as they do when they proof read their work) – missing links in the chain of communication.

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*The physical act of handwriting bogs them down.

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To help:

  • Ask them to write about a memory aided by a photograph or souvenir.
  • Factual writing can help, especially if it’s based on something they have done.
  • Provide a scribe or voice to text in order to capture their ideas.
  • Provide sentence stems and starters.

Word banks and phonics mats can be overwhelming as the visual learner will see the whole and find it hard to select what they need. Students should ask for words which can be written on separate post it notes and… either a spelling attempt should be made with a line underneath or a gap left for the word.

One way to avoid a story running on is to ask the student to ‘freeze frame’. They can get carried away with narrative as the story plays out at speed in their head but then be disappointed to find they can’t read it back or it doesn’t make sense. Ask them instead to freeze frame, and describe what they see. This can be written or drawn on a post it, and rearranged later.

In this way, visuals can use their movie memory to write. Visuals do tend to omit the details that are in their mind’s eye, thinking they have included it. Try asking: Where does it say that in your story?

The whole story should be available in pictures before the learner begins writing.

Dyslexics can excel in mental maths as their slow writing interferes with their maths thinking. Whilst showing working out is an important part of maths, this does not come naturally to visual spatial learners. They may often know the answer but can’t explain how they get there.

Picture thinkers can be taught to draw or doodle maths problems. Can they make a mental picture to explain the problem as they understand it? Can this be made into a movie? This is especially useful for word problems.

In maths, dyslexic learners will eventually be able to visualise number lines, 100 squares and time table squares if they use them in every maths lesson. The bar method can be helpful.

To help visual learners:

  • Use images to connect learning
  • Make videos
  • Encourage them to harness their visual thinking

Read ‘Picture It’ by Betty Maxwell and Crystal Punch.

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