This is the big one. Most visual learners find learning to read very hard and around 80% of children "diagnosed" as dyslexic are in fact visual learners who have not grasped phonics.
The reason is that they start by learning the alphabet visually. They then learn some simple words visually.
They then look at an "early reader book" and look at the picture (more visual cues) and try to read the text visually, guessing the words that they don't know. Any phonics they do at school will make little sense to them and will be ignored as irrelevant.
You can actually see this on an MRI scan as they read. The auditory cortex is not engaged at all:
We call this Optilexia, because the child is reading through pure sight recognition of whole words rather than auditory decoding. You can see how the auditory and linguistic cortex is being bypassed.
This situation can seem to be OK until the text gets too complex for this approach. At that stage you will see more and more wild guessing. Eventually the child's confidence will collapse, usually between the ages of 6 and 9.
The Symptoms of Optilexia
The key symptoms are:
Lots of guessing or errors, particularly with the short words
Getting a word right on one page and not the next time
Very poor spelling in free writing
Sometimes you see good results in spelling tests
Great difficulty with new, unfamiliar words and placenames
The solution to this is to give the child the tools to engage with the phonic structure of each word and then force the engagement of the auditory cortex:
Once the auditory and linguistic cortex is brought into the process, so much drops automatically into place. You have proper comprehension (through Wernicke's Area), superfast decoding (due to the Letterbox Cortex) and the foundation of spelling.
Easyread has been developed as a solution for exactly this situation, so I will give examples from Easyread as to how it can be solved for the child.
First, we take the visual strength of the child and use it to help guide the child towards proper phonic decoding of the text using our TrainerText system. This allows the child to access the phonemes within each word and then blend it successfully, without needing outside help.
Second, we create games that can be easily won if the words are decoded in this way, but are impossible if the child tries to use the familiar strategies of sight-memorising and guessing.
An example of that is our Mushroom Picker game. We read out a word. A series of words then appear on the screen and the child has to decide whether each one is the correct word (and therefore a mushroom) or a similar but different word (and thus a toadstool).
So, in some ways we are making the task easier, because the word has been read out. But in other ways it is far harder because the different words that appear are all very similar visually. So the child has to use the TrainerText to decode each one and confirm it is the same or different.
As they practise the new approach day by day, it slowly becomes more natural to them. Like any skill, it takes regular practice to see the change and seems harder when you first change technique. But eventually the new approach leads to far higher confidence and speed.
Because the child is now engaged with the internal structure of the text, we usually see a marked improvement in spelling, although this will lag behind the reading proficiency.
Make the Switch Early
The longer that a set of neurone connections are used in the brain, the harder it is to switch them to something new. We are radically rewiring the reading process for the child, switching the linkage from:
Eyes - Visual Cortex - Prefrontal Cortex - Language Cortex
The longer a child spends using the former process, the harder it is to change. We find that the 6-9 age group are normally fine. Beyond that one has to be more and more rigorous about preventing them from using their old strategy.
Getting children to read is our passion. Don't hesitate to call us with any question. But before you do, take the time to have a look around the site. There is a lot of information on literacy, dyslexia, the causes of dyslexia and ways to help with each type of dyslexia.