What Every Parent or Educator Should Know About Teaching Dyslexics & Struggling Readers to Read
What Every Parent or Educator Should Know About Teaching Dyslexics & Struggling Readers to Read
Another parent-teacher conference! More frustration. Even though you know your child is bright, the teacher says they are still struggling with reading, seems unmotivated, and may even have a learning disorder like dyslexia. Whether you’re the teacher or the parent, you know this child gets frustrated easily with homework and reading, and often stumbles over simple words like when or the. Nevertheless, your child is imaginative and can read large words like “dinosaur” or “mountain” easily. You may have tried phonics, tortured yourself and your child with countless memorization techniques, or spent thousands of dollars on private tutoring—but your child still agonizes over reading.
This is a surprisingly common problem in American homes, and unfortunately, it often goes undiagnosed and unsolved. Today, experts estimate that 20% of the U.S. population, and the world’s population for that matter, is dyslexic. But thanks to several studies and research into the human mind, we can now free those children from the frustration and low self-esteem that often results from their reading difficulties. We now know that dyslexic 3-D learners simply use a multi-sensory process to understand the world around them. The great news is, getting them to understand the 2-D world of reading doesn’t require an expensive private school or tutoring or hours of boring memorization.
Here are six keys that will unlock your understanding of the dyslexic 3-D thinking style of a child’s mind and show you how to help them overcome their reading difficulties.
1. Dyslexics Think Differently.
They see words differently when they are confused. They read differently and can unconsciously create or alter their perceptions to make sense of the words they read. This unique way of processing sensory input can create confusion - this is both a gift and a problem for them.
As newborns, we all experienced “Big Picture” thinking, which was primarily based on our five senses. We felt uncomfortable, so we cried. We heard our mommy’s voice, so we smiled. We experienced confusing perceptions and sensations as we learned about our new world. But, as we grew and developed, we began to master the ability to blend the input of all our senses to help us perceive the actual events of our lives as different from our feelings and imaginations. We developed our “Logic” function (linear and abstract thinking) and began to merge it with our “Big Picture” function (based on sensory perceptions). This logic function enabled us to use critical thinking to deal with situations that confused our sensory perceptions.
Dyslexic Learners, on the other hand, remain predominantly Big Picture thinkers. They are great at using their sensory abilities to guide their perceptions—to recognize things or find creative solutions. Their multi-sensory experience is The First Gift of Dyslexia. It is the gift that sets a dyslexic’s creativity apart from so many of us who rely mostly on logical thinking. At the same time, their multi-sensory 3-D experience can create confusion and frustration when it comes to flat, written words and symbols.
2. Dyslexics are Intelligent and Creative.
For a long time, the implication was that dyslexics had brain “hardware” problems or that they were slow learners because something was “wrong” with them. Now, we know that the dyslexic is very intelligent and simply has different brain functioning “software” learning differences. Dyslexics rely less on their logic thinking function, and this often makes them extremely creative designers and problem solvers. For example, dyslexics like Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Gen. George S. Patton were able to think of unique and strategic solutions in the 3-D world they lived in.
Unfortunately, this creativity and problem-solving ability is often clouded by a low sense of self-esteem. Children who have difficulty learning from the traditional phoneme (making the sounds of letters in words) and phonics training offered in American schools simply grow accustomed to being unsuccessful with reading and writing. This causes them to have continual self-doubt and feelings of inferiority and too often leads to shame.
3. Reading 2-D Words Causes Confusion for Dyslexics
Dyslexics are different because they struggle to find significance in flat, 2-dimensional words and symbols. If these words and symbols cannot be meaningfully experienced through one of the five senses, they can become a confusing bunch of useless symbols. Here’s an example:
A young reader, maybe 6 years old, is learning to read the word bat. Three flat, 2-dimensional letters (b…a…t) are given, along with three associated sounds (bah…ahhh….tuh). To the dyslexic, these are arbitrary letters and sounds without any sensory information to relate them. The dyslexic will be able to memorize the letters and sounds, but they have no automatic recognition or experience of the word.
Fortunately, words like “bat” and “car,” are easier for the dyslexic to learn to read because the dyslexic will quickly begin to connect the words with an imagined picture of the actual object. Unfortunately, English is filled with words that have no visual or sensory application—words like who, what, were, a, is, the, same, at, and every. These abstract words cannot be pictured or sensed, and yet they make up more than 50% of the words read in their critical learning to read six years of elementary school.
Think of the 2-D written letters in the abstract word WAS. These letters form a word with no automatic sensory identification. You can’t see, smell, hear, taste, or touch WAS. At this point, up to 40% of Americans rely on the logic function of their brains to integrate the letters with the concept of the word. The brain of approximately 40% of the struggling readers and 20% of dyslexics works differently. Since these readers don’t immediately have a sensory experience to go along with the word, their non-integrated perception unconsciously begins searching for one. This occurs because their Mind’s Eye starts shifting viewpoints to resolve the perceptual confusion resulting from attempting to read the abstract word.
Since WAS isn’t recognized visually, the Mind’s Eye of the dyslexic 3-D thinker may instantly turn to the senses of hearing, taste, touch or more visual viewpoints of the word WAS, and ultimately the word SAW or another word SAM may become recognized. But these words don’t make sense in the sentence, so confusion builds, and the dyslexic begins to feel frustrated. Then, their Mind’s Eye might flip over the word, and now they see MAS. This view of the word makes less sense than the other views already considered. The dyslexic’s perception remains non-integrated - lots of data moving around in the brain without any way to integrate it all - and at this point the dyslexic may choose to simply skip this word altogether.
When several words in a row have no sensory counterpart (abstract words), the sentence can become a string of blank spaces with a few “concrete” words here and there. Comprehension becomes nearly impossible. The poem below makes it easy to see how confusing reading can be when the dyslexic misreads key abstract words:
The poem on the left all the abstract words and punctuation are underlined; these words and symbols are removed in the right version of the poem. How much sense can you make when you read the right version of the poem? This gives you an idea of what reading can become for a dyslexic when confusion builds while reading.
4. We’ve All Experienced the Confusion Dyslexics Face
So, how does it feel to be a 3-D thinker in a 2-D reading world? Imagine that you are sitting in your car at a red light, and you notice out of the corner of your eye that your car is rolling backwards. Your heart begins to beat faster, and your first instinct is to jam on your brakes. That’s when you realize that you are already firmly pushing on the brake pedal and that the car beside you is actually the one moving forward. You relax, smile at yourself, and go on with your day.
But, for a moment, you experienced the sensory confusion—or non-integrated perception— experienced by dyslexics all the time when they try to apply their five senses to written words. And, just like when you automatically pumped your brake pedal and looked around you to know what was happening, the dyslexic involuntarily begins to search for other sensory perceptions or angles to explain the confusion they feel—to regain brain integration that enables accurate perception.
5. Dyslexics Can Learn to Use Their Mind’s Eye to Process Sensory Information.
The Second Gift of Dyslexia is their Mind’s Eye. The Mind’s Eye is an intangible part of brain function that interprets perceptions and creates ideas out of the information received from all our senses - it “sees” what the eyes, ears, tongue, nose, skin, body experience.
The mind’s eye also “sees” our daydreams or the things we visualize. Through this invisible construct of the mind, we experience our imagination and what we perceive of the physical world.
Helen Keller is a dramatic example of how proper awareness of the mind’s eye can be useful. Blind, deaf, and mute, Helen Keller was still able to identify with her environment based on the input of her available senses and the ability of her mind’s eye to interpret the information from those senses. She relied heavily, as do most dyslexics, on the integration of her senses to compensate for what she didn’t understand.
When dyslexics learn to use their mind’s eye to their advantage, they can stabilize their perceptions, recognize letters and words, associate meaning with them, and master their reading issues.
6. A Multi-Sensory Approach to Abstract Words Solves a Dyslexic’s Reading Problems.
If you know a child who is dyslexic or a child struggling to read, you already know that traditional literacy techniques just don’t seem to work effectively. That’s because these two kinds of readers often learn best using a 3-dimensional, multi-sensory approach. By using the learning techniques that work best for them, these readers can begin to relax, allowing their brains to once again integrate the sensory information being perceived. When learning is approached with integrated perception, these readers begin to experience positive outcomes, which promote enthusiasm, restored self-esteem, and self-confidence to accept new learning challenges.
Sky Village is not your traditional reading program! It will resolve the confusion associated with the interruptions created by abstract words and symbols. The game provides several solutions aimed at the most common reading difficulties for dyslexics and struggling readers. The fun Adventures and the embedded learning tools and game mechanics provide the solutions for the dyslexic’s way of learning to read. With the mastery of every 20 Spell words (abstract words met in the Adventures) typically a child will jump one grade level in their reading ability until they reach the reading level of their peers, and amazingly sometimes beyond. It has been proven to work with children who struggle with mild reading difficulties as well as students struggling with severe dyslexia.