When I first read about Visual Spatial learning a light bulb flashed above my head and I declared out loud, “That’s Logan!” I stumbled across this learning style by simply entering in the keywords autism spectrum and learning stylesinto Google and, POOF! There in all its black-and-white glory were an abundance of articles pertaining to visual spatial learning. I had never heard of this learning style. I was well acquainted with visual learning but never with the spatial aspect of it.
My son Logan, who is high functioning on the autism spectrum, and I had come to a cross roads over a year ago with his curriculum, especially in the math arena. We were falling into a repetitious pattern which does not work for Logan. He is very mastery minded. I knew we were encountering a divide, and I needed to resolve it quickly.
Visual Spatial Learning falls under not only the autism spectrum category, but also ADD, ADHD and dyslexia. Around 1980, Linda Kreger Silverman. Ph.D began to notice that some of the most highly gifted students whose IQs were brilliance level would excel in a visual/hands-on environment, but when they were given tasks that were auditory and sequential they would score the lowest. How is it that a child that has an exceptional IQ cannot grasp the idea of phonics?
A visual spatial brain organizes by optical education rather than auditory. Once the “AH HA!” moment clicks for them, that is it– they know it, and there is no need to continually revisit the task. Everything can be computed in their heads. You know the old “show your work” well, that is where Logan and I were butting heads. I wanted to see where he was coming up with his answers, which were always correct but I wanted to see how he was doing it. He refused, and when he attempted it resulted in tears and frustration. He was creating his own formulas in his mind because he could plain-as-day compute it out in his brain like a built-in white board.
As I began scrolling down the Visual Spatial checklist, it was as if I was reading about Logan to a T. Here is the comparison:
- Thinks primarily in words
- Has auditory strengths
- Relates well to time
- Is a step-by-step learner
- Learns by trial and error
- Is an analytical thinker
- Attends well to details
- Follows oral directions well
- Does well at arithmetic
- Learns phonics easily
- Can sound out spelling words
- Can write quickly and neatly
- Is well-organized
- Can show steps of work easily
- Excels at rote memorization
- Has good auditory short-term memory
- Learns well from instruction
- Learns in spite of emotional reactions
- Is comfortable with one right answer
- Develops fairly evenly
- Usually maintains high grades
- Enjoys algebra and chemistry
- Learns languages in class
- Is an early bloomer
- May need repetition to reinforce learning
- Progresses sequentially from easy to difficult material
- Is academically talented
- Thinks primarily in pictures
- Has visual strengths
- Relates well to space
- Is a whole-part learner
- Learns concepts all at once
- Is a good synthesizer
- Sees the big picture; may miss details
- Reads maps well
- Is better at math reasoning than computation
- Learns whole words easily
- Must visualize words to spell them
- Prefers keyboarding to writing
- Creates unique methods of organization
- Arrives at correct solutions intuitively
- Learns best by seeing relationships
- Has good long-term visual memory
- Develops own methods of problem solving
- Is very sensitive to teachers’ attitudes
- Generates unusual solutions to problems
- Develops quite asynchronously
- May have very uneven grades
- Enjoys geometry and physics
- Masters other languages through immersion
- Is a late bloomer
- Learns concepts permanently; turned off by drill & repetition
- Learns complex concepts easily; struggles with easy skills
- Is creatively, mechanically, emotionally, or technologically gifted
I was armed with detailed information–now what? Do I toss almost his entire curriculum aside and start from scratch? Do I focus on just the tough areas? We had been using Time4Learning and BrainPOP for years, so I knew those were keepers. He exceled with computer based programs. I knew workbooks and textbooks would be brought to a minimum, so I began searching for curriculum bent toward visual spatial learning.
At www.custom-homeschool-curriculum.com they list homeschool curriculums for not only visual spatial learners but auditory, kinesthetic, and visual. I knew it was important to have Logan be involved in this process. Before I would just pick curriculums that I thought would work, and most of the time I was successful. Now we were entering into middle school, and I knew we would be even more successful if he was involved. We sat down and began thumbing through the recommended math curriculums. He immediately chose A Mathematical Mystery Tour by Mark Wahl (it focuses on the Fibonacci numbers and the Golden Ratio) and Math Wizardry for Kids Second Edition by Margaret Kenda and Phyllis S. Williams. Both are extremely hands on and a lot of fun!
Logan prefers the computer and does type out the majority of his essays and worksheets. It is suggested that copywork be the best resolution, so he picked out Lessons from Leaders by Sandi Queen. Each day you copy a paragraph from either a letter composed by John Adams or a quote from Abraham Lincoln in regards to the Bible.
Since altering his curriculum and my teaching style, our lives have been a lot less tearful. The more visual and hands-on, the better. Some other suggestions for visual spatial teaching are videos, lapbooks, computer programs, flow charts, concept mapping, graphic organizers, reading out loud (it helps them visualize the story in their minds), visual/pictorial aids, math manipulatives, notebooking, and experimental science kits. Creating storyboards helps for creative writing and literary study, and timelines are great for historical periods.
Even though Logan is technically in sixth grade, his academic maturity level is that of a high schooler. I have loosened the curriculum reigns and let him steer the path, which has ignited such educational independence. I love those days when he actually teaches me something new about Dark Matter or DNA. I have had so many friends, not just homeschool friends, ask me about visual spatial learning, and once I give them all the information, they have the same light bulb moment as I had. Once you have the information and the tools, the excitement of a new learning technique and curriculum breathes new life into a discouraged “What am I doing wrong?” thought process.
My right brained son has eased into middle school tasks which has brought much peace in our household. He is much more confident with his studies. I know his style will continue to evolve as he grows older, and I will continue to seek out various methods to assist in his successful educational well-being. If you think you may want to join us on this visual spatial journey, a great place to start is at Visualspatial.org.
Andrea Johnson Beck is a sassy wife, a whimsical homeschool mama and a chimerical writer. She has homeschooled her awesomely quirky son since 2008 who is High Functioning on the Autism Spectrum. She resides in Central Florida where she stays busy with homeschool activities and exploring local attractions with her boys. She has had a collection of poetry and short stories published, also various articles on homeschooling and the Autism Spectrum and has recently completed her first novel. Please come visit her at www.daydreammama.com.