Teaching Letters to Dyslexics

Originally posted on Rants & Raves by Dyslexia Victoria Online:

Recently I was blogging about how using an image of a “person, place, thing or animal”  to represent a letter of the alphabet was confusing for a dyslexic child trying to memorize and print letters.

Often you will notice in classrooms or workbooks that a picture of an animal or object is used to help the child learn what a letter stands for.  This can create a problem for a student because they can end up thinking  the picture with the letter representswhat  the letteris.  Then when they are  trying to put the letters in a word together they are seeing a jumble of animals or objects in their minds connected to the letters.  This can completely confuse them when trying to understand that letters are symbols and when placed in a specific order represent a word in our language.

I came across this clipart above…

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Right Brain vs Left Brain in the Work Place

Have you ever noticed that some of your employees or fellow workers are easier to work and communicate with than others?  Have you found that some colleagues are easy to understand and you can follow their directions when they are explaining work-related issues?  Have you been confused by a supervisor’s description of a new job task and don’t really know what you are supposed to do or how?

The problem might be as simple as a difference in communication and learning styles.  With all the interest in dyslexia and being right-brained you might have come to the conclusion that you identify with some or many of the problems, qualities and traits of the right-brain thinking style.  Everybody has use of both sides of the brain unless there is some medical issue but most people tend to be inclined to process and function more from one side than the other.  There is nothing wrong with this but it can make your job a frustrating and stressful place to be.

Let me give you an example.  Joan is an accountant and is managing the accounting and production department of a entertainment industry business.  She was moving on and had hired Anne, a potential replacement for her.   There was going to be a lengthy training period of several months.

During this time Joan started to notice that she was having a difficult time trying to teach Anne her accounting system and office procedures.  Joan definitely thinks in a right-brain fashion.  She thinks about the “whole picture” of the company’s business system and then breaks it down into its individual components when she is discussing and strategizing work related issues.  She hates details.  She is intuitive, extremely creative,  problem-solving and sees everything from many directions all at once.  She is able to move from one task and quickly refocus on a completely unrelated issue such as  working out a budget and then shifting effortlessly to an expected emergency phone call from a client or vendor.   When she conveys her views to Anne she starts with the global or “big picture” and then discusses the details in a general fashion expecting Joan to intuitively fill in the blanks like she does. Everything starts with the “complete image” of the business and accounting department and then divides down into its main components.  Joan however,  puts less emphasis or time on the details.

Anne processes information and works in a completely different thinking style.  She was confused by Joan’s initial approach to teach Anne her job by starting with a description of the whole business and accounting system.  She was overwhelmed and confused and not able to handle the “big picture” with its multi-layered departments.  Anne was baffled by Joan’s daily list of seemingly unrelated tasks.  She didn’t know where to start and tended to not get more than one or two items finished in a day.  Anne was very detail oriented and fretted over small issues or the order that the jobs were supposed to be done in.

Joan got frustrated with her trainee’s concerns and quite frankly could not comprehend what her problems were about.    The two of them could not relate or communicate with each other on any level and Joan was getting nowhere training her replacement.  Months into the job  Anne was not any further ahead understanding her job.

Joan talked to me about the  problems she was facing and was desperate to find some solutions.  I suggested to her that Anne seemed to be working from a more left-brain learning style and Joan, of course, was operating more from the right which put them at cross purposes with each other.

We worked out a plan where she would start to describe the accounting system from the most basic details moving forward in a sequential ascending hierarchical order.  Her approach should  be completely logical.  Anne would therefore be working towards understanding the accounting picture through a step by step process moving towards an over all understanding of the whole system.  Also Joan broke her tasks down to shorter more organized lists and gave Anne a time frame for finishing them.  Joan presented every aspect of the accounting system from the first step and ending at the over all picture.

Anne started to respond to Joan’s new approach and began to feel more successful which opened her up emotionally and helped her to have better self-esteem.  She started to understand the business’s structure and how everything was inter-related.  Anne would always need to work out a task or a problem in a sequential order but she could now handle her job.

So the next time you find yourself butting heads with a fellow worker, supervisor or employee you might want to think about how you are approaching the job with them.  Consider how you might improve your communication with them by recognizing their learning style and yours and how you can come to “a meeting of the minds”.

Karey Hope deGraaf
Dyslexia Victoria Online

A Special Happy Mother’s Day to Mothers of Dyslexics

Gen-and-KareyI would like to say a special Happy Mother’s Day to mothers of Dyslexics everywhere. I am Dyslexic and have 3 grown Dyslexic children. Due to my frustration with the school system back in the 1980’s I became passionate about helping my kids and eventually others.

Today on a day that celebrates motherhood I would like to acknowledge how special these ladies are. I have been working with them and their children for years and one thing is seldom recognized. It takes guts to stand up for your child against a world determined to shut you down and allow your child to slip through the cracks. Few know how these mothers suffer and how difficult it is to fight for your child with schools, doctors, know-it-all family members and too often spouses who don’t want to face it.

These women spend an inordinate amount of time along with jobs and family responsibilities looking out for their Dyslexic children who are often misunderstood. They experience unrelenting anguish and fear for their children’s pain and future prospects. They are tortured by their kid’s self-esteem issues, failure in the classroom, embarrassment, not understanding why they are different from their classmates and sometimes thoughts of suicide.

These brave moms have to stand up to teachers, special needs teachers, principles, school psychologists and pediatricians to name a few who tell them they are crazy or at the least over-reacting to their child’s issues in the classroom. These school officials tell them they don’t need testing, don’t deserve accommodations and there is nothing offered to help them do better or at least catch up to their classmates. Dyslexics’ moms cry out, “Why won’t anyone listen! My wonderful, imaginative, intelligent and empathetic child is becoming someone I don’t recognize. My child is failing and no one will help.”.

Their child is termed a late developer, lazy, unfocused, uncooperative, depressed, maladjusted, confrontational, needy, angry, can’t follow rules or instructions, and on and on. People in authority suggest maybe their child has ADD/ADHD and needs Ritalin.     (Check out what Jeffrey Freed who wrote “Right-Brained Children in a Left Brained World” says how many kids diagnosed with ADD/ADHD are actually Dyslexics) The teachers will tell them their child needs counseling to deal with their lack of fitting in a classroom or maybe they should take them out of school permanently.

Mothers of Dyslexics are told they are not working with their child enough, not reading to them enough and disciplining them enough. They are accused of molly-coddling too much and their expectations of performance for their child are too high or they are not accepting their responsibility to control their child’s behavior.

Many family members and spouses will have lots of advice. They criticize these moms as being inadequate parents and accuse them of lacking discipline. Often family will dismiss their concerns because they believe they are an over protective parent. These mothers become fearful of discussing their child’s problems with anyone and getting judged along with their child. I cannot tell you how many times moms will break down and cry because I will tell them they are an incredible mom by advocating for their child and believing something is wrong and needs to be addressed.

Dyslexia is still not recognized adequately in most western school systems and treated like an excuse for a child’s lack of performance in the classroom.

So moms of Dyslexia everywhere – I commend your dedication to your children and support your fight. As they say, “Dyslexics Untie!” Keep up the struggle. Your children will appreciate it forever and will benefit from what you win for them. You will teach them not to give up and how to advocate for themselves and probably for their own children in the future.

Lots of love and respect on this very special of special days.

How a Teacher can Help a Dyslexic Student Learn Effectively in the Classroom

Originally posted on Rants & Raves by Dyslexia Victoria Online:

“There are many strategies a teacher can implement in the classroom to help a Dyslexic student do well and understand the different skill sets such as spelling, reading, writing, arithmetic and  time. Most of these suggestions are beneficial for any student but especially important for Dyslexics.”

* If one or both of a child’s parents are Dyslexic the odds are 50% their children will be too. Dyslexia can also skip generations from grandparent to grandchild. There is a gene that indicates Dyslexia. Visit the article CAUSE OF DYSLEXIA ON CHROMOSOME 18 which we have quoted on our website from the Indepentent.co.uk

* Help right-brain learners (Dyslexics) understand their thinking and the learning differences from left brain thinkers (big picture and concrete images versus abstracts such numbers, letters and words). They will understand they can be taught how to use their processing style to their advantage for success in school.


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Comedian Gallagher sees School and the English Language like Dyslexics do

Comedian Gallagher gets Dyslexics frustration with the English language

Comedian Gallagher gets Dyslexic’s frustration with the English language

“Why should I be serious about the language if the language is not serious enough to make sense” –             Gallagher – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yDFQXxWIyvQ


The comedian, Gallagher has been around a long time and like George Carlin has been a keen observer of the silliness of our world. In particular, they have had a lot of fun with the English language and its peculiarities. With the language influences of so many groups of peoples who moved in and out of the British Isles over the centuries, the language has become at the very least confusing to a total nightmare for those trying to learn it.

This doesn’t include words and expressions that are constantly being added due to new concepts and new stuff we keep creating or discovering. Much of it not conforming to phonics (sounding out a word) or the rules of the English language.

One of the qualities of those with a Dyslexic nature is our love of humor. So rather than continue to rant about the English language’s contribution to making a Dyslexic’s school experience hell why don’t you watch Gallagher’s video.  He expresses it beautifully.


Karey Hope deGraaf
Dyslexia Victoria Online

Dyslexia Victoria Online

Phone Etiquette for Dyslexics

phone ettiquete for Dyslexics
As a Dyslexic I have issues with different aspects of verbal and written language.  One of my pet peeves is people leaving phone messages. Callers have a tendency to start their message by saying their name quickly, launch into their message which can go on and on and then finish by saying their phone number so fast, it’s practically unintelligible.

I believe there are people who can catch these numbers but as a Dyslexic I am challenged trying to write numbers down in the correct order, especially phone numbers. I will usually get the first two and a couple more somewhere in the sequence of numbers and always reverse the two middle numbers in the last set of numbers. So for example:    1-800-346-0925 becomes –    1-8??-3??-?296

This means I now have to go back and play the message several times to get the name and phone number and some of the message. This drives me crazy. I often don’t get the number right anyway.

Here are some suggestions for people leaving messages because you never know if the person writing the message down is numbers and word challenged.

  • When you begin say your name slowly and clearly, who you are with if applicable and your phone number.
  • Say the phone number slowly and clearly and then repeat it.
  • Keep your message short and clear
  • End your message with your name and phone number said slowly and clearly

Now the person writing the message will be able to write your information down the first or second time and have a better chance at getting it right.

One benefit of this approach is the person writing the information down won’t give up on you and not bother taking your message down because they are tired of replaying your message.

If you are talking to someone on the phone giving them information, slow down. Spelling your name out loud slowly is also helpful. Finish by asking if they need anything repeated. People who have difficulty writing things down tend to be embarrassed asking to have it said again.

I personally believe most people would appreciate phone messages slowed down.
Thank you for listening on behalf of Dyslexics everywhere.
Karen Hope
Dyslexia Victoria Online

Helping Dyslexics Learn to Play Music

Originally posted on Rants & Raves by Dyslexia Victoria Online:

Years ago I decided to have my three children take piano lessons.  I had one problem.  I had become aware that my kids were dyslexic through testing at their school and learning to play the piano could be difficult for them.  I went ahead anyway and in the process learned some fascinating aspects about being dyslexic and learning to play the piano or any instrument.

To begin here is a list of Dyslexia issues you might find with a student having difficulty learning music. If your student has many or all of these problems you might want to have the student assessed for Dyslexia:

“3. Commonly reported difficulties with music

  • Difficulties in the reading of music, particularly sight-reading without adequate
  • preparation.
  • Aural tests, particularly those involving memory, such as dictation.
  • The understanding and production of written material (text/language and music).
  • Work in music theory: understanding and de-coding information; organisation of

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Dyslexics Need to Read the End of a Story First to Understand & Remember

Originally posted on Rants & Raves by Dyslexia Victoria Online:

If you,  your child, friend, family member or a student you are working with is Dyslexic you might have noticed that books or stories with chapters can be confusing or hard to comprehend and remember.   Dyslexics think in the “big picture” or the whole story. In order to understand the chapters many Dyslexics need to know the beginning and end of the story before they read the middle of the book.

When we assess adults we ask them how they read a book.  One gentleman said “You are going to think it’s silly. I do it wrong.” We encouraged him to tell us and wouldn’t think it was silly or wrong.  He said, “I read the beginning, then go to the end which ruins any surprises in the story and then the middle.  If I don’t do that, nothing makes sense and I tend to lose interest. Also if I…

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“Boxing Words” to help Dyslexics Learn to Spell

Gen, my dyslexic daughter who started my search for answers.

Gen, my dyslexic daughter who started my search for answers about Dyslexia.

When my daughter Genevieve and my other two children were assessed as having Dyslexia back in the 1980’s I began a long journey to find ways to teach them. The school system in California did not have any programs for their learning difference so I had to look else where for ideas.

Not much was known about Dyslexia at the time but I was fortunate to meet many interesting people in the San Francisco area who were studying Dyslexia and working with children and adults to help them with their learning problems. We tried all kinds of therapy; some worked, some worked a little and others not so much.

One surprising and extremely simple idea was given to me by a teacher from a school called New Horizon School and Learning Center in Santa Rosa, northern California for kids with learning disabilities. I had heard good things about them so I gave them a call. The person I spoke to suggested I bring my daughter in and they would see what the could do to help her (New Horizon provided assistance that made a huge difference for my daughter and taught me how to teach her successfully!). One idea she told me over the phone along with some tweaks of my own over the years became one of my best tools when working with Dyslexic children.

"Boxing Words" to help Dyslexics learn to Spell

“Boxing Words” to help Dyslexics learn to Spell

Gen was a very poor speller. The lady from the school suggested trying an experiment to show Gen a different way to remember spelling words. She told me to get a yellow piece of paper and print a word on it in large thick letters in felt pen she didn’t know how to spell. Then she told me to have Gen sit looking straight ahead and hold the yellow paper with the printed word up and to the left of her head. Then as she is staring forward she moves her eyes up to the piece of paper. As she is looking at the yellow paper with her body and head sitting straight and eyes up and to the left she looks at the word, says it, and then reads the letters out loud right to left and then left to right (frontwards and backwards). Gen repeats this process 3 times. Then she closes her eyes, imagines the yellow paper and word printed on it. She says the word aloud again and says the letters she sees in her mind frontwards and then— backwards.

I kind of scoffed at this but I thought worth a try. I had tried a lot crazier things with my kids. I decided to pick a huge multisyllabic word because of course I didn’t believe it would work. I put Gen through the process that had been described to me and she did it – frontwards and backwards – easily. There is extensive research on eye movement and what it means as far as  memories and imagining things. There doesn’t seem to be any conclusive evidence on what eye movement means but lots of speculation such as this article: http://www.livescience.com/1473-moving-eyes-improves-memory-study-suggests.html.

The lady I talked to from the school said memory could be aided by looking up to the left. This was back in the 80’s and I don’t know if this is true but what I learned in my opinion it is important to have Dyslexics visualize something as a picture with parts in order to retain it. So a word is a complete picture with parts (the letters). The colored paper helps them create an image of the word in their mind by providing a background and the colour helps the word to stand out.

Over the years through research and experimentation I have found a way to accomplish memorizing words effectively with this method with a few changes and additions. What I do with Dyslexic kids has been called “boxing words” or “word boxing” by certain teachers I’ve talked to. I have been trying to find some information on the net about boxing but this article is as close as I have gotten so far:   http://www.visualspatial.org/files/app2spell.pdf

I describe my method in one of our manuals called “14 Steps to Teach Dyslexics how to Spell and Read”. I have never had a Dyslexic child not be able to visualize words this way. Boxing words for DyslexicsThe image here of the word “dog” on the blue paper is how we create  flash cards for “boxing”. This type of practice will begin to help a Dyslexic visualize words in their minds so they can retain them. The 14 Steps has 13 other practice methods to help Dyslexics spell and read better.

14 Steps to teach Dyslexics how to Spell & Read

14 Steps to teach Dyslexics how to Spell & Read

Try it. If you have difficulties trying to do this exercise, email me at khope@dyslexiavictoria.ca
Karey Hope
Co-founder Dyslexia Victoria Online
Karey Hope deGraaf of Dyslexia Victoria Online

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