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

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

  1. Thanks for the detailed reply. I will look into your suggestions. I do find my poor spelling embarrassing and live in fear of whiteboards!

    I don’t want to tell my work I am dyslexic. In fact I don’t tell anyone as I am embarrassed and I am unsure how people will react. I know I shouldn’t worry what people think but I have been tormented with this since my early school years, the psychological damage has been done.

    Thanks again.

  2. i love this article i wondered how sometimes i cant make sense of words, its because i see almost everything in images…for instance in your article where it said concrete (my intial thought is a builder pouring concrete into the ground) and it distracts me from the paragraph. I

    • Funny, the same happened to me (I’m dyslexic) when I saw the word concrete. Also, because of the alliteration with car I got confused about the subject of sentence for a moment, being concrete not car.

      I write scientific articles quite a lot, and have the problem described here with reading but in reverse when its comes to writing. I have a picture in my head of an (abstract) physical process, where I can see both the broader picture of how it works and the finer details – like being able to see a tree and its leaves at the same time. However, when trying to translate this into words it is very difficult to know where to start, particularly when you can see how all the components of the picture tie together, or need one another to explain there existence.

      Let me try with the tree example – imagine an oak tree. First I could describe its overall shape – its foliage gives a broad base jaggedly reaching the ground, it gradually narrows higher up, and has a rounded top. There are bulges and bumps here and there in its foliage where branches protrude or there is a gap. Next I would describe its components. It has a trunck – its backbone, branches foring its skeleton and leaves which give it a green cloak – the outline of which I gave above. I would explain how these work together to produce this overall shape. Then I might then want to describe the components in more detail, shape and colour of leaves, texture of the bark on the trunk and branches etc.

      That was much harder than I thought it would be (I wrote each sentence two or three times on average). The biggest problem is that I have already referred to foliage and branches in desribing its shape, before I have describe what the foliage and branches are. That’s ok in this case because you already understand what foliage and branches are. However, when I am introducing a new set of concepts (such as when writing a scientific article), each term needs to be introduced seperately or sequentially. The picture in my head is fine because you can just see what all the parts are and how they hang together, but introducing them in a linear way in written sentences I find very hard. How do you start to describe a tree without reference to leaves, branches, trunk etc.

      Any advice?

  3. The picture and the statement messed me up about the dog it confused me lol. I recently learned im a right brain thinker who has dislecia. Life has been pretty hard and school has be very emotional. Im just happy that I know so I can learn how to study and and live a more cofuturble way. God bless and understand to you all amen.

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