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 –


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

Dyslexic Communication in “Pearls before Swine” Cartoon

“Pearls before Swine” is one of my favourite cartoons. I saw this one and I was really tickled about what a truly Dyslexic moment this is for communication. I have had many conversations with my husband like this. As a Dyslexic I am talking about my mental “big picture” that I am thinking at any given moment. The words I verbalize can get confused because I am picking things in the middle, side, or maybe the many extra images that get added to the first one. That can bring me to a completely different topic while I am in the middle of talking about the first one. Hard to talk about two things at once or maybe three!

So my husband will ask me will I be ready to leave by a certain time and I will respond with I have to dress, make a phone call, clean the bathroom…  you know – the big picture and he will interrupt and say “I don’t care how you will get ready but will you?”

This can be a common problem for women in general when talking to  left brain dominant men as we process  information from the right brain more easily than men do. A wonderful book to read about this difference between men and women is: The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image (Compass) by Leonard Shlain.

You can watch a group of women talk this way and they all understand and follow each other without additional explanation. However, if a woman is also Dyslexic this can really compound right brain communication issues. For a boy or man who is Dyslexic which means his right hemisphere is more dominant and his brain is wired a little differently, it must be painful talking to his friends who are lefties. I have often noticed Dyslexic boys will be able to talk to women more easily and relate to male or female teachers who are more right brain oriented in their teaching style. I would suggest you read my “How Teachers can Accommodate the Dyslexic Student” for ideas on how to teach Dyslexics their way.

Have a great day! – it’s the only one you have at this moment.

Karey Hope deGraaf
Co-founder of Dyslexia Victoria Online

How Dyslexics Keep Track of their “Stuff”

I was talking to a friend recently who is Dyslexic like me and shares many of the same behaviors and traits common to many Dyslexics. We chatted about needing a “box” that held current projects, work from the office, “to do”  lists, bills to pay, books to read, pictures, cards to mail for special occasions, letters to write, warranties to mail, personal journals, drawings, events to go to and the box often substitutes for a daily planner. There are limitless versions of the “box”,  each designed to fit the owner’s needs and interests. The box can be portable so it can be carried everywhere and even on trips. Some people prefer a larger place to put their stuff and it will stay in one location.  Moveable boxes needs to be sturdy, a good size and light – my friend and I favor banker boxes. Perfect size, weight and has a lid!

When I worked for our family business my box came home with me every night and back to the office every morning.  Sometimes I would work on what was in the box or not.  I have often taken the contents of my box and spread it through my luggage on the off chance I might need to do something with it. My ex-husband found my attachment to my box odd and sometimes insisted I leave it at work. I would feel uncomfortable all night concerned I might need it and maybe even drive out secretly to get it.

Okay, so it is a little weird but all people are a bit weird in one way or another. My box keeps my mind calm. My friend says that she and her husband were painting the house and he put her box out in the shed temporarily along with other stuff in the rooms of their house. She had to know its location so she could at least visualize where it was so she could be calm and feel safe.

What I have learned over the years is that many of the Dyslexic children and adults I have met have the their own “box”. What is in the box varies widely but the main similarity is their need to keep their currently important stuff with them or somewhere they think is safe. They generally know all the contents and where it is located in their box. They can also tell if someone has been through the box.

So the question is why do some Dyslexics have a box that holds so much importance for them? We are visual people that think in images – whole pictures of everything. What  currently is of concern to us can cause us worry because we have to keep those pictures of our responsibilities together somewhere. Dyslexics have a tendency to lose things or forget about them and obligations, deadlines, events, important dates, things to pay or file can create a nightmare for them to keep under control.  We are not great at remembering or seeing the details of our pictures of our daily, monthly and god forbid, yearly responsibilities so we fret about keeping them somewhere we can find them easily and sift through regularly.

Daily planners are so frustrating because we plan to write in them or use a computer diary but after a day or so we never look at them again. Dyslexics are right brain dominant thinkers and the right hemisphere focuses on the present and the left hemisphere keeps track of the past and future. We can think about the past and the future but tend to be living in the present so keeping track of what we are supposed to be doing in a diary is quickly forgotten and is not that important until we have to do it. Also daily planners are about being sequential and many Dyslexics have a terrible time with a sequence of any description. So we get a box to hold it all!

A  silly personal example was trying to remember my wedding anniversary with my ex-husband. We are both Dyslexic and terrible at keeping track of special dates. We were married for twenty-six years and almost never remembered our anniversary. Days or a month later one of us would suddenly realize it had passed again. One year my sister tried to help. She called me in the morning to remind me – I thanked her because I had forgotten and then told my ex-husband. We planned to go out to dinner and then forgot to go!! We even made a reservation. My sister phoned me the next day to ask how the dinner went and I said, “What dinner?”.

When we are working with Dyslexic spouses and children we often talk about how many Dyslexics have a box for their stuff. They love to say, “See, I am not being lazy!” to their family members who have been annoyed with their “box” and forgetfulness. We suggest tolerance, understanding and a sense of humor from the family.

What I would love to see is other people’s version of the “Box”. If you would like to email us pictures of yours we will post them in a later blog. As I said before, the box can take many shapes and sizes. Doesn’t have to be portable. Maybe it’s a filing cabinet, closet, cupboard, plastic tote, whatever. Tell us your story about your “box” so we can share with others. Maybe your idea of a box will appeal to other Dyslexics looking for ideas to contain their stuff.

Karey Hope deGraaf
Co-founder of Dyslexia Victoria Online

“Readability” is a Great way to Archive Information and Articles


We spend a lot of time researching and constantly trying to archive the information. We have found a great website – “” for archiving. You can take most information posted on the internet, turn it into an easy to read and print format and then save the articles to “Readability”. They also give a snippet of what you have saved so you can more easily recognize the material.

One of the reasons I love this website is this keeps my information off my computer so I don’t have to worry about my computer crashing and losing the information. Also they make saving an article really easy. The buttons for saving information is located on the left side of your address bar and all you do is click them to save the article or read in a more readable format now rather than having ads, other links and clutter that makes reading more difficult on the computer screen. ImageCheck it out!  It’s also free!

Karey Hope
Dyslexia Victoria Online


Recently I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to attend a workshop with educator, Rich Lavoie. He is an inspiring speaker who uses anecdotes, warm humour and moving stories of the many learning disabled children and their parents he has worked with and known over thirty years in education.

I first learned of Mr. Lavoie a few years ago when my husband, Howie and I were attending a series of workshops put on by a literacy organization for teaching adults how to read. During one of these workshops they showed us a DVD of his F.A.T. City workshop from the 1980’s. The clothes and hair styles may be dated but his forward thinking and innovative approach to working with learning disabled students and understanding what they experience in school is as relevant and fresh today as it was in the 80’s.

Mr. Lavoie employs an interesting tactic in this workshop to help adults understand the world of these kids by taking a classroom full of teachers, parents and school administrators and treating them like learning disabled children are treated on a daily basis. He gives them exercises that are difficult to interpret for most people much like school material that is hard for a learning disabled child to understand. Then he confuses them and is impatient much like some teachers are with these students.

After forty-five minutes of this treatment the adults in his classroom are embarrassed, flustered and definitely not able to “learn” anything with the way he is presenting information. His point is this is how special needs children feel everyday in many classrooms.

I was in tears. I had experienced this treatment and misunderstanding in school with my three Dyslexic children when they were growing up and similar stories from Dyslexics and their parents we have worked with over the years. This is not to say teachers are bad and Mr. Lavoie was quick to point this out. Teachers are overworked and very stressed in many of our schools today and most have not been trained to understand the needs of Dyslexic students or how to teach them.

My husband, Howie and I feel that every teacher graduating from university should be required to watch this workshop. Here is a link to Amazon – F.A.T. City

The new workshop I attended recently was focused on two of his new books out: “The Motivation Breakthrough –
6 Secrets to Turning On the Tuned-Out Child”
and “It’s So Much Work to Be Your Friend- Helping the Child with Learning Disabilities Find Social Success”.

This was an inspirational workshop and gave a different perspective on what motivates children in a classroom I haven’t heard before. He talks about “Motivation Myths” that I found surprising and enlightening. We would recommend you check his speaking schedule and attend. You won’t be disappointed!

Co-founder of Dyslexia Victoria Online

Update on Dyslexia Victoria Online – Aug. 19, 2011

Hi Everybody,

No excuses I just haven’t been writing as often as I should. BUT I did get married. Yes, Karey Hope and I got married on July 30 at 4pm in the back yard of the home where I grew up in Duncan, British Columbia, Canada. Karey and I did most of the planning of this event and it took up most of our time for May, June and July as well as doing the work we do with Dyslexia and this website and blog. We had in-laws and relatives from as far South as California, and as far west as Denver Colorado. It was a lot of fun and took a couple of weeks to finish visiting family and friends. We hope to post some photos on our website, as soon as we get them organized.

So not an excuse, just letting you that we have been distracted from our writing duties and now we are back on track. By the way, Karey and I have waited since 1978 to get married. That is definitely a story that bears explaining at another time but just know that there were a few delays over the past few decades but we finally got it right. Like it says in the invitations to the wedding:   “Howie and Karey are FINALLY getting married.”

Karey and I do a lot of research on Dyslexia and Right Brained learning styles and we find lots of great information and we come up with our own ideas too. Earlier this week I started reading the book; “Right-Brained Children in a Left Brained World” and it is fascinating. The author, Jeffrey Freed MAT,  is an educational consultant who has tutored and helped thousands of ADD and Gifted students. This book is interesting for me for a couple of reasons; it is written in a fashion that makes it a joy to read and it says so much of what we believe.

We are learning that there is a lot more in common with ADD, Dyslexia and other learning “disabilities”.  Jeffrey makes it clear that being very Right Brained leads to all kinds of learning issues. These learning problems are just behaviours that are the result of being taught in a fashion that is inappropriate to Right Brained students. The problem with these children is not with how they learn but rather how they are taught.

He tells the reader about many techniques he uses to help his students, many of them are almost exactly what we recommend to parents and teachers. I have heard from some of the teachers who attend our Professional Development workshops that our teaching methods are just good basic teaching. Jeffrey says the same thing but the important thing to remember is what both Jeffrey and we realize that we are working with students who process information differently.

Sometimes we meet with teachers who would be grateful  to just be given methods that work for specific children based on the label put on them by professionals who do the Psych-Educational testing. Having the methods to teach specific groups of students is only going to work if you know what that child is all about.

Jeffrey makes it clear in this book that we can’t label these children by the behaviours they exhibit that are result of the frustration of being taught in a manner that makes no sense to them. We can’t focus on the deficits that are used to create the labels used to name the learner. We need to focus on the incredible learning strengths of these Right Brained learners.

This is a great book to put on your reading list because it helps put Dyslexia as a particular learning style into a positive light; there are simple methods that do work with these learners. The methods are easy to duplicate, take no specialized training and can be done with materials readily at hand.

Karey and I have mentioned in earlier blogs that one of our goals is to update our books to reflect the new knowledge we are gathering in our research. We do intend to do that in the near future but after reading Jeffrey Freed’s book I realized we have a resource available right now that can be used as a teaching template for Right Brained learners. The methods we recommend for Dyslexic students are also going to be very useful for ADD students.

Along with the many recommendations and resources we include in the teaching programs we create for our clients there is a section we call the “14 Steps to Teach Dyslexic Students how to Spell and Read”. Parents and teachers have told us that the “14 Steps” is so effective as a teaching tool that they have had tremendous success with it by itself.

We are going to incorporate it, along with other methods we have discovered, researched and tested, in the soon to be updated books we publish but we believe it is important to offer it now. So, for parents and teachers who would like a resource that is simple to use and requires no additional training or materials to help with their Right Brained learner we are offering it right now.

You will find it on our website on this link:
“14 Steps to Teach a Dyslexic to Spell & Read”.

I hope I haven’t presented this as a sales pitch just to sell our products because that is not our goal here. As we have said a couple of times our aim is, and always will be, to get you the best information to help you succeed, not just to make a buck. When I read this short manual,”14 Steps” Karey created I realized that these resources need to be presented to parents and teachers now.

Here also is a link to “Right-Brained Children in a Left Brained World” by Jeffrey Freed

from Mr Howard deGraaf & Mrs Karey Hope-deGraaf,
Happy trails!

A Little Help with Dyslexics Writing or Reading “d” and ” b” Backwards and Other Equally Annoying Letters

When we have workshops we always ask the question, “What do you think Dyslexia is?”  The answers always start with, “backwards letters like “b” and “d”. Often this  is all people are aware of.

Most children reverse and turn letters upside down until about grade three. This is a directionality issue. “Directionality”  for a person is the understanding and awareness of where left, right, up, down, above, below, etc. are in relation to where they are standing or sitting at a given point in time.  Many Dyslexics have difficulty with their awareness of direction and often experience it their whole lives.

“Directionality” is also understanding directions for writing tasks such as “write your name in the top right-hand corner,” “draw a line under the word ______,” “draw a picture of yourself in the middle of the paper”. This confusion also extends to letters like b and d, n and u, p and q, m and w, any numbers with two or more numbers like 21 and 12. Some also write backward, from right to left and/or the letters appearing like ordinary writing seen in a mirror.

There is a little trick that often helps the Dyslexic student figure out which way their troublesome letters such as “b” and “d” go.

The letters are normally written in black text. This makes letters that are the same shape such as b, d, p, q hard to differentiate from each other. The children we work with often ask why these four letters are all the same shape.

The solution we use is colour. Dyslexics respond well to colour and by colouring the letters specific colours or making them out of coloured Play Doh or modelling clay they can differentiate them from each other more easily.

By making them out of Play Doh or other modelling mediums you help the child to kinesthetically “feel” the letters which helps them internalize the directions and shapes of the letters.

Also provide a cheat sheet for them to look at with the letters coloured. We suggest laminating a copy for their school desks and at home.

With these teaching methods and aids they will soon have the direction of the letters right. These kids are very visual and will generally commit these coloured images easily to memory.

Note: Make sure you use the same colour for each letter all the time. Otherwise they can get confused.

Co-founder of Dyslexia Victoria Online