Earlier this year I wrote about visual-spatial learners. I listed characteristics and
examples of how visual-spatial learners live in the world. Any of you who have a gifted
child who is a visual-spatial learner know that it is exhausting to parent them because
they rarely turn off the creative flow of energy, even to sleep. These children often have
difficulty sleeping, need less sleep, and as young children may stop taking naps years
before their peers. Gifted VSLs often view the world as one big resource for exploration
with visual images all around. There are just too many things to explore to tire and go to
sleep, even though they need sleep.
Once they explore a new topic, they are driven to explore other ways to approach
the topic. For example, if the gifted VSL child decides they want to explore dinosaurs, they
may learn about every dinosaur they can, learn about all the theories of their existence and
disappearance, stay up late and get up early to make models of dinosaurs and their habitat.
They dig deeper to further investigate the patterns of eating and migration of dinosaurs,
and on, and on. Along with their endless need to explore comes a near total disregard of
time. It is not that VSLs do not care about time; they just get so wrapped up in their images
and explorations that time gets away from them. When a parent or teacher asks a VSL to
do a chore when the child is in the middle of an exploration, the child may answer
affirmative, but not get around to actually doing the chore until hours or days later. This
does not bode well for the child in environments where time dictates schedules such as
For parents of these children the intensity of their crave for knowledge is demanding and time consuming because the VSL child doesn’t just sit down and read books or research on the Internet. They must be constantly creating, doing, and making improvements. What is a parent to do? Specific routines help the VSL child because it brings predictability to daily life. Even though VSLs are creative, and may look unorganized, routine and predictability allows them to know what outside stimuli and expectation is coming next. A visual schedule, rather than a written planner is a necessity.
Many VSLs who are required to use a hand written planner do not just use words to write
their assignments, they use pictures or images. I’ve seen some assignment books with
beautiful artwork simply to express homework assignments and athletic and arts events.
For time management, when possible, some sort of visual prompt tends to work well, such
as a sand-filled hourglass. This provides a clear visual because the child can literally watch
the passage of time. The following website provides additional information about the
visual-spatial learner: http://www.studygs.net/visual.htm
Each VSL is different, of course, but as parents we need to learn about the characteristics, strengths and needs of our VSL child. They are a joy to have, but exhausting to parent. We need to learn the balance necessary for both the parent and child to thrive.
Ask the Doctor