Speaking from my own experience as a dyslexic thinker, I recognise my learning needs differ from non-dyslexic thinkers. The way I think, and process information also differs.
As an adult, thankfully I have the freedom to develop my own strategies and work arounds for many things in life however, as a child this was a lot more difficult to do.
Mainly because I lacked the experience, insight and understanding of how my dyslexic brain worked, how I learned best and why some things just couldn’t be retained in my memory, no matter how hard I tried.
Drawing from my own lived experience, I’d like to share some of the things I’ve learnt about learning and then link that to a very important part of the learn to read process – the understanding of The Alphabetic Principle.
Keep in mind no two brains are the same, however you may see some similarities in yourself or recognise them in your child.
What I’m about to tell you is important to understand because this very framework is one of the keys that underpin the ‘learn to read’ process for the dyslexic learner and as you continue to read this article you will understand why.
So here it is, one of the big keys to my learning success.
Big Picture Thinking
I need to understand how things work and how different elements of information fit into the whole. I attribute this to my dyslexic strength of big picture thinking.
The big picture gives meaning to all the other smaller components that make up the whole.
Don’t just give me the smaller facts and details – give me the big picture. No matter what it is, I need to understand how it works and the purpose it serves. What does the bigger picture look like? Where do all the pieces fit in? How does it work? Where are the patterns? Where are the formulas?
What do I do with the all the small pieces, if I don’t understand the bigger picture?
This is especially true when it comes to learning to read. To me, when I talk about the bigger picture in relation to reading, I’m really referring to the Alphabetic Principle which I will explain further in Part 2 of this article.
In my school days, I too had difficulty in learning to read in the way that my classmates were learning. My mind simply worked in a different way.
In hindsight, in order for me to learn to read more easily, there were a few things that needed to change, to help my dyslexic mind process the information more effectively.
One of those things was this – the need to understand the overarching concept of how reading works.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure it was taught in the classroom however I’d obviously missed it, perhaps it wasn’t repeated enough or maybe I simply wasn’t ready to hear it.
For whatever reason, it simply wasn’t retained in my memory in when learning to read. I couldn’t connect the dots. The bottom line was – I just didn’t get it.
Big picture thinking was not only relevant in learning to read, it also was relevant to every other aspect of my learning too.
I am so fortunate to have the hindsight to see this, because it made all the difference when it came to developing a system to teach children with dyslexia to read. This of course began with teaching my own children.
As an adult, thankfully I was very much aware of what I needed in order to learn and grasp new concepts and through this insight and understanding of how my mind works, I was able to bridge the learning gap for my children.
For me, understanding the bigger picture gives me a framework to store information in my mind. It helps me to make connections, and interconnections and it provides more meaning.
As a child, information given in small unconnected chunks without the big picture often left me feeling disconnected from or confused by the subject matter or worse still, not feeling very smart at all.
But here’s the thing, when I was younger, I didn’t realise that this was how my brain worked and I didn’t know when I was missing information. As they say, you don’t know what you don’t know right!
As a parent being able to share this insight with my children was incredibly powerful. They have been blessed with this incredible mind that works in a different way than most.
I truly believe that unlocking the power of the dyslexic mind begins with an understanding of its strength and then learning how to harness and incorporate those strengths into everyday life.
This article has been broken into 2 parts. If you would like to read more what big picture thinking has to do with learning to read make sure you read part 2 of this article on our Parent Portal.
The Reading Switch is a Visual Phonics, Learn to Read Program for Children with Dyslexia and Other Reading Related Difficulties. Register for your free 30 day trial today!