February 6, 2013

Visual-Spatial Learner With Auditory Processing Challenges

image source: floradora1 on Flickr

My fourteen year-old daughter is a gifted artist, I don't think a day goes by that she doesn't draw or paint something.  She has a vivid imagination and is often found daydreaming about the latest adventure story she is writing in her mind.  That is a beautiful gift, but also a challenge.  She struggles to have any sense of time, and it is hard for her to focus on school work or lessons being taught (unless it involves art or a movie).

Visual media is the best way for her to learn anything.  If she has seen something in a movie, she never forgets it.  Science concepts?  Magic School Bus to the rescue!  She will still reference a concept learned from watching that show years ago.  As another example, when she was little I had the hardest time figuring out how to teach her to read.  Nothing seemed to click with her.  LeapFrog's "Talking Words Factory" video totally saved me!  When she saw the letters coming down the conveyor belt and sticking together to form words, the light bulb went on!

After she learned to read, she didn't enjoy it at all until she discovered Calvin and Hobbes.  We bought every book we could get our hands on, and she declared one day that she loved to read.  Major hurdle crossed!  She progressed to reading many other books, but fairytales and adventures are still her definite favorite, along with the occasional graphic novel (such as Shannon and Dean Hale's Rapunzel's Revenge), which she thoroughly enjoys.  I can totally see her writing and illustrating children's books and graphic novels someday.

Math concepts such as geometry come easily to her, but math facts such as the multiplication tables, have been the bane of her existence.  She still doesn't have them completely memorized and it frustrates her often.  Though she is gifted with spatial concepts, computation is extremely challenging.

She is a strong visual-spatial learner!  She thinks in pictures not words.

Additionally, she has auditory processing challenges.  There is nothing wrong with her hearing, her brain just has a hard time interpreting what is being heard.

Because of this, she had a severe speech delay.  Though she was very verbal, she would speak in her own little language that was unintelligible to the rest of us.  She couldn't say her own name until she was almost four and couldn't carry on a recognizable conversation until she was 5.  And that was after 2 years of speech therapy.  Receptive and expressive language, reading, writing, etc have been a constant challenge for her in the years since, but she has worked hard and steadily progressed.  She has improved by leaps and bounds and I am so proud of her for being persistent.  We had her in the local public school, and speech therapy until 4th grade and have homeschooled her since then (except for a semester last year in a local charter school).

Though she has improved so much in her speech and language through the years, there are still some lingering difficulties with the auditory processing.  Listening to a lecture style of lesson is the worst way for her to learn new information, she will retain very little of what was said.  I have to be constantly aware of this and try to present things visually whenever possible.  It is also a challenge for her to understand oral multi-step instructions.  I have to be sure she understands what I have asked her to do by having her repeat the steps back to me.  Vocabulary is still an area that we really struggle with too.  And I see that people sometimes treat her as if she is slow mentally, but in fact she is very gifted in many areas.

We have been doing the best we can.  She works hard and really wants to excel (she has high standards for herself) and I am trying to constantly listen to the Spirit's promptings to know what my daughter needs to develop her talents and fulfill her mission in life.  I know God has great things in store for her and gave her these particular strengths and weaknesses for a reason.

So why am I writing about this today?

I would surely appreciate some ideas and advice from you readers!

Do you have a child who is a visual-spatial learner or has auditory processing issues?

What resources, books, websites, curriculums, etc have you found that have helped with these particular gifts and challenges?  (I would particularly like to find a visually engaging way to teach vocabulary)

Have any of you found good options for high school that would help visual-spatial learners succeed?  (I am REALLY curious about this one, as high school is coming up fast... eeek!)

Thank you in advance for your help!

P.S. - I found a really fun website the other day, check it out!  Wonderopolis.org

Marcina and her husband, Aaron, have six children. This is her fourth year of homeschooling and she is grateful for the opportunity to teach her children at home. It continues to be both a challenge and a delight! In her spare moments she enjoys family history, gardening, reading, singing, listening to beautiful music, and learning new things.

5 comments - Add a comment below -:

Brimhalls said...

What a wonderful talent your daughter has! I recently watched the Temple Grandin movie and it was amazing to me what a gift visual thinking can be. Although your daughter is not autistic as Temple was, you may find some interesting ideas in the movie, as her parents and teachers had to find a way to communicate with her through pictures. Temple has also written several books about visual learning which may give some ideas. Good Luck!

Inspiration Station said...

How about vocabulary cartoons?

P Workman said...

My kiddo uses a calculator for math. He is a visual-spatial learner, diagnosed with dyscalulia, and we really need to get past the calculations to "understanding" math.

We have had good success this year with "Life of Fred". Pictures and stories make the math much more entertaining and "real".

For my guy, figuring out what operations to write down is a real challenge. He can do the simple stuff in his head (if there is a large-number question, I always have him do a small-number question first) and often doesn't know what it was that he did in his head to get the answer. I'll write down the numbers that he used in the simple example. "Okay, you said that if I buy 3 apples for $2 each, it costs $6." I write down 3 ___ 2 = 6. "Okay, did you add? No, 3+2=5. Did you subtract? No, 3-2=1. Did you multiply? Yes! 3*2=6. So now in this question, we're going to do the same thing..."

I always use the same type of examples as we are working through solving equations.

- Decimals are always money for him. He really gets money. He really likes money.

-Fractions are always pieces of pie (and we always specify the kind of pie, especially when adding fractions, and the denominator has to be the same kind of pie in both).

-Division is always sharing cookies amongst friends.

-Adding and subtracting is shovels full of dirt (you can start/end with either a pile - positive, or a hole - negative)

-Distribution (eg. 2(a+b) = 2a +2b) is baskets of fruit(2 baskets holding 1 apple and 1 banana each, how many apples? How many bananas?)

For solving algebraic equations, get the Dragon Box game! It is available on iOS, android, PC, Mac. http://dragonboxapp.com/

Anonymous said...

I have an Auditory Processing Disorder (APD), but have also gone on professionally to help people with these type of problems. In college, lecture-type classes were nearly impossible-- but since I could still hear the lecture, but not process it, I learned a note-taking style where I just wrote all the material down that seemed important and then later I had enough information to go through and READ it and actually process the information. Yes, it took forever-- but doing this I actually became a really good student and most people had no idea of my difficulties. I just took a smaller class load knowing the amount of work that I had to do per most classes.

So, my advice is to take your child's "shortcomings" and instead manipulate them to make them strengths.

To this day, I write everything down in a little notebook and planner I take around with me. Most people consider me "super-organized", but really this is what I need to survive. :)

Another good resource is to read the book "When The Brain Can't Hear" by Terri Bellis. An excellent book on APDs.

Good Luck!

Anonymous said...

I am going to throw ASL out there as a good way to process visually what can not be processed auditorily. So many of the signs have something to do with the meaning of their words. Just a thought.