Issue No.


Davis Dyslexia Association International

Winter 1996


Dys•lex´ ic Read´ er • •˜

The Visual-Spatial Thinker

In this Issue:
An Educational Profile of the Visual-Spatial Learner
Strategies for Gifted Visual-Spatial Learners, By Linda K. Silverman and Jeffrey N. Freed

Book Report: Dyslexia and the Ironies of Creativity
In the Mind’s Eye, by Thomas G. West

Davis Dyslexia Association Reaches Worldwide
DDAI Branches to Germany and Holland DDAI Establishes Certification Program “Dyslexia, The Gift” –New on the Internet

Copyright ©1995 DDAI Burlingame, California (415) 692-8995 All Rights Reserved

Page 2

Issue No. 4

The Dyslexic Reader

Getting on Point

DDAI Branches and Counseling Centers Established in Germany and Holland

Editor’s Notes
n these past two months, the “International” part of Davis Dyslexia Association has become a reality. Ron Davis has been welcomed throughout Europe. In Germany, a hastilyorganized training workshop in Davis Dyslexia Correction methods was filled to capacity. DDA branches are being created in Germany, Holland and Switzerland. Our World Wide Web went on line in September, and is now drawing 1,500 users each week. We receive questions and comments from all over the world. Through the foreign publication of The Gift of Dyslexia and our spot on the Internet, we are connecting with people worldwide who share our view that dyslexia stems from a perceptual gift. In this issue, we share the work of some individuals who chose to study the aptitude rather than the impediment. Their work shows that dyslexia is not a mental impairment, but a function of high visual and spatial reasoning skills — whether we look at Leonardo da Vinci or gifted schoolchildren of today. •Abigail Marshall Managing Editor
On the Cover:
Fascinated with the idea of humanpowered flight, Leonardo DaVinci designed a helicopter, describing his invention in mirror-image handwriting, from right to left.


he publication of The Gift of Dyslexia in Hol land, Germany, Switzerland, France and Great Britain has generated an immediate demand for counselors trained in Davis Orientation Mastery techniques. Two European branches of Davis Dyslexia Association have already been created to meet this need.


Ron Davis with Dutch and German counselors Siegerdina Mandema, Albrecht Geise, and Robin Temple, with American, German, and Dutch books in hand.

In Hamburg, Germany, Dr. Albrecht Geise has spearheaded DDA–Germany. Dr. Geise worked with Ron Davis in 1982-1983 in California, and translated The Gift of Dyslexia into German. After completing professional training, Dr. Geise was recently certified as a Davis Orientation Mastery® Specialist. Continued on page 7

The Dyslexic Reader is published quarterly by Davis Dyslexia Association International (DDAI), 1601 Old Bayshore Highway Suite 260-C, Burlingame, California 94010. Telephone: (415)6928995. Distributed free to all DDAI members; $25/annual subscription for non-members. We believe that people with dyslexia and other learning difficulties have mental abilities and talents that should be cherished and promoted; that we each have the right to learn and to work in ways that build upon our mental strengths; and that learning problems can be remedied without force and without medication. We welcome submissions of articles and letters from our readers. The views expressed in letters and articles published in this newsletter are not necessarily those of DDAI. Letters, comments, and articles may be sent by fax to (415)692-8997, by E-mail through our World Wide Web site, Dyslexia–The Gift at, or through America Online at

©1995 Davis Dyslexia Association International

The Dyslexic Reader

Issue No. 4

Page 3

Strategies for Gifted Visual-Spatial Learners
By Linda K. Silverman, Ph.D., and Jeffrey N. Freed, M.A.T.
However, the majority of visual-spatial learners we have found in our work are deficient in auditory sequential skills. This leads to a complex set of problems for the student. A definite mismatch exists between the student’s learning style and the instructional methods employed by the student’s teachers.


What is a Visual-Spatial Learner? visual-spatial learner is a student who learns holistically rather than in a step-by-step fashion. Visual imagery plays an important role in the student’s learning process. Because the individual is processing primarily in pictures rather than words,

they cannot handle failure. They usually refuse to attempt trial-and-error learning because they can’t cope with the failure inherent in this technique. They have an all-or-none learning style (the “aha” pheContinued on page 5
Dr. Linda Silverman is the director of the Institute for the Study of Advanced Development, as well as the Gifted Development Center in Denver, Colorado, and the author of the book, Counseling the Gifted and Talented. She coined the term “visual-spatial learner” in 1982. Jeffrey Freed earned a Master of Arts degree in teaching, focusing his studies on exceptional children. He has coauthored articles with Thomas West, the author of In the Mind’s Eye [See book review on page 4], and is currently writing a book exploring the connection between visual thinking modes and Attention Deficit Disorder. This article, written in 1991 but never previously published, reports the findings of the authors based on their experiences in developing teaching strategies with approximately 200 schoolchildren over a 5-year period. These students were identified as gifted through standardized intelligence tests; they also scored significantly higher on subtests for spatial abilities than for auditory sequential processing.

mental picture of a concept and ‘see’ how the information fits with what they already know, their learning is permanent.”
ideas are interconnected (imagine a web). Linear sequential thinking—the norm in American education—is particularly difficult for this person and requires a translation of his or her usual thought processes, which often takes more time. Some visual-spatial learners are excellent at auditory sequential processing as well. They have full access to both systems, so that if they don’t get an immediate “aha” when they are looking at a problem, they can resort to sequential, trial-and-error methods of problem solving. These students are usually highly gifted with well integrated abilities.

“Once spatial learners create a

Physiological and Personality Factors Visual-spatial learners who experience learning problems have heightened sensory awareness to stimuli, such as extreme sensitivity to smells, acute hearing and intense reactions to loud noises. They are constantly bombarded by stimuli; they get so much information that they have trouble filtering it out. They tend to have excellent hearing, but poor listening skills. Their ability to retain and comprehend information auditorily is weak and they have difficulty with sequential tasks. These children are highly perfectionistic, which means that

©1995 Davis Dyslexia Association International

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Issue No. 4

The Dyslexic Reader

The Book Report:

In the Mind’s Eye: Visual Thinkers, Gifted People with Learning Difficulties, Computer Images, and the Ironies of Creativity, by Thomas G. West
Prometheus Books, 1991/ 255 pages, hardbound $26.95


ost books about dyslexia spelling and punctuation, and focus on the disabilities. problems with mathematics. In the Mind’s Eye Similarly, Winston Churchill “did looks in depth at the link between poorly in school and worse dyslexia and the talent for visual in exams; ...was and spatial thought. Author disorganized, Thomas West theorizes that the accident-prone creative visual thought process and sloppy; [and] conflicts with sequential, language- had particular based reasoning, thus causing difficulty with learning difficulties. modern and West delves into brain structure ancient languages....” and explores the findings of neurological researchers to West profiles demonstrate the link between inventor Nikola Tesla, dyslexia and visual thinking. He famed for his extralooks at historic figures valued for ordinary visualization skills, Nikola their creative and inventive although Tesla did not have thought, delving for any known learning problems. evidence of Tesla “could read easily, learning spoke many languages, problems. had an extraordinary For example, verbal memory, and the leftcould do calculations handed in his head as easily Leonardo as on paper.” But DaVinci Tesla’s own writings habitually wrote indicate that as a child, in reverse, mirrorhe was disturbed by image lettering, vivid mental images that with “bizarre” and he experienced almost as “inconsistent” reality, but learned to Leonardo spelling. control his confusion with “mental exercises.” West searches for disabilities even among figures who seemed In the Mind’s Eye does to read and write easily. For not focus on remediation of example, he reports that 19th dyslexia. West actually century physicist Michael Faraday suggests that reading, writing struggled with a speech and sequential reasoning skills impairment, difficulties with

are over-emphasized in today’s society. He notes that through most of human history, formal academic training was of little value. Those who learned best by seeing and doing–the hallmarks of an apprenticeship– fared the best. West argues that society is now entering a “postliterate” age, where Tesla graphical-based computers will free scientists from the need to perform mundane arithmetical calculations, and visual thinking modes will again be valued. West supports his book with detailed footnotes and an extensive bibliography, making it a unique and valuable reference work for anyone interested in exploring the positive side of dyslexia.
Reviewed by Abigail Marshall, Editor

In The Mind’s Eye can be Ordered Directly from DDAI

©1995 Davis Dyslexia Association International

The Dyslexic Reader

Issue No. 4

Page 5

The VisualSpatial Learner
Continued from page 3
nomenon). They either immediately see the correct solution to a problem or they don’t get it at all, in which case they may watch quietly (while pretending not to watch) or avoid the situation completely because it is too ego threatening. Visual-spatial learners have amazing abilities to “read” people. Since they can’t rely on audition for information, they develop remarkable visual and intuitive abilities, including reading body language and facial expressions. Many of the students described in this article were so adept at reading cues and observing people that they could tell what a person was thinking almost verbatim. Oftentimes, in school, they sense a teacher’s anxieties and ambivalent feeling towards them, and react with statements such as, “that teacher hates me.” Traditional Education In most cases, the visualspatial learning style is not addressed in school, and these students’ self-esteem suffers accordingly. Traditional teaching techniques are designed for the learning style of sequential learners. Concepts are introduced in a step-by-step fashion, practiced with drill and
n n n n n n n n n n n

Learning Characteristics
thrives on complexity loves difficult puzzles fascinated by computers great at geometry, physics keen visual memory creative, imaginative a systems thinker high abstract reasoning excels at math analysis high reading comprehension excellent sense of humor n n n n n n n n n n n

struggles with easy material hates drill and repetition has illegible handwriting poor at phonics, spelling poor auditory memory inattentive in class disorganized, forgets details difficulty memorizing facts poor at calculation low word recognition performs poorly on timed tests

repetition, assessed under timed conditions, and then reviewed. This process is ideal for sequential learners whose learning progresses in a step-bystep manner from easy to difficult material. By way of contrast, spatial learners are systems thinkers–they need to see the whole picture before they can understand the parts. They are likely to see the forest and miss the trees. They are excellent at mathematical analysis but may make endless computational errors because it is difficult for them to attend to details. Their reading comprehension is usually much better than their ability to decode words. Concepts are quickly comprehended when they are presented within a context and related to other concepts. Once spatial learners create a mental picture of a concept and “see” how the information fits with what they already know, their learning is permanent. Repeti-

tion is completely unnecessary and irrelevant to their learning style. However, without easily observable connecting ties, the information cannot take hold anywhere in the brain–it is like learning in a vacuum, and seems to the student like pointless exercises in futility. Teachers often misinterpret the student’s difficulties with the instructional strategies as inability to learn the concepts and assume that the student needs more drill to grasp the material. Rote memorization and drill are actually damaging for visual-spatial learners, since they emphasize the students’ weaknesses instead of their strengths. When this happens, the student gets caught up in a spiraling web of failure, assumes he is stupid, loses all motivation, and hates school. Teachers then assume that the student doesn’t care or is being “lazy,” and behavior problems come to the fore. Meanwhile, the whole cycle creates a very
Continued on page 6

©1995 Davis Dyslexia Association International

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Issue No. 4

The Dyslexic Reader

The Visual-Spatial Learner
Continued from page 5
deep chasm in the student’s self-esteem. In the traditional school situation the atmosphere is often hostile to visual-spatial learners and their skills. The students are visual, whereas instruction tends to be auditory: phonics, oral directions, etc. The students are gestalt, “aha” learners and can be taught out of order, whereas the curriculum is sequential, with orderly progressions of concepts and ideas. The students are usually disorganized and miss details, whereas most teachers stress organization and attention to detail. The student is highly aware of space but pays little attention to time, whereas school functions on rigid time schedules. Conclusion A key component in the recovery of motivation for visual-spatial learners is experiencing success. Individual tutoring should be sought to help these students learn to use their strengths and build their feelings of competence. Sincere praise works wonders. Spatial learners often excel at activities such as Legos, computer games, art or music. Any skill in which these young people experience success should be encouraged and nurtured. Their skills, interests and hobbies may lead to careers in adult life. In adulthood, these individuals excel in fields dependent upon their spatial abilities: art, architecture, physics, aeronautics, pure mathematical research, engineering, computer programming, and photography. Frequently, they develop their own businesses or become chief executive officers (CEOs) in major corporations because of their inventiveness and ability to see the relationships of large numbers of variables. We need individuals with highly developed visualspatial abilities for advancement in the arts, technology and business. These are the creative leaders of society. We need to protect their differences in childhood and enable them to develop their unique talents in supportive environments at home and at school.
Excerpted from Strategies for Gifted Visual-Spatial Learners © 1991 by Linda K. Silverman & Jeffrey N. Freed. The full text article, which includes diagnostic testing information and an overview of specific teaching techniques recommended by the authors, is available from The Gifted Development Center, 777 Pearl Street, Denver, CO 80203. Telephone (303)837-8378.


Our World Wide Web Site:

n mid-September, DDAI opened its Internet site “Dyslexia, The Gift.” Our site is hosted by Parents Place, which assisted us with page design and provides 24-hour access to our files through its host computers. This World Wide Web site enables computer users worldwide to access information concerning DDAI, its publications, affiliates, and related articles. Within two weeks of going on line, our site began receiving traffic of 1,500 users each week. Many people leave comments or order books and tapes through our site. We have had inquiries from South Africa, Poland, Sweden, and Greece - to name only a few of the places we now reach through the magic of the “information superhighway.” We have tried to make our website informative and easy to use. In addition to articles about Davis techniques, we include “links” to other Internet resources related to learning disabilities and education. These “links” allow the computer user to jump to other Internet sites with the click of a button.


Members get a 10% discount on all purchases + a subscription to The Dyslexic Reader + bulletins about upcoming events. $50/one year or $80/two years.

©1995 Davis Dyslexia Association International

The Dyslexic Reader

Issue No. 4

Page 7 Wyoming College Instructor Writes of Success “Since reading The Gift of Dyslexia last summer, I have been trying your ideas with several of my students. I am extremely impressed with how well the techniques work. My students are college students ranging in age from 18-50 years of age. Most of them have been diagnosed with some type of a learning disability. In the past I have tried more conventional ways of working with students, and we have worked with accomodations. These have been frustrating experiences. I am amazed at how quickly my students respond to your program. They are able to find their orientation point and then work with the Symbol Mastery.”

Ron Davis helps Dr. Siegerdina Mandema find her orientation point.

Continued from page 2

In Maria Hoop, Holland, Drs. Siegerdina Mandema and Robin Temple have implemented Davis dyslexia correction methods at their ZieZei Counselling Institute. They will head the DDA-Holland branch. Lyn Pizor, Director Dr. Mandema earned her Learning Skills Center Ph.D. in educational psycholNorthwest College A 9-year old boy starts Symbol Mastery ogy with a thesis on autistic Powell,Wyoming with the ZieZei Counselling Institute in children and adults. She has Holland worked as a creative art therapist and swimming instructor, DDAI Establishes Certification Program and helps physically handicapped children by teaching DDAI has recently established related fields. Applicants must them horseback riding. Britishstandards of practice for Davis first complete a five-day born Robin Temple was trained Orientation Mastery® workshop covering the basic in zoology and psychology. His Specialists, and will certify new Davis techniques. They must eclectic career has ranged from counselors after completion of then complete a supervised researching alternative power a training program. This will 120-hour practicum to sources to running a London ensure that counselors demonstrate their proficiency bookshop. He says, “We are providing Davis methods of in the Davis methods. excited and honored to be dyslexia correction are Prospective counselors from certified as Davis Dyslexia appropriately trained and all over the US attended Counselors. We get more and knowledgable about Davis workshops during the summer more people ringing in having techniques. of 1995. DDAI will present at read the book.” All Davis Orientation least two workshops in Ron Davis will be returning Mastery® Specialists must have California in January and March, to Europe in May, 1996, to a college degree or background 1996, with additional workshops provide training workshops in in education, psychology, or planned for the summer. Switzerland and Holland.
©1995 Davis Dyslexia Association International

The Dyslexic Reader

1601 Old Bayshore Highway, Suite 260 Burlingame, CA 94010 (415) 692-8995


News from the Reading Research Council

Symbol Mastery Workshop


Chantel Hansen Portrait of Success

Saturday, January 6, 1996 12-4 pm Saturday, March 2, 1996 12-4 pm Learn more about how we assess for dyslexia, how we correct it, and how to do Davis Symbol Mastery with your child or students. Presenters: Brian Grimes, Counseling Director & Sharon Pfeiffer, Curriculum Consultant Location:: Reading Research Council, Burlingame, California. Pre-registration required Cost: $45/person, $50/couple, $35/person group rate for 2 or more.

Ron Davis Booksigning & Lecture

Wednesday, January 10, 1996 - 7:30 pm

Barnes & Noble Book Store 3900 Mowry Avenue, Fremont, California (510) 791-1060 Dyslexia Can Be Corrected


Tuesday, January 30, 1996 Wednesday, February 28, 1996 6:30-9:30 p.m. Learning Annex Workshop With Ron Davis (415) 788-5500 Course Fee: $29

hantel Hansen is a vivacious 8-year-old with incredible verbal, athletic, and artistic talents. But she had a problem: reading was painful and every letter of every word had to be sounded out, everytime. As her mother, Judy, described it, “reading is just not coming.” When Chantel came to the Reading Research Council in July, 1995, assessments revealed that she was a non-verbal thinker with many of the talents associated with dyslexia. After Orientation Couseling and mastering all the basic language symbols, she was reading at grade level. With the help of her tutor, Chantel has continued to apply Symbol Mastery and is succeeding at school. Well done Chantel!

For More Information, Please Call the Reading Research Council 1-800-729-8990

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