Dyslexics don’t See Words in their Minds, they See Pictures

When you ask a dyslexic/right-brain child or adult what they “see” in their minds when you tell them to imagine a concrete word such as “car” they will usually tell you they see a picture of a specific car or multiple cars – they don’t see the word “car”.  Normally when you ask a left-brain person what they “see” when you ask them to think about the word “car” they will see the written image of the word in their mind, a car or a car and the word. But generally they can visualize the word when they need to.

How right-brain and left-brain people think about a word

This is a huge difference between a right-brain and left-brain thinker.  Dyslexics have a difficult time trying to learn to read because they see pictures of what the word is, not the symbols of written language that represent the word.

Now let’s take abstract words.  To a dyslexic words like “up”, “down”, “when”, “now”, “is” are difficult to learn how to spell and remember if they can’t easily visualize the idea of “down”.  They need context so they can come up with a visual image to understand and remember these type of words.  You can have a dyslexic practice these words with all the different methods to learn to spell and read that are appropriate for dyslexics along with visualization exercises to pair the meaning of the word with a concrete image in their minds.

One way to have dyslexics practice visualizing abstract words is having the student write sentences using these abstract words in a sentence that represents  a clear picture in their minds of what this abstract word means.

For example, go to Google Images, google a word like “down” and you will get many webpages of concepts of what “down” can mean.  Have your dyslexic student pick images of “down” that make sense to them, copy the pictures to your computer into a document in a program like  Microsoft Word and then on the same page create and write sentences about the picture using the word “down”.  The sentences can be serious or silly, whatever pleases your student.   Always remember to keep the picture and sentences on one page so that they connect the picture with the word as this will help them remember the written image of the word “down”.  This method can be used effectively paired with individual concrete words (animal, place or thing).

Teaching methods for the dyslexic should always incorporate the idea that they see “whole concrete images” best. Dyslexics will often learn how to spell and read words more successfully if they can use their ability to see pictures of the meaning of a word paired with seeing the word as a picture and not several parts and individual letters. For example: instead of emphasis on the letters in the word “d-o-g” they are taught “dog” as a total picture.

More on this another day.

Karen Hope
Co-founder of Dyslexia Victoria Online

23 thoughts on “Dyslexics don’t See Words in their Minds, they See Pictures

  1. When I read the sentence and I get to the word “down” my brain has to turn inward for a minute and play a short movie, like a .gif because I can’t seem to find a still image that seems like down or up. I think in 4 dimensions not 3, so I can’t visualize still images for actions at all. For up I actually have to envision my entire feild of vision and then image in all shifting down as if I was moving my head “up” . For “right” I get immediately disoriented panicked and stressed if I try to picture one side as “right” I have to picture a car driving around and taking a sharp turn to my “right”. When I got to the word “down” on the puppy exercise and their was a picture option, my mind simply blanked out all the words entirely and honed in on the image… it felt like reading words and internally translating them to gifs was way too inefficient and I my brain rejected it as just too frustrating if there was a picture option at all. For me the picture made the words harder to even convince my eyes to go to at all. I have a much much harder time reading books if they have pictures. Unless it’s maps because I can imagine movement within the boundaries of that map shape and it helps me work out stuff like north, up, etc.

  2. Side note, I’ve taken a lot of foreign languages, and it is much easier to read in certain ones… some languages use few articles and add endings to nouns to make their context known… these languages are much easier for me as a dyslexic to visualize.

    • Also I find it helps to view “to go to the store” as one entity, or even two, “to go to” “the store” instead of “to” “go” “to” “the” “store”, as it mimics what I like about those languages. It does take reading it twice but I’ve found it more efficient than trying to look at each word as one item.

  3. Okay, last thing… but as far as the, an, one, dozens…. my mind feels those as feelings, it doesn’t see them as words or pictures “store” is the picture and “the” is a feeling in my mind, so grouping ideas in to phrases instead of individual words helps… “the store” looks just like “store” in my mind but “the store” has a certain feeling. “A store” also looks just like “store” and “the store” in my head but also has a distinct feeling. Hope this gives somebody som insight into something 🙂

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