Why is multisensory learning important for people with dyslexia?
Most learning is through visual and auditory learning. Using a multisensory teaching technique means helping pupils to learn through more than one sense. It enables pupils to use their personal areas of strength to help them learn. Involving more of the pupil's senses, especially the use of touch and movement, will help the pupil's brain to develop memories to hang on to, as well as auditory and visual ones.
'Dyslexic students...have to have lots of practice in having their writing hands, eyes, ears, and voices working together for the conscious organisation and retention of their learning.' Margaret Byrd Rawson, 2000.
What is multisensory learning?
- It integrates visual, auditory, tactile (touch) and kinesthetic (movement) learning elements.
- Different teaching methods activate different parts of the brain.
- Helps learners discover their learning style and the techniques best for them.
- Effective for all learners but particularly effective for dyslexic students.
- Can be used in any subject from reading to maths to science and drama.
This diagram shows why multisensory learning is so effective.
Many dyslexics have a strength in learning through visual techniques. This can include posters, pictures, mind-maps and videos.
For example, during a lesson on a topic, a mind-map could be created linking the ideas. This can be a very effective outline for a future written assignment.
Auditory learning includes the use of music, singing, rhymes, lyrics, clapping and dialogue, anything that involves the ear.
Using audiobooks or text-to-speech software can be helpful and help reduce tiredness in students where there is a high demand in the curriculum for reading texts.
Anything involving touch is tactile learning, techniques are more likely to engage fine motor skills.
Specific tactile techniques include the use of letter tiles, sand, raised line paper and textures. Finally, modelling materials such as clay or plasticine make for good tactile learning.
Kinesthetic learners learn through motion and doing, using both fine and gross motor skills. Kinesthesia is the sense we use to learn sports and physical activities.
One common kinesthetic teaching method used with dyslexics is 'air writing', where students say a letter out loud whilst simultaneously writing it in the air. The same exercise can be done in sand or with plasticine. Anything that connects body movement to learning is kinesthetic.