Visual-Auditory Integration for Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, and Dysgraphia
Dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia are potentially devastating learning disabilities that affect three of the core areas of schooling: reading, writing, and math. Chaya Greenspan, who founded Work n’ Play Inc. in 2012, says the visual and auditory systems work separately but also jointly to deliver the most pertinent information they can gather to the central nervous system. However, in some people, these systems can malfunction or not work at all when they aren’t properly integrated, which can lead to inhibited reflex function and visual or auditory processing issues like dyslexia.
What is Dyslexia?
Dyslexia, which affects anywhere from 5–10% of the population, makes reading extremely difficult. Dyslexics have trouble processing the graphic symbols that constitute our alphabet and form our words, routinely seeing the letters all jumbled up, blurry, backwards, or three-dimensionally.
What is Dyscalculia?
Dyscalculia is slightly less common, being estimated to affect between 4–8% of the populace, but is equally damaging, extending well beyond simple math questions into the realm of telling time and managing money. Along with a general inability to grasp mathematical concepts, dyscalculics can also experience visual processing issues like dyslexics.
What is Dysgraphia?
Dysgraphia is the least documented of the three, without firm estimates of incidence rates. It can affect all aspects of a person’s writing ability, from their spelling and cursive right down to their general writing skills.
Visual and Auditory Processing
All three conditions have firm roots in visual processing, though according to many studies most dyslexics suffer primarily from an auditory processing disorder. All three conditions can also be successfully treated, especially when caught early enough says Chaya Greenspan, a pediatric occupational therapist who works with children suffering from mild to severe visual and auditory impairments. A small 2014 study explored the link between the visual and auditory synchronization in dyslexics versus a control group and determined that dyslexics’ asynchronous processing was the cause of their condition. Chaya Greenspan suggests that the common pattern of difficulty in all three conditions stems from the integration of visual-auditory processing and the synthesis of visual-auditory information.
Visual-Auditory Integration Exercises, Can Boost Learning
Improving the synchronicity between those sensory systems can improve a number of important measures, including behavioral, attention, and emotional regulation, as well as increase the accuracy of processing sensory stimuli.
Chaya Greenspan suggests the following exercises as learning techniques: eye point jumping for ocular motor control, rhythmic tapping for sequencing, visual occlusion and visual contrast for discrimination, isolation of sound with eyes closed for visualization, stimulation of the auditory loop for auditory/symbol memory, repetitive pairing of sound and symbol for letter sound association, symmetrical/asymmetrical motion for grapho-motor coordination, cross body motion for crossing midline associated with reading and writing, visual patterns reflex activation for reading fluency.
Chaya Greenspan explains that another option is to undertake a sensory “diet” that seeks to surround the person in question with the optimal combination of sensory inputs for their central nervous system. By attuning their environment to their own under- and/or over-sensitive sensory receptors, they can achieve a more relaxed and focused state.
For people with a low threshold, or over-sensitive visual receptors, that could include removing as many visual distractions from the home as possible, such as paintings and ornaments. In classes, this could extend to allowing the student to directly face a solid-colored wall to limit visual distractions. Conversely, those with a high threshold, or under-sensitive visual receptors, can be aided through having pictures, labels or symbols on containers, folders, and other objects.
For people with a high threshold for noise, or under active auditory processing, listening to music or white noise can greatly help some people focus and study, while limiting noise completely via the use of ear plugs is an option for those with a low threshold for noise, or over active auditory processing.
Chaya Greenspan concludes that using a whole-body approach to learning can greatly improve the effectiveness of academic supports and decrease the effort exerted on the sensory-motor processing necessary for reading, writing, and math.