Understanding How Visual Thinking Strategies Support Dyslexic Learning
What is a visual thinking strategy?
A visual thinking strategy helps with arranging thoughts, concepts, facts and ideas in a way that helps with understanding and communicating information especially for dyslexic learners. Let us look at why this is the case and what types of visual thinking strategies are useful...
Why visual thinking strategies are helpful for dyslexic learners
The British Dyslexia Association’s video, ‘Seeing Dyslexia Differently’ explains how people with dyslexia think differently. One of the strengths of a dyslexic mind is to think visually and this ‘trend’ is evidenced by the number of dyslexic thinkers who work in our creative industries, such as architecture.
The school environment can be challenging as it often plays to the weaknesses of dyslexic thinkers.
Visual thinking plays to the strengths of a dyslexic mind, helping the user to develop a useful overview of the information that requires consideration prior to presenting that information in a linear way.
Types of visual thinking strategy and when to use them
The term 'Mind Map' is often confused with the term 'Concept Map'. Concept Mapping, is a way of visually illustrating the relationships between concepts and ideas. Often represented in circles or boxes, concepts are linked by words and phrases that explain the connection between the ideas, helping users to organize and structure their thoughts, further understanding and discover new relationships. Concept mapping is popular in science, health education, engineering and more.
A Concept Map is a useful tool for those who feel stuck with writing essays as it helps them to arrange key information it in a way that makes sense.
DNA Concept Map made in Inspiration 10
The key benefits to using Concept Mapping are:
It helps users generate new ideas
It encourages users to explore and make connections between topics
It allows users to clearly communicate information
It helps users to integrate new concepts with existing concepts
It enables users to gain enhanced knowledge and evauate that information
Digital Concept Maps can also be converted into Microsoft Word documents for further editing. This is ideal for expanding on written assignments.
Mind Mapping is a visual representation of hierarchical information that includes a central idea surrounded by a series of branched associated topics. Mind maps can be used to develop 'thinking templates' that can be used for specific thinking activities for example, a SWOT analysis that has a structure for thinking but needs populating with relevant details. For example, a student could use a mind map to organise how they prepare for an exam. The following is an example of a mind map that helps students get ready for exams:
A graphic organiser is a visual display that demonstrates relationships between facts, concepts and ideas. It can look like a template of blanks that need filling in with information. The example below shows the relationship between two books leading a student through a ‘Compare and Contrast’ exercise. They are designed with a specific objective in mind.
The benefits of a graphic organizer
Students can organise ideas and explore topical relationships
Reading comprehension is improved as information is broken down into disgestible chunks
Students improve their understanding of processes by systematically exploring cause and effect
The great thing about using visual thinking strategies is that it is something that anyone can use to reach a deeper level of thinking and productivity. It is especially useful for students with dyslexia who are especially creative or have a tendency for non-linear thought that makes conventional essay writing difficult to engage with.
Using visual thinking strategies can reduce coursework overwhelm and procrastination. For many students, using visual thinking strategies digitally, with software such as Inspiration 10, is a perfect starting point to then go on to edit mistakes and expand on written assignment within Microsoft Word.
About John Hicks
John Hicks is an accredited therapeutic counsellor and assistive technology advocate who supports young people and adults in unlocking their strengths and managing their weaknesses. He is responsible for The Studying With Dyslexia Blog and for supporting some 2500 families with his Parenting Dyslexia online initiative.