Adults With Visual-Spatial Learning Disabilities

Author: LDAO
Source: LDAO

Learning disabilities in visual-spatial areas are less well-known and less understood than language-based learning disabilities such as dyslexia. Because they affect “everyday life” as much as academic settings, visual-spatial difficulties continue to have a significant impact in adulthood.
Persons with a pattern of visual-spatial LD’s typically display:

  • auditory memory (for things that are heard) better than visual memory.
  • basic reading skills better than mathematics skills
  • verbal expression and reasoning better than written expression
  • difficulties with sense of direction, estimation of size, shape, distance, time
  • difficulties with spatial orientation, e.g. knowing how things will look when they are rotated
  • visual figure-ground weakness, e.g. problems finding things on a messy desk
  • problems interpreting graphs, charts, maps
  • may become easily lost in an unfamiliar environment
  • may have problems in learning to drive
  • may have trouble estimating how long tasks take, managing time
  • may have trouble seeing the “whole picture” or knowing what details are important
  • may have trouble organizing, especially nonverbal information

Persons with this pattern of learning disabilities remember things best by using words. They prefer to learn and remember information by writing or dictating and tend to solve problems by talking out loud and reasoning with words. They describe nonverbal types of tasks (e.g. assembling an object, reading graphs) using words, and they need a language-based system to sort out how to organize information. Many have very strong verbal skills and can use these to compensate well for their visual-spatial weaknesses.
Some (but not all) persons with visual-spatial learning disabilities also have problems with reading nonverbal cues such as body language and facial expressions. They may not pick up subtle social cues required to monitor their interactions in social settings. However these skills can be taught and rehearsal of verbal “social scripts” can be very useful.

With the appropriate skills instruction, development of compensatory strategies, and accommodations in educational or workplace settings, adults with visual-spatial learning disabilities can find their niche and lead successful lives.

References:Job-Fit Facilitator’s Guide , 2004, Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario
“What are Nonverbal Learning Disabilities?” 1998, Patti Brace, LDA Kingston Newsletter
“See and Learn Not Always True” 1998, Edwin Ortiz, LDAO Communique