my child is a right brained, visual spatial learner

June 22, 2008 at 9:37 pm 12 comments

There’s a book that I want to read and it’s out of print. Currently there are 12 crazy sellers on Amazon wanting anywhere from $120 to $180 for this. (not crazy if they get someone else to actually pay the big bucks) Then I discovered my library system actually owns 2 copies, so I’ll be able to read it soon without spending any money. The book? It’s called Upside-Down Brilliance, the Visual Spatial Learner.

I know, I know, you’re probably thinking what on earth does that mean? When I finally figure it out, I’ll let you know. I’ve been reading about learning types online in an effort to help my son to read since he is still reversing letters at age seven. In my quest, I have determined that he is right brain dominant. Because reading is a left brained activity, his brain isn’t making all the connections it needs in order to read quickly and fluently. There is hope, though.

I also came across a cartoon which illustrates the difference between my two older sons and how they approach tasks differently. The cartoon shows 2 kids putting together model airplanes. One child is reading the long instruction sheet and is following the directions step by step to put the model together. (that would be my left-brain dominant older child Alex) Above the other child’s head is a balloon so we see what he is thinking about. (this would be Caleb, my visual spatial, right brain learner) He has an image in his head of the completed airplane and is putting it together by thinking of how the finished airplane will look like. This is exactly what my 2 boys do when they get new lego sets or bionicles. Alex reads the instructions and Caleb looks at the picture on the box.

right brained kids are great at geometrical games

When Caleb was four years old, I discovered an online mathematical shapes game that he loved to play. As I watched him play for a few minutes each day, I realized he saw the world a little bit differently than I do. When he sees a shape like the letter L it’s not just an L; it’s also ¬ and Γ, etc. He sees the mirror image, upside down image, and sideway image all simultaneously and can instantly turn shapes the way they need to go in order to fill a space or make something. He’s very good at tetris, puzzles and other shape games.

When Caleb sits down with a pile of pentominoes or tangrams, he will make geometrical shapes, rockets or robots for half an hour and then wonder if we have any more pieces so he can make bigger and better things. In contrast, Alex will make a quick shape and then ask if he can get back to reading his book.

While writing this post, I found this link to a pentominoes puzzle. I was trying to solve it when Caleb saw me and immediately wanted to take over. Within 3-4 minutes, he had all the little shapes fitting perfectly in the provided rectangle. I still haven’t figured it out with several attempts. I’m always left with one piece at the end that is the wrong shape. Oh well.

right brained kids have a hard time learning to read

When I started to teach Caleb how to read, we encountered problems. This wasn’t just the typical b and d reversal that a lot of pre-readers and beginning readers make. Not only could he not tell the difference between b and d, he saw g, q, b, d and p all as the same letter. He didn’t know the difference between a u and an n nor the capitals M and W.

He finally gets the g and the q because of their little tails and curves at the bottom. On words like gun, gus, gullible or any word that starts with a gu, I do see his mouth, making a Qu sound before he realizes that its a Gu instead. He seems to do better at reading if he first writes his letters on the white board. He also likes me to trace letters on his leg or back so he can guess what they are. With words that have un or nu together, he gets confused and can’t tell which letter is which. So is the word nut really nut or is unt? How about sun? Is it sun or snu? Because he knows that unt and snu aren’t words, he figures out that he’s reading sun and nut, but it doesn’t come quickly; he has to contemplate!

Orally, he can correctly make all the letter sounds if you ask him what sound a letter makes or he can identify which letter makes a certain sound. But visually, he can not identify all letters all of the time. Two years with a great phonics program, and he still contemplates many words. He can read; he can sound out multi-syllable words, but it is tedious work. I think he is going through every possible scenario in his head of what certain letters could be. For a long time, I would just tell him what a letter was, so he wouldn’t be slowed down with trying to figure it out. I didn’t think he was dyslexic. I still don’t. But something, somewhere in his brain isn’t making a connection. And I plan to find out how to help him with it.

my course of action for my struggling reader

Book coverI’m going to start Caleb with the Right Brain Phonics Program. I hesitated because of the price, but after looking at the cost of other phonics’ programs, this is actually much cheaper so the $57.50 doesn’t seem to bad after all. Especially if it works. And it had better work! I’ll let you know how it goes.

I’m going to start using colored transparencies. For some kids, this is the solution. They can see the words on the page better in color than black words on a white page. Some children say that the words dance and move around. Lay a colored transparency over the words and the words become still. It’s worth a try. I ordered two: one blue and one green.

I’m also going to read the Brain Integration Therapy Manual which helps you “learn how to correct auditory processing glitches, visual convergence issues, writing problems, and Dyslexia at home using simple strategies.”

resources for your right brained, visual spatial child

  • The HSLDA has a section on their website dedicated to homeschooling your struggling learner and they’ve got some topical articles including this one about visual processing. They also have an extensive list of websites and books for different problems that your struggling learner may have.
  • Dianne Craft’s website filled with articles and the place to buy transparencies, DVDs, and books.
  • The visual spacial website has resources galore. A good place to start is the parents page or take this quiz to determine if your child is a visual spatial learner, and order or download books.
  • Dyslexia Victoria This looks like a good website if you have a child who is dyslexic.

Entry filed under: homeschooling, kids, parenting. Tags: , , , , .

it’s not about bananas; toddlers can obey power nap

12 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Pam H  |  June 23, 2008 at 7:46 am


    I’ll be back to read the rest of this entry when I have more time. I’m anxious to hear how the phonics program goes. I’ve been dealing with a “global learner” for 6 years (he’s 12 now). You might try picking up a pair of blue lens sunglasses at the dollar store instead of the transparencies. The transparencies are harder to handle.

    Pam from TLT

  • 2. Karla  |  June 27, 2008 at 10:20 pm

    This entry seems like one I will be revisiting. Guy sounds a lot like Caleb. I noticed has been writing the mirror image of his name lately on his drawings. He is also very good at puzzles and the spatial exercises you mentioned. He knows his letters and their sounds, but I haven’t formally begun teaching him to read. I appreciate this information that you’ve compiled.

    Blessings to you!

  • 3. MamaRae  |  June 30, 2008 at 9:39 pm

    Hi, G.
    I was making some rounds again on the TOG blogroll, trying to “catch up” again with what everyone is doing. OH, how I wish I had more blog-reading time. *sigh*

    Anyway, are your really sure he’s not Dyslexic. You might want to consider having him formally tested. I say this because I am dyslexic. (It is almost always genetic – somewhere in the line, but not always.) My grandmother was and she was a university professor with a Library Science masters.

    Most Dyslexics are very spacial learners and spacial in their nature as well. Einstein was dyslexic. So were General Patton, Picaso, da Vinci, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Churchill, Andrew Jackson, Woodrow Wilson, George Washington, Agatha Christie.

    Dyslexia is a gift. It is a blessed way to see this world different from most around us. Those who are dyslexic are also rather brilliant, meaning usually have very high IQs and often “think outside the box.”

    One of these days I need to put up a post about being dyslexic.

  • 4. Pam in SE MI (TOG loose threads)  |  July 8, 2008 at 9:14 pm

    I have been wanting to read this blog entry for a couple weeks now, but I wanted to read it when my mind had time and energy to focus intently (that seems to be in short supply!!). I am on the same search/journey as you, for my 8 year old son Luke. I am currently watching Diane Craft’s dvd seminar “Teaching the right-brained child” and it is fascinating. I am learning a lot and am really encouraged for the fall, though figuring out how to mesh everything into a workable routine each day is somewhat daunting to me this summer (usually I thrive on making up routines for our family). I will pray for you and Caleb as I pray for me and Luke!

  • 5. Carmen Ekkerd  |  July 18, 2008 at 8:01 am

    Hi Guinever

    Thank you so much for the information. I just started homeschooling my kids, Jesse 10 and Zahn 8, a few weeks ago. It is an absolute blessing!

    I found your website while ‘googling’ for information about my daughter Zahn’s reading difficulties. Caleb and Zahn sound so much alike! It was difficult to understand Zahn’s reading difficulties as her brother is an excellent reader. Now I understand!

    Thank you for all the information. I feel so proud to be the Mom of a right brained genius!


    Carmen Ekkerd
    Mossel Bay
    South Africa

  • 6. Erin  |  September 23, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    I have a very right brained learner too and I am really curious whether the $58 you spent on Diane Craft’s “Right Brain Phonics Program” was worth it. I noticed in a later post you mentioned “Phonics Pathways”…which is different! What do you think works best?


    Erin, if I had seen the book before ordering it, I would not have purchased the book. All it is is word lists with the phenomes or other blends in a word that might give kids trouble printed in blue, red, or green with the rest of the word in black. So it’s not really a program or curriculum for teaching how to read. I highly recommend Phonics Pathways!! I’ve been using it since 2004 and now am on my third child with it.

    • 7. Renee  |  August 15, 2011 at 12:09 am

      So the Right Brain Phonics program didn’t work? We were considering purchasing it and was interested in anyone who has used it.

  • 8. rita012  |  November 25, 2008 at 11:59 pm

    I’m in the process of researching all of this right now. Have you experienced success with any of your strategies?

    Oh YES, YES, YES!! did you see my later post about it??

  • 9. Vic Charlton  |  March 26, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    Contrary to accepted notions, pedagogy for beginning reading instruction favors a right-brained perspective: holistic, spatial, intuitive and emotionally referenced. Though language skills tend to be a left-brained activity, such skills are not necessarily invoked in beginning reading instruction where the instruction is wholistic and abstract. This latter method, which is a top-down, right-brained approach, seeks to abstact meaning first and as a result is gender biased: it favors how girls learn.

  • 10. Natalie  |  September 1, 2009 at 7:41 pm

    I am so thankful I ran into your post. I have ordered Phonic Pathways. A couple of my children struggle with dyslexia, dysgraphia AND dyscalculia. I am trying out Dianna Craft’s Brain Integration Therapy along with another Eye therapy program. Brain Gym is another thing to check out, but I have not ordered it yet. I have a friend who has successfully used it. Homeschooling is a blessing when you have struggling learners, because it provides them the time, room and space to grain ground while developing confidence without feeling inferior or insecure. 🙂

  • 11. Natalie  |  September 1, 2009 at 7:44 pm

    PS–my daughter, who has several issues said when I giver her Lecithin her brain feels better and begs me to get some more after we’ve gone a few days without it. I find that interesting!

  • 12. brandy  |  September 23, 2013 at 6:50 pm

    Hi, I am feeling defeated at this moment. We have been doing Barton for two years now and have seen improvement in reading but very slow improvement. My daughter still struggles with remembering the rules on her own-if I have her examine her word and tell her to break it apart by syllables she then remembers the rules, sight words-forget it. She was diagnosed with dyslexia, receptive and expressive language disorder and I really believe she has auditory processing problems. I have come back repeatedly to Diane’s website contemplating does this really work? It is encouraging to hear it has helped your son. Is it my understanding that it needs a spelling program to go along with it?


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Welcome to my personal blog about my life as a wife and homeschooling mother of a few energetic children! You'll find my favorite recipes, all kinds of reviews, the occasional rant, and whatever else I feel like writing about.

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