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, a good example of the often misunderstood Flip Flopper.
Earlier we met The Storyteller and learned some of the reasons behind this 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 objects in 3D 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 they 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 left/right confusion. 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. He is 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 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.
This skill allows us to recognize the difference between similar objects and symbols. Particularly helpful with visual symbol confusion like Nathan’s. Learn more about visual discrimination activities for kids here.
As with The Storyteller, I highly recommend clay work. The 3D clay letters that Nathan creates help visually anchor the letters in his mind. Using the technique from Ron Davis’ book The Gift of Dyslexia helps Nathan keep similar symbols 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 better learn and understand concepts of time (see below). One simple way to strengthen this skill is to consistently ask what came first, next and last after reading a story or when reviewing the days’ activities. Story sequencing with pictures is another fun tool for this.
Many students like Nathan have little concept of how long a minute actually lasts. Choose 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 my Pinterest board It’s About Time. You may also enjoy the free memory game Months of the Year.
I hope you are enjoying the series so far. Stay tuned! More Unique Learner profiles to come.