PROBLEMS OF DYSLEXIA
RIGHT AND LEFT BRAIN LEARNING DIFFERENCES
Did you know the brain is divided into two hemispheres? The left hemisphere thinks, feels and expresses ideas in terms of letters, words, and numbers. It coordinates information like a computer, giving it structure and sequence. The left half of the brain is linear in operation. Most importantly, it understands abstract concepts like words, sentence structures, directionality, numbers and time.
The right hemisphere thinks in “whole concrete images” based on real world examples like animals, buildings, food, all things you can touch, taste, hear, smell and see. These are things that can be experienced through the five senses: visual, auditory, kinesthetic (touch), smell and taste.
Below are some of the issues that arise from being right-brain dominant when thinking and processing information.
The right brain thinks in whole concrete images and it does not easily break visual images down into their parts to understand and process them. For example, breaking words into their phonetic sounds only confuses the “right-brained” learner who thinks in whole concrete images. Phonetic sounds have no meaning on their own to a right brain learner and cannot be easily stored as images in long term memory. The Dyslexic person doesn't know what to connect them to. The letters and sounds in "C-A-T" mean nothing on their own but "CAT" is a whole word and the name of the animal. The Dyslexic learner can imagine the image of a cat when reading the whole word "CAT" but doesn't easily connect the individual letters in the word to the image of a cat.
One of the Dyslexic children we assessed gave us an excellent illustration of how they can get confused with letters and words. He said that the posters in classrooms that show letters representing images such as "A" is for Apple had made words really difficult for him.
So in this example, he would not understand that "F" started the word "frog". In his mind he saw a Frog, Rabbit, Ostrich and a Goat. He had connected the letters to animals or objects that were shown on the posters. He told us his mind was full of animals but not the word "frog".(Dyslexic children are always helping us to understand Dyslexia better)
Storing information depends on having all the parts present in a whole context such as the complete image of a printed word or even an example of a completed lesson or assignment. Through memorizing whole words in context the right brain understands what the letters in the words represent. This enables them to read or write the words correctly.
Unfortunately, much of our teaching and learning depends on reading, listening and writing in abstract words and numbers that cannot be turned into whole concrete pictures. As a result the dyslexic student not only has learning problems the left does not have, but it learns very differently than students who process information from the left brain, and so must be taught differently.
MAJOR SPELLING AND COMPREHENSION PROBLEMS FOR DYSLEXICS
The right brain dominant learner cannot always distinguish the parts within the whole image especially if abstract. They may not even "see" the parts, especially if the image cannot be understood. A page of print, for instance, may be a complete blur, so much so that the words actually appear to slip sideways and fall off the page. Trying to read the text can become impossible.
In other words, if the dyslexic lacks an understanding of the whole concept and cannot form a visual image in the mind of the parts within the whole, it cannot sequence the parts correctly and is unable to understand the lesson or reproduce the ideas logically, in a step by step order on paper. The process of writing a sentence or story is one of these step by step processes dyslexics have difficulty with.
If the right brain dominant individual has difficulty distinguishing the parts within a whole picture or concept, they cannot make sense of the information to be processed and the information is not sent to long term memory.
For example: The right brain has trouble seeing and understanding what the letters in a word represent if they are given to the student to learn separately from the full image of the word. When words are represented as phonetic forms these letters, given in groups based on the sounds they represent (phonemes), allow no understanding for the right brain until it first sees, hears and writes out the full word. Only then can it break it down into its parts.
The right brain cannot picture the sounds of each phoneme in concrete images and then letters on their own mean nothing.
When teaching Dyslexic students to spell words, always present them with a hand-printed or hand-written version of the full word first. Only then can the word be broken down into syllables, but not into phonemes. For example: tomorrow: to / mor / row
Note: Most dyslexics prefer to print the letters as opposed to using cursive writing. This keeps each letter separate, yet together in a printed word, and enables them to distinguish each letter as a distinct image.
To spell a word using this method, the right brain works backwards”, beginning with the visual image of the whole word, then seeing each syllable and its letters in its proper sequence.
Note: The longer a word and the more syllables it contains, the more difficult it is for the right brain to memorize and reproduce it as a whole image. Learning about prefixes and suffixes will reduce this problem.
Key to learning to spell words is always having the full word present while memorizing the spelling. This means the spelling of words cannot always be learned in their phonetic parts such as consonant blends "br" or "sch", phonemes "ough", or diphthongs "ow". These letter groups mean nothing to the right brain so learning a group of letters that make up a phoneme without the full word present does not ensure the student will learn to spell that sound. However, syllables that are prefixes or suffixes always have a meaning on their own that enables the right brain student to understand these parts of words. For example, suffixes give the tense to verbs: "climb" and add "ed" for past tense: "climbed"; or prefixes such as "dis" (not) and "con" (against) have their own meanings.
Just as the right brain needs a complete visual image to understand the meaning and spelling of words, it also needs full, complete instructions to understand and process new information. Instructions, lessons, assignments, how to answer questions, what to say in an answer and how to write sentences, paragraphs and essays. These must be presented in whole examples as the parts do not make any sense on their own without the full picture.
Above all, avoid stopping in the middle of a lesson, especially if you do not allow time for the students to ask questions. If the information is not completed at one sitting, understanding will not occur. Storing the information learned up to this point has been interrupted because short term memory, denied the whole concept, simply discards that information. Everything supposedly learned will be forgotten by the next day.