Information Overload

Adapted from a photo by Luis Villasmil

“Just let me grab or pen and write this down”, “could you repeat that last point” or “sorry I didn’t quite catch all that”. We’ve all been there; one way or another. Too much information being thrust at us is commonplace and an unfortunate inevitable occurrence throughout our lives. It can be emotionally draining and stress-inducing at the best of times. For neurodivergent individuals, very much including dyslexics, receiving too much incoming information at once can be an extremely overwhelming and anxiety-ridden experience. Methods of managing this information overload and reducing these negative impacts will be discussed and explored.  

For dyslexics in particular, being in receipt of large quantities of information can be challenging and somewhat frustrating. Upon consideration three main reasons for this sprang to mind. Firstly, dyslexics tend to process incoming information differently to non-dyslexics/non-neurodivergents. Crucially, dyslexics may process this information slightly more slowly and often recognise and identify information in pictures or images, rather than written words. Secondly, a common characteristic of dyslexics can be a difficulty with memory and information retention. Therefore, individuals may struggle with recalling and remembering portions of incoming data. On a related note, within social psychology research, humans are more likely to remember the first and last items or pockets of information from a list. Known as primary and recency effects this can influence and affect all humans indiscriminately, but can extenuate memory or recalling difficulties within dyslexics. Thirdly, dyslexic individuals may also have difficulty with processing and receiving big portions of information if this is presented in a format they find especially challenging. As an exemplar, this can include being given large amounts of text to read in a limited time span. 

It is universally known that all individuals learn, remember and absorbs facts, figures and information in different ways. Information can be provided in different ‘formats’, as outlined above, which best suit an individual’s personality, skills and unique ‘learning style’. Within the dyslexic world four varying learning styles have been established:

  1. Visual – learning via written words, pictures, videos and diagrams.
  2. Auditory – learning through listening to spoken words and verbal explanations, such as discussions, debates, songs/rhymes and recording of lessons.
  3. Kinaesthic – learning using movement by copying demonstrations, participating in role plays, dramatised scenes and games
  4. Tactile – learning using touch (has some overlaps with kinaesthic) including building, drawing, tracing words with one’s finger to assist with spellings and rocking, tapping and walking/pacing during learning activities.

As previously emphasised, all individuals possess preferred learning styles and ways they like information to be introduced and presented. When the preferred learning style(s) is adopted information can be absorbed, learnt and processed in more effective and efficient manner. Vitally, preferred learning styles can vary within the same person, depending on the task or situation they find themselves in. It has been emphasised that the best learning style for dyslexics is a multisensory approach. Whereby, more than learning style is combined to enhance the potential for learning. For example, as a dyslexic myself I prefer to work via written notes, compared to merely verbal spoken instructions as I find these particularly difficult to remember and follow. Yet in addition, I also find having a person present to demonstrate alongside my written notes to be extremely beneficial. In this way incoming information can be displayed in more manageable chunks, assisting to diminish overwhelming and anxious feelings.

In order to identify and pin-point one’s preferred learning style(s) exploring, experimenting, and trying out new methods that fall into the four learning categories is highly useful. Some ‘trial and error’ may be required, but one may be surprised by what weird and wonderful techniques work for a dyslexic. An excellent strategy would both assist individuals to remember, recall, and process information whilst also managing and reducing any associated stress and anxiety. For instance, whilst home alone I discovered that pacing around the room whilst on the phone, recalling information and whilst thinking of content for my blog posts really helps me contemplate, focus and recall information. Critically, this emphasises that dyslexics can be very competent learners and retainers of information; particularly when their strengths and preferred learning styles are recognised and adopted. 

This post has explored how all dyslexics learn, process, and remember incoming information in different ways. When presented with too much information associated negative emotions of overwhelming anxiety and panic can be induced. However, by exploring different ‘learning styles’ and ways to present information to dyslexics, information understanding, and retention can be greatly improved. Moreover, as these negative emotions are interconnected and interrelated with difficulties with learning and processing, presenting information in a favoured way and ‘style’ can greatly reduce these undesirable emotions. Therefore, uncovering how a dyslexic best learns and studies can be an extremely rewarding process.