Continuing our series spotlighting Dyslexia Awareness Month, one strength of our dyslexic learners is highlighted today, visuospatial awareness. Beginning with the work of Dr. Samuel T. Orton (1925), to neurologist Noman Geschwind (1982), to dyslexia scholars today (Eide & Eide, 2012; Shaywitz, 2016; Wolf, 2020), dyslexia has long been associated with visual-spatial strengths; strengths particularly aligned with art, music, engineering, and architecture, to name a few.
Described as a “superpower” of students with dyslexia, visuospatial awareness provides a creative advantage over neurotypical peers (Eide & Eide, 2012). Marked by non-verbal thought processes that allow for the manipulation or examination of visual images in one’s mind while seeing things from all angles, visuospatial awareness integrates both visual and spatial information quickly and efficiently, leading to innovation, creativity, and alternate ways to gather knowledge and enhance learning (Shaywitz, 2016). Visual-spatial thinking helps students find meaning in the shape, size, orientation, location, direction, or trajectory of objects and their relative positions and uses the properties of space as a vehicle for structuring problems, finding answers, and expressing solutions. Time and again, I have heard students say, “I just can see it differently,” when asked about a particularly novel approach to problem-solving they came up with. The capacity to “see” things differently points to our students’ visuospatial thinking strengths.
Parents, recognizing our students’ strengths are integral to fostering positive self-identity, and to do what our mission calls us to do, “build on [students’] aptitudes, and strengthen their self-awareness and self-esteem.” Our students’ challenges are real and there are many days when both you and your child may feel disheartened. However, our students are also full of potential with many strengths to recognize and celebrate.