I have a client who’s been through the formal special education for over 10 years, combined with specialists therapies for many years, yet still couldn’t write half of the capital letters. I’ve used a method to train her to be able to perceive the refined differences between similar letters/figures, and have successfully taught her to write almost all the capital letters in about a year, with only a couple of them still in the learning process.
Usually I’ll make different forms to write a letter, combine the correct form with wrong forms, starting from big differences, then make it less different, till it’s refined enough to form a good image in the brain. When she’s able to tell the difference easily, I’ll ask her to write the image that she’s been discriminating for quite a while, without any copying/tracing. She usually can do it straight away, but occasionally needs a little bit of pushing. I’ve never ever used the traditional copying and tracing strategies in special education.
Tracing and copying is asking the trainee to trace on the letters/numbers that are already printed on papers to teach them how to write them. Although it is the most widely used method of teaching how to write letters and numbers for children of disabilities, it’s not very helpful for people with considerable visual processing issues. Such as my client, who after so many years of tracing, working really hard, had put great effort in it and yet still struggling. It’s impossible to write the letters independently if the brain hasn’t formed the image of the letter clearly, disregarding how many times tracing has been tried. It will only happen when a clear image is formed in the brain. My way is to help forming the image. When someone can observe the subtle difference between similar letters/figures, writing it down would be a very easy thing.
Let’s look back to see how to figure out if someone has obvious visual processing issue. Taking the ability of being able to perceive the refined details of what we see in everyday life for granted, it is very hard for people without visual procession issues to realize that some people are facing big challenges in this area. For some of them who have disabilities, this can be easily covered by other developmental issues and could have big impact on everyday living. My personal experience is that being able to detect the elusive visual procession difficulty is the critical first move, which is a very big topic.
I’ve read a book about half year ago:”The Woman Who Changed her Brain”，in which there is a chapter that talks about visual processing. Until then I knew that someone has already been on the path ahead of me, while her way may be more mature, my way is still in developing. In the book it mentioned that about 50% part of the brain is involved in visual processing, which means if someone has issues in this area, there should be impact on many brain functions too, vice verse , if someone gains significant improvement in visual processing, then noticeable improvement in many areas is very likely to happen.