Dyslexic Children have Difficulties with Instructions

I had an interesting chat with a mother about her son and her belief that he might be Dyslexic. During our conversation she talked about his difficulties with instructions in his classroom.

One situation she mentioned was a classic example of a Dyslexic child misunderstanding instructions.  The child’s teacher wanted the grade one students to draw a picture of themselves. Our mother’s son drew a picture of the student sitting beside him. The teacher was upset with him and said he didn’t listen to her instructions to draw a picture of himself. The boy said the teacher had told them to “draw what they see” in reference to a self-portrait. Dyslexics can be very literal, especially when instructions are not clear and he followed her incomplete instructions “literally” because he had no other context, experience or information to follow. She was  confused by his answer – he said he “drew what he could see” which was the boy next to him; he obviously couldn’t draw himself because he couldn’t “see himself”.

The teacher’s instructions were very abstract, incomplete and conflicting for a grade one Dyslexic child. On one hand she is saying to draw a self portrait (“what is a self-portrait?” the child is probably wondering) and then she says “draw what you see” while talking about drawing pictures of themselves.  The only context he can connect to at this point is drawing pictures of people. She might have said “draw a picture of yourself as you think you look” and then this Dyslexic grade one student would know exactly what she meant.

The teacher’s use of the word “self-portrait” is abstract and then adding the idea of “draw a picture of how you see yourself” or “draw what you see” is above the development of an average six year old’s mind. Most of the children would probably respond to the part of the teacher’s instructions about drawing a picture of themselves but not focus on “self-portrait”  or “draw what you see” because they wouldn’t understand those “big picture” concepts.  Left brain dominant learners are more logical and sequential and will focus on the details they understand and can follow which would be a picture of themselves.  The Dyslexic child is a deep complex thinker however, thinking in the “big picture” and trying to follow her overall concept and its meaning.  This will probably be difficult because it deals with understanding what a psychological view of oneself is. This idea would be above the level of most six year old children. Dyslexics are always looking for the context and deeper meaning in instructions and these children can often see several possibilities. So he might not understand a “self-portrait” and ” draw what you see” in regards to how he sees himself visually or psychologically. He would more likely focus on the only “big picture” idea he could comprehend in the teacher’s directions which would be “draw what you see” in reference to a portrait or picture of a person and that would sensibly be his neighbour.

Another example of a Dyslexic child following directions literally was a seven year old boy we assessed.  We asked him to copy over a dotted letter and he started to trace the dots but not tracing the letter. He “literally” did what we asked.  Then we made our directions more clear and showed him what we wanted.

So if you find your Dyslexic child does not understand what you are saying or asking then maybe you could try to be more complete and clear with your words or ask the child what they think you meant so you can correct what they have confused. I believe practice of this type of clarity with words will help to avoid misunderstanding that can be beneficial in any situation with anyone.

Karey Hope
Founder of Dyslexia Victoria Online

What Is Dyslexia?

The left hemisphere thinks and expresses ideas in terms of letters, words, and numbers. It coordinates information in a computer-like fashion, giving it structure and sequence. It is linear in operation. Most importantly, it understands abstract words and ideas. It is the location in our brains where verbal language is processed and where about half of the world’s population decodes, processes and produces written language.

The right hemisphere thinks in whole concrete images and pictures.  It does not like to break down words into their phonemes (sounds of individual letters or groups of letters). These only confuse the right-brained person who thinks in whole concrete pictures. Phonetic sounds have no meaning on their own, and cannot be easily processed and stored as images in long term memory. Storing information depends on having all the parts present in a whole context such as the complete image of a printed word or a complete lesson or assignment. Through memorizing whole words the right brain understands what the words are symbols for.

Unfortunately, most of our teaching and learning depends on reading, listening and writing in abstract words and numbers that cannot be turned into whole concrete pictures. The dyslexic student learns very differently from the left brain, and so must be taught differently.

The Dyslexia Victoria Online approach to being right-brained or dyslexic offers alternative teaching methods, insights and explanations for the many learning problems classified as dyslexia. Our most important realization has led us to stop treating it as a learning disability. Our classroom and tutoring experiences, assessment and evaluation program, and our work with parents who are homeschooling their children have shown us that the right-brained student is generally very intelligent, but often held back by a number of learning differences that are overlooked by educational systems.

However, to be able to use these learning traits in the modern world predominantly right-brained persons still need to be able to spell, read, write, and work with mathematical numbers and concepts.

For more information about Dyslexia and our teaching solutions check out our website at: www.dyslexiavictoria.ca

Hope to hear from you. You can email me at: jturner@dyslexiavictoria.ca

Karey Hope
Co-founder of Dyslexia Victoria Online

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What Words Mean to A Dyslexic

Many words in the English language are abstract and confusing for the dyslexic student. One major reason is that many words have multiple meanings. For instance, the word “back”. When you say “move back” or “stand back” are they the same thing? On a horse there is the physical positionback or backside of the horse” and then the “back of a horse” which is a part of the horse. The “back of a horse” is also the top. And just to be more confusing “we rode the horses back to the ranch”! How about the word “back” when it’s used in sports? “The “quarter-back” pulled his arm back to pass the ball back to the full-back” or to the “half-back“. Or body actions: “back hand”, “back flip”, “back step”, “backwards”. Then there is “back on track” and “back-track, “back from the dead” and “back the right man”.

The right-brained student must change words into concrete images first to understand them and then needs to know whether we are talking about a name, a direction, a position, an action, etc. So what do they see in each case of the word “back” given above? Do they understand the multiple meanings? If I asked you to stand in front of a chair and tell me which part of it is the “back” how do you know which meaning I’m looking for? Is it “the back of the chair” where you sit and lean back on or “back of the chair” (behind) or “the back of the front of the chair” or a “back rest”?

It is important to be clear with a dyslexic child or adult about the meaning of what we write or say. A right-brained person can interpret a statement or story in many ways and become easily confused and frustrated. So as a parent, teacher, tutor, friend or employer of a dyslexic be clear about what you are doing or asking them. They will be thankful, capable of understanding what is going on and consequently able to respond correctly.

What a crazy language we have! “Turn the clock back”, “back to the past”, “back-talk”, “backboard”, “back of the line”, “back to front”, “backing up”, “backer”.

Try other words such as “left” and play the game with a dyslexic person in your life. You will probably be surprised at how many you can think of.

Check us out at:  www.dyslexiavictoria.ca