UPDATED & REVIEWED BY NUMBERDYSLEXIA’S EXPERT PANEL ON JUNE 05, 2020
Dyslexia is primarily considered a learning difference, but there are several other areas where it affects our daily part of life. Many dyslexics have found be to lacking some basic directional abilities. Good hours of their day may be spent in dealing with ‘Is it left or right?’ Keeping up with a set of directions is a big struggle. They may easily get confused with the directions instructed to them verbally.
Imagine losing your directional abilities for a day. Reaching destination will be near to impossible if you keep on messing left or right. Of course, Google Maps have really made our lives easy. But still, you’ll be having a very hard time relating delta distance between points A and B on GPS vs real life. ‘Directional Dyslexia’ is what they call to describe directional difficulty in dyslexic individuals. So, What’s the reason behind most dyslexics lacking directional abilities? What day-to-day problems they face due to it, and Most importantly, how to manage it?
Note that Dyslexia is a neurobiological disorder which means the issue is in the brain. Multiple studies conducted throughout the decades confirm the structural differences in the brains of people with and without reading disabilities that are responsible for the symptoms of dyslexia.
The left hemisphere of our brain is generally responsible for speech, visual memory, spatial awareness, language processing, and reading. There are four major lobes associated with these functions; Frontal Lobe, Parietal Lobe, Occipital Lobe, and Temporal Lobe. Spatial awareness and navigation are primarily associated with the Hippocampus situated directly underneath the Temporal Lobes. Occipital and Parietal also play their role in order for our navigational skills such as a sense of directions (Left, Right, East, West), to work properly.
The visual cortex in Occipital Lobe gives necessary visual info, whereas the parietal lobe provides the other sensory information such as touch and body movement. Furthermore, our brain is made up of two types of material: gray matter (responsible for processing Information) and white matter (responsible for transferring information). An MRI scan of a dyslexic brain done in research suggests people with dyslexia have less gray matter activity in the left part of the brain than non-dyslexic individuals. The observation is one of the prime factors responsible for weak spatial awareness, spatial memory, and visual perceptual skills required while understanding directions.
Now that we know the reason behind let’s take a look at how a dyslexic individual deals with this issue daily. What sort of issues faced by him on a regular basis.
Some common issues faced due to directional dyslexia
- Mixing left and right commonly. They may stick ‘My left or your left?’ in every conversation to keep the track.
- Keep getting lost while walking an unfamiliar place as you have no sense of direction back to the starting place.
- Losing the track of starting place while reading, writing, or copying from the board.
- Struggle in driving as you have to keep the focus on both road and directions. Reading signboard and symbols just add to the burden.
- Struggle in activities, such as tying a shoe or a necktie.
- Having trouble in reading and understanding maps and GPS.
- Feeling embarrassed on asking which is left and right as an adult.
- Having anxiety when asked to follow a set of directions.
How to manage directional difficulties in dyslexia?
First of all, there is no formal medical treatment for dyslexia and its symptoms. Early you get to know about it, better you will get the control over it. Coming down to directional difficulties, there are some strategies you could implement.
Point of Reference
The best way to avoid confusion between left and right is to take the reference. The index and thumb of our left hand can form ‘L’ when held in front of the face. ‘Which hand can form correct L?’ could be taken as reference for left direction. For some, taking reference to the dominant hand is comparatively easier to remember. Another option is to use a watch or a bracelet. It’s less confusing and easier to be habitual to. Make sure to let the kid aware of what side it is beforehand.
Write it down
If dealing with a long set of directions, it is best to write the instructions down. Your chances of getting lost in an unfamiliar place are less if you write down the steps to your destination and try to memorize it a couple of times. Make sure to write in a stepwise manner to have a clear idea of the directions you are following. While writing, try to walk the journey in your mind and visualize it in order to memorize it better.
Take the help of technology
Use technology wherever possible to help you out with directions. Use voice-enabled GPS to assist you on roads. You can use your watch as a point of orientation to get to the directions. Use a compass app on your smartphone or Apple watch to help you out.
Always the one unprepared will get scared during the exam. Prepare yourself well for directions before going for any journey. Study the map to the destination thoroughly. Write the directions a day prior and try to memorize it. Use notes to keep reminding you about the directions. if possible, try to travel with someone accompanying you. You can ask for directions when you need them instead of relying on technology.