Improve Spatial Awareness and Say Good-bye to Reading Problems and Dyslexia

What’s the difference in the physical appearance of the lower case letters d, p, and b? Look at each of them. There is a vertical line and a bump, variably placed.

Spatial awareness means that we must appreciate these small nuances in the shape of our letters. It means we must appreciate width, depth and height. These three properties of space are characteristics that comprise our three-dimensional world. Every child must have an innate, internalized, and automatic sense of themselves in relation to the physical world around them. In other words, they need to understand three‑dimensional space.

Up, down, here and there, we must be able to conceive of navigating our actual body in, over, under, and around. We need to be able to actually interact with our own world in this manner, to then begin using numeric symbols to represent quantities of this space. When solving for, “Billy had 6 apples and gave 2 of them away to his sister,” six minus 2 doesn’t make sense unless Billy understands his own sense of space.

The same goes for the symbols we all agree upon that we call letters. We bunch letters together and call it a word. Children must understand that we express our ideas and make our contributions to the world by writing down our ideas. It’s very cool to write! Or print. Or type. But using letters and numbers is something we all must do every day.  

As young children, we know that our brain wants to know about all kinds of physical stuff. Children ask a lot of questions, try new things every day and practice while they play. We call it fun, but it is the only way young children learn. Play and fun is the equivalent of work.

When we are finally adept enough to move well, we practice moving our body on stairs, in doorways and on top of, under, through, between and around toys, people and things. We play in this manner just to explore space and objects and people. How close are we? Far away? How much space is between me and that fuzzy duckling I want to catch?

Navigating space seems simple to adults. With just a quick glance, we can easily see how to navigate to the restroom in a busy and unfamiliar restaurant. Your visual sense of space develops after experiencing it physically many, many times. We may not remember learning this skill, but learn it we surely did.

Our children need to learn this skill called spatial awareness, too. They must learn the words to describe physical space and be able to separate themselves from that space. At first everything is “mine”. As a child matures, they individuate themselves from their surroundings. The ability to separate themselves then allows them to learn to observe the objects, people, places, and things that are in the space around them. This in turn develops into the ability to visually judge space without having to physically move around the room. You can conceptualize space. You have spatial awareness.

Spatial awareness is a skill you can practice at home to help your child read and write better. When you emphasize spatial awareness in everyday tasks, you can help your child’s eyes work better for reading. Combine spatial awareness while reading. Read on your back with the paper taped to the under surface of the kitchen table. Read while lying on your tummy and propped up on elbows. Try reading the same sentence ten times while clapping each word or read aloud with music in the background.

Combine spatial awareness skills with writing. Try to write on an inflated balloon with a soft tip felt pen. It takes a lot of concentration and eye-hand control. Use a standard pencil and lined paper and change the rules of the writing game for your child to write one sentence taking up the full line, then re-write with spacing the sentence out for two lines, then three. Your child can even practice writing skills by not by not writing letters at all.  Draw a scenery together as though you are creating mutual art. Take turns drawing an ocean theme, or an orchard, or hills and mountains in springtime. Take turns adding to a drawing of your last family trip to the snow or to the beach. For added spatial awareness, draw things inside of other things, or on top, or beside something already drawn. Ask your child to draw a flower between the trees and on top of the worm and under the sunshine.

Writing problems and reading problems like dyslexia can often occur in very, very smart people. Whatever you do as a parent, do it thoughtfully and joyfully. Realize that your child is a very smart, but young person. They are new to the rules that we humans have established to work and play together. Be patient. Watch and learn from them. You’ve got this!

Go teach fun and let yourself learn how to play.