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Help Dyslexic, Learning Disabled, and ASD Kids with Body Exercises

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You can help dyslexic kids and kids with learning disabilities through special exercises that help improve visual spatial skills. Learn about three easy exercises that you can do at home with your child. These exercises to help dyslexic kids and kids with autism are free, easy, and fun.

What are visual spatial problems?  A student with visual-spatial processing problems have problems organizing what they see. They also have a hard time understanding how objects might change as they rotate and move through space.

How to help dyslexic, learning disabled, and autistic children with visual spatial problems through simple exercises you can do at home.

Help Dyslexic, LD, and Kids with Autism
photo by Kay Pat

Here are Symptoms of Visual Spatial Problems:

  • You can’t see something in your mind’s eye.
  • You often confuse your left and right side.
  • You can’t imagine how objects appear when rotated in space.
  • You can’t estimate lengths and distances without measuring them.
  • You have trouble understanding geometry, calculus and other higher math.
  • You have a hard time remembering letter formations and letter patterns.
  • You struggle with reading charts, maps and blueprints.
  • You have trouble copying information from a blackboard and/ or textbooks.

How to Recognize Visual Spatial Problems in Order to Help Dyslexic Kids

  • Can your child write his or her name at the top of the page?
  • Does your child often have trouble dressing? Are clothes turned the right way?
  • Can your child set the table correctly?
  • Is your child uncoordinated in gym class?
  • Can your child copy patterns with toy blocks?
  • Can your child draw a cube?

If you believe you or your child has a visual spatial problem, there are exercises you can use to help improve overall functioning. Doctors in Italy recently published a study that connects early visual spatial problems with learning disabilities and dyslexia.

Most babies learn to grab food and put it in their mouth to taste it. They use sight, smell, taste and touch to identify the treat. They use movement to reach for it and to pop it in their mouth. Children who are later diagnosed with dyslexia struggle with these visual spatial skills as babies. Dr. Serena Wieder explains how developmental delays in visual spatial skills can lead to a dyslexia diagnosis. Wieder is the clinical director of the non-profit Profectum Foundation and co-author of “Visual/Spatial Portals to Thinking, Feeling and Movement.”

Dr. Wieder’s  guide, Visual Spatial Portals to Thinking, Feeling and Movement gives therapeutic strategies for students with learning disabilities and autism spectrum disorders.

“How we use our senses to figure out our relationship to the world around us is an essential — and often overlooked – building block to learning,” she says. “In particular, visual-spatial knowledge – understanding where you are in space and where other things are relative to you – is essential to anything you want to do. When development of that knowledge is delayed, it has a domino effect on every other aspect of development.”

Children can be affected physically, socially, cognitively and emotionally. But their visual-spatial challenges are often hidden.

Through years of clinical work, she and co-author Dr. Harry Wachs, O.D., a pioneer in visual cognitive therapy, developed hundreds of activities to help children improve their visual-spatial knowledge.

Here are three activities Wieder suggests for addressing a deficit that affects a child’s ability to understand which body parts to move in order to achieve a specific result, such as reaching for a toy or catching a ball. These “mental mapping” activities help a child understand the parts of his body and the way they relate to each other.

Help Dyslexic Kids Visual Spatial Skills with Body Lifts

Have the child lie belly down on the floor with his arms at his sides and ask him to lift each body part as you touch it. Start with major body parts (head, arm or leg, upper torso.) Next touch two body parts on the same side, for example, the right leg and right arm, and ask him to lift them at the same time. Then try body parts on opposite sides. Next, work on more specific parts, such as elbow, lower leg, should. Then try three body parts simultaneously. Finally, touch two and then three body parts and ask him to lift them in the order they were touched.

Help Dyslexic Kids Visual Spatial Skills with Silhouette

Here’s another exercise to help dyslexic kids and kids with ASD with visual spatial skills. Have the child face a chalkboard and trace the outline of her body on it. Tell her the drawing represents the back of her body. Stand behind her, touch her back, and ask her to draw an X on the board where she thinks you touched her. Next, progress to touching her back several times in sequence and ask her to draw X’s on the board in the same sequence. Then reverse it. Now, draw a design on the child’s back and ask her to reproduce it on the board.

Help Dyslexic Kids Visual Spatial Skills with Joints

Help dyslexic kids visual spatial skills with learn how to use the hinges and pivotal points of his body by exploring how he can twist, turn and bend. Ask him to stand and pretend his shoes are glued to the floor so he can’t move his feet. Standing a few feet away, hold a yardstick about 2 feet in front of him and slowly move the end toward him. Tell him to decide how to twist, turn, bend, or pivot his body to avoid being touched by the stick.

Once a dyslexic child has a good mental map of her body parts, her next activities will help her understand their height, width and length in relation to the world around her, Wieder says. These activities will help dyslexic kids and kids with learning disabilities get the visual-spatial knowledge needed to manipulate their world.

The idea that physical exercises can help dyslexic children with reading difficulties is not exclusive to the work done by Dr. Wieder. Check out Healthy Family’s story about Brain Imbalance called:  Is Autism Caused by a Brain Imbalance? Hear Dr. Robert Melillo Speak.

About Serena Wieder, Ph.D.

Psychologist Serena Wieder is clinical director of the non-profit Profectum Foundation, which is dedicated to the advancement of individuals with special needs through educational programs. She was co-founder of the Interdisciplinary Council on Developmental and Learning Disorders, and she directed the DIR Institute. Her research has focused on diagnostic classification, emotional and symbolic development, and long-term follow-up of children treated with the DIR approach. Dr. Harry Wachs is a pioneer in visual cognitive therapy.


4 Responses to Help Dyslexic, Learning Disabled, and ASD Kids with Body Exercises

  • Here’s another exercise to help dyslexic kids and kids with ASD with visual spatial skills. Have the child face a chalkboard and trace the outline of her body on it. Tell her the drawing represents the back of her body. Stand behind her, touch her back, and ask her to draw an X on the board where she thinks you touched her. Next, progress to touching her back several times in sequence and ask her to draw X’s on the board in the same sequence. Then reverse it. Now, draw a design on the child’s back and ask her to reproduce it on the board.

  • Visual-spatial learners have amazing abilities to “read” people. Since they can’t rely on audition for information, they develop remarkable visual and intuitive abilities, including reading body language and facial expressions.

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Healthy Family is an organic living website. It's mainly written by Caryn, a busy mom of 4. We talk about nutrition parenting, and education on Healthy Family. You'll find easy, family friendly organic recipes, all gluten and corn free. We offer shopping tips, craft ideas for kids, and product and book reviews, too. Caryn often talks about being a mom, honoring her Catholic faith and traditions, and the importance of eating healthy organic foods. Contact us if you'd like.