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When your learning style no longer works

When your learning style no longer works

Have you ever considered what learning style you might have? I never really thought about it until it came up in a counselling module I was completing. Then it got me thinking; I am a clear visual learner, how am I managing to study now that I am legally blind?

What are the different learning styles

There are seven learning styles that are commonly referred to in research and education. They are:

  • Visual/Spatial learners prefer images, pictures diagrams or any other visual aid.
  • Aural learners prefer sound such as music.
  • Verbal/linguistic learners prefer listening to words such as speeches or presentations. They also prefer information presented in written form.
  • Physical or kinaesthetic learners are tactile, using their sense of touch.
  • Logical learners tend to be mathematical brains and learn through deduction and reasoning.

Usually a person has a combination of learning styles with a dominant style. For instance, I have always been a very visual learner;  to understand information I need to see it or picture it in some way, I remember things by conjuring an image in my mind. Techniques I used to study were all visual – mind maps, lists where I would remember the dot points in order because I could literally ‘see’ the list in my head. I would also consider myself logical as I would identify as a maths nerd and thrived on maths in school and now statistics at university. But this too I grasped through visualising equations in my head and doing visual calculations. You’re probably thinking,’ well she’s a bit stuffed now!’

How does a legally blind visual learner learn?

Well I owe it all to the brilliant capacity of our brain to ADAPT. Without adaptation I would not be functioning as well as I am. Another aspect that probably helps greatly is my determination to find a way to do things and then succeed. Since losing my vision my drive to succeed has sky rocketed.

Now some of you are probably thinking that even though I can’t see physically in front of me, surely I can still picture things in my mind. Unfortunately not.  As I’ve gained a blind spot in my central vision, my visual thoughts and memories have also gained a blind spot, even if they were experienced and stored long before I became blind. No matter how hard I try to picture a memory that damned blind spot is there!

This has meant I’ve had to learn new skills to aid my learning. The most useful and challenging has been aural skills. Transforming into an aural learner has been a frustrating experience and at times I want to throw the towel in. To try and concentrate and absorb hours of verbal diarrhoea in a shonky voice, often with mispronounced words, has been a battle. It often turns into monotone drone and I find myself waking up after falling asleep on my laptop. It is difficult to focus on simply listening to information being read by a computer. To top it off, statistical based subjects sound like they are in another language and I have to frequently re-listen to the same paragraphs, zoom in and try and decipher what the ramble means. I’m actually getting tired thinking about it!

Tips for visual legally blind learners

My advice to others in my shoes would be to be patient with yourself. It takes time to adapt. If you have the option, ease back into study by taking one subject. Try a heap of different gadgets and tools that you might find useful. I’ve found that each year of studying my vision changes as do my needs. I am constantly using new apps or gadgets. Don’t be afraid to try new things, you might find something works better for you.

Get into the habit of listening to books, newspapers and other articles. Transferring to audiobooks for leisure was important for me as it helped focus my listening skills whilst listening to something I found interesting, so that when I had to do uni work I had learned how to focus my attention.

Break it down. I can’t stress enough how important it is to take breaks form studying and simply listening. The more frequent breaks I take, the more productive I am, the more I concentrate and the better work I do.

It most certainly is doable to change your learning style, even if has been your way of learning for over twenty years! It never ceases to amaze me how much we can adapt, especially when we aren’t even aware of it until we realise we are managing to do a task in a different way. I think it also comes down to not focusing on what you can’t do, and just simply trying and doing. This way you naturally adapt and find a way that works.



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