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Learning To Read Is Harder For Visual Learners

Jun 8, 2008
Most teachers of 5 and 6-year-old children will tell you how baffled they can be by this phenomenon.

There are many children who struggle with reading, while being evidently bright and hard working.

Initially everything can seem OK. But, while other children's reading progresses steadily, these children will hit a plateau at around 6. As the text they are expected to read gets more complicated, they will get more and more confused, often guessing wildly.

In the end their reading will go into reverse as their confidence implodes. They can feel the worry of their teacher and parents, but don't know what to do.

Because people are not trained to recognise this pattern, it is often diagnosed as dyslexia. But that is quite wrong.

Dyslexia is a broad term that covers any fundamental problem with reading despite normal intelligence.

But these children are usually just trying to read the wrong way. There is no reason why they should not be able to read.

Let me explain what's happening.

A very visual child will learn most of the alphabet quite easily. Then they are usually shown some simple high frequency words, which they can sight-memorise. Their first early reader books are usually made up of a very simple vocabulary of these common words and they can apparently read them, using this sight-memorisation and a bit of intelligent guessing.

So their parents and teacher believe all is well.

But problems develop as the text starts to use a broader range of words. Some children will naturally switch to scanning the words phonetically.

Others cannot naturally distinguish the sounds within the words (phonemes) and so cannot relate them to the letter patterns that represent them in text (graphemes). At least not without quite a bit of careful instruction.

And these are the ones that have major problems.

They will use the context to guess wildly, taking the first letter of the word as a guide.

They are frustrated and puzzled by their situation and don't know the way out of it. They can sense the frustration of their teacher and parents, but have actually been doing their best.

Of the one in five children who reach the age of 11 unable to read properly, around 80% are in this group. It virtually destroys their chances of a good academic career and severely limits their working options.

And that is a tragedy, because we routinely see exactly these children learn to read in a matter of weeks. They have no underlying reason not to be able to read. They are just going about it the wrong way.

The label dyslexic carries a great risk that everyone will just relax into acceptance of the situation as inevitable. That leaves the child to deal with a much harder path through life.
About the Author
To read more detail on helping every child learn to read visit our site. There is a mass of tips on ways to fix most causes of dyslexia. It's often quite easy!
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