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Learning disabilities

Insight: learning and dyslexia

Experimentation in 2006: Knowledge Master has been formally experimented with dyslexics
Online course: Educational innovation for the different learning styles (dyslexia, ADD, autism, etc.)

Among the specific learning disabilities, dyslexia is the most diffused and, probably, the most insidious one hindering the full development of students cognitive potential.

Both school and culture, indeed, consider the acquisition of reading and writing abilities a fundamental prerequisite for the evolution of learning processes.

In the clinical patterns recognized as "dyslexia", precisely these abilities are jeopardized at several levels. Even though, the deficits that characterize dyslexia do not  damage the general cognitive abilities of these subjects: they remain solid and consistent, but often restrained and unexpressed, due to the lack of educational and representational media alternative to written text or speech.

To have a clear picture of the specific difficulties of these patterns and how these can hinder learning, we must reflect on the general meaning of the "reading process".

The reading ability, as an ability to extract meaning, relies on general cognitive processes that can develop according to several modes. Of these modes sequential processing of written text is only one example.


In a broad sense, reading implies cognitive processes of decoding and comprehension: these are independent of any modality of information representation, and are developed through the activity of working memory.

When reading text, these general processes are developed mainly through sequential processing, carried out at several levels, moving progressively from phonetic analysis to lexical analysis, then to syntactical and last the semantic.               

At a perceptive (auditive and visual) processing level, a more cognitive processing and integration takes place.

Hence, processing implies a long process that considerably overloads working memory. With learning during the primary school first year, this process is progressively automated enabling the reading of text.

This is a result of an extremely complex coordination of numerous processes that occur in a few fractions of a second and that are repeated in a continuous cycle during the reading session. 

Only through several sequential processing levels, the reader can gradually extract, from the text superficial structure, its deep structure, i.e. its cognitive structure.

In dyslexics there are:

a first level of neuropsychological dysfunction that can comprise the perceptive discrimination capacity, at the phonetic and/or visual level, and the phonologic and visuospatial subsystems correlated to perceptive functions;

a second level of dysfunction, at the level of cognitive integration, that involves the operation of working memory: the lack of automation of the reading procedure limits its efficacy, reducing the possibility of distributing the attention in parallel. It can therefore find an obstacle or a slowdown in the comprehension processes, due to an overload of the sequential processing channels.

But the general cognitive process of decoding and comprehension, at the basis of reading, can be accomplished by the working memory even through a different processing mode.

There are some other freer and more efficient ways in processing: the graphical-logical representation of information engages the "reader" in an optimal short cut to activate the working memory system: global-synthetic processing.

Regarding images and graphic representations, working memory, through the support of the visuospatial sketchpad activates a global-synthetic processing mode that is at the base of perception, visual thinking and logical processing.

These modes are specially functional in cognitive processing in dyslexics and represent the main channel through which they can accomplish the decoding and comprehension processes.

Considered in itself, the graphic mode is not sufficient to represent all kinds of knowledge: images do not have the same power as words to represent meanings conceptually.

But graphic representations can be used to modulate and support the representation of meanings developed through verbal propositions.


Colors, shapes, symmetries, coherent graphic structures can be used to  point out and explicate the logical structure of verbal knowledge, reducing to a minimum the need of phrases and complex periods to efficiently represent meaning.

A Knowledge Master concept map is constructed on these principles:

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a verbal text, reduced to its essence of propositional structure, is cast with a graphical and logical knowledge representation

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together, these two aspects can most relevantly represent the cognitive structure of the contents to be learnt;

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the inclusion of images and multimedia promotes a reinforcement of the communication of meaning.

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Knowledge Master's analysis and interaction functions facilitate the cognitive dialog, favoring a faster, deeper and long lasting learning.

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the active voice support brings communication with students nearer to the ways human communicate.

Using concept maps technology enables a more immediate and direct access to meaning: this representation format, when supported by Knowledge Master (and its specially developed functions), can indeed exalt the cognitive potential of dyslexic students, with an effective stimulation of their categorization and relational abilities, of reasoning and knowledge integration. It is the dialog through the knowledge management functions that facilitates learning. The specific functions of Knowledge Master  facilitate and augment the dialog possibilities of the dyslexics with the represented knowledge.

An effective educational strategy for dyslexics can be based on the knowledge management concept mapping strategy, because it  can stimulate the key processes of the cognitive activity producing an outstanding improvement in the quality of learning  through interaction.


:: Learning disabilities ::
Introduction: Learning disabilities
Attention deficit disorder with or without hyperactivity (ADD-H)
:: Experimentation ::
The experience in Rome, 2004
Experimentation in 2006: Knowledge Master has been formally experimented with dyslexics

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