Sequencing problems and their implications.
(Chapter 8 from the book Dyslexia An Explanation)
What exactly is sequencing?
To put events in sequence means to put them in order, in relation to time. Most people retire from work, go to school, are born, have a job in the workplace and learn to walk. These stages are obviously out of sequence. To put them in sequence we would rearrange them into, be born, learn to walk, go to school, have a job in the workplace and retire from work.
What difficulties arise for those students that have sequencing problems?
If someone experiences sequencing problems they are likely to have the following difficulties:
Inability to follow the plot of a book in a logical order.
Lack of awareness of how much time has passed.
Feeling overwhelmed when asked to do homework.
Being unable to follow a set of instructions in order and without omitting any.
The basic mechanics for the thought processes involved in sequencing depend upon visual memory – one of the three basic types of memory as discussed at the beginning of Chapter 4.
What are the different modes of memory?
As mentioned before, people use three basic memory modes: auditory, kinaesthetic (practical) and visual.
Auditory memory is used to remember the words of a song, a poem or a nursery rhyme. We can remember the words using our own voice or someone else’s voice e.g. a song being sung by a particular singer or a nursery rhyme in a parent’s voice etc.
Kinaesthetic (practical) memory is used when we remember how to do something with our body, e.g. the feeling of swinging a golf club or a tennis racket, kicking a football or casting a fishing rod.
Visual memory is used to remember a picture in our mind e.g. a place we have been, a face that we know or a house that we have visited. For some people, the picture they make in their mind is as if they were looking through their own eyes and we term this kind of visual memory, an associated memory. Other people construct the picture so that they see themselves in the picture. They are not looking through their own eyes and they perceive the visual memory as an out of body experience. This kind of visual memory is termed, a dissociated memory.
How exactly do we use our visual memory to sequence?
According to the dyslexia@bayTM model of the brain (Chapter 16), there are two basic types of visual memory – Visual Static Memory and Visual Dynamic Memory. Visual Static Memory is used when we remember still pictures such as a photograph or painting. Visual Dynamic Memory is used when we remember a series of events/pictures as a movie or video. It is important to appreciate the difference between these two types of visual memory to understand how sequencing problems can arise.
Think of a holiday that you really enjoyed. Remember the place you stayed, how you travelled to that place, a particularly happy event on that holiday, the journey home, a particular meal and who was present at the meal and finally remember a particular place that you visited and why you enjoyed it so much. As you remember each of these memories make the picture in your mind as big as possible and in as much detail and colour as possible.
Next remember all the events in order: first how you travelled to the place and lastly the journey home, with the other events in order, in between the journey there and the journey home.
An interesting thing has happened – your mind has sorted these visual memories according to time – but how did it do that?
If you imagine each of the events from the holiday as a still photograph and imagine laying the photographs down side by side on a table, the order of the photographs can easily be changed. There is no inherent order, by time or otherwise. To put the photographs in time order, you have to review the whole holiday as a video in your mind, albeit at an unconscious level, and order the photographs according to the sequence in the video.
You imagine each event as a still photograph using your Visual Static Memory and then put them in order by converting them to a video using your Visual Dynamic Memory.
Visual Static Memory and Visual Dynamic Memory can be thought of as two distinct locations in our mind. In order to organise memories in our head according to time, it is important to take the memories from a Visual Static Memory location and put them in a Visual Dynamic Memory location. Most people do this everyday and many times each day. For example, when someone wants to tidy up a room or an office, first of all they make a picture in their mind of the room or office tidy. Next they think of the necessary steps as pictures in their head. Finally they organise the steps into a video and then simply follow the steps in the video in order.
Think of a new task that you will have to do in the future that you have not done in the past. Make a picture in your mind of the task having been completed. Next, divide the task up into steps and make a picture of each step. Finally join the individual pictures together and make a video of the task from beginning to end.
Most people do this unconsciously, as a matter of routine and those who break the task into small sequential steps are those who are most logical and efficient and rarely have to “go over their work again”.
Some people do not do this process at all because they seem to be unable to access their Visual Dynamic Memory. They can break a task into steps but they cannot put the steps into a logical sequence because they cannot transfer the steps from Visual Static Memory to Visual Dynamic Memory and hence tackle the task illogically.
Some students with dyslexia are unable to access their Visual Dynamic Memory and tackle tasks in a very haphazard fashion, frequently having to “go over their work again”. This causes frustration and results in a lack of enthusiasm to tackle new tasks.
Imagine being given the following instructions. First you are asked to mow the lawn. Next you are asked to trim a hedge beside the lawn with the result that the hedge clippings fall on to the newly mown lawn. The result of this is that you have to mow the lawn again if you want the lawn to look neat, tidy and newly mown! Can you imagine the frustration of having to go back over your work again?
This happens to people who cannot access their Visual Dynamic Memory. They can break a task into steps but they cannot put the steps into a logical sequence because they cannot transfer the steps from Visual Static Memory to Visual Dynamic Memory and hence are unable to tackle the task logically.