Profile of a Unique Learner: The Flip Flopper

When most people think of Dyslexia they imagine a unique learner similar to The Flip Flopper. Dyslexia encompasses much more than the tendency to reverse letters like b and d, so let’s meet Nathan. He’s a good example of the often misunderstood Flip Flopper.


Closeup of boy's eyes: one image upside down, the same image right side up


The Challenge

Earlier, we met The Storyteller and learned some of the reasons behind that visual thinker’s reading struggles. Nathan is also a visual thinker. While he shares some traits in common with The Storyteller, his particular learning challenges show up in a different way.


Nathan experiences visual symbol confusion. His exceptional talent for imagining 3-dimensional objects makes him gifted in areas like drawing and building. This same talent, however, creates confusion when he’s asked to identify 2-dimensional letters on a page.


Nathan’s mind naturally and automatically “sees” the letter b, for example, from all angles and perspectives. Looking at it one way, the b looks like a b. Looking at it another way, the b could be a d, or p, or q. Thus, the guessing strategy begins. Seeing all of these perspectives at once, with every letter on a page, gives Nathan the impression that the letters and words are moving.


No wonder reading is so difficult.


He doesn’t realize that his perspective is different than most of his classmates. He just knows that his classmates can read and he can’t.


Many Flip Floppers are also non-linear thinkers. This can be a great advantage when it comes to creative problem-solving, seeing the big picture, and contributing innovative ideas. Unfortunately for Nathan, this also means trouble learning the days of the week, the months of the year, how to tell time, and confusion between left and right. Students like Nathan may struggle with basic math concepts (linear, logical thinking) yet excel at complicated algebraic equations.


The Good News About The Flip Flopper

Nathan relies heavily on his auditory strength in order to learn. He easily understands directions if someone reads them out loud to him. He’s also quite talented at memorizing stories, especially when he has access to picture clues.


One of Nathan’s greatest strengths is his spatial awareness. This translates to a love of Legos, of building, of taking things apart and putting them together again. Nathan’s parents are convinced that they live with an architect or engineer in the making. If you ask this talented, unique learner, “Can you fix this?” the answer is probably, “Yes.”


Reading Help for The Flip Flopper

For students who fit The Flip Flopper profile, a number of activities provide powerful skill-building support. The following list of tips is just a start.


Visual Discrimination

This skill allows us to recognize the difference between similar objects and symbols.  It’s particularly helpful with visual symbol confusion like Nathan’s. Learn more about visual discrimination activities for kids here.


Clay Work

As with The Storyteller, I highly recommend clay work. The 3-dimensional clay letters that Nathan creates help visually anchor letters in his mind. This helps Nathan prevent symbols that appear very similar, like b/d, h/y, 6/9 and 5/2, from flip flopping all over the page.



Understanding the order of things helps students like Nathan understand concepts of time. (See below). One simple way to strengthen this skill is to consistently ask what happened first, next and last after reading a story, or when reviewing the days’ activities. Story-sequencing with pictures is another fun tool for this.


Time Awareness

Many students like Nathan have little concept of how long a minute actually lasts.  When completing various tasks throughout the day, estimating how many seconds or minutes each task takes to complete is a fun way to reinforce this skill. For more time awareness tips, check out this Pinterest board. You may also enjoy the free Months of the Year memory game


I hope you’re enjoying the series so far.  Next up: The Excessive Studier.