Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes

Learning Centers ~ Professional Development ~ Research

The Key to Reading Confidence

Meet Joe, a college student struggling in his classes. Recently, he sat down to talk about his experience in school. “I can remember reading out loud in class and then not being able to answer the questions. Reading the words was no problem. But, then when I couldn’t answer the questions, the kids would laugh at me. The worst was that I had a teacher in high school that continually called me stupid…maybe I am. Am I?”

Joe’s problem with literacy isn’t that he can’t decode the words, it’s that he can’t comprehend the concepts. Telling him to “pay attention” or “think when you read” doesn’t help him. As Joe reads or listens to language, he processes “parts”—the in-one-ear-and-out-the-other syndrome. He remembers a few details, but he can’t get the big picture.

He has always had this problem, and not just when he reads. When he tries to follow directions and can’t remember all of them, he gets in trouble for not paying attention. When he tries to express himself, verbally or in writing, it comes out disjointed and out of sequence. When he listens to conversations or classroom presentations, it goes by him before he can get it. When he tries to participate in conversation he can’t make salient points because he spoke to the “parts” he processed. When he tries to think critically or problem solve, he is constantly frustrated. Though Joe can read and spell words, he has a language processing problem that has permeated the quality of his life and eroded his self-esteem.

Joe’s symptoms can be traced to his difficulty in getting the gestalt, the whole—necessary for processing language and thinking. Most importantly, his difficulty in getting the gestalt can be traced to his weakness in the sensory-cognitive function of concept imagery—the ability to visualize the whole.

While researching the relationship of imagery to comprehension and trying various steps to develop imagery, Nanci Bell, co-founder and director of Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes, discovered that individuals who had difficulty understanding could not connect the parts to form an imaged whole. Instead, they got “parts” —bits and pieces— and could not get the main idea, draw a conclusion, make an inference, or evaluate.

This processing of parts instead of the gestalt contributes to a range of symptoms, most of which Joe has experienced:

  • Weak reading comprehension
  • Weak oral language comprehension
  • Weak oral language expression
  • Weak written language expression
  • Difficulty following directions
  • Difficulty with critical thinking
  • Difficulty with problem solving
  • Weak sense of humor

Unfortunately, weakness in concept imagery can be a hidden problem in the field of reading. It is often misdiagnosed, and it interferes with processing both oral and written language. Those who do not have the problem cannot know how painful it is. Individuals describe it as feeling foggy, like when you go to sleep in a movie and then cannot put it altogether. They say that they have hidden the problem behind good social skills, noting when to smile appropriately in conversation or when to laugh at jokes they really didn’t get. They say that they go to tremendous lengths to cover this problem because most people just think they aren’t as bright or aren’t good listeners or communicators. A graduate from MIT said that when he was in class trying to grasp a lecture, it was as if someone was going along with an eraser and erasing the language before he could get it.

As we process information through our sensory system, concept imagery brings the sensory information together, enabling us to create the gestalt. And, the gestalt is a necessary piece for cognition. Furthermore, there is little question that imagery is directly related to cognition. Aristotle said, long before phonemic awareness was thought about, “It is impossible to think without a mental picture.”

For someone like Joe, the sensory system must be stimulated and taught to image and process the gestalt, enabling the higher order thinking skills of main idea, conclusion, inference, and prediction to be improved. Reasoning, logical thinking, problem solving, and perhaps even creativity can be developed.


Instruction Update with an Adult Student

A message from our Director of Instruction:

I wanted to take a moment and share with you some fantastic work that is happening in a Learning Center.  I just watched a man do Visualizing and Verbalizing® (V/V®) who is a VA (Veterans Administration) contract student and has a third party diagnosis of Arterio Venous Malformation (AVM).  

When I logged-in to watch his session, he couldn’t wait to tell me about how thankful he is to be at Lindamood-Bell.  The clinician had left for a moment to check the video connection so we got a chance to chat. 

He said he has seen improvement in his comprehension, in the speed of his reading, and that  he has been sharing his progress with his doctors. 

He also said that he now feels confident that he can achieve his goal of returning to school. Additionally, he told me that he has begun to dream…he doesn’t ever recall dreaming before now! 

We are only in week 6 of 14! 

Imagery: The Sensory-Cognitive Connection for Math

Why can’t everyone think with numbers? Why do some children learn math readily, handle money and time concepts with ease, retain information from year to year, and think with numbers effortlessly?

Mathematics is cognitive-process-thinking that requires the dual coding of imagery and language. Imagery is fundamental to the process of thinking with numbers. Albert Einstein, whose theories of relativity helped explain our universe, used imagery as the base for his mental processing and problem solving. Perhaps he summarized the importance of imagery best when he said, “If I can’t picture it, I can’t understand it.”

For the people who “get” math, the language of numbers turns into imagery. They use internal language and imagery that lets them calculate and verify mathematics; they “see” its logic.

The relationship of imagery to the ability to think is one of the preeminent theories of human cognition. Allan Paivio, renowned cognitive psychologist and author of the Dual Coding Theory (DCT), stated, “Cognition is proportional to the extent that mental representations (imagery) and language are integrated.”

Mathematics is the essence of cognition. It is thinking (dual coding) with numbers, imagery and language; reading/spelling is thinking with letters, imagery and language. Both processes, often mirror images of each other, require the integration of language and imagery to understand the fundamentals and then apply them. Dual coding in math, just as in reading, requires two aspects of imagery: symbol/numeral imagery (parts/details) and concept imagery (whole/gestalt).

Numeral Imagery

Visualizing numerals is one of the basic cognitive processes necessary for understanding math. For example, we image the numeral “2” for the concept of two. When we see the numeral “3,” we know that it represents the concept of three of something: three pennies, three apples, three horses, three dots. If someone gives us two pennies for the numeral three, we have a discrepancy between our numeral-image for three and the reality (concept) of three. The first imagery needed for math is the symbolic (or numeral) imagery that represents the reality of a number concept.

What does numeral imagery look like? Here’s one example. Cecil was very good in math. He could think with numbers, arrive at answers in his head, and mentally check for mathematical discrepancies in finance or life situations easily. He explained this ability, “I just visualize numbers and their relationships. Certain numbers are in certain colors, and the number-line in my head goes specific directions.” Not only could Cecil visualize numerals and concepts, both types of imagery, but he also had an unusual talent for color imagery. He assigned colors to specific numbers! “What color is the number 14?” he was asked. His eyes went up, and in all seriousness, he said, “Light blue.” Similarly, number 3 was reddish pink and the number 88 “kind of a purple.” Quizzed again months later, Cecil assigned the same colors to the same numbers.

Chronological relationships appear in our minds on a number line, the days of the week, the months in the year. Imagery is our sensory systems’ way of making the abstract real. It is a means to experience math.

Concept Imagery

While imaging numerals is important to mathematical computation, another aspect of imagery is equally important: concept imagery. Understanding, problem solving, and computing in mathematics require another form of imagery–the ability to process the gestalt (the whole). Mathematical skill requires the ability to get the gestalt, see the big picture, in order to understand the process underlying mathematical logic.

The ability to create mental representations for mathematical concepts is directly related to success in mathematical reasoning and computation. However, because some children do not have this imaging ability, they are often mislabeled as not trying, unable to retain information, or having dyscalculia (the inability to perform arithmetic operations).

Manipulatives May Not Be Enough

Concrete experiences-manipulatives-have been used for many years in teaching math. However, many children and adults have often experienced success with manipulatives, but failure in the world of computation. They have what has often been described as “application problems.”

Many children have spent a lot of time with manipulatives. As they progress through school they are able to “think with numbers.” Their experience with manipulatives became part of their mental deposit of imagery. Like a bank deposit, these images could be drawn upon at will. However, not all children create mental imagery as they work with concrete manipulatives. For these children, the process of turning the concrete experience into imagery must be consciously stimulated.

All children can develop the sensory-cognitive processing to understand and use the logic of mathematics. In every aspect of math, children can have access to what becomes an innate bank vault of imagery for memory and computation.

Learning Difficulties: How do you Know?

How do you know if you or someone you love has a learning difficulty? What are some of the causes of learning disabilities? What are some of the symptoms? The following stories, causes, and symptoms may surprise you.

Sarah reads words accurately, but she cannot comprehend the content. She has difficulty connecting to language she reads or language she hears. Words seem to go in one ear and out the other. People think she is not trying, and she has been labeled with a “motivation” or “attention” problem.

The primary cause of language comprehension problems is difficulty creating an imaged gestalt, or whole, from oral and written language. This is called weak concept imagery. This weakness causes individuals to only process “parts” of information they read or hear, but not the whole. These individuals have difficulty with reading comprehension, critical thinking, and may not easily follow directions or connect to conversations. They may also have a hard time expressing ideas in an organized manner.

Symptoms of weak concept imagery can include difficulty with written and/or oral language comprehension, critical or abstract thinking, problem solving, following directions, expressing language orally and/or in writing, grasping humor, interpreting social situations, and difficulty with cause and effect.

George has learned phonics and can sound out words, but he reads paragraphs very slowly. He often has to sound out the same word multiple times, not remembering it. He makes mistakes such as reading “basket” for “breakfast” and struggles with spelling.

The primary cause of difficulty with reading and spelling is weak symbol imagery – the ability to visualize sounds and letters in words. Many individuals, even those who have well-developed phonetic processing, have difficulty rapidly perceiving sounds in words, and thus are slow to self-correct their reading errors. Their spelling is often phonetically accurate, but they cannot remember the visual patterns of words.

Symptoms of weak symbol imagery include weak word attack skills, weak word recognition skills, difficulty learning and retaining sight words, weak phonological and/or orthographic spelling skills, difficulty reading fluently in context, difficulty monitoring and self-correcting reading and spelling errors, and slow and laborious decoding skills.

Michael is unable to read and spell words to his potential. Despite numerous attempts to teach him, Michael cannot decode written words and has to guess from memory or context clues.

A primary cause of decoding and spelling problems is difficulty in judging sounds within words. This is called weak phonemic awareness. This weakness in phonological processing causes individuals to omit, substitute, and reverse sounds and letters within words. They cannot “get the words off  the page” and cannot judge whether what they say matches what they see.

Symptoms of weak phonemic awareness include difficulty sounding out words, difficulty spelling, and pronunciation errors. Individuals with weak phonemic awareness often struggle to learn letter names and sounds.

The right evaluation is the first step in addressing an individual’s learning difficulty. Strengths and weaknesses need to be identified through academic and literacy tests, and the results clearly explained. Second, the proper instruction, one that addresses the underlying causes of the individual’s learning needs, should be sought out.

Your doctor or educational specialist is a good place to start. Know the difference between a remediation program- one that addresses the underlying causes of the individual’s learning needs that will help them to reach their potential, and an enrichment program- one that does not take a step back to focus on the underlying causes, but rather increases the amount of information that is learned.

Finally, the right learning environment is key. It should be structured so that an individual is engaged and motivated, regular progress updates should be given, and if applicable, parents should have the opportunity to participate in sessions to reinforce the skills their child is learning, so that they can help them at home.

If your intuition is telling you that something is not “right,” trust your instincts. Seek out a professional who is knowledgeable about the underlying causes and solutions of learning difficulties.

Instruction for Adults & College Students

All Lindamood-Bell Learning Centers provide instruction for adults. This includes individuals who are completing high school, college students, and those in the working world. They may be struggling to keep up with their coursework or consistently confused at work or in social situations. Our unique style of intensive differentiated instruction focuses on finding the most effective ways to make each student comfortable, confident, and excited to continue to learn.

We offer oral and written language comprehension programs for adults who struggle with communication, following directions, or keeping up with stories and conversations. These comprehension programs are also effective for adults exhibiting symptoms of autism spectrum disorders. Phonemic awareness and reading programs for adults who struggle with decoding, spelling, or recognizing words in print are offered. These reading programs are also effective for adults exhibiting symptoms of dyslexia. We offer a math program for adults who struggle with basic computation, applying math concepts, or solving word problems. Finally, we offer specialized programs for high school and college students who just want academic enrichment or help with coursework and assignments.

The following is a letter we recently received from an adult student who attended one of our Learning Centers:

Dear Lindamood-Bell,
My name is Erica and I am a current college sophomore and I have been going to Lindamood-Bell for a little more than four years. I just wanted to say thank you so much for all of the help that you have given me. When I first started at Lindamood-Bell I was a sophomore in high school and I did not have much confidence in myself or my ability to even begin to be successful in my life. My test results at Lindamood-Bell showed that I needed a lot of work but, fortunately for me, the Center Director told me and my parents that it was very possible for me to catch up to where I needed to be! She promised me in her office that she could help me. She is the first person ever, other than my parents, that told me the truth.

My first few weeks of my first summer session consisted of air-writing, working on alphabetical sounds, and picturing different letters and stories. I knew that your program was going to change how I was going to learn forever. At the end of my first summer at Lindamood-Bell I went back to school and started applying my skills that I learned. My grades and report cards went from Bs, Cs, Ds, and Fs to just As and Bs with an occasional C. After my first summer at Lindamood-Bell I never received an F on a cumulative test again. After my first summer at Lindamood-Bell, I finally felt like I could be the person that I thought I was meant to be. With your help I was able to graduate from high school at the top half of my class and I made honors list.

After spending three full-time summers at Lindamood-Bell I went from a girl that did not know what she was learning to a girl that was able to picture everything that she heard and read. I am now closer to where I needed to be than I have ever expected. Without Lindamood-Bell I would have continued to struggle through college and I am sure I would not be going to the college that I wanted to go to. Your supreme staff worked with me day after day working on picturing letters and picturing stories. They also told me that it was amazing how far I have come since I first started with Lindamood-Bell. Your staff actually cared enough to take the time to teach me the skills necessary to succeed in my education.

I also had the chance, opportunity, to have their help during my freshman year of college. Even though the reading and picturing was hard I was able to do it with their guidance. It was integral to have the assistance of Lindamood-Bell with seeing how picturing works in higher education. The subjects ranged from learning about the French Revolution to learning how cancer attacks the body. I am now able to read chapter books that have 500 pages within a day, depending how much free time that I have. During this summer I have read about 15 books and I am able to picture what happened in each book and the details about each character.

With the skills that I gained from your program I feel more confident about my future rather than a lost cause that I used to feel like. Prior to the help of Lindamood-Bell I was made to feel like I was worthless and would never amount to anything. I was told by some of my previous teachers that I was “unteachable at any school in the state.” I am now able to eye break any word that I do not know within just a few seconds, for example, sphygmomanometer. Also, I often catch myself saying to my professors, “Well I picture this…” or “When you said that I pictured this…” and they are shocked with my performance to this day. I love how I am now able to help out my college classmates because of my strong picturing skills. Since I have started college I have done really well and I am still in the top half of my class.

What can I say Lindamood-Bell, you put the magic back in learning for me, and I can’t thank you enough!! There are no words to show my appreciation. I am truly indebted for life and for this I thank you from the bottom of my heart. It was incredibly hard work but it was worth every magical learning moment!

Lindamood-Bell I thank each and every one of my instructors.

We believe, passionately, that children and adults can be taught to read and comprehend. We believe that sensory-cognitive factors are the first dominoes in language and literacy skills. We believe that imagery is the primary sensory-cognitive domino in language and literacy development.

At Lindamood-Bell, we feel honored and privileged to do this with our lives. 






Lindamood-Bell School House for course credit and homework support.

Lindamood-Bell now offers significantly discounted instructional options that will allow students to receive school credit while attending a Lindamood-Bell Learning Center.

Instructional options for the Lindamood-Bell School House include limited support for more independent learners, increased support for those working towards independent learning, and full support for those needing more direct Lindamood-Bell Sensory-Cognitive instruction. Each of these options can qualify for curriculum and credit through virtual school or your homeschool selections. And, with the Lindamood-Bell School House, savings range from 30% to 72%.

Turnaround School in Colorado Outperforms the State with Lindamood-Bell

As a result of its School Turnaround efforts, Haskin Elementary School’s 3rd Graders have outperformed the state average on the 2012 TCAP in reading. In 2011, 41 percent of Haskin’s 3rd graders scored as proficient or advanced. This year, 76 percent of 3rd graders scored at proficient or advanced, whereas, the state average was 74 percent.

Haskin Elementary is in Center School District, located in the rural San Luis Valley of southwestern Colorado. According to the Colorado Department of Education, the district has one of the highest percentage of students in poverty in the state (94%) and is 94 percent minority.  The district also classifies 65 percent of students as English Learners. In 2010, the school partnered with Lindamood-Bell to implement a comprehensive Professional Learning Community (PLC) based on literacy development.

Despite the many challenges facing its population, Haskin Elementary School has demonstrated that with an effective Turnaround plan, low-performing schools can significantly increase student achievement. Following the first year of its Turnaround model with Lindamood-Bell, the percent of 3rd graders at proficiency in reading increased from 28 percent to 41 percent.

After the second year, 3rd graders have increased from 41% to 76% proficient/advanced. In two years, Haskin’s 3rd graders have made a 48-point improvement, the largest of any school involved in the School Improvement program in the state.

Principal Kathy Kulp observed, “Lindamood-Bell has had an enormous impact on our school and on our students. The training our teachers received impacted all areas of their instruction and led to increased student achievement across the content areas.”

All instructional staff, including the school principal and Director of Instruction for the district, received Lindamood-Bell® professional development in programs that develop reading and comprehension. Lindamood-Bell’s sensory cognitive programs are integrated throughout the school’s curricula and Response to Intervention (RtI) framework.

Lindamood-Bell’s professional development model includes job-embedded support for all teachers. District Superintendent George Welsh noted that “having somebody who is here, living in the community, spending the extra hours with you, who you can go to for an immediate answer, who, when you have a teacher struggling can go to support them, that’s an outstanding model.”

Haskin is now focusing on sustaining their success. Several instructional leaders in the school have completed the Lindamood-Bell® Certification program, aimed at increasing teacher effectiveness and maintaining program fidelity. One of those instructional leaders, Melissa Garcia, is confident about reaching every student in the building: “I truly believe that choosing to implement Lindamood-Bell at Haskin Elementary was a great decision. Our students are being challenged more than ever before and our teachers have the tools, the metacognitive strategies, and support to reach them.”Image

World-renowned Researcher to Study How Reading Instruction Affects Children’s Brains

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have initiated a study designed to explore the predictive value of neuroimaging for reading intervention with early elementary students. Principal Investigator Dr. John Gabrieli is the director of the Athinoula A. Martinos Imaging Center at the McGovern Institute in addition to holding a faculty appointment at MIT. Dr. Gabrieli says of the study, “This is an exciting opportunity to deliver intensive reading instruction to children at the young ages when such instruction is thought to be most beneficial, and to use the neuroimaging to better understand which children most benefit from this instruction.”

The Summer Time Adventures in Reading and Teaching project
will include selection of beginning readers at-risk for reading difficulties. The students will receive six weeks of intensive instruction using the Seeing Stars® program to improve their reading skills. Seeing Stars is designed to stimulate symbol imagery and to develop reading skills including phonemic awareness, word recognition, and fluency.

Participating students will receive fMRI brain scans to measure brain activity, in addition to completing standardized measures of reading, before and after instruction. The intervention will be provided by Lindamood-Bell® staff and will be closely monitored by MIT investigators.

Investigations using brain scans and their relation to reading will potentially help to predict which students may develop reading difficulties and which interventions can help develop and increase brain function and reading performance.

For more information on joining the study, please contact:
Dr. Joanna Christodoulou, Study Director @ 617.324.2175
Abbie Cyr, Program Coordinator @ 617.324.7196

For Lindamood-Bell:
Paul Worthington @ 805-541-3836

Learning Center Instruction for Reading and Comprehension

Many children and adults struggle with problems related to reading, spelling, and language comprehension.  Factor in diagnoses like dyslexia, attention deficit disorder, auditory processing disorder, hyperlexia, and autism, and it can be difficult to know where to turn for the right educational assistance. 

With over 25 years of experience, the internationally renowned organization Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes offers solutions for many learning difficulties.  Lindamood-Bell’s research-validated instruction is based on a theory of cognition that can address the global learning needs of all individuals.

Lindamood-Bell® instruction develops and strengthens the sensory-cognitive functions of phonemic awareness, symbol imagery and concept imagery.  A weakness in one of these functions can cause reading, spelling, and comprehension difficulties, and will interfere with a student’s ability to learn. 

“Our unique instruction and one-to-one setting allows for great growth, and this environment also nurtures each student’s self-esteem and confidence,” explains Kindle Smyth, Regional Director of Centers.  “It is our goal that all of our students become independent, self-correcting learners in all aspects of their lives.”

In order to provide the appropriate instruction for each individual, a learning profile must be established – this is accomplished with a comprehensive battery of assessments.  This learning evaluation is analyzed and a consultation is then held to explain the individual’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as a plan for instruction.  Each instructional plan is tailored to the specific learning needs of the individual and embodies an interactive, balanced approach.

The intensity of instruction is another notable difference between Lindamood-Bell and other tutoring services that provide learning assistance. Lindamood-Bell recommends intensive instruction, which consists of approximately two to four hours per day, five days per week.  “Our average results with intensive instruction may see two to three years’ growth in as little as six to eight weeks,” Smyth says. 

The majority of Lindamood-Bell’s students are between the ages of 7-14, but because their unique instructional program is not age, year, or performance specific, they see students of all levels and ages, including adults.

You can find more information about Lindamood Bell Learning Processes online at

New Hope for Promising and Lasting Results in Reading Improvement

Researchers and scientists know that improving reading is an important priority for educators as well as families.

An article that appeared in the journal NeuroImage in August of 2011 features the results of a study that examined changes in reading skills and gray matter volume (GMV) in children with dyslexia who received intensive reading instruction in a program that develops literacy skills. The study is encouraging and exciting for those individuals who struggle on a daily basis with reading, spelling, and language comprehension difficulties.

The independent study, conducted by researchers from the Center for the Study of Learning, Georgetown University Medical Center, and Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, showed three important results. First, training-induced changes in GMV were observed. In addition, reading improvements induced by instruction accompanied the GMV changes. Finally, and especially important, both the GMV and reading skill changes were maintained after the instruction ended.

The intervention used in the study included visual imagery of words, multisensory integration, and development of the sound representation of words. Behavioral tests and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans were performed before the intervention, after the intervention, and after a period of time where no intervention was administered. 

Reading behaviors significantly improved, and for the first time, the results of the study indicate that GMV increases in the left anterior fusiform gyrus/hippocampus, left precuneus, right hippocampus, and right anterior cerebellum occur as well. These are areas of the brain that have been shown previously to play a part in learning and visual imagery.

“For many years we have noted significant improvement in decoding and reading comprehension when we focus instruction on mental imagery as applied to language and literacy skills,” says Nanci Bell, Director of Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes. “The results of this MRI study not only validate that instruction in imagery results in improved reading behaviors, but also results in important and lasting changes in the brain.

“This is a very important finding in the field of reading research, especially as related to changing the profiles of children who have decoding difficulties.”

The results of this study, together with current understanding of brain-behavioral relationships, will help inform both educators and researchers in an effort to better understand the neural basis for successful reading intervention. This can lead to the development of  more reading programs that will best help children who have trouble reading.

The findings provide encouragement that learning can result in both lasting behavioral and structural changes in children who struggle in learning to read. It is a significant piece in understanding how the brain responds to learning and in working to translate these findings into refining interventions and improving the learning experience for all.

Written by Anne Fenske, Center Director for Lindamood-Bell in Denver, CO
As published on

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