“That’s not appropriate to talk about at the dinner table,” is something most of us were told at least once growing up. For one client I worked with a few years ago, it was something he had heard, but never really understood. This man was in his 30’s, and until doing intensive instruction to strengthen his ability to visualize written and oral language, he did not realize why his mother hadn’t wanted to hear about the frog he had dissected in class while she was eating dinner. He wasn’t aware that his mom was now imaging things that made eating less appealing.
Have you ever been at the airport, on a bus, or sitting at a coffee shop reading an article like this one, but really listening to the people next to you gossiping or the couple behind you arguing? You read and reread the article a few times, but still don’t understand it until you consciously force yourself to visualize the content. For some individuals, that is what it is often like when they encounter written and oral language. They may not be able to make the images fast enough or be aware that picturing is a way for them to understand, remember, and think critically about information.
A primary cause of language comprehension problems is difficulty creating an imaged gestalt – a whole. This is called weak concept imagery. This weakness causes individuals to get only “parts,” such as a few facts or details, rather than the whole picture.
Individuals with weak concept imagery have difficulty with reading comprehension, critical thinking, and may not easily follow directions or connect to conversations. They may also have difficulty expressing ideas in an organized manner.
When trying to comprehend written language, a person may have to reread material several times and may still only remember a few details, rather than the “whole.” When it comes to oral language comprehension, she may connect to only part of a conversation and have difficulty responding relevantly and thinking logically. She may ask and re-ask the same question and be labeled a “poor listener.”
Oral language expression may also be difficult. A person may be talkative but scattered, relating information out of sequence or off the topic.
A weakness in concept imagery can lead to writing that is often described as unorganized and nonspecific.
Concept imagery can be assessed, developed, and strengthened for people of all ages, here on Maui. At the Lindamood-Bell learning center we administer a variety of nationally normed diagnostic measures during a session that lasts about 3 hours. These tests measure a variety of skills including vocabulary, reading fluency, oral language and reading comprehension, and math. The results from this assessment are used to understand the individuals’ strengths and weaknesses in language and literacy. During a follow up consultation, the results are reviewed and recommendations made.
In the one-to-one intensive instruction, using the Visualizing & Verbalizing® program, we can strengthen an individual’s ability to make dynamic, vivid images by asking probing questions about what the student is picturing. By requiring the individual to verbalize what they are imaging, we are also able to strengthen sequenced, detailed and accurate verbal expression. Students start by imaging one sentence at a time, then multiple sentences, and then whole paragraphs, sections and pages of information. Once a person is making accurate and detailed images, these pictures are used to answer critical thinking questions and for written expression.
Image Credit: Lindamood-Bell