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Moving More to Center with Visual Learners

By Sarah Major, Child-1st Publications
So much of what I've been reading lately has had to do with visual learners and identifying which children actually fall into that category. And, wow! The more I read, the longer the list of children who are visual learners grows. These are just a few:
  • Most children from ages 4 to 7 learn best through images since they're at the stage in which the right hemisphere (gestalt brain) is rapidly developing as a normal neurological function.
  • Many children naturally are strongly visual in their learning style. According to the experts, this percentage of all children is pretty high
  • Children who have been identified as dyslexic learn best through visuals
  • Children who are autistic learn well through images
  • Children who have been classified as ADD or ADHD are also visual learners
  • Children who have spent a great portion of their time immersed in media such as television, video games, computer games all develop a strong visual sense. Even if their neurological wiring would have been predominantly left-brained, their experiences in life create a strong right brain and make them visual learners.
So we have all these children who learn best through teaching methods that rely heavily on visuals. And then we have the traditional educational system which uses oral directions with an emphasis on teaching details before the whole picture etc. This is perfectly suited to left-brained learners but doesn't meet right-brained children at their strengths. Short of doing a massive overhaul of our educational system (donít hold your breath on that one!) what can we do?

Research has shown that the human brain is quite plastic. What this means is that it is capable of developing in new ways and compensating for difficulties all the time. So we can shape our children through experiences we provide them. If your children are strongly visual because of the way they have spent their time and what they have been exposed to, donít despair! Start providing other types of experiences in small bytes to these pseudo visual learners. This will strengthen some of their left-brained functions and help them move more to the center on the right brain--left brain spectrum.

So how can we do this? Begin to encourage a lot of outside play. When I was typing that sentence, an image flashed into my mind of a couch potato being pushed out the door with the injunction to ďgo play and have fun.Ē There the poor kid stands, blinking in the bright sunlight with no clue at all how to play. Donít think this could be true? Iíve seen it happen. Some children spend so much time inside, in passive mode responding to media, that when placed in a situation that requires them to invent an activity, they have no idea what to do. So go outside with the child, already. Plan a little activity to break him into playing outside.

Ideas for activities both inside and out that develop strong connections between hemispheres:

  1. Scavenger Hunt. Make a collection of natural items that catch the childís attention. Explore them on the spot. Do they have a particular texture? A distinctive smell? Color? When you have a nice collection, engage the left brain by asking the child to briefly describe each item she picked up. Talk about what some items have in common and how they differ from each other. The tactile exploration of nature is wonderful for creating neural pathways and the more often it is repeated, the better for the child!

  2. Dribbling. Using a soccer ball, play outside, kicking the ball first with the left then the right foot. The cross-lateral movement strengthens connections between left and right hemispheres of the brain and helps children when it is time to do school tasks that require both regions of the brain.

  3. Silly Stories. Collect images you cut from magazines, newspapers, travel brochures, or find in clip artÖany image that catches your eye. Glue these pictures on cards. When you have collected a nice stack of photo cards, shuffle them. With the cards face down, have the child select three cards at random, lay them on the table and look at them. Ask her to invent a silly sentence that includes all three of these words. For example, the child might draw a picture of a carrot, fork and a wagon and create this sentence: "I ate my carrot with a fork in a wagon."

    At first it might be hard for her, so play too, modeling your thoughts as you invent a silly sentence. Iíve done this with children as young as preschool and I would have them tell me something about all three items while I wrote what they said. We had the most amazing stories emerge. This activity helps children begin to tie visuals with words. Start very small. A phrase is great. Over time if you keep on doing this activity, the child will become more and more fluent with her words and will likely begin to embellish until she has a little paragraph. If you make yours silly, the exercise will be fun. And fun is good!

  4. Play Simon Says to help the child listen, think, and control the motion of his body. Do activities that require hopping, balancing, tipping, spinning, etc. Simon can tell the child anything he wants to after all! "Hop on your right foot three times" or "Spread your arms out like wings and stand on your left foot."

  5. Red Light, Green Light is another great game to help a child learn to listen and control her movements. Use red and green paddles to signify go and stop. When you hold up the green paddle, the child can run forward until you hold up the red one. This game is great to use with children who have been classified as ADD because it will activate their frontal lobe (the center for forethought and body control). This is especially true if the child gets points or a token of some kind each time they are able to stop or go when they receive that signal.

  6. Charades is a good game to combine verbal, visual and body movement. For young children, use pictures of objects or animals on cards. If you're playing with multiple children, deal everyone a card and then when it is the childís turn, have him stand up and strike a pose or act out what is on his card. Ask the others to guess what he is and say why they think that. Encourage conversation between the players in which they verbalize their thoughts.

    Once you begin to do these activities with your child, you'll think of many more. Make conversation. Ask questions that encourage your child to think through possible outcomes. Experiment outside. The wonderful outcome of activities such as these is that each time you do them, whether or not you see any change at the time, communication is established between different regions in the brain which over time will help your child simply blossom!

    Child1st Publications, LLC offers Multisensory Phonics and Multisensory Reading Instruction Programs and Products. For Learners with Dyslexia, Aspergers, Autism, Reading Comprehension Problems, Visual Learners, and other Right Brain Learners, we provide a path to reading success using explicit phonics instruction. Buy their products online from theChild1st website or call them at: 704-240-9957.

Disclaimer: Internet Special Education Resources (ISER) provides this information in an effort to help parents find local special education professionals and resources. ISER does not recommend or endorse any particular special education referral source, special educational methodological bias, type of special education professional, or specific special education professional.


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