Can Visual-Spatial Learners Have Strong Auditory Skills?

This seems to be a question that comes up often, mainly, I think, because the term “auditory-sequential” is used as the “opposite” of visual-spatial. Which seems to imply that visual-spatial kids do not have strong auditory skills. In fact, there was a comment on Willa’s post about Visual-spatial Learners – Traits:

 Your discussion of your son who has really strong spatial abilities is especially interesting as mine does also – amazingly so, to me (give me written directions anytime – a map and I’m lost!). His memory is quite powerful – not just visual memory, though, he has a huge memory for written and spoken language. Trying to figure out where this places him as a visual/spatial learner or an auditory/sequential.

I think that the term auditory-sequential can be mis-leading. Many (although not all) visual-spatial learners have strong auditory skills. Jason is one of them. His strong visualization skills allow him to hear something and remember it easily.

We recently listened to The Tale of Despareaux. I had read this to Jason when he was probably around 5. I asked him if he remembered it and he said no. However, when the first line was read, it instantly all came back to him and he was remembering details that I could not even remember….he basically was reciting the entire plot line.

And it is conversely true that auditory-sequential folks do not always have strong auditory skills. I am one of them. In order for me to remember something I have to see it written down.

In school, I had to take copious notes or there was no way I could remember a lecture (Cindy has a great story about how when she tried to help her oldest learn how to take notes it became abundantly clear that note-taking interfered with his ability to remember the lecture and that he actually had better recall without taking notes).

I enjoy audio books but if I want to remember anything about it, I really have to read it. I have been known to listen to an audio book, enjoy it a lot and then have a need to actually sit down and read it. If I have a choice, I always pick reading the actual book over the audio book (I do love audio books in the car however…it helps me stay awake).

And recently I participated in a telephone survey and found it really difficult to remember the questions (they would ask a question and then I had to pick from about 5 different options each time). I wound up asking her to wait a minute so I could get some paper because there was no way that I could listen to the question and remember all the options from which I had to choose without seeing them written down.

So don’t let the term auditory confuse the issue. Visual-spatial kids can have very strong auditory skills. If your child has traits that mostly fall under the visual-spatial category (you can see a list of traits here) and also has strong auditory skills, then he is most likely a v-s learner with strong auditory skills.

I believe that Linda Silverman talks about this in Upside-Down Brilliance. It is the v-s kids without strong auditory skills that suffer the most in school because of the mis-match in the teaching style with their needs. If a v-s learner has strong auditory skills, they can use those skills to compensate.
The other thing to keep in mind is that each child is unique and will have some traits that are stronger then others and will have some traits from both sides. I know that for Jason, and myself, it became very clear which learning style was predominent for each of us. But we each still have some “opposite” traits…I love history which is often prefered by v-s folks and I am also very disorganized (wouldn’t you know, the one left brained trait that I don’t have!) although I do like sorting and categorizing things. So it is not an all or nothing kind of thing. Bottom line is does your child think in words or in pictures?

My advice is if you see your child in some of the traits listed for v-s learners, read some of the books and see if it makes sense. I know that for me it was like a light bulb went off and so many things made sense.

And luckily at home, the approach can be tailored to the child and they don’t have to compensate!


About throwingmarshmallows

I am a homeschooling mom to two sweet, energetic boys although I am probably not exactly what you would expect (definitely NOT your stereotypical homeschooler, if there is really such a thing). I support progressive political causes (yes, liberals can and do homeschool!) and I have found a spiritual home in the Unitarian Universalist Church. I have no real idea of how I want to use this blog, but will probably focus on homeschooling, things that I am learning from my boys, personal thoughts and opinions and maybe some liberal politics thrown in, who knows!
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4 Responses to Can Visual-Spatial Learners Have Strong Auditory Skills?

  1. Yes! I’m slowly realizing that I just can’t fit my kids into one neat catagory (it’s never that simple, is it?) but that each of them has traits from both “sides of the list”. My daughter who I think of as much more visual and right-brained has many A/S traits as well, and my son who I’ve always thought of as more of a logical, auditory/sequential, left-brained learner, I’m realizing, has many, many traits of VSL’s. Makes sense since they are my dh’s kids and he is very much a blend of all traits. It is so fascinating. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, Stephanie, and helping to sort it out even further!

  2. willa says:

    Thanks for this, Stephanie. A couple of my children have strong auditory skills but in addition, have lots of right-brained traits. In fact, my husband is like that too. I have poor auditory skills but learned lots of coping devices to compensate. I was a notetaker and doodler throughout school; plus I learned to make visual pictures of what I was hearing.

    I am learning so much about this topic through all these pinging conversations : ).

  3. Steph says:

    The human brain is incredibly complicated. We categorize things because that enables us to understand them. But as Christine mentioned (in the first comment) no one fits tidily into a box. :-)

    It reminds me of my efforts to grasp my older daughter’s learning style. She appears to be an auditory-sequential learner, but also has a strong visual learning style. Sounds like an oxymoron.

    Is she an A-S (“left brained”) learner with strong visual skills? Or is she a “whole brained learner?” *LOL* As long as she and I can work out collaboratively what “works” for her, it probably doesn’t matter. Nonetheless, these questions fascinate me tremendously.

    Thank you for this post, Stephanie. It is articulate and insightful … as always. ;-)

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