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The SPD Companion, Issue #010-- Right Brain vs. Left Brain Learning Styles
December 08, 2006

Welcome to the 10th edition of The SPD Companion Newsletter! I am so glad, despite all the chaos that surrounds the holidays, you have taken time out of your busy day for yourself to read this! A balanced life is just so important. Thank you for joining me.

(Warning: this is a LONG, but very informative one...if you don't have time to fully read it now, or explore the additional links, I would suggest SAVING this one in an important folder, or even printing it out for future reference!)

Boy how time flies, doesn't it? I feel like I JUST wrote last month's newsletter a few days ago! Anyway, I want to share some special research with you which my dear friend, Michelle Morris has been working hard at.

I'm many of you have “difficulties” with your children in school? Ha, silly question, I the answer is probably MOST! Whether it be keeping them still and focused, finishing assignments, keeping organized, being stimulated and challenged enough, discipline, social skills, following directions, handwriting, copying from the board accurately, difficulties grasping concepts the way they are taught...etc. I could go on and on.

Did you know ONE of the reasons this might be happening is specifically related to which side of the brain may be more dominant than the other?

Have you ever blamed your child, the child's teacher, or yourself for the drama that unfolds when school work is attempted and needing to be done?

Have you ever wondered if your child will EVER get “better” at school work?

When will the issues end?

Why can't he learn like other kids?

Have you ever wondered why he is SO intelligent, yet can't keep up with reading or writing?

Why he doesn't seem to hear or understand what is being taught?

Why his grades are low even though you KNOW he can “do better”?

Well, it turns out there may be a VERY good explanation for all of this!

Did you know that MOST kids with SPD are “right-brained” learners?

Did you also know that MOST classrooms are taught with the “left-brained” learners in mind?

Aha! Herein lies the problem!

This month we are taking a look at the differences between the two hemispheres of the brain and what left vs. right sided dominance means for you and your child. We will learn about ourselves, our children, the classroom, and teaching strategies that will suit our child's learning style best. Whether you are a parent, a teacher, professional, or another caregiver/family member working with SPD kiddos, this information will be so valuable, if you want a child to succeed academically and throughout his adult life too...for we are always learning aren't we?

Additionally, we need to instill self-confidence into our children. By working WITH their natural born tendencies instead of AGAINST them, trying to get them to “conform” to traditional teaching methods, we will be giving them one of the BEST gifts you can even imagine! This knowledge WILL be a GREAT gift for your child. Thank you for taking the time to read about it!

(Oh, AND, don't be surprised when I link to a fun resource for helping COUPLES who are “opposites” as to brain hemisphere dominance, and how this influences their relationship. )

So, we need insight, knowledge, understanding, and the power to help ourselves, school related professionals, and our children. Michelle Morris (along with author Jeffrey Freed) does a wonderful job letting us know how...

I've been involved in watching, learning and studying research about HOW our SPD kids learn, and feel this is important for all of us to know. I don't know of a single one of us who haven't seen some issues with learning, whether it is handwriting, Math, Spelling, Reading, Science...any subject can be difficult for our children, depending on the severity of their SPD, and other factors.

Current research shows a remarkably high percentage of children with SPD and/or ADHD or anywhere on the spectrum will be a predominantly right hemisphere learner.

The thing is: IF your child does indeed have a preference for learning that is primarily right brained, YOU should know about it, because it will affect his learning STYLE, and can be very inhibiting in the predominantly left-brained taught classrooms.

However, it can also be exercised and strengthened into such an amazing gift, which our children can use to their academic advantage, that we should not ignore the possibility, or even probability. We need to learn how we can easily help them to understand these gifts and how to use them in the classroom, to their advantage, and success.

So, first, I am going to post a quiz of 20 questions (taken from Jeffrey Freed's book Right-Brained Children in a Left-Brained World), about your child, that you can answer. This is not a scientific test, but will show you a GENERAL idea of right vs. left side brain dominance... or you may even find your child is a lucky whole brained learner if he/she comes out in the middle.

Then, I will show you all the Adult Quiz (straight from Jeffrey Freed's book), because once you know your CHILD'S learning style, you need to examine your OWN!

How can you help your child? Understand HOW he needs to learn... and you can't do that, unless you understand your own way, which may or may not be different from theirs.

Then: We'll talk about what it means in terms of learning, to be right- left- or whole brained and how to best teach them.

Keep in mind when answering these questions, that this is about TENDENCIES and PREFERENCES...what does your child PREFER, not necessarily what he/she does or what he/she does NOW after months and years of therapy. What is their NATURAL BORN tendency?

The Left-Right Brain Continuum For Children


_______ Is your child extremely wiggly?

_______ Does your child have difficulty with coloring or handwriting?

_______ Was your child a late walker?

_______ Is your child extremely sensitive to criticism?

_______ Does your child have or is suspected of having allergies, or asthma?

_______ Is your child good with building toys, such a Legos or Tinker Toys?

_______ Is your child good at puzzles and mazes?

_______ If you read a book to your child several times, is she/he capable of filling in missing words with almost perfect recall?

_______ Is it extremely important that your child like his/her teacher to do well in class?

_______ Is your child easily distracted, or does he daydream a lot?

_______ Is your child unable to consistently finish tasks?

_______ Does your child tend to act first and think later?

_______ Do you have to cut labels from your child's clothes? Does he prefer soft fabrics?

_______ Is your child overwhelmed at sporting events, loud parties, or amusement parks?

_______ Does your child tend to shy away from hugs?

_______ Does your child need consistent reminders to do certain things?

_______ Is your child extremely competitive and a poor loser?

_______ Does your child have a good sense of humor, or a better than average ability to understand or create puns?

_______ Is your child a perfectionist to the point it can get in the way of trying new things? Things have to be done "just so".

_______ Can your child recall a vacation or other events from one or two years ago, in vivid detail?

While there are some fairly sophisticated tests that professionals use to measure hemisphericity (one is the Hermann Brain Dominance Test) this "quiz" should give you a pretty good idea whether your child is left-, right-, or whole brained, based on the learning style and personality characteristics indicated by these questions. This is not a scientific test, but will give the parent, teacher or therapist a general understanding of a child's brain dominance.

Count how many you answered YES to. The more yes responses, the more to the right your child will be on this continuum. In general:

0-4 yes responses indicates a very left dominant brain

5-8 somewhat left brained

9-12 considered whole brained

13-16 somewhat, preference for, right brained

17-20 VERY right brained

(Excerpt from Right-Brained Children in a Left-Brained World, by Jeffrey Freed, M.A.T.)

The Left-Right Brain Continuum For Teens and Adults


_____ Are you better at remembering faces then names?

_____ When you are presented with a toy or something to assemble, are you likely to discard the printed instructions and figure out how to build it yourself?

_____ Are you better at thinking of ideas if you're left alone to concentrate, rather than working with a group?

_____ Do you rely mostly on pictures to remember things as opposed to names and words?

_____ Do you have especially acute hearing?

_____ Do you cut the labels out of clothes? Do you favor clothing that is soft and worn, finding most fabrics too rough or scratchy?

_____ Do you tend to put yourself down a lot?

_____ When you're asked to spell a word, do you "see" it in your head rather than sound it out phonetically?

_____ When you're studying a subject, do you prefer to "get the big picture" as opposed to learning a lot of facts?

_____ Are you good with puzzles and mazes?

_____ Can you imagine things well in three dimensions? In other words, can you visualize a cube in your mind, rotate it and view it from every angle without difficulty?

_____ Were you considered a late bloomer?

_____ Did you need to like your teacher to do well in that class?

_____ Are you easily distracted to the point that you find yourself daydreaming a lot?

_____ Are you a perfectionist to the point it can get in the way of trying new things? Or do certain things have to be "just so" for you to feel comfortable?

_____ Are you ultra-competitive, hating to lose more than most people do?

_____ Are you good at figuring people out? Do others tell you that you're good at "reading" people?

_____ Is your handwriting below average or poor?

_____ Were you a late walker, or did you have other delayed motor skills as a child?

_____ When you're in a new place, do you tend to find your way around easily?

While there are some fairly sophisticated tests that professionals use to measure hemisphericity (one is the Hermann Brain Dominance Test) this "quiz" should give you a pretty good idea whether you are left-, right-, or whole brained, based on the learning style and personality characteristics indicated by these questions. This is not a scientific test, but will give the you a general understanding of your brain dominance.

Count how many you answered YES to. The more yes responses, the more to the right you will be on this continuum.

In general:

0-4 yes responses indicates a very left dominant brain

5-8 somewhat left brained

9-12 considered whole brained, using both hemispheres

13-16 somewhat, preference for, right brained

17-20 VERY right brained

(Excerpt from Right-Brained Children in a Left-Brained World, by Jeffrey Freed, M.A.T.)

Learning Styles of the Left and Right Hemispheres

By Michelle Morris

Learning takes place in the brain. The brain is made of many parts and specific areas for all different kinds of learning. There are several parts of the brain that focus on sensory input. Other parts of the brain focus on logical reason, linguistic thinking, organizing information according to patterns, relationships, movement or even spatial awareness.

Both sides of the brain can reason, but may use different strategies and one side may be…dominant. This means when the brain is stressed, or asked to perform a function it may go on “auto-pilot” and reach to the dominant side to solve a problem, learn a skill, or perform a task. It is not so much that we are biologically right brain or left brain dominant, but that we are more comfortable with the learning strategies characteristics of one over the other. However, the left side is considered “the brain” of the brain, and controls final decisions concerning information gathered throughout the brain. It inhibits the right side’s cognitive and decision making processes. But because the hemisphere of our preferences probably has more neural connections, learning may occur faster in the dominant side.

We know that the cerebral cortex is the part of the brain that houses rational functions. It is divided into two hemispheres connected by a thick band of nerve fibers (the corpus callosum) which sends messages back and forth between the hemispheres. And while brain research confirms that both sides of the brain are involved in nearly every human activity, we do know that the left side of the brain is the seat of language and processes in a logical and sequential order.

Let’s consider the common characteristics of both sides:


Logical: When you process on the left side, you use information piece by piece to solve a math problem or work out a science experiment. When you read and listen, you look for the pieces so that you can draw logical conclusions. Your decisions are made on logic—which provides to you the proof.

Sequential: The left brain processes in sequence -- in order. The left-brained person is a list maker. If you are left-brained, you would enjoy making a master schedule and doing daily planning. You complete tasks in order and it pleases you to check them off when they are accomplished. Likewise, learning things in sequence is relatively easy for you. For example, spelling involves sequencing; if you are left-brained, you are probably a good speller.

Linear: The left side of the brain processes information in a linear manner. It processes from part to whole. It takes pieces of information, lines them up, and arranges them in a logical order; then it draws conclusions.

Analytical: By thinking and reasoning, you come to conclusions based on many considerations carefully thought out.

Reality based: The left side of the brain deals with things the way they are--with reality. You think in the present and the past. Very firmly seated in reality in all things. You want to know the rules, and are able and willing to follow them. If there are no rules? You’ll be the first to create them! Left brained children and adults understand consequences to actions and in-actions. These are the people who follow the directions, and instructions to the letter when building something or learning a new skill.

Objective: Expressing or dealing with facts or conditions as you see or understand them without letting emotions, personal feelings or other’s interpretations distort the facts in your mind. Left brain dominant people are abstract perceivers who take in information through analysis, observation and thinking. They are also reflective processors who make sense of an experience by reflecting on and thinking about it.

Verbal: Left-brained children and adults have little trouble expressing themselves in words. Listen to a left brained person giving directions! The left-brained person will say something like "From here, go north eight blocks and turn east on Main Street. Go two miles and turn west onto Front Street." They can be very precise in their choice of words. You may be a great speaker, because your language abilities are so refined. You are comfortable speaking, and use very little hand gestures as you talk.

Symbolic: The left brain has no trouble processing symbols. Most academics deal with symbols such as letters, words, and mathematical formulas. The left-brained person tends to be comfortable with linguistic and mathematical work. Left-brained students will probably just memorize vocabulary words or math formulas.

Furthermore, if you are a "lefty", you are probably punctual. And can easily recall people’s names. You generally prefer more formal structured studies, and like to learn in brighter lighting.

Traditional schooling tends to favor left brained people. Taught mostly by left brained teachers, who themselves love order, sequence and planning. Right brained learners do not always get the rewards or understanding of a different way to process information.


Intuitive: If you process primarily in the right brain, you are an intuitive thinker. You may know the answer to the math problem, but may not be sure how you got it. You might be able to figure out your mental formula by going backward to see how you got there. On a quiz you may rely on your gut feeling, and are usually right. You rely on your “feelings” about something to decide if it is true or not.

Random: If you are right brained, your mind may move rapidly from one thought to another. It’s not that you don’t want to finish that assignment, but you remembered something else you just had to do, and forgot about what you were working on. Thoughts, plans and ideas are crowding out the sequential reasoning of finishing the task at hand.

Global: Also called Holistic. A right brained processor needs to see the whole picture, then examine and learn about all the parts that create the whole. Whole – to part. You need to know why you should know this material. You need the answer presented first, then you can figure out the path to get to that answer. You do not generally like outlines, because it presents the pieces first. A right brained person does well, if they scan or read the chapter first, then learn about the details and how it is relevant to their life.

Fantasy Based: Right brained people tend to see the present and the future as opposed to the past. You are creative, imaginative and able to perceive what could be, as opposed to the reality of what IS. Singing, music, art, writing, designing…anything creatively based may come easy for you. These are the most imaginative children, and the most innovative adults. The world can know no bounds as far as their ability to create through fantasy and imagination. These are the dreamers and presenters of possibilities in our world.

Subjective: Your views, opinions and even facts may be subjective, in that you view them through your own personal experiences, and background. Your feelings, based on your senses may guide you more than external stimuli. You may identify by means of your own perception.

Non-Verbal: Right brained children and adults may know exactly what they mean, but have trouble finding the words to express it. Take the case of the left vs. right in giving directions. A right brained person may say something like: “From here, go to Burger King, and turn right, then go past the Park, and you’ll know you are there when you see the big sign with the huge dog on it!” You may use symbols, or landmarks instead of miles and certain numbers of blocks and red lights.

Visual: Visual learners can see images in their mind’s eye that can far exceed that of the left brain. They can see an image frequently in three dimensions, turning it this way and that, hence the confusion with certain letters and numbers, which, viewed this way can be a “b”, and that way can be a “p”. Some of you are very strong in “mental math”, others in writing, art, music or even architecture due to your superior visual ability. Maps, drawings, time lines, graphs and symbols are visual images that may stick and be remembered better than text or rote memorization. These are the people who throw away the directions and do it themselves!

Concrete: The right brained person likes things to be concrete. You like to see, feel or touch the real object. Learning to read using a phonics based program may not be the best choice. Learning whole words instead by using their visual imagery makes more sense to a right brained person. You also prefer to see words in their context or see how a formula works. Today’s use of primarily phonics based programs leave many right brained children behind. Using hands-on colored letter and word tiles strengthens their natural visual retention.

The right brained learner recognizes patterns, connections and images. The right brain contains the seat of feelings and emotions. You respond to the tone and emotion of someone’s voice. You are by nature impulsive. Generally, right brainer’s can recall people’s faces, rather than their names, prefer music or white noise when studying, and need movement to stay alert while learning. You also tend to be less punctual. You like direct experiences that are related, to learn. Lab work, science experiments, counting real money, hands on learning are just a few of the ways a right brained person can easily learn.

To be considered “Whole Brained” a person uses many of the above strategies, left and right, for learning. A left brained person may also have some right brained tendencies and vice versa. By identifying which learning styles you, your child, or your student prefers enables the parent or teacher to better meet the learning needs of the children.

Right brained children and students need an environment rich in direct contact with learning materials. They may learn best by DOING, not reading about doing.

Seeing, feeling, experiencing. Creative projects, visual exercises, and exploring patterns would be teaching “to the right”. Use their visual strengths to support memory retention.

Expand unit studies to incorporate related materials and information. Although they may not like to make lists, it can become very important to them as a life skill to learn to keep a calendar and lists in order to be remotely organized.

The ideal learning environment for a class or family with multiple learning styles would rely on direct experiences, like field trips, role playing, and hands on learning with strong visual based support, coupled with utilizing metaphors in similarities and differences, connections and how things are related. Use language to teach by evoking sensory imagery, emotions and associations.

This is a study of learning preferences and possibilities. Potential left untapped and possibly unexplored by both children and adults. With the ever growing diagnoses of ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Dyslexia and other learning challenges it is important to note the vast majority of these children will need to be taught in a different way, than is generally accepted in many of our mainstream schools.

To recognize and teach according to each child’s strengths and preferences allows for the maximum potential in learning to occur. Let’s change the idea from “how to teach” to one of a broader scope into “how do we learn?” How DO we each learn? And when we can see and understand this, what doors of possibilities can we open for this and the next generations to come?

Food for thought:

What would our world be like without these amazing right brained people? Many of them forgotten, set aside, punished or ignored for their differences, yet still able to create, lead and invent the best our world has ever known. What would our world be like without these people who were, no doubt, right brained?

Thomas Edison

Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni

Pablo Picasso

Rembrandt Harmenszoon Van Run

Walt Disney

General George Patton

Nelson Rockefeller

Hans Christian Anderson

Leonardo da Vinci

Sir Winston Churchill

Benjamin Franklin

John F. Kennedy

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

John Lennon

Louis Pasteur

Orville and Wilber Wright

Alexander Graham Bell

Ludwig Van Beetoven

Thomas Jefferson

George Washington

Vincent Van Gogh

Agatha Christie

Ernest Hemmingway

Mark Twain

Anna Roosevelt

Woodrow Wilson

King Gustav IV of Sweden

Albert Einstein

Marie and Pierre Curie


Galileo Galilei

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Abraham Lincoln

Steven Spielberg

Bill Gates

(Michelle Morris 11/24/2006. Reprinted With Permission)


Click Here To Give Your Child The Best Gift This Holiday Season!! Your Understanding...It's FREE!

Here are some additional resources that will help you continue to explore and build your child's future based on further understanding of brain-based learning, and how your child's different hemispheres "work".

Books On Brain Hemisphere Dominance and Brain-Based Learning

Jeffrey Freed's Book...

And, For "Fun": When Opposites Attract: Right Brain/Left Brain Relationships and How to Make Them Work

Online Articles/Quizzes:

An online test with computed results:

Left vs. Right Brain Dominance Test:

Another online test:

An informative article from above site (pdf format):'severed%20corpus%20callosum

Right brain description:

Left brain description:

An online brain hemisphere dominance quiz:

And, another quiz to figure out which hemisphere is more dominant:

And, lastly, another great study on brain organization:

Additional thoughts from the author of the featured article, Michelle Morris...

Even though a child may score on Jeffrey's continuum as a whole brained learner, he still could have very strong tendencies in his right hemisphere. There were a few items I almost checked NO on, because my son has improved so much with therapy...but I knew he still had these "tendencies" even though they are not so glaringly apparent anymore.

I see how my son prefers to learn, even still. I don't think my son will ever be a STRONG whole, or left, and will always prefer and have a dominance on the right, with learning. Comparing which areas specifically a child is strongest - or prefers maybe is the better word, we can get a much clearer picture of just how they are processing information and how best to teach them. And then there will be variables... Like... what ARE we doing in therapy, if not trying to integrate the whole brain to work and process more efficiently, and how does THAT change or make a difference in these kids?

I know, that until I understood that my son actually needed to learn in a different way than me, we were just butting heads, and both of us were so frustrated with the other. I was repeating what wasn't working in the public schools...and needed to rethink this whole way of looking at it. So while we continue to work on whole brain integration, I needed to understand and realize how he preferred to learn, and which part of his brain was he using most. This got REALLY interesting, as I am learning to change the way I TEACH (since I homeschool him) and am seeing a vast difference in his ability to remember, and store information, HIS way, not my way. And, his delight and happiness at showing ME what he can do, when done his way and how quickly he can learn, if allowed to use his strengths instead of his weaker areas, in learning. Hmmmm, food for thought, isn't it?

Michelle Morris, featured author

Until next time my friends...enjoy the holidays and I wish you all the best in the new year!

Take good care.

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