Tuesday, October 22, 2019

The Visualizing and Verbalizing Kit: Is it Worth it? Here's What You Need to Know Before You Buy {A Detailed Review}

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A detailed review of the Visualizing and Verbalizing kit from Lindamood Bell written by Nanci Bell. Find out whether or not it's helpful for improving reading and language comprehension in kids with autism or hyperlexia.

If you linger in any of the hyperlexia parenting groups, then you might have seen the terms Lindamood Bell or Visualizing and Verbalizing come up on a pretty regular basis, especially in discussions regarding reading comprehension.

Questions like...

  • Has anyone tried the Lindamood Bell and how did it work for your family?
  • Does Visualizing and Verbalizing work?
  • Is it worth it?
Well, I'm here to hopefully answer most - if not, all - of those questions. Because I've got a pretty indepth review of the Lindamood Bell Visualizing and Verbalizing kit for you below.

Lindamood Bell Visualizing and Verbalizing reviews

Gander Publishing provided me with a copy of the Visualizing and Verbalizing Kit to review and try with my son. In particular, they sent us the homeschool bundle. All opinions are my own and 100% honest.

What is Visualizing and Verbalizing?

The Lindamood Bell Visualizing and Verbalizing program is designed to help improve language comprehension by building concept imagery. I described it in more detail here.

But I'm going to guess you already know a little bit about what it is if you're already here reading a full review of it...

So let's dive in!

Does Visualizing and Verbalizing work? Read a full review of the Visualizing and Verbalizing kit!

Things I Like About Visualizing and Verbalizing

This is the part where I help you figure out whether or not the Visualizing and Verbalizing kit will be the right fit for you.

Because you're obviously here wondering if it's worth it or not, right?

1. Hyperlexia is Actually Mentioned in the Teacher's Manual

Okay this might seem like a silly thing to be excited about, but you know what? I was. See, there's not a lot of books about hyperlexia available so to see the word hyperlexia in print, multiple times, had me beyond excited to dive into this program with my son.

Before I received our kit in the mail, I actually happened to find an older version of the teacher's manual at our local library. I read through a good chunk of it before our kit arrived, but one of the main differences I noticed right away between the two versions, is that hyperlexia was actually mentioned!

So even if you just want a better understanding of what hyperlexia is, this teacher's manual is a great reference to help you learn more about how kids with hyperlexia learn. And honestly, this whole program seems to be designed with hyperlexic learners in mind.

Lindamood Bell materials - a close up of the Visualizing and Verbalizing teacher's manual for language comprehension and thinking

P.S.: you can actually check out a sample chapter of the teacher's manual for free here.

So a quick recap of this point:

  • Hyperlexia is actually recognized in the teacher's manual, making it one of only a handful of books that actually mention the term.
  • The teacher's manual is a great reference for better understanding what hyperlexia is, why they struggle with comprehension, and what those struggles look like.

2. I Like the Progression of the Program

There are 10 steps in the Visualizing and Verbalizing program and each step allows you to build on the skills from the previous step. And even the numbering system of the structure words helps students move "from the whole to the parts" (p. 67 of the teacher's manual) instead of attending to the wrong details first. I wrote more about the structure words here.

We are currently still somewhere in the middle, working hard to build a strong foundation before moving on to the next steps where things get a bit more complex.

One of the first steps is the Picture to Picture step, which you can see us practicing here:

Here's a quick summary of this point:

  • The program moves in a logical and straightforward way.
  • Each step allows you to build on the skills from the previous step while increasing the complexity.

3. I Can Implement it Myself at Home

The program is straightforward to implement on your own at home.

However, it is highly recommended that you sign up for the training workshops first to make sure that you are implementing the program correctly. I believe you even get the complete program kit if you register for a workshop. View the upcoming workshop schedule

You can also attend a specialized Lindamood Bell center or find a local speech therapist who is well-versed in Visualizing and Verbalizing if you'd prefer.

However, I understand that these options might not be available to you for a variety of reasons. Maybe there's no center close by. Maybe the ongoing cost of attending a specialized center isn't doable financially. Maybe there's no speech therapist near you trained in the program.

Thankfully, the program is easy to understand and very systematic so you can implement it at home. The kit even comes with all the important materials you need to get started anyway. I did however have to make a few things myself to supplement the homeschool bundle like the colored squares needed for the sentence by sentence imaging step.

Since there's no Lindamood Bell center near me, we've been implementing Visualizing and Verbalizing at home on my own. It allows us more flexibility in terms of the rate of instruction and allows us to work at our own pace and in an environment where my son is more comfortable.

Here's a quick recap of this point and some items related to it:

  • There are online training workshops that you can attend to learn how to implement the program.
  • The online training workshops also include the complete kit in the price.
  • The program is easy to understand and easy to implement at home yourself.
  • There are lots of professionals trained in using Visualizing and Verbalizing and you can attend specialized centers, if interested.
  • The kit comes with everything you need to get started.
  • The teacher's manual provides examples of how to implement each step.
  • There are lots of speech therapists and professionals experienced in Visualizing and Verbalizing and there might be a local professional near you who is familiar with it (there was for us!).

4. It Seems to Be Working

But the bottom line is this: does Visualizing and Verbalizing actually work to improve language comprehension?

Well, let's take a quick look at what the research says and whether or not that seems to be reflective of our experiences so far.

"The program significantly improved the reading comprehension skills of the students who were exposed to the intervention, and they developed a more positive attitude and increased motivation towards tasks that require reading comprehension." - Fakhreddine (2013), source

Interestingly, we have noticed the increased motivation and positive attitude already and we haven't done the program as aggressive as was done in this research. And it's actually something that I mentioned on Instagram recently. So when I read this passage, I was like, "YES! That's what we've been noticing!"

The Visualizing and Verbalizing program also:

"appears helpful in improving vocabulary and oral comprehension abilities in children with ASD." - Lemelman (2014), source

Improvements in comprehension and vocabulary is always a good thing, right?

However, there are some studies that suggest that Visualizing and Verbalizing isn't necessarily better than other comprehension programs. For example:

"Students appeared to benefit equally from 'Visualising and Verbalising' training and 'traditional' comprehension training" - Dixon et al. (2001), source

I did also see a more recent study with similar findings, but of course, I can't seem to locate that article now...

So while Visualizing and Verbalizing is good at what it's meant to do (improve language comprehension), it's not necessarily the only option available to you, at least according to some of the research I read.

You can also find lots of research support for the program on the Lindamood Bell website, but I'm always leery of company-compiled research to be honest. They do offer a handy guide with research summaries in it though if you're interested, but I'm not going to link to it (see my previous comment as to why).

So let's recap this point:

  • Visualizing and Verbalizing is research-backed.
  • It has been found to significantly improve reading comprehension skills.
  • Kids who have used Visualizing and Verbalizing develop a more positive attitude and see an increase in motivation towards reading comprehension related tasks.
  • This program has been found to improve vocabulary and oral comprehension abilities in autistic children.

Some Other Strengths of Lindamood Bell Visualizing and Verbalizing Program

Here are a couple of other positives to know about the program:

  • Can be used in group settings as well as in one-on-one instruction
  • Takes a multisensory approach
  • Offers lots of visual aids and supports (e.g., the stones, colored squares, and structure words cards)
  • Includes clear lesson examples for each step in the process
  • You can buy the full kit, a homeschool sized bundle, and/or even the individual parts
  • You can frequently find sales on the kits on the Gander Publishing Website
  • Quick shipping
Visualizing and Verbalizing Lindamood Bell - homeschool kit

Things I Don't Like About Visualizing and Verbalizing (So Far)

Like most things, the Visualizing and Verbalizing kit isn't perfect. There are quite a few things I don't like about the program so far, but the positives definitely outweigh any of the negatives I list below.

1. The Cost of the Program

The Visualizing and Verbalizing kit is expensive and I understand why, but the price point is a huge turn off for a lot of families. Thankfully they do offer a homeschool bundle that is a bit more affordable and they frequently have sales on the kits.

Here's a look at the homeschool bundle (not pictured is one book of stories or the tracking sheet; the colorful squares are not part of the bundle - I made those):

The Visualizing and Verbalizing kit is also not easy to find here in Canada, which means exchange rates and potential duty fees have to be factored in when ordering the kit. For reference, I got hit with a duty fee of nearly $80 when the homeschool bundle arrived.

So to summarize...

  • The kit is expensive.
  • It's even more expensive to attend a specialized center or hire out instruction and implementation of the program.
  • If you live in Canada, prepare to be hit by pretty big customs/duty fees.

2. Some of the Stories are Dated & Boring

The kit that we were given includes a book of stories called Imagine That! Stories. The back of the books says, "These true stories about unique people, animals, mysteries, and more are sure to interest students of all ages." But unfortunately, both my son and I found these stories kind of dated and boring. Here's why we disliked them:

  • The stories are boring and my son absolutely hates them.
  • Some stories seem like they were written in the 70s or something because some of the topics are just plain weird or inappropriate (like the story about a chimpanzee smoking cigarettes).
  • The content of the stories don't seem relevant or interesting to a kid in 2019 (he asked me where all the stories were about dinosaurs, planets, and video games).
  • There are a lot of stories with an American theme (something a Canadian kid struggles to relate to and understand).
However, the Visualizing and Verbalizing Stories book included in our kit was a much better fit. The stories are more engaging and interesting and my son seems to enjoy these stories instead. So I would just personally skip the Imagine That! Stories books.

Here's a quick summary of this point:

  • Some of the stories are in desperate need of some refreshing to make sure they're relevant to kids today.
  • Some of the stories are just plain boring and my son hated them.
Visualizing and Verbalizing Lindamood Bell materials and review

Some Other Weaknesses

Here are a couple of other things that I don't like about the Visualizing and Verbalizing kit that are worth mentioning:

  • No digital version available (and really there's no reason why there shouldn't be)
  • Can be hard to determine when to progress to the next step
  • Recommended rate of instruction is intense and requires a big time commitment
Homeschool version of the Visualizing and Verbalizing for language comprehension and thinking - a full review

My Final Thoughts on the Lindamood Bell Visualizing & Verbalizing Kit

Just to reiterate, we are only at the halfway point in the program, but so far, I'm a huge fan of it.

It has been working wonders for my son and we have seen lots of positive changes in the short time that we have been implementing it. He's excited about reading again. He's all of a sudden binge reading books at a rapid pace. And his latest comprehension test at school showed a huge improvement.

So yes, I highly recommend the Visualizing and Verbalizing kit for working on comprehension with hyperlexic kids.

Is it better than other comprehension programs out there? I don't know, but I don't plan on seeking out any alternatives at this point.

Ready to Try the Visualizing and Verbalizing Kit to Improve Language Comprehension?

Major props to you if you read every single word above. I mean that was a pretty in depth review, huh?

But investing in a program like this is a big deal.

You have no idea how long I wondered about purchasing this kit myself...(hint: at least a couple of years). So hopefully my review above helped you make up your mind even just a little bit.

Ready to take the plunge? Click on any of the images or links below to purchase your own copy of the Visualizing and Verbalizing Kit.

Still unsure? That's okay too. I know it's a big financial and time commitment.

However, I do encourage you to at least take some time to check out the free sample chapter of the teacher's manual. It will give you a better idea of what to expect. You can download the free sample chapter here.

Or you can go through my V/V Program story highlights on my Instagram account to see all the materials, as well as some additional photos and videos of the program in action.

Visualizing and Verbalizing kit from Lindamood Bell - is it worth it? A full review of the language comprehension and thinking kit and whether it's a good fit for kids with autism or hyperlexia