Visual spatial learning, sometimes known as dyslexia

Traditional teaching techniques are designed for auditory sequential learners. Concepts are introduced in a step-by-step fashion, practiced with drill and repetition, assessed under timed conditions, and then reviewed. This process is ideal for sequential learners whose learning progresses in a step-by-step manner from easy to difficult material. For visual spatial learners, concepts are rapidly understood when they are presented within a context and related to other concepts. Once spatial learners create a mental picture of a concept and see how the information fits with what they already know, their learning is permanent. Repetition is completely unnecessary and irrelevant to their learning style.

However, without easily observable connecting ties, the information cannot take hold anywhere in the brain–it is like learning in a vacuum, and seems to the student like pointless exercises in futility. Teachers often misinterpret the student’s difficulties with the instructional strategies as inability to learn the concepts and assume that the student needs more drill to grasp the material. Rote memorization and drill are actually damaging for visual-spatial learners, since they emphasise the students’ weaknesses instead of their strengths. (Silverman 1994)

I don’t see myself as a visual spatial learner ( maybe visual, not spatial so much), but I do have real trouble with auditory sequential processing, and the above I can really relate to. There were times in public school when I was so frustrated with the sequential step-by-step manner of teaching that I would skip chapters and read ahead just so I could get to its point. Sure, I might have struggled a bit with the advanced material, but once I understood it, and only then, would the rest of it make any sense to me. Top-down learning I used to call it. I’m a top-down learner.

Mein hubby is even worse. He can’t spell well enough to save his life (although he has no trouble reading), and he keeps complaining about the engineers’ lack of foresight where he works. Why can’t they see it like he does? – he carps. He sees it all in his head, all the images frame by frame, like in a movie. He can see the mistakes the engineers are headed for in their designs. Why can’t other people see it too? Why can’t they think ahead?

I tell him there are other people who can see it too and have his problems – and they’re called dys… duh… uh … visual thinkers.  That’s right. Visual thinkers – like the four dead-end kids profiled in FORTUNE Magazines’ May 2002 issue.

Some have even written books about it – Upside-Down Brilliance and Gift of Dyslexia . Only it doesn’t feel like a gift when you or your child is struggling with it in a public education system that prizes uniformity and conformity above all else, and sees dyslexia as nothing more than a learning ‘DISABILITY’ instead of a learning difference that needs to be addressed.

I’m determined to get this thing nailed, to understand how to tutor someone who’s a visual spatial learner. I’m also determined to recover my mobility. 

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