A Visual Learner was Never The Diagnosis
That our daughter was a visual learner was never mentioned, but it was critical to our daughter’s success.
Our story – and our struggles – began when our daughter Julie was in kindergarten. Her teacher placed her in the lower of two reading groups. Not long after, Julie would come home and complain that the teacher was spending all her time disciplining her reading peers who were acting up, leaving little time to focus on reading comprehension.
Painfully aware that learning to read was more difficult for her than for her friends, Julie spent hours over the next few years trying different programs and methods designed to help her. She endured multiple psychological assessments, reading interventions focused on decoding skills, as well as several tutors and learning centers. With all our effort – especially hers – nothing was moving her forward to both read fluently and understand the way we wished.
As both her mother and an educator, I was frustrated that we could not find the solution to Julie’s reading comprehension struggles. In 8th grade, Julie was inducted into the National Junior Honor Society because of her good grades. We knew she was smart, but she was now facing the next chapter in her education: high school.
High school transition
As the meeting to discuss her high school transition and support issues drew closer, I had a very uneasy feeling that the meeting was going to be contentious, since it included many voices: her guidance counselor, the assistant principal, and four other school professionals. All three of us – Julie’s father, Mark; Julie; and myself — attended. We learned later that having both parents in every IEP meeting is critical for helping our children.
The words that started the meeting were, “Your daughter has a great personality and she is a hard worker, but…” The underlying tone indicated the next line was going to crush us. The guidance counselor continued: “Your child’s reading comprehension is three years below grade level. She is not college material. We recommend putting Julie on a vocational track for high school so that she can get a job when she graduates.”
Without knowing what her response would be, Mark instinctively turned to Julie and asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Without hesitation, Julie responded: “I want to be the teacher I never had!”
Without hesitation, the guidance counselor responded in turn, “Honey, you can be a teacher’s aide.”
Mark had trouble restraining himself. Turning to the guidance counselor, he asked, “What would you do if she was your child?” He responded that he would accept reality and not be such a pushy, “shovy” dad!
The guidance counselor then suggested discontinuing the Individualized Education Program (IEP) Julie had been participating in for the last seven years. IEPs are federally funded programs that entitle students to specialized education services and accommodations based on their learning hurdles.
This recommendation would take Julie off the regular diploma track, take away her services and eliminate her chance to attend college. Very worried, I asked, “Wouldn’t this move take away Julie’s accommodations when she takes the SATs?” The guidance counselor responded strongly: “You are not listening. Julie won’t be taking the SATs, because she is not college material.”
Our meeting was over. But not our mission. We left without agreeing to their recommendations and with a family agreement to take matters into our own hands.
After this meeting, I became a mom with a mission.
A mom with a mission
My mission was to take the keen understanding I had of my daughter (that only a parent can have) and my extensive educational background, and figure out the most effective and relevant way to teach my child. I wanted to make sure all the time and effort she put into her work was worthwhile – and actually enjoyable. Isn’t that a novel thought?
I had been trained in teaching reading, but I wanted more. I spent the next few years researching and getting trained and certified in the Davis Dyslexia Method®, Brain Gym®, Structure of Intellect®, Learning RX®, Masgutova Neurosensorimotor Reflex IntegrationSM (MNRI) Method, Goddard Reflex®, The Listening Program®, Fast Forward®, Orton-Gillingham®, Cogmed®, BrainWare® Safari, Etc.
What I knew about Julie:
- Comprehends below grade-level: her reading comprehension was three years below her peers despite massive efforts to maintain grade-level improvements in reading between 8th and 11th grades
- Demonstrates a strong memory: she remembers best what she sees and experiences
- Visual learner: she is a hands-on learner who thinks in pictures and learns best when material is presented in a way she can visualize
- Responds best to hands-on training: she improves with educational material presented in an engaging way that she can relate to, using stories or examples from her experience that relate to what is being taught, especially if emotional or has humor.
- Understands more when listening: she comprehends much better when listening to audio books while reading along, as well as reading books she enjoys
What I learned from Julie:
- There are visual-spacial learners: there are students who learn through a visual-experiential approach
- Visual-spacial learners need visual-spacial programs: breakthroughs are more likely to happen when a program is consistent with how a child learns
- Strengths should be tapped: instead of trying to strengthen weaknesses, why not expand the strengths?
- Visual-spacial learners are everywhere: 65 percent of struggling students, and 90 percent of those with dyslexia, are similar learners
Creating the 3D Learner Program
Based on what I knew about and learned from Julie, I was determined to develop a transformational program to get Julie back on track. She was entering 11th grade, so there was no time to spare.
Mark and I needed to forge effective bonds with specific teachers, guidance counselors and ESE Specialists. We learned there were professionals who were more than willing to work with Julie and us.
Julie’s progress was noticeable, and she started to love reading for the first time!
Knowing that Julie is not alone in her visual approach to learning, I want to make sure other parents who have children who learn like Julie are not alone on their journey. We believe – and have discovered – that if the program worked for Julie, it can work for others, too. Today the 3D Learner Program® has helped thousands of visual-spacial students master reading and reading comprehension, along with writing, critical thinking and organizing, with confidence and less stress.
Where Julie is now
Julie became the teacher she never had. She earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in special education from the University of Florida’s nationally recognized ProTeach program. As a nationally board-certified teacher, she specializes in teaching gifted children and those who learn differently in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
3 Things You Can Do To Help Your Right-Brain Learner
- To better understand how your child learns, and how you can capitalize on those strengths, DOWNLOAD Mira’s short, uplifting book “Life is a Ball, Don’t Put Me in a Box.”
- Take our no cost Online Success Assessment. It will help you see if your child is a right-brain learner and whether your child has an attention, eye-teaming and/or related issue
- After taking the assessment, give us a call and ask us your questions. We’ll help you better understand what your child is dealing with, and what you can do to make a positive difference.