Directional Dyslexia

Directional Dyslexia

Quick Facts about Directional Dyslexia:

  • Not an actual kind of dyslexia, more of a symptom of other types of dyslexia or a different kind of disability all together
  • Sometimes called spatial or geographic dyslexia
  • Distinguished by left-right confusion and a tendency to become disoriented or lost
  • May be related to a problem with remembering sequences 


Definition

A simple definition for the disability would be: Extreme difficulty distinguishing right from left and following a sequence of directions or retracing a path.

It's a bit of a misnomer to call a problem with direction a 'type' of dyslexia because many people without reading problems have difficult distinguishing left from right and getting lost. They have a Dys (difficulty) but not with Lexia (words). A better name for this problem would be something like Dysorienta.

Although having a poor sense of left and right, getting lost in a big house or not knowing which direction to turn when leaving an elevator is not dyslexia, dyslexics are notorious for mixing left and right ("no, the other right") and this kind of disability often occurs together with other types of dyslexia.

Interestingly, a common symptom of dyslexia is difficulty memorizing sequences, and since knowing the directions from A to B is about memorizing a sequence of actions ("Left at the store, right at the school then left again at the park") it's possible that the problems getting lost are really just a particular example of a problem with sequences of information.

Digging a bit deeper, the problem with memorizing sequences might be caused by weak short term memory, another very common symptom of dyslexia. It simply takes many more repetitions for dyslexics to learn something, especially abstract things like multiplication tables. This may carry over to learning of routes and directions.

Directional Dyslexia Treatment

Make Light but
Don't Take Light

Being told,' just go back the same way', or 'I'm sure you will find your way' can be terrifying to someone with a very weak sense of direction.

While getting lost can be funny or even educational, usually it's not. Keep this in mind when you discover a friend or family member is directionally challenged.

There aren't formal treatments for directional dyslexia, but there are some strategies that can help:

1) For left-right confusion

  • Wear a watch on the left hand to provide a point of orientation
  • visualize something you always do with the right hand such as write or shoot a basketball
  • The index and thumb of the left hand can form an L when held in front of the face

2) For poor sense of direction

  • Write down the steps to your destination and try to memorize them
  • Try to walk the journey in your mind, in both directions while describing the route out loud: "I will walk toward our corner store then turn right at the first intersection where the statue is, I can see the bronze bust..."
  • Study maps. Dyslexics are often superior visual learners, so understanding the directions visually may be the key for you
  • Purchase a dedicated GPS for your car. Remember your phone is probably a GPS too.
  • Worst case, leave breadcrumbs

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