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Welcome to Visual-Spatial Resource!
Linda Kreger Silverman

Linda Silverman
Founder of the Visual-Spatial Resource
& Author of Upside-Down Brilliance

 

Whether you spell it visual-spatial, or visual-spacial, or visuospatial, or visuo-spatial, or visuo-spacial, or spatial visual, or visual special, or visual spatial (without the hyphen!), or just plain spatial, you’ve come to the right place for support and information about right-hemispheric gifts.

Our right hemisphere (often called “right brain”) has long been associated with imagination and creativity. It is our mental camera. It lives outside of time. It provides us with the BIG PICTURE!

We know a great deal more about our left hemisphere, because this is our speech center. For thousands of years, the left hemisphere was considered the seat of thought, because researchers believed that thinking and speaking were the same. The right hemisphere, because it is nonverbal, was thought to be much less important. It was sort of there to hold up and balance the “dominant” left hemisphere! To a great extent, the right hemisphere still remains a mystery.

The functions of the right hemisphere weren’t really discovered until 1961. In the scheme of things, this is an incredibly short time ago. So please be patient with those who are not familiar with this way of knowing. It is relatively new information.

While the concept of spatial visualization has been around for some time in the field of brain research, its application to learning styles and education is even newer. In 1981, Linda noticed a pattern of performance on standardized tests that amazed her. Some children were whizzes at solving visual problems, such as puzzles, mazes, copying block designs, counting arrays of blocks with hidden blocks, etc. These children were natural builders: they lived for LEGOs! She coined the term, visual-spatial learner, to capture their unique learning style.

The more she studied this learning style, the more variation she discovered. Some were natural empaths, highly intuitive, sensing the feelings of those around them. Some saw the world through artists’ eyes, infusing color, texture, depth and perspective into all that they touched. Still others were born mathematicians, counting everything in sight, recognizing mathematical patterns from the time they were toddlers.

Cartoon of Visual-Spatial child playing while parents watch.

Illustrated by Buck Jones
All rights reserved. Copyright 2002

Most of these children thought in pictures, rather than in words. They had three-dimensional (or four? Or five?) perception, like sculptors. They were unusually sensitive and intense. They were highly imaginative and creative. They often knew things intuitively, but could not tell you how they knew them. They were Big Picture thinkers.

Unfortunately, a good portion (but not all) of these children struggled in school and felt ashamed of what they couldn’t do, instead of proud of what they could do. It’s hard to force a three-dimensional mind to adjust to two-dimensional reading. It feels like “Flatland.” If it is easy for you to see a figure from many different perspectives, it’s hard for you to distinguish b, d, p and q, since they are all the same shape flipped and rotated.

The right hemisphere thrives on meaningful information that it can picture. It cannot discriminate between “ma,” “fa” and “ga.” So phonics instruction is often lost on visual-spatial children.

Phonics instruction

Illustrated by Buck Jones
All rights reserved. Copyright 2002

Spelling is another nightmare, as the English language has so many exceptions to the rules that many words simply have to be memorized. As the combinations of letters are often arbitrary, the right hemisphere relegates spelling to the “nonmeaningful” category and it doesn’t retain the information. (“Sorry, not my department; let the left hemisphere handle it.”) If you're a visual-spatial adult, you're probably very thankful for spell-checkers!

The rules of grammar elude them entirely. On the other hand, visual-spatial learners often have photographic memories for images that they perceive as relevant. Songs and dialogue from movies can be remembered in their entirety, while the use of “their,” “there,” and “they’re” escapes them.

Some visual-spatial learners are mathematical geniuses, but poor calculators. They can’t memorize their math facts, they mix up plus and minus signs, they make careless mistakes in arithmetic and may find algebra impossible. Linda always tells the mathematically downtrodden that anything that begins with “a” (arithmetic, algebra) isn’t real math. The good stuff begins with geometry: visual-spatial heaven.

Handwriting can be a real challenge. Unless the child masters the art of beautiful writing, sort of like calligraphy, and it is done slowly and artistically, visual-spatial handwriting is often illegible. For note-taking purposes, keyboarding is infinitely faster and less painful. And the B, D, P and Q on the keypad look nothing alike, for they are capital letters!

Word-finding can be problematic, and it gets worse under pressure. Pictures do not always translate easily into words that others understand. We see this in adult personal and business relationships when a breakdown in communication has occurred. Often, it's just a matter of not being able to verbalize a mental image.

“Show your work” is another cause of grief to the visual-spatial learner. If you know the correct answer intuitively, it doesn’t count on state achievement tests. If you see the answer in your mind’s eye, but can’t show the steps you took to get to it when you didn’t take any steps, you don’t get credit. Worse, you may be accused of cheating.

Visual-spatial students and adults (no, you don't outgrow this!) are often organizationally challenged. They have their own organizational systems that look to others like total chaos. But most of the time they can find what they are looking for because they remember what color the sheet is and around how far down in the pile it is hiding.

Different Learners with Filing Cabinets

Illustrated by Buck Jones
All rights reserved. Copyright 2002

The biggest enemy of visual-spatial learners is TIME! It takes longer to translate pictures into words. Think about how long it takes to download a photograph on your computer versus how long it takes to download text. “Mad minutes” really make them mad! They can never show how much they really know in a timed test.

So what happens to those with right-hemispheric gifts? In school, they are often made to feel defective if they lack the reading, spelling, grammar, calculation, memorization, handwriting, word-finding, sequential, organizational and time skills that are so valued in education. They may learn to compensate, but they often grow up with shame, shame that colors their entire lives. As adults, however, they gravitate toward careers that let their true strengths shine: computer programming, architecture, invention, CEOs, the arts, surgery, and many other opportunities where "thinking outside the box" is prized.

Adult visual-spatial learners may find themselves entangled in communication breakdowns in their business and personal relationships because they aren't effectively translating their images into words. It is frustrating for time-conscious individuals (auditory-sequential learners) to deal with colleagues who repeatedly miss important deadlines. It is equally frustrating for those who see the big picture to communicate their visions to those who are not skilled at imagery. The result is often a level of frustration for either or both parties that leads to communication breakdown. It is important for both types to understand each other and work collaboratively, utilizing each other’s strengths.

If this describes you, or your partner, or your children, your co-workers or some of your students, or any of your loved ones, please spend some time with us on our website and visit us often. We bring you good news! You are not alone. At least one-third of the population is visual-spatial. You are not lacking. Your gifts are vitally needed in the 21st century.

Our left hemisphere was cherished for the last 5,000 years, while we knew virtually nothing about our right hemisphere. Now that we have discovered its power, this is the time for our right hemisphere to be applauded. It is a goldmine, a treasure trove of creativity, imagination, spirituality, empathy and invention. Images are the way of the future. Images create reality. You, the image makers, the visionaries, will be our leaders.

 

For more information, contact us at 1-888-887-3744