If you’ve ever been to Wrigley Field in Chicago, just the mention of its name will bring vivid images to mind. I can see it clearly. I’m standing in the middle of an urban neighborhood. No huge parking lots, just a ballpark tucked between buildings. Crowds of people are gathering in the streets and stopping to take pictures in front of the red marquee located at the home plate entrance. As I enter the stadium, I pass by the concession stand with a long line of patrons waiting to purchase their favorite ballpark food. There’s a little girl wearing a red shirt with an American flag on the front and she’s holding an ice cream cone. I continue walking forward shoulder-to-shoulder with a sea of people around me. I finally get a glimpse of the diamond-shaped field and take a quick scan around the stadium. There’s an umpire dressed in black standing behind the white home plate and there are baseball players in white uniforms and red hats warming up at every position on the field. To the right I see a row of baseball players from the St. Louis Cardinals organization leaning against the fence of the sunken-in dugout . I take in the immaculately manicured grass mowed, quite impressively, to resemble a checkerboard. The first and third baselines are perfectly lined with white chalk marking the foul lines of the field. The infield dirt has been raked smooth with the only disturbance being the cleat marks from the players’ shoes. Beyond the outfield centerfielder, I see the iconic row of green ivy lushly covering the outfield fence. At centerfield, above the lower section of crowded seats, I marvel at the classic hand-operated score board and try to get a glimpse of the person inside that’s flipping the numbers. The skyline above the stadium is a scattering of tall buildings, some with rooftop bleachers for fans to have a bird’s eye view of the game. It’s a magical place that feels like stepping back in time.
Now, hopefully I “painted” a good enough picture in your mind to envision what Wrigley Field looks like to me, but it might not have matched exactly how you remember/see it. And that’s okay. It doesn’t have to make sense to you. Why? Because the way I described it helps ME remember it. For example, the little girl with the American flag shirt and the ice cream cone in her hand? That helps me remember that my visit was around the Fourth of July in one of the hottest heat waves the city has had in years. Making movies in your head is a practice called “mental imagery,” and it’s a hidden gem for learning.
A large number of kids with dyslexia struggle with comprehension (understanding what you read). Because they have to work so hard just to decode each individual word, they have difficulty holding on to what the story is actually about. As they sound out each word, the sentences become “choppy” and lack fluidity. They often decode words WRONG, which can change the entire meaning of the sentence. They read word-by-word and sentence-by-sentence. By the time they actually finish a paragraph, they feel frustrated by the strain it took mentally, and they have no clue what they just read. We can all relate to this in a way. I’ll start reading an article in a magazine and find myself daydreaming or distracted by background noise. Eventually I catch myself and realize I have no clue what I just read. No problem, I’ll just re-read it. Now….. ask a kid with dyslexia to re-read the five-sentence paragraph they just spent 10 minutes trying to finish and they might feel like punching you in the face! (not really, but you can bet they won’t be very enthusiastic about it).
The Morris Center has a very systematic approach to overcoming dyslexia. There are 5 programs total (not counting the OT sessions) and they ALL matter. Other programs have similar methods of teaching that resemble parts of TMC programs. However, none include ALL five, nor are they taught in the same way. TMC programs are much deeper than they appear on the surface. The further our kids get into these programs, the more we recognize the depth of learning that’s occurring. They build on each other and intertwine together in such a unique way. Most recently, I’ve been fascinated by the progress I am seeing with the NMI program (Now! Mental Imagery for Language, Comprehension, Memory and Reasoning).
Like the “movie” I made at the beginning of this blog, my kids are now able to visualize what they are reading and “change” the movie to fit the story as they read further. Even more impressive though has been their ability to store these visuals in their minds and then retell/describe the same stories days and weeks later. At one session, my daughter was prompted with “remember that story about_______ that we read 2 weeks ago?” With no other explanation she was able to re-tell and describe even the smallest details about that story and the movie she had created in her mind. My jaw was on the floor.
But how is this helpful for reading and learning? Think back to your history classes. Some of you probably loved it and had no trouble following the timelines. Good for you!. I however, struggled big time! All the dates, all the names, all the battles…..they all ran together for me. It would have been so helpful to be able to make “movies” in my mind as I read so that I could recall dates and visualize the different infantries. I could use colors and hats to separate out the soldiers; badges with numbers on the sleeves of their uniforms to remember the dates; and unique landscapes to differentiate between specific battles. If I’m being honest, the skill of mental imagery probably would have helped me raise my overall undergrad GPA substantially! But alas, it’s too late for me. However, it’s NOT too late for my kids! They are adding mental imagery to their arsenal of skills that will help them comprehend and LEARN to their full potential.
Most dyslexic people would agree…..Reading is HARD! But UNDERSTANDING what we read is how we LEARN. So if we struggle to read, we struggle to learn. When we can’t comprehend, the gap in learning just gets wider. The mountain gets steeper and it feels easier to stop trying than to keep going. Our kids and yours deserve better! They have a mountain in front of them. They can hike through the rigorous terrain and risk stumbling and navigating paths that lead to dead ends. Or they can ride the ski lift provided by The Morris Center to the top. It still takes work, but they can get to the top much faster without the risk of falling. They’ll get there with less exertion and a new perspective on their own ability. And as they take in the view, they will hopefully see even bigger dreams for the future on the horizon. Now that’s a movie I can visualize, hold onto in my mind, then re-tell to my children’s children someday….in full detail!
Visit The Morris Center Website to learn more about their Mental Imagery Program: