Scotopic Sensitivity (Irlen Syndrome) Computer Screen Overlays to Help with Distortion Issues

Scotopic Sensitivity (Irlen Syndrome) Computer Screen Overlays to Help with Distortion Issues

Scotopic Sensitivity OverlayDyslexics can be prone to experiencing degrees of Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome also referred to as Irlen Syndrome. Irlen Syndrome causes visual distortions with text and other written materials on a white background such as white boards, white paper and computer screens. Irlen.com calculates around 44% of dyslexics experience this syndrome from slight to severe. There are however many accommodations to minimize this issue.

In this blog I would like to focus on one Irlen Syndrome issue that causes great distress for many sufferers –  the difficulty of staring at a computer screen resulting in headaches, sore eyes, and mental/physical exhaustion.  And how to use SS overlay programs to alleviate discomfort and exhaustion. First I will explain a little about Irlen Syndrome and its affects.

“Irlen Syndrome (also referred to at times as Meares-Irlen Syndrome, Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome, and Visual Stress) is a perceptual processing disorder. It is not an optical problem. It is a problem with the brain’s ability to process visual information. This problem tends to run in families and is not currently identified by other standardized educational or medical tests.”

I became aware of this issue back in the 80’s when my dyslexic daughter was telling me letters seemed to be water falling off the page and wouldn’t stay still to read them. I didn’t know what to make of this and at the time I was just beginning to learn what dyslexia was. We did find out she had convergence and tracking issues and after a year of vision training her reading fluency improved but she continued to see “weird things” when she read.

Over the years after learning how to manage dyslexia with my daughter and her two brothers, who were also dyslexic, I started to help other parents with their dyslexic children. One thing that came up over and over was the student telling me they saw “weird stuff” on the page when they read. With research I found out about Irlen Syndrome and how it caused distortions when reading on a white background and certain physical ailments when the sufferer was under fluorescent lights, bright sunlight, street lamps and car headlights at night . I decided to become a screener in hopes the accommodations Irlen supports would help the people I work with. Long story short, I have had great success with the Irlen system.

So back to SS overlay programs. There are many free programs available now to help change your computer monitor to a color that is soothing for the Irlen sufferer. Each person will have a color or colors they respond to well. I love this type of a feature because I have Irlen issues and a purple background  makes a huge difference for me.

Scotopic Sensitivity OverlayThe link below is for a pdf  link to get the free program called “SS Overlay”. Didn’t find any viruses. This overlay is over the whole screen and you only have a specific number of colors. I like this for my purposes because I can click on links with the color overlay in place where other programs need to move the bar of color aside to click on links. Also you can make the color as dense as you want.

https://www.abdn.ac.uk/it/documents/Quick_Start_to_SSOverlay.pdf

When they talk about “Right-click the SSOverlay icon in the system tray and choose “Settings” ” they mean the yellow arrow in the bar at the bottom of your screen. In my screen capture below the arrow is on the far left so you know what it looks like.   ss overlay in tray

Another program is a T-bar set up where you have a color ruler or rulers of varying widths and heights. The only downside for me is you have to move the t-bar out of the way to type or click a link. For straight reading with a colored ruler type of effect that helps keep your eyes in place, it can be very useful. This one has a color wheel so there is a huge variety colors available. Also you can adjust the density of the color. The link seems to be free of viruses and unwanted websites. http://www.fx-software.co.uk/tbar.htm

tBar

“This is where we would like to introduce T-Bar to you. T-Bar is a coloured bar which you can either drag around the screen or lock to your mouse. It can have ruled lines or not, depending on your preference. The colour can be chosen from pre-defined options, then tweaked by altering the red, green or blue sliders to get the perfect colour, the transparency level can be adjusted, again to suit the individual. All the settings are saved between sessions, so there is no need to readjust the next time you use it.”

You can always change your background colors on your computer and internet browser but I find those limiting. There are many other color overlay programs available. If you find a good one, please share. These are very handy tools and can make staring at a computer screen so much more tolerable.

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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yDFQXxWIyvQ

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
KarenHopejpg

“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 to understand Dyslexia and how to manage it.

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 they could do to help her (New Horizon provided assistance that provided insight to help me understand 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 working with Dyslexic children.

"Boxing Words" to help Dyslexics learn to Spell

“Boxing Words” to help Dyslexics learn to Spell

Gen, a fifth grader at the time,  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 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  long multi-syllabic word because of course I didn’t believe it could 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. However I haven’t found 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 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. This method has been called “boxing words” or “word boxing” by some teachers I have talked to over the years. I have been trying to find some information on the net about boxing and 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”. All the Dyslexic children I have worked with have been 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 help a Dyslexic visualize words in their minds so they can start to retain them. The 14 Steps has 13 other practice methods to help Dyslexics improve their spelling  and reading fluency.

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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Help for Dyslexic Adults wanting to improve their Writing and Grammar

How to help Dyslexics improve their grammar and writing skills

How to help Dyslexics improve their grammar and writing skills

We are often asked for suggestions to help adult Dyslexics improve their writing skills such as spelling, grammar and organization of ideas. There are lots of helpful methods and accommodations. Here are a few ideas.

For Dyslexics it is often important to see examples and reasons for learning any new information or skills rather than just following step by step instructions.

  • For spelling and grammar you could try going to a local college and take a course(s) on “technical writing”.  A technical writer is:

“a professional writer who engages in technical writing and produces technical documentation. The Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators has defined the profession as preparing information which helps users…

“Technical writing involves the creation of useful documents that can be clearly understood by readers. Good technical writing clarifies “jargon” presenting useful information that is clear and easy to understand for the intended audience; poor technical writing may increase confusion by creating unnecessary jargon or failing to explain it. While grammar, spelling and punctuation are of the utmost importance to technical writing, style is not; it can be sacrificed if doing so increases clarity, which is considered more important to the genre.”  ~wikedpedia

Technical writing is geared for occupations such as online help, user guides/manuals, white papers, design specifications, system manuals, project plans, test plans. This type of writing is a great place for a Dyslexic to learn grammar and structure in writing because the style is very specific, concise and not “flowery”.

College level technical writing  courses  are a good resource for learning this writing style. I would suggest taking a least two or more of these courses to work towards proficiency in this writing technique. Creative writers will take repeat courses in creative writing to practice, be critiqued and develop good writing skills to improve their stories or poetry. Dyslexics can also take online courses but I think the classroom can be very beneficial for feedback and hands on attention which is important to Dyslexics.

Because technical writing is for documenting information and instructions it can also be good practice for a Dyslexic learning to create a sequence of steps leading to a conclusion which is very difficult for many “big picture to details” Dyslexics.

Before taking the course try to find a teacher who is a “big picture” thinker.  Interview them or talk to other students who have taken their courses. Questions to ask: Does the professor use “mindmaps” to lay out lessons, favour explaining the “whys, whats and how”, gives lots of examples of the writing assignments, and uses big picture teaching methods. REMEMBER:  if they teach in a step by step sequential manner a Dyslexic will often be lost and frustrated.

If a Dyslexic takes one course they might have found it somewhat or very confusing – unless they get a very right-brain thinking teacher who thinks like them. They shouldn’t give up. The first course will help with the big picture of the technical writing style and the next and maybe third course will probably work well for the Dyslexic student wanting to learn how to write well. I realize this is a lot of dedication and most people probably don’t want to do more school but it will help tremendously.

  • Another great way to practice good grammar and writing style is with public speaking. There is a website by a Dyslexic professor who discovered public speaking and it changed his life. I would check it out, maybe contact him for suggestions and find a course on public speaking. It will also help massively for a Dyslexic’s work in communications with people. His website is:http://publicspeakinglosangeles.net/
  • Learn to mind map which will help with all facets of a Dyslexic’s work life and help them  write better. Tony Buzan’s website is great for information:

http://www.tonybuzan.com/

  • There are computer programs available to help a Dyslexic improve their writing and spelling by using spell and grammar check software. For example:

http://www.ghotit.com/

http://www.gingersoftware.com

  • Dragon Naturally Speaking is speech recognition software. You speak, it records and prints the text on your computer screen. This program helps a Dyslexic turn their thoughts into text. Often Dyslexics are very articulate but cannot write because they lose their ideas in the effort of trying to remember proper spelling and employing the physical action of handwriting or typing.

One thing to remember – part of the process with speech recognition software is training it to a person’s voice. This is done by using a head set with mic and reading a passage out loud that the software provides in the program. There are a number of reading choices.

The problem with this method is Dyslexics have difficulty reading aloud so the program will not train properly to their voice. The program cannot recognize their words when the Dyslexic reader hesitates, mispronounces or says the wrong word. The answer is to download and print the reading sample they chose.  Make sure to increase the size of the font and double space it. Then practice reading it in a normal voice until they are not hesitating or mispronouncing words. I wish I had a quarter for every parent of a Dyslexic student or adult Dyslexic who told me the program doesn’t work for them and gave up on it. They don’t realize the need to practice saying the passage aloud so the program gets a clear impression of their voice.

If you have something to share that you have found works for Dyslexics improving their spelling, grammar and writing I hope you will add it the comment section.

Thanks for your interest!
Karey Hope deGraaf
Dyslexia Victoria Online

Karey Hope deGraaf of Dyslexia Victoria Online

How do Dyslexics go from having a Learning Difference to a Learning Disability

When I talk to parents with children who they suspect have Dyslexia I generally hear the same story. Problems with letters, numbers, counting and words when they were four or five. They couldn’t print well but often very artistic especially for their age. Sometimes they started talking later than other children and had speech difficulties such as lisps, mispronunciation of words more than other children, couldn’t remember simple words so would say “thing-a-ma-jig”, “whatcha-ma-callit” or use the wrong word. But they were also intelligent and quick learners with other skills and knowledge such as building things with legos, athletics, art projects, singing, dancing, telling stories, remembering events or movies in extensive detail or making observations about things that is way beyond their years. They loved to learn, asked endless questions about everything and were excited about going to school.

When they enter school they continue to have problems with letters, phonics, words, numbers, arithmetic, and other linear sequential skills such as memorizing the alphabet or counting in the right order. They also have difficulties with instructions so they don’t always understand what the teacher wants. As each year passes there is less and less emphasis on singing, dancing, drawing, painting, making things and physically demonstrating all new concepts. Their excitement to be in school begins to dissolve and is replaced with frustration, confusion, fear, anger, sadness and physical distress such as headaches, stomach aches and throwing up. Their self-esteem drops and they begin to doubt themselves.

Teachers become frustrated with them not understanding what they need and their classmates start to tease them because they can’t spell or read and they print poorly.  Right brain dominant children ask the same questions over and over and when they read out loud they can take forever, mispronounce everything, and can’t sound the words out.

School becomes a scary place and they will often feign sickness to stay home. Some children will have anxiety attacks at the mere thought of going to school.

As each grade passes, their problems and anxiety deepen. Dyslexics as right brain dominant thinkers are generally very empathetic and intuitive so they become keenly aware of the distress and fear their parents are feeling for them and  the frustration or outright hostility their teachers and classmates are expressing towards them in the classroom. They get farther and farther behind the class, convinced they are stupid and eventually shut down when learning things in class they are really good at such as science, math, building things or making up a story orally.

By grade four or five their learning difference has become a learning disability and these students are can be experiencing depression and other psychological issues.  I have had several parents tell me their children were saying they wanted to kill themselves when they were in the third or fourth grade.   Junior and high school is a nightmare as the school work becomes more difficult and demanding and they don’t have the ability to read a lot of  books for their school subjects. Less and less of their schooling uses concrete real examples – the emphasis is on abstract learning and requires students to do endless worksheets, written tests, reports and essays. Little of their schoolwork requires or allows a physical demonstration of the subject (3 dimensional structures, posters, drawings, play, dance or videos),  to show understanding and knowledge – mostly writing.  Eventually these students become a large percentage of our school’s dropouts.

So can this picture be different for a Dyslexic student? Of course it can. Let’s rewind this story back to the beginning.

  • When our right brain student enters the school system the school tests them and other children  for reading readiness.  Some children, especially Dyslexics are not mature or developed enough for reading in kindergarten or grade one. When children are significantly younger than other students in their grade, a difference of six months or more in age is enough to severely affect a child being able to keep up with the class.
  • Then determine the students who learn letters, phonics, words, numbers and sequences easily (word to image thinkers or left brain dominant) from the visual students. Visual or right brain dominant thinkers are image to word thinkers. They need to learn in whole complete and concrete concepts (images)and connect them to words. Complete understanding of letters, words and numbers comes more slowly for them.

These students are then broken into classrooms that teach to these two very different groups of learners  –  classes for strong left brain learners and right brain learners. Multi-sensory, hands on physical demonstration style teaching would be high priority in both classes but mandatory for all subjects for the right brainers throughout their school years.

The right brain/dyslexic students would be given more time to learn how to spell and read utilizing teaching methods appropriate for right brain learners such as colour to learn letters, numbers and arithmetic and making letters and numbers with modelling clay
(Ron Davis – The Gift of Dyslexia).

There would be emphasis on starting with sight reading and syllables (word families) which right brain dominant students learn more easily at the beginning.

Teachers would  encourage these students to ask their questions and use stories and pictures to explain everything. They would respect their need to not just learn information in a rote manner such as the steps to solving a division problem but would prioritize making a concept real by demonstrating what division is (subtracting in groups as opposed to multiplication which is adding in groups). This can be done with groups of candy, objects, pies, etc) so they understand what division is before doing the steps. This gives the big picture and meaning behind division.

Special attention would be paid to giving extensive practice learning to print to help address Dysgraphia, a common issue for Dyslexics, screening to see if they have Irlen Syndrome (distablized text) and learning style (auditory, kinesthetic or visual). Once these issues are determined then accommodations would be put in place.

Computers would be given them in the early grades with the use of the many programs available that would help them with their schoolwork. Some teachers will say this is unfair to other students in a class who don’t have a computer. If the Dyslexic student is not able to complete school work in the same fashion as other students who don’t have problems with reading and writing then the Dyslexic student is simply “leveling the playing field”.

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There are many different ways to make a right brain dominant and Dyslexic student’s school experience successful and exciting to prepare them for their future.

For more ideas I have provided some links:
Dyslexia Victoria Online
http://www.dyslexiavictoriaonline.com

Gifted Children (Visual Spatial Learners)
http://www.gifteddevelopment.com/Visual_Spatial_Learner/vsl.htm

4D program in New Zealand
http://www.4d.org.nz/school/

Neil MacKay (noted Dyslexia expert)
http://www.actiondyslexia.co.uk/

Chat with Sally Shaywitz (another Dyslexia specialist)
http://www.greatschools.org/special-education/LD-ADHD/859-overcoming-dyslexia-a-chat.gs?page=1#2

British Dyslexia Association
http://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk/

Also you might want to check out the page on our website about suggested books to read:
http://www.dyslexiavictoriaonline.com/otbowere.html

And our blog is:
https://dyslexiavictoria.wordpress.com/
You can sign up to receive new blog entries on the left side of the main page of the blog at the top where it says “Email Subscription Rants and Raves from the Right Side”

Cheers!
Karey Hope deGraaf
Dyslexia Victoria Online Co-founder
Karey Hope deGraaf of Dyslexia Victoria Online