How to Overcome Barriers to Learning

Consider the following signs & symptoms:

1. Skipping words or lines

2. Reversing letters or numbers

3. Words moving on the page

4. Slow reading speed

5. Difficulty following instructions

Although dyslexia is generally understood to be a language problem many of the behaviours observed, such as those described here can also be explained apart from language.

It may surprise you to learn that at least 99% of students with dyslexia between the age of 7 and 17 have a problem with their visual or auditory skills and that between 80 to 92% have a problem with BOTH visual and auditory skills. These findings are based on the work published by the Optomotor Laboratory at the Freiburg University in Germany which involved testing the visual and auditory development of thousands of dyslexic students and is summarised in the book “Visual Aspects of Dyslexia“.

Although listening skills are considered important for spelling and sounding out words when learning to read there are also numerous studies to support a visual link to learning. In one recent study at the University of Padua in Italy that involved young children from kindergarten to grade 2 level it was found that visual attention skills (eg. visual discrimination and visual search) were the best predictors of future reading ability. The investigators highlighted the need for better visual interventions, especially for dyslexia, but acknowledged the value of existing approaches.

The impact of a problem occurring with visual and auditory skills is to create a barrier to learning. Typically this will result in less efficient strategies for learning (eg. using a finger to keep place) but in more severe cases can make it profoundly difficult for students to respond to instruction in the classroom.

Unfortunately problems are frequently missed. One of the main reasons for this is that eyesight and hearing are often found to be normal and clinicians may not look any further leading parents to rule out visual and auditory factors as a contributing factor.

Without help many students will continue to persist with these problems throughout school. With the right kind of assistance however visual and auditory development can often be improved to age normal levels.

The goal of intervention is to overcome critical barriers to learning caused by visual and auditory delays, thereby allowing a student to respond more effectively to academic instruction.

In most cases these skills CAN be improved to age normal levels with around 10 to 15 minutes of training a day over a period of months. This should not preclude conventional interventions however such as tuition in reading and maths, since these skills still need to be learned.

Click to view scientific studies linking visual and auditory skills to learning outcomes.