Learning Strategies

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Children who have difficulties in learning to read, learning strategies incorporating a multisensory method have been seen to be the most effective.

So what does learning strategies involving multisensory methods mean? It means helping the child to learn by using more than one of his/her senses. Most of school teaching is carried out by using the senses of sight or hearing, or visual and auditory senses. The child uses his sight to read information, look at pictures and diagrams, and reading what the teacher writes on the board. The child uses his/her sense of hearing while following what the teacher has to say in class.

These conventional learning strategies may pose difficulties for the dyslexic child who may have problems with seeing and hearing. The child may have problems with visual processing or visual tracking, with the words becoming fuzzy or moving around. While the child’s hearing may seem satisfactory on hearing tests, he may have weak auditory processing or auditory memory, which may affect his learning.

Multisensory methods and learning strategies

There are three modalities in the learning strategies in multisensory methods, known by the acronym VAK, standing for Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic.

The Visual component is what the child sees. The Auditory component is what the child hears. Auditory-Digital is when the child talks aloud what he learns and hears himself. The Kinesthetic element is the tactile component in which the child handles and touches different objects.

The best learning strategies involve using many of the child’s senses with special emphasis on the sensation of touch and of movement. Such learning strategies provide kinesthetic and tactile memories, as well as auditory and visual ones to the child’s brain which he/she can use while learning.

Multisensory method - an example

An example is given here to make this clear. Most dyslexic children find it difficult to remember the direction in which ‘b’ and ‘d’ are written. Both letters have a stick and a circle at the base, but the side on which the circle sits causes problems. So the child may be given a tactile experience of the letters by the teacher, by making him/her write a very large letter on the carpet. This induces the child to use his arms, their entire body and sense of balance. So the child can remember this experience when the teacher made them write this huge shape on the carpet with their hands. The child can use this memory the next time he/she has to write this letter.

Similarly, a child may be given a tactile memory of the letter ‘b’ by making him form the letter out of play-dough, plasticine or clay.

Such tried and tested learning strategies have been used effectively for many years. The success of the multisensory method is due to the fact that the dyslexic child does not have to use only his auditory or visual memory, but they can use other areas of their brain in trying to recall the shapes of the different letters, numbers and words which are difficult for them to remember.

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