Learning challenges

Children and adults diagnosed with Dyslexia, ADHD and other learning challenges often have a very different Learning Style.

In many situations, people with a more visual or non-verbal learning style find themselves struggling to meet the demands of a educational system which either neither appreciates nor understands their abilities / needs or doesn’t have the resources available to accommodate those abilities / needs. As a result, the ADHD or visual-spatial thinker often suffers a variety of academic and social challenges.

In addition to their apparent lack of ability in the classroom, the ADHD child may begin to exhibit a variety of behaviour problems. These behaviours are often the result of repeated failures and repeated attempts to communicate their inability to meet the demands being placed upon them. In many cases, visual thinkers find themselves the proverbial square peg in a round hole.
In general, students diagnosed with Dyslexia, ADHD and other sensory-based learning challenges may exhibit some or all of the following challenges:

Inability to focus or pay attention

The visual child or adult is constantly being distracted from the task at hand. Simple tasks, homework, for example, may take several hours instead of 30-40 minutes. Classroom participation may suffer because of the frequent interruptions caused by the inability to stay on task.

Difficulty reading and/or writing

It is not uncommon for a child with above average visual-spatial acuity to exhibit difficulty decoding auditory and symbolic information. This difficulty may occur as problems with reading, listening, memorization, test-taking or following instructions. In some cases, it is the excellent visual and spatial abilities of the visual thinker that may actually interfere with their ability to process letters, numbers and punctuation (see Dyslexia).

Difficulty with mathematics

For some visual thinkers, their difficulty with mathematics may be the result of deficiency in processing symbolic information. For others, their difficulties may be the result of a lack of sequence, order and a sense of time in their thought process. Maths (like long division) that require more than 2 or 3 steps may confuse the visual thinker.
Most maths are taught as a series of steps with the assumption that, if a student is taught the steps necessary to solve the problem—essentially the ‘how’ of the problem, then he or she will naturally understand the intention of those steps—the ‘why’ of the problem. Unfortunately for many visual-spatial thinkers, this assumption is completely incorrect. For these students, a strategy for understanding the ‘why’ of the problem is critical to their success.

Difficulty with long-term memory

This forgetfulness occurs particularly with written and verbal instructions. Visual thinkers may remember only one out of three verbal instructions.

Lack of organisation

ADHD children often exhibit forgetfulness and inability to remember multiple tasks often results in a lack of organization. The lack of organization of their outer world is typically a reflection of their inner thought processes.


ADHD and other visual thinkers often demonstrate reactive rather than responsive behaviours. Rather than mentally process through a course of action (or sequence of actions) logically, they often jump to an emotional response based on their internal ‘pictures’.


Because they become bored easily and have trouble completing tasks, visual thinkers may experience a great deal of criticism and failure (either real or perceived). This may lead to reluctance to even get started on new projects.
It’s important to understand that the only sane response to repeated failure or inability to successfully complete a given task or assignment is to avoid that task or assignment in the future. To invite continued failure is neither ‘normal’ nor appropriate.


If there were ever an attempt to fit a square peg into a round hole, it is asking an ADHD or visual thinker to sit quietly and pay attention to someone talking. The inability to sit still and listen, particularly in the classroom, is common for many high energy, non-verbal thinkers (often labelled ADHD).

Lack of Social Skills

Visual thinkers often ‘live’ in their own thoughts. This can result in a lack of ability to recognise and respond appropriately respond to social cues.

Frustration, Stress and Anxiety

As visual people experience their best efforts continuing to fall short, their levels of stress and anxiety can mount on a daily basis, often resulting in growing frustration, anger and ultimately, surrender or resignation. One last note on challenges - to hold a child responsible for a behaviour or outcome that he cannot control is generally inappropriate. To offer a child reward or punishment for a behaviour or outcome that he can’t control is generally ineffective and can result in undue stress, confusion and additional negative behaviours.