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.

Cheers!
Karen Hope
Co-founder of Dyslexia Victoria Online

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

  1. Hi,

    That’s for the reply. I have various signs of dyslexia, some follow.

    – bad memory
    – poor handwriting
    – difficulty reading, words are blurry and letters merge together
    – I can spell a word correctly one moment and then forget how the word is spelt 10 mins later.
    – when checking the spelling of words I sometimes can’t see if I have spelt a word such as “collection” with 3 L’s, 1 or 2, it’s as if the letters merge into one.
    – sometimes I look at a written page and can’t focus of where to start reading. It’s like I see the page as a whole and my eyes just jitter all over the page not making sense of any of it.
    – most of the above gets worse if I am tired or stressed.
    – I can proofread a document 20 times, but still miss a obvious spelling mistake of a missing word.
    – I have had my eyes tested and I don’t need glasses.
    – I get distracted when in meetings easily.
    – If a room has background noise I can’t hear or focus on the main speaker.

    Thanks,
    G.

    • Here are a few suggestions:

      – bad memory
      – poor handwriting
      This is called Dysgraphia. Often a problem for Dyslexics. The simplest solution is using a computer. Other than that get an Irlen screening (Irlen.com for screeners in your area). This is a common visual issue with distortion for Dyslexics. Go to Irlen.com and download and do their long questioanire to determine if a screening would be appropriate)

      – difficulty reading, words are blurry and letters merge together
      (Sounds like Irlens)

      – I can spell a word correctly one moment and then forget how the word is spelt 10 mins later.
      (Common problem. When Dyslexics are young this can be improved with specific training. As an adult very tough. My go to is using spell checkers. http://www.gingersoftware.com is great for spelling and grammar) Many people, including non-dyslexics are bad spellers. Don’t beat yourself up for it – please.)

      – when checking the spelling of words I sometimes can’t see if I have spelt a word such as “collection” with 3 L’s, 1 or 2, it’s as if the letters merge into one.
      (Use a Spell checker and Irlen issue possibly. Also change your font on the screen to a larger size, more space between lines like 1 1/2 or 2 spaces and use an easier to read font like Calibri, Verdana or Arial or some of the new Dyslexia friendly fonts – google to find them. Times New Roman is the worst – change it for sure)

      – sometimes I look at a written page and can’t focus of where to start reading. It’s like I see the page as a whole and my eyes just jitter all over the page not making sense of any of it.
      (IRLEN’s – you really need to get screened)

      – most of the above gets worse if I am tired or stressed.
      (Irlen’s)

      – I can proofread a document 20 times, but still miss a obvious spelling mistake of a missing word.
      (Ginger software for grammar and spell check and the advice above for changing the font on the screen)

      – I have had my eyes tested and I don’t need glasses.
      (Irlen’s – Very typical because most optometrists or opthamologists don’t believe Irlen syndrome exists. I am an Irlen screener and a sufferer – believe me,it’s real)

      – I get distracted when in meetings easily.
      (Dyslexics are often distracted with information that causes them to think in tangents. I have a relative who is severely Dyslexic and had to listen to hours of testimony for his job improved his focus when listening by staring at a pencil in front of him. Every time his mind was drawn away he would refocus on the pencil. He found this extremely helpful for his listening skills. There are other exercises that also help us Dyslexics listen and pay attention better. Google “mental focus exercises”)

      – If a room has background noise I can’t hear or focus on the main speaker.
      (Tough one. Focusing exercising like the pencil can help. Also I always the parents of my young Dyslexic clients to have them sit near the speaker. Knowing your ear dominance will also help. One ear is stronger than the other for most people. Simple test is what ear do you use to talk on the phone. Point that ear at the speaker and sit at the front. Your comprehension and listening ability should improve.

      Hope this helps!!

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