Michelle has comprehension difficulties. She reads words accurately, but does not understand the content. She struggles to make connections with the language that she reads and the language that she hears – as if words go in one ear, and out the other. As a result, she has been told by some that she has motivation and attention problems and, by others, that she has a learning disorder. Despite seeing a few reading tutors for help, and trying a few reading comprehension programs, Michelle is still struggling to comprehend what she reads and hears – not just in school, but also at home, and with friends. She is frustrated, and is beginning to believe that she really does have a learning disability.
Michelle's comprehension difficulties are very common. Many children and adults experience problems with written and oral language comprehension. Additionally, they often struggle to express themselves through language. These kinds of comprehension difficulties are not disabilities – they are symptoms. And, the root cause of these symptoms is usually a weakness in concept imagery.
Concept imagery is the ability to create an imaged gestalt (whole). It is the underlying sensory-cognitive function needed for comprehension and critical thinking. Many children and adults who are thought to have reading or learning disabilities are able to process the parts (details) of a written passage or social situation. However, like Michelle, these individuals struggle to connect those parts, and thereby have difficulty understanding the big picture – the gestalt. As a result, these individuals are often diagnosed with ADHD, hyperlexia, and autism spectrum disorders.
A weakness in concept imagery can often result in difficulties with reading comprehension, critical thinking, and verbal expression, as well as problems connecting to conversations and following directions. These comprehension difficulties often manifest through the following symptoms:
- Difficulty with reading comprehension (often needing to reread material several times, and still only remembering a few details, rather than the whole picture)
- Difficulty with oral language comprehension (often needing to re-ask the same question several times, and still only connecting to a small part of the conversation)
- Difficulty with oral language expression (often relaying information in a disjointed, non-sequential way – if at all)
- Difficulty with written language skills (often resulting in disorganized or nonspecific writing)
The Visualizing and Verbalizing for Language Comprehension and Thinking® (V/V®) program, created by Nanci Bell, helps struggling readers develop the sensory-cognitive function of concept imagery. Unlike most reading and comprehension programs, V/V instruction directly applies concept imagery to the comprehension and expression of both oral and written language, as well as the development of critical thinking skills, Students in the V/V program move through a series of steps to learn the process for creating an imaged gestalt, then integrating that imagery with language to strengthen their comprehension and critical thinking.
It is common for children and adults to gain years in reading and language comprehension in just weeks of intensive instruction. Developing concept imagery is necessary to becoming an independent reader, which is necessary to becoming a proficient learner in any subject. And, the process-based instruction provided by the V/V program has proven successful for individuals exhibiting symptoms of hyperlexia, ADHD, ASD, CAPD, and other learning difficulties.