“When a dyslexic understands how they think and what information they need to learn a new task it is like finally getting the pieces of a puzzle to fit.”
First Major Cause:
Difficulty understanding any concept without starting with the “whole picture”. The right brain learner thinks and understands the world in whole concrete images. If the whole concrete image has not been presented first and is available when the student is starting to learn the parts, the parts will not make any sense and the brain will discard them. The right brain needs to start with and see whole images and whole concepts, not the separated parts.
Second Major Cause:
Difficulty with understanding the parts separate from the whole image of the word. If these students cannot see the parts within the whole and the whole image at the same time, they cannot make sense out of pieces or parts of information.
For example, demonstrating fractions. Use two oranges, keep one whole, cut the other up first into halves then into quarters, but always have the visual image of the whole orange present. The student must understand that the word fraction stands for the equal parts you have created from the whole.
Third Major Cause:
Difficulty with the skills of hand printing, spelling, reading and composing sentences correctly. This usually means that the right brain cannot transfer its concrete images adequately to the left brain which works with abstracts and uses the language of words and numbers.
The right-brain thinker cannot learn, analyze or work with what they do not understand or can process. This is a strong indication that although the students are taking in information and attempting to store it in whole concrete images, they are not using it for thinking or learning that requires abstract processing. Instead they are memorizing the image of the information and giving it back verbatim in their answers. They can do this easily if they are expected to give one word answers or complete a sentence, but thinking out cause and effect is next to impossible because it is an abstract task that means nothing to them and requires proper training to cope with it.
Fourth Major Cause:
Difficulty with sequencing (put in a logical order) numbers, letters, words, sentences, ideas, thoughts. If the students can neither see the “parts within the whole” in their correct sequence, they cannot spell, read, write sentences and paragraphs, nor do mathematical calculations.
Fifth Major Cause:
Difficulty understanding the abstract. The right-brain learner does not always understand the abstract words, thoughts and ideas they hear or read as they cannot easily turn them into whole concrete images they can visualize. If the dyslexic student cannot complete a thought in a visual image, they will have problems saving it and storing it in long term memory because it does not make sense.
The right-brain thinker attempts to understand what is being read or spoken by catching the concrete nouns and active verbs, or by using intuition to fill in the blanks or reason it out.
Sixth Major Cause:
Difficulty with building a memorized word list.It is very important for all students, including dyslexics,to have a memorized sight list of words that is appropriate to their grade level. These words must be memorized beforehand so the brain does not have to lose time during reading figuring out how the word is decoded, what it sounds like or means.
If the student spends too much time in decoding and recognizing the individual words, comprehension of the story is lost. The student is forced to reread the passage over and over to understand what they have just read. Their short-term memory can consequently dump the information when the right-brain has struggled too long to decode the words and find context in what they are reading. Therefore, the student will not be able to answer any questions about their reading assignment because the student has not processed the information correctly or stored it in long-term memory.
Seventh Major Cause:
Difficulty in following instructions. Dyslexic students need very specific and complete instructions on how to do an assignment, project, test or complete a lesson. Again this is about the necessity to see the whole picture.
They need to understand how the assignment starts and ends. They need to know: where to put their name, date and title; what kind of paper to use; pen, pencil or computer; the date to hand it in; how the answers should look (for example: one word answers, a paragraph or a page); and any other issues that may be of concern for the student.
Once the student has all the information they require they have the “whole picture” of what to do and can now see the parts so they are ready to start the assignment. Also the entire lesson or explanation must be given at one time on the same day. If this does not happen, the students will forget everything they should have learned to be able to work on and complete the assignment.
Dyslexic students should always be allowed and encouraged to ask questions to fill in any gaps they have in understanding what they are required to do. “The Five Steps to Learning“ for dyslexics (discussed in my next blog) shows how and why an assignment should be presented to the dyslexic students if you expect them to learn the material or do the assignment correctly.