The root of the problem
A person’s learning style reflects their preferred thinking style. Thinking styles fall into two main categories: verbal or non-verbal.
Being a non-verbal thinker (picture thinker) is at the root of the problem, but also at the root of the talents.
For an excellent resource on dyslexia and the various options available to parents, I would recommend reading The Everything Parent's Guide to Children with Dyslexia, which can be read online by clicking here.
We all start life as non-verbal thinkers, but those of us who do not move on to verbal thinking are at risk of developing dyslexia. On the other hand, using non-verbal (picture) thinking allows us on-going access to the high-speed creative thinking babies and toddlers use to learn. This is one of the main reasons for the gift of dyslexia.
The main problem is actually in the fact that most modern teaching is designed for verbal thinkers, with primary focus on literacy (reading and writing).
Disorientation is what causes learning difficulties
The natural ability to experience disorientation can cause learning difficulties in those who primarily think in images.
WARNING! Most people experience some disorientation by looking at the images on this page.
Disorientation is a natural response
Most people have experienced disorientation in one form or another. If you look at the image here below, and see the wheels rotating - and especially if you experience dizziness - then you have gone into a state of disorientation. This is a product of disorientation, because the wheels are in fact not moving at all. If you want to experience this stronger, you can go to professor Akiyoshi Kitaoka´s website: http://www.ritsumei.ac.jp/kic/~akitaoka/index-e.html
Disorientation is a natural response from the brain, most commonly experienced when input from two separate physical senses are conflicting; for example when your sense of balance and movement tell you that you are moving, but your eyes tell you that this is not the case. This kind of disorientation is responsible for motion sickness in cars or on boats and explains why seasickness is generally helped by going out on deck and focusing on the horizon. When you do this, the messages from your eyes will be in agreement with the messages from your sense of balance and movement, and as a result the disorientation is likely to stop.
In the case of the wheels above, it is an optical illusion that makes the wheels seem to turn when they in fact are stationary. The brain responds and tries to reconcile the senses by creating a false sense of movement - which you may experience as dizziness.
Used with permission from professor Akiyoshi Kitaoka, http://www.ritsumei.ac.jp/kic/~akitaoka/index-e.html
Disorientation is used for entertainment
Disorientation is used a lot for entertainment purposes. Most of the rides in fun-fairs and theme parks are designed to induce a sense of disorientation - and we pay money for the privilege of being disoriented.
Dyslexics use disorientation a lot for entertainment purposes, and when this happens it is generally called daydreaming or creativity - drifting off.
Most of us have experienced "chemically induced" disorientation, and most of us spend a considerable amount of money in order to experience this. The chemical of choice used for this purpose is called alcohol, and there is a global multi-billion dollar industry built up around producing, selling and providing this kind of disorientation. There is also a big industry around illegal recreational chemicals/drugs which induce various different kinds of disorientation. One aspect of disorientation which is very clear when we think of being drunk, is that our senses get distorted. Our sense of balance, vision, hearing, touch, taste and smell, along with our sense of time are distorted in line with the amount of chemicals we consume. This is why it is illegal to drive a car when under the influence of alcohol. Picture thinkers who disorientate without the need of chemicals, also experience a distortion of their senses, but they are generally unaware of why this happens and what triggered it. Depending on which sense is distorted, you will get a different learning difficulty label. If your sense of vision is distorted as a result of being exposed to the written word, you will develop dyslexia. Many dyslexics report amazing experiences when reading, bordering on hallucination.
The whole entertainment industry is also based on providing disorientation. When you sit in a cinema watching a film, you will feel disappointed if the film does not transport you into a different reality, where you forget all about being in the cinema and instead "disorientate into the story". If the film is good, you will experience physical reactions in your body, as if responding to real events. This could be fear, joy, excitement, anxiety, relief or a whole range of other emotions. Good novels are designed to do exactly the same thing - they transport you into an alternate reality, where you forget all about the one your physical body finds itself in.
Disorientation is used for problem-solving
Picture thinkers can use their advanced disorientation ability in order to figure out things and resolve confusion very quickly. When dyslexics get confused, they immediately use disorientation and literally view the confusing subject from different angles in their mind, as illustrated by the pencil below. When looked at from the end, it could be confusing, but as soon as it is rotated, that confusion is eliminated.
When the confusing subject is an actual three dimensional physical object, this gives them additional information which resoves any confusion very quickly. During these useful episodes of disorientation, the picture thinker experiences their imagination as real as the physical world.
Generally this process is so quick that we are not even aware of it happening, but this is by far the most efficient way of resolving confusion regarding physical three-dimensional objects. Because of the efficiency and speed of disorientation as a problem solving technique, it quickly becomes the primary choice for any problem that needs solving. The dyslexic uses disorientation consistently, unconsciously and effortlessly. Disorientation can therefore be triggered without any obvious reason, whenever the dyslexic needs to process any information in order to resolve confusion.
When a picture-thinker disorientates, they don’t just use their visual thinking to experience their imagination. All their senses (vision, hearing, smelling, touching) are engaged in the experience. This makes their imaginative creation appear not so different from a real experience and indeed - when reflected upon later - they are often experienced as real memories. We call this distorted perception, and once disorientation is triggered, the memory of letters that the dyslexic experiences as reality, will in fact not necessarily originate from what the dyslexic observed in the real world. What the dyslexic is experiencing as a real memory is just as likely to be created by their imagination. This is where their previously valuable problem-solving ability becomes a disability. They can not rely on their memory as a reliable aid in recognising two dimensional symbols.
Disorientation does not help with letters
If a dyslexic gets confused by a two dimensional letter, they will try the same approach, but this time, instead of the additional data clearing up the confusion, it actually adds to the confusion.
When picture thinkers first are faced with the two-dimensional symbols of reading and writing, they instinctively use disorientation in order to eliminate confusion about the letters. In this case, the confusion is not resolved. Using disorientation does not add information about what the letter means. It only adds information about what the letter looks like from a different angle, and that does not help the person to understand the meaning of the letter (which in fact is the sound of the letter).
In this instance the disorientation distorts the perception. The memory of the letter is not necessaarily of the accurate perception. Instead it may be of an unstable, rotating image with all sorts of meanings, shapes and experiences added by the dyslexic’s imagination. This is then often logged in their memory as real experiences.
This state of mind (disorientation) can span a fraction of a second or several hours at a time, and to others it can look like absent mindedness or distractibility. Daydreams are a very common form of disorientation, where the picture thinker is using this talent for his own entertainment.
Design and inventions are good examples where disorientation is used as an asset at work. Some dyslexics talk about their mind being like having constant access to a three-dimensional prototyping machine.
Dyslexics can use their ability to disorientate in order to "see" a solution to all sorts of problems, without having to use logic. They just "sense" the solution, when they have processed all the available information subliminally and unconciously at the speed of light. This ability is sometimes labelled as "intuition" and it gives them an uncanny ability to solve very complex problems and oversee large scale projects.
This ability to disorinetate can be a great asset when trying to figure out things in your environment. It can also be a great asset for artistic creativity, as a multi-sensory copy of the artist’s subject can exist in their mind. This also generally leads to an above average intelligence, even though the learning difficulties can mask that aspect. Before going school, the picture thinker has little need for verbal, linear thought. As a result, this kind of thinking process has not developed as much as in verbal thinkers. As most education is designed for verbal thinking, the picture thinkers tend to fall behind.
However, in seven primary schools in California, where Davis Learning Strategies were used for seven years, there was not a single special needs referral. This is because the students were taught to control their disorientation, and teaching was geared towards the picture thinkers. The surprise findings in this study was that the verbal thinking students also benfitted from this approach.