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Helping children with dyslexia: Improving visual memory

In this VisionWorks series, we explore the visual difficulties often experienced by children with dyslexia. This time, we are looking at visual memory and how to help your child develop this skill.


Dyslexia: Visual Memory

Visual memory is the ability to recall information that has been presented visually. A person must be capable of making a vivid visual image in their mind of the stimulus, such as a word, and once that stimulus is removed, be able to visualise or recall this image without help. Various researchers have stated that as much as 80% of all learning takes place through the eye with visual memory existing as a crucial aspect of learning.

Dyslexic children often struggle with visual memory skills and as a result, can’t easily reproduce a sequence of visual stimuli.


A person with visual memory problems may have difficulty with

  • remembering the overall visual appearance of words or the letter sequence of words for reading and spelling
  • remembering the order of letters in a word, even if they can remember the letters themselves
  • developing a good sight vocabulary (words that are memorised as a whole by sight, so they can be automatically recognised) and frequently experience some writing and spelling difficulties
  • comprehension of written materials
  • remembering what a word looks like or recognising the same word on another page
  • copying assignments, as they need to frequently review the text

You may also find that they often subvocalize, or softly whisper to themselves, as they read in order to help compensate auditorily.


There are lots of activities that can help your child to improve their visual memory skills:

  • Recall object and picture features: Look at an object or picture and talk about its features, then take the object away and ask your child to try and recall some of its features
  • Complete the shape or picture: Look at a shape/picture and then cover half of it over, try and complete the shape/picture from memory
  • Spot the difference is a great way to help with this skill as children have to remember the image and they look between the two
  • Missing object game: place some everyday objects on a table and let your child memorise them for a few minutes. Then cover the objects with a kitchen towel and take one away and ask your child to work out which one is missing
  • Word bingo: Play bingo using simple high frequency words.
  • Visual memory spelling games: encourage your child to use the look, cover, remember, write, check strategy with simple high frequency words
  • Use bendable objects such as pipe cleaners to form letters and shapes (because feeling a shape can help your child visualise this). The letters can then be glued onto index cards, and later the child can touch them to “feel” the shape of the letter
Article kindly contributed by Sarah Evans MMedSci, BSc(Hons) of VisionWorks.
Sarah is a consultant orthoptist working in Jersey and specialises in visual screening, diagnosis and management of visually related specific learning difficulties.