Visual memory difficulties

Visual memory difficulties

It is widely acknowledged that the predominant problems found in dyslexic students are phonological rather than visual (Pumfrey and Reason, 1991; Snowling, 2000; Snowling and Thomson, 1991). Indeed, dyslexic individuals often have excellent visual skills (West, 2009). Nevertheless, teachers and educational psychologists are not infrequently confronted by cases of young students who appear to have inordinate difficulties in remembering various types of information presented visually.

Structured phonics work, with ample practice (over-learning) will compensate for visual memory weaknesses. A multisensory approach is strongly recommended, building on any auditory and kinaesthetic strengths.

Visual memory training activities

  • Find the missing part – create pictures of everyday things with parts of the pictures missing (e.g. doll with one arm, table with only three legs) and ask the student to identify what is missing. To do this the student has to recall visual images of the relevant objects.
  • What’s wrong here – use pictures of everyday things with parts of the pictures wrong (e.g. house with the door halfway up the wall; person with feet pointing backwards instead of forwards) and ask the student to identify what is wrong. To do this the student has to recall visual images of the relevant objects.
  • Kim’s game – place an array of familiar objects on a tray (or picture of an array of objects). The student scans this for two minutes (or whatever period of time is appropriate) and then has to remember as many as possible.
  • Symbols – show the student a sequence of symbols, letters or shapes of increasing length, and then jumble them up and the student has to rearrange them in the correct order. Remember that this can become more of a verbal task than a visual task – if you want to practice visual skills then it is best to have stimuli which are not easily verbally coded, like the ones in Letters. NB: the exact symbols from Letters should not be used otherwise this test will not be suitable for monitoring the student’s progress.
  • Who lives here? – make a set of pictures of people (these may be cut from magazines) and a set of houses of different colours, or different appearance in some way. The people are matched with the houses, and then jumbled up. The student has to rearrange them in the correct relationship. If the people are given names, then the task becomes more verbal.
  • Pelmanism – put pairs of cards upside down and jumble them up. Pelmanism is a game of remembering matching pairs of cards from a set, where cards are individually turned over and then turned back. The student has to remember where the other one of the pair is, and if both are located these are removed from the set, and so on.
  • Card games – e.g. Snap, Happy Families.

A recommended computer program for developing visual memory skills is Mastering Memory.



Colour discrimination difficulties


Colour vision deficiencies are important because they can be a contributory factor in learning difficulties. Although they are not treatable, teachers and parents can help students adjust to this condition. Learning activities in the classroom must be adapted to allow for any colour vision problems detected in the student. In rare cases, dyslexic students can suffer from colour anomia

– i.e. a neurological deficit which affects the extent and speed with which they are able to name colours. About 10% of dyslexic students have been reported to have this difficulty, which appears to be connected with visual and verbal memory in some way (Mattocks and Hynd, 1986). Visual memory training activities ●●