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

Making White Boards with Different Colored Backgrounds for Dyslexics and Irlen Syndrome Sufferers

We have found a common problem with the Dyslexics we assess and tutor. They often have an issue with black text on a white background. The text is not stable so they have difficulties looking at and reading anything that is written on white. This includes white paper, computer screens & “white” white boards.  The name of this condition is Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome or Irlen’s Syndrome. Below is a quote from an Irlen’s site

What is the Cause of Irlen Syndrome, and Why do Colors Help?

    “Although the exact cause of Irlen Syndrome has yet to be established, it has been shown to be a visual-perceptual problem, most likely originating either in the retina of the eye or in visual cortex in the brain. The following is a hypothetical explanation, based on current research into this syndrome.

   In the visual system, there are two separate visual processing pathways, the Magnocellular, or Fast, and the Parvocellular, or Slow.  The Fast pathway does not see colours, and is responsible for discerning movement, depth, and high contrast images.  The Slow pathway determines colour, fine details and resolves low contrast images.  The Fast pathway is also responsible for inhibiting the slow pathway when the eyes are moved, so that the image of what was previously being looked at does not persist.  It appears that in people with Irlen Syndrome, the Fast pathway is disabled to some extent.  This seems to affect the ability of the Fast pathway to inhibit the Slow pathway, which in turn results in images persisting when the eyes are moved. As a result, the brain perceives overlapping images. In severe cases, when the brain tries to interpret these images, it perceives images that aren’t there. The individual may “see” letters moving on the page, blurring, or forming strange patterns. In less severe cases, the misperceptions do not occur or may be suppressed, but the brain expends more energy in processing the images than is required by most people, resulting in headaches, eyestrain, and/or fatigue. These problems generally get worse the longer a person tries to read, or do other visually intensive activities.

    Bright lights, fluorescent lights, or glossy paper will often make the problems worse, as the extreme contrast will increase the problem of persistent images.  Irlen Syndrome manifests itself most strongly when reading words or music, because of the repetitive patterns on the page. When the eyes scan across the page, the patterns of words on the page and persistent images will jumble in a manner that is difficult for the brain to interpret properly. In the Irlen Method, the individual is assesed with a wide array of colour filters, singly and in combination, to find the most suitable colour.  The colour filters appear to act by blocking some of the light which would normally activate the Slow visual pathway, in effect taking over the inhibitory role of the Fast pathway, and thus appear to reduce or eliminate the persistent images.  The filters stop the confusing signals from being sent to the brain, and the individual will see the page more normally and easily.  This treatment may also be helpful to individuals who experience other related problems, such as faulty depth perception or night driving difficulties.”

“White” white boards are often very difficult for Dyslexic students. The boards are a great tool for mind mapping, drawing out explanations of new concepts for them, brain storming and more visual/kinesthetic teaching methods which are ideal for Dyslexics. The whiteness of the board however for Dyslexics experiencing Irlen Syndrome can be very difficult for them to see writing on.

We have been looking for products to make non-white boards for home, classrooms, and personal use. We have found a chalkboard paint in many different colours and a sealer that goes over paint and creates an erasable marker board. Perfect for creating a background surface that is the student’s Irlen colour.

Hudson Chalkboard Paint (

Walls Love Ink Sealer (

Check out their websites and ideas.  We found all kinds of possibilities on their sites and googling images for chalkboard or white board projects.

Also I found a recipe to make your own chalkboard paint in any colour your want on Martha Stewart’s blog.

Custom Colors How-To

Start with flat-finish latex paint in any shade. For small areas, such as a door panel, mix 1 cup at a time.

1. Pour 1 cup of paint into a container. Add 2 tablespoons of unsanded tile grout. Mix with a paint stirrer, carefully breaking up clumps.

2. Apply paint with a roller or a sponge paintbrush to a primed or painted surface. Work in small sections, going over the same spot several times to ensure full, even coverage. Let dry.

3. Smooth area with 150-grit sandpaper, and wipe off dust.

4. To condition: Rub the side of a piece of chalk over entire surface. Wipe away residue with a barely damp sponge.

So we are going to start making small chalk and erasable boards for our Dyslexic Irlen sufferers, 24″ x 30″ non-white erasable or chalk boards or as big as needed, paint entire walls to really great creative. Dyslexics are extremely inventive so they will probably love a project like this and a great background to work on schoolwork!

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

On Being Right Brained and Sequencing

In a previous blog entry, I wrote about my struggles with writing essays while attending university.  The main problem was trying to sort through all the detail in the body of the essay and be able to prioritize, select relevant material and put it in a logical order on the page.  I recently had a similar experience when asked to review a story and write a critique for the author.

I first read the story making random notes, in no logical order; just thoughts and questions about character development, narrative structure, plot etc., as they hit me while reading.  Being right brained and therefore needing a complete picture before even beginning to understand the component parts of the story, I had to read through to the end first and then go back from the beginning to pick up the detail.  I had to know where I was going, what the entire world of the story looked like, before I could really see what worked and what didn’t.  When I went back over my first set of notes, I realized none of it made any sense.  It was as if I had written sentences, torn the paper into fragments the size of each word and then scattered it all in the air.  I didn’t even realize I was doing it.  I couldn’t use any of it so started again.

At least I had the entire story in mind on the second pass.  But I found that the instant I focused on one issue – for example, was a particular character’s development consistent throughout the story? – I lost sight of the other issues while tracking through the story.  So I started writing paragraphs trying to distill my thoughts on each issue.   The more I wrote, the more confused it all became.  Every thought, every sentence took me in a new direction with new possibilities and I couldn’t keep on track with one single line of analysis.

So I started again.  On the third pass, I picked up details I hadn’t seen before.  When I thought something was missing the first and second time and then found it on the third review, I thought something must be wrong with my memory.  Then I remembered that this was the exact problem I had during my education and could solve it using the question and answer techniques I learned when studying accounting and finance.

I broke the story into sections and then did a breakdown of each important event asking specific questions to keep me focused on the relevant issues.  I was then able to answer those questions and write a few words to summarize my thoughts on each event.  When I was looking for consistent patterns, I wrote one word on each line of breakdown and circled it.  I did this for each issue I thought was important.  At the end, I had a set of notes that probably looked like hieroglyphics, but I could look at an entire page at a glance and see the patterns I needed to write the commentary.  After that, it was just a matter of laying it down section by section.

The thing about being right brained is that we can’t sequence easily but we can see whole patterns.  When going step by step, it’s like we’re in a dark forest and the path behind and in front of us disappears with each step we take.  We can’t see where we’re going and we can’t remember where we were.  We need to crane up over the forest, see the entire path, where it curves, where the straight stretches are, where it begins and ends; then we can drop back onto it and find our way.  Sometimes we need a picture of the entire path in our hands to find our way.  The good news is that we can find tools to help us do that.  Mine is asking specific questions that force me to focus and writing my own answers.

Cate Hope
Our wandering right brain writer
For a little background on Cate go to our website page
“About Us”

Dyslexics have Difficulties with Time Management

Time management is very difficult, if not impossible for many Dyslexics.   This is not due to them being lazy, thoughtless or uncaring. Dyslexics are right-brain dominant thinkers and live in the present. The past and future belong to the left-brainers.

A Dyslexic tends not to look at their life in any kind of a systematic way. They are often called “free spirits”, “flighty” , “unfocused” or “easily distracted” .

Dyslexics however are solidly planted in the moment and if they are spending time with you, that is where they are mentally – 100% with you. They may seem distracted as their minds may drift or catapult to a stimulating tangent or many tangents as you chat due to the conversation sparking new and exciting thoughts for them, but they are with you. They can even have difficulty pulling themselves away to another obligation or are willing to cancel everything to spend time with you.

Dyslexics are also intuitive, very empathetic and enjoy counseling others.  They have a passionate desire to problem solve along with an often overwhelming need to help others feel balanced and happy.  They tend to “feel” another person’s emotions and they can and will drop everything to help if they think it is important.

As a Dyslexic in a large family of right-brainers I often find myself in wonderful conversations filled with a wide variety of ideas and laughter with the “righties” in my life and we hate to move on or go somewhere else. Our dinner conversations can easily turn into stimulating all nighters. Dyslexics love to ponder a subject and sometimes have to be metaphorically “dragged away, kicking and screaming”.

Dyslexics will become immersed in problem-solving an issue and have difficulty stopping. I always know I am talking to a right-brained person when they go way overboard helping me when I am at a store, organization, government office, etc. They will keep coming up with other ideas and want to be sure I know all aspects of the “big picture” – people to contact, companies to check out, phone numbers, information that they don’t necessarily need to tell me but can make a huge difference, other options – they can’t stop! – even if they need to get on with their own work .

Dyslexics tend to be perfectionists and will get stuck on some part of their work or project.  They can’t move on till their project is what they imagined and will usually continue to improve it as they go.  The time and schedule will get away from them and they are not finished for their deadline.  This Dyslexic individual is then viewed as a time waster,  not organized,  can’t prioritize or able to stay focused.  One of the problems with getting their work done is they are extremely focused. It is also very hard to stop when a Dyslexic’s imagination and creative juices are flowing. The result of their work however, will generally be well thought out, innovative and more than what was expected of them.

If they are working on a task or project they are totally engaged, being creative, problem solving, excited and having a terrible time pulling themselves away, let alone being aware of “the clock”.  Many of the Dyslexics I have come to know will despair over people not understanding they are getting their job done, they just need more time. Dyslexics live in the “now” and not aware of their schedule or anyone else which often makes them seem as if they are in their “own world”.  My sister gave me a t-shirt once that said “People say I live in my own little world but that’s okay because they all know me there!

I should finish by saying we do tell the people we work with who have a typical Dyslexic’s issue with time management that it is important to try to improve it.  There are a couple of techniques that I have found can work can work quite well:

Using a timer to stay on track with the amount of time spent on a task or a reminder to wrap it up and get ready to leave or move onto another task. This can really help – it’s made a big difference to my personal and work life. But I struggle with the part about stopping what I’m doing.

Dyslexics tend to think of the time for their next obligation or appointment only when that time comes so they will usually be late. My friends used to tell me to show up at 5:00pm for dinner knowing that I would show up at 6:00pm.  I wouldn’t start to think about leaving until the time I was supposed to be somewhere.  I finally figured this one out. If I have to be there at 5:00 I subtract the amount of time I need to get ready and drive or walk there. Then I set my timer and agree with myself that I will stop. I am usually able to stop with in 5 to 10 minutes of the timer going off.

Here are a couple of links for time management info for Dyslexics that you might find useful:

So be patient with the Dyslexics and right-brainers in your life, give them a hug and tell them it’s okay because you know they are trying really hard with their lists, schedules, deadlines and keeping track of their “stuff”.  Also noticing and remarking on all the wonderful things that can occur from how they spend their time would also be very supportive.

Co-founder of Dyslexia Victoria Online

Dyslexia Victoria Online Update

Finally starting to get recognized.

One of the most difficult things about what Karey and I do is getting recognized as a valuable resource. I know many of you who read our blogs find our methods and opinions to be helpful. Karey and I also know that the many, many individuals we have helped in the last few years also know that our service has been extremely helpful as well. We get emails and phone calls from parents of children we have assessed and made teaching programs for all the time. Every single one of them has told us how grateful they are that their child is now on a learning path that is right for them. These kids are happier with themselves as their school work gets easier to understand.

Teachers at the Pro D day events tell us that our methods are easy to understand and also simple to implement in their classrooms.

What has been difficult though is getting recognized by officials, school officials, literacy group officials, learning disability associations officials, government service providers and lots of others too. If only we could get the parents and teachers and students together to tell their stories to the public. We are sure that more educators, care givers, parents and Dyslexic adults would get a chance to learn that there are new, different methods available to help with Dyslexic learning issues. Well, it looks like that might be happening a little bit right now.

I have been contacting  local newspapers, reporters and TV stations in the general area around where Karey and I live. Last week I actually got a call back. In the city of Victoria, BC  Canada there is a TV news station called CHEK NEWS. Within their  broadcast they have a segment called ISLAND 30. It’s a 30 minute news show dedicated to news events and community events on Vancouver Island, BC. The reporter asked me if we would be interested in being interviewed with one of the parents and child who we helped late last year.

The interview was last Tuesday and was aired on February 4 at 7 pm and again at 10:30pm. You can see the interview on the TV station archives their ISLAND 30 shows for 2 weeks on their website. Go to” CHEK NEWS Victoria British Columbia” Then click on the ISLAND 30 link on the left side of the page. A series of big blue buttons will appear on the bottom of the page, click on the Feb 4 button. The very beginning of the segment shows that interview. It’s short but fun.

For anyone who has read our blogs or emailed us or phoned us or knows anything about us at all you know that our goal is not to drum up business for the sake of getting rich. Our goal is and always will be to educate the public about Dyslexia, teaching strategies and accommodations that work . Dyslexia has a lot of positive attributes, there are lots of ways to teach Dyslexic individuals to read and write and spell, etc.

Maybe this TV coverage will start to get the word out. I sure hope so because we know how easy it is to help individuals with Dyslexic learning issues, we just need to let everybody know as well.

Happy trails
Howie deGraaf
Editor and Co-founder of Dyslexia Victoria Online



Recently an acquaintance commented on the mind map that I was using while taking part in a group workshop.

“You dyslexics like those don’t you?” she said in a voice that carried around the room. Then, fearing she had blundered, she whispered, “Oh I’m sorry, they don’t know, do they?”

But they did know because I had told them.

Dyslexia is not a problem for me. On the contrary – unlike many potential employers and people with Dyslexia – I consider it a powerful asset, which has given me a unique insight and a set of capabilities and skills with which I have achieved success.

Invariably, when initially diagnosed as having Dyslexia, people react by being:

* Relieved * Frustrated
* Overloaded * Inadequate
* Angry * Stupid
* Fearful * Ashamed
* Evangelistic

The perception of Dyslexia, which they and the population in general have, is frequently negative. This is continually reinforced by their failure to conform to traditional standards of reading and writing.

For some people with Dyslexia, these ‘hang-ups’ prevent them from developing their true potential – we all know what they are, don’t we?

* Difficulty with reading
* Difficulty when reading large amounts
* Difficulty with organising
* Difficulty remembering instructions
* Difficulty with hidden meanings in conversation
* Difficulty coping with interruptions
* Difficulty with hand – writing and spelling
* Difficulty with grammar
* Difficulty with directions
* Difficulty with concentration

In short, DIFFICULTY with everything!

Many employers also perceive Dyslexia as a barrier, which excludes or condemns individuals from a window of opportunity. While we should not try to underestimate the problems, to see Dyslexia purely in these terms is to deny its positive attributes. The many successful Dyslexics, who work in industry, commerce, academia and entertainment, exploit such attributes.

So amongst both groups – people with Dyslexia and employers – attitudes need to be changed, if Dyslexia is ever to be recognised as a positive and creative force which can enhance both social and professional lives.

Take a look at this picture. It is a good example of how we perceive. What do you see, a young lady or an old one? The answer lies in the way you look at it.

(If you look at the left of the picture you can see the young girl’s eye, look towards the middle of the bottom you can see the old lady’s chin)

The way we are perceived can mean the difference between obtaining employment and gaining promotion or not.

In industry the perception by the public, of a company or product, is vital to its marketing success. So to, is that of individuals in the employment market.

So who is responsible? Principally, it has to be ourselves. People’s perception of us is based upon how we communicate. In other words how we market ourselves.

Successful marketing is about getting the right product, to the right place, at the right time and at the right price. Substitute ‘person’ for ‘product’ and we have a strategy for gaining employment and achieving promotion.

In selling ourselves we must first – as with any good product – recognise our USP (unique selling point). People with Dyslexia are lucky. They have a whole host of unique skills and abilities waiting to be tapped.

* Thinks in a natural organic way
* Good team player
* Loyal and Passionate
* Problem solver
* Excellent overview capabilities
* Excellent intuitive skills
* Excellent visualisation skills
* Fast thinking
* Can be visionary
* Imaginative
* Innovative and original
* Can be very articulate
* Very creative

Understanding your OWN pattern of Dyslexia is vital to the way forward. It means answering several questions: of Dyslexia?

* What are my strengths
* Am I a visual, auditory or kinesthetic person?
* What are my communication skills like?

The answers will both help in discovering your USP and in releasing the self-limiting beliefs which inhibit your real potential.

‘Knowledge Dispels Fear’

* A simple ‘mission statement’ encompassing your key patterns, strengths and aspirations will help you focus yourself and lift the barriers and inhibitions implanted by our traditional educational system and society.

* For those who have followed this path the rewards have been tremendous:

•  Peter is a marketing manager in a major international engineering company, using his spatial and visual way of thinking on a daily basis. His Dyslexia empowers him to think through complex strategies and systems quickly, work which would have taken a team weeks to complete.

•  John is now being recognised for his overview capabilities and different way of seeing things on a major assembly line, which makes him a valuable team player.

•  Dave’s intuitive and communication skills are giving him a distinct advantage when dealing with his Government Agency’s most difficult and complex clients.

•  Jean, working for a large multi national, can now implement her visual way of thinking when designing and planning for her company. It works because the organisation has a clear understanding of her Dyslexia and now uses auditory methods of communication that meet her identified needs.

All of these people work in an environment where the individual is accepted for their strengths, self worth and pride. Of equal importance to the Dyslexic, is to be aware of their weaknesses, and not let these inhibit the confidence their strengths provide.

By developing a clear understanding of their own patterns, strengths and learning senses, they have changed attitudes and perception, offering employers a bonus, that unique ‘cutting edge’ so many organisations are looking for today, found in the creative thinking of people with Dyslexia.

Nike- “Share of mind equals share of market”

Tom Peters- “The only asset a company now has is Imagination”

Charles Handy- “We need new perspectives on everything”

Today the really successful companies are those with a competitive edge. People with Dyslexia are largely an untapped and hidden resource. For companies and dyslexics to benefit from that resource they need to address the following key points:

* Examine – ways in which their organisation deals with people with Dyslexia

* Harness – the creativity and innovation of people with Dyslexia

* Help – people with Dyslexia to release their potential and contribute their unique skills

* Empower – people with Dyslexia to become team players.

* Extend – their awareness of issues from a dyslexic’s point of view.

* Train – people with Dyslexia more effectively.

* Increase – their competitive edge.

* Expand – access to learning opportunities within the organisation.

* Channel – the passion of people with Dyslexia.

* Untap – this powerful resource.

* Explore imaginative ways of learning and thinking.

For many Dyslexics and non-Dyslexics this will be a new perspective.

Asking the right questions and looking for the right answers, and discovering your USP will give others the right perception of you and possibly give you that ’competitive edge’ you have always wanted.

Remember that we are born with Dyslexia and we will die with Dyslexia – something of which many of us are becoming increasingly proud.

Good Luck!
Alan McDowell 1995

*Fulcrum is a Dyslexia adult service provider in Europe Alan is a past trustee of the British Dyslexia Association

Blog, Web Changes, Book Recommendations and Distance Learning Courses – May 9, 2010

Hi, Howie deGraaf here.

By the time you read this,the old website should be gone and you can visit the new website. Karey Hope and I created the old site. It worked okay but we are not, in any way, website designers. Back in 2005 we figured the most efficient way to get people to learn about how we see the best way to approach Dyslexia Awareness and the best way to teach Dyslexics was to get onto the Internet. So we went online and got some advice and gave it a try. The old one worked but it was getting too complicated, the basis of it was formed by three people  (Karey, Andrew DuToit, a programmer by trade,  and myself).

The original co-founders of Dyslexia Victoria Online are Karey Hope and her mother Jan Turner. With three people designing that website, the focus of it was a little too broad. There were too many categories and it really was a little difficult to navigate. Last summer Jan officially retired due to a series of health issues. Since then Karey and I have made some significant changes to the website and the business. We are  using the website less for teaching and more for communicating with people. We hope to use the website to help get people going in  the right direction.

One of the newest products we offer is a pair of distance learning courses.“Course One – How the Right Brain Learns and Thinks” includes teaching aids, a study guide and workbook that teaches the individual how to understand Dyslexia as a Learning Difference and how to teach to it. The next course “Course Two – How to Assess and Evaluate the Dyslexic Student” includes instructions on how to assess for Dyslexic issues, and by using the instructions, how teach to these issues.

By the end of this year we should also have re-written the original books as well. The information in the books is going to be the same but we are adding many new concepts and teaching strategies. We are also making some formatting changes. Some of the language will be updated and we have found lots of images we want to put into them as well to demonstrate the teaching methods. We discovered the effectiveness of these images as we began to put more of them into our assessment reports,  presentations and workshops.

Our assessments have been going extremely well and very soon, perhaps in a month, there will a new testimonial section on the website with comments from the parents of the children we have created specialized teaching programs for.

One parent recently mentioned summer is rapidly approaching and she thought we should prepare for it by creating something special for parents who are helping children get ready for the new school year during the summer break. We hadn’t thought about the summer months as being any different from the rest of the year but really the summer can be a terrific opportunity for children to prepare for the upcoming school year. This parent said that most of the recommendations, that are the basis for the specialized teaching programs we make for the student, are actually just little bits of practice of specific skills but done on a consistent basis. With that in mind Karey and I have made a couple of special offers for parents for the summer. The assessments are going to include a couple of our books as well as some practice exercises that can be done completely independently from school work. I am offering sales on our books as well.

To help you learn more about our theory and perception of Dyslexia we are offering a 2 for 1 sale on two of our E-books from May 15th till the end of the summer:  “Dyslexia or Being Right Brained” and is a great to use as a primer guide on how we handle teaching to Dyslexia. Largely it explains why we don’t consider Dyslexia as a Learning Disability but rather simply a Learning Difference. The second book“Teaching the Dyslexic Student: Spelling and Reading” discusses Dyslexia Spelling and Language Arts issues and teaching strategies including why understanding Learning Styles is especially important when teaching a Dyslexic individual. It also contains the “The Spelling Notebook” which is a tool for helping Dyslexic students record spelling words they are having difficulty with. One of the big changes we are making to this book, in the reformatting later this year, is the addition of “The Fourteen Steps to Teaching  Dyslexics to Spell and Reading”. This mini manual has been extremely successful in helping Dyslexic students with spelling and reading. Parents and teachers have been contacting us to say that the results of using these teaching strategies have been rapid, often with results in less that a week. To anyone ordering the e-book “Teaching the Dyslexic Student: Spelling and Reading” we will include the download of the “The Fourteen Steps to Teaching Dyslexics to Spell and Read”.

So if you are thinking about helping your Dyslexic child get a head start on the next school year perhaps starting by using the two books I have mentioned would be a part of that plan.

Dyslexia or Being Right-brained E-book and Teaching the Dyslexic Student: Spelling and ReadingOrder both books today with our summer program!

Good luck and hope you have a great summer.

Howie deGraaf
Editor Dyslexia Victoria Online
Howie deGraaf - Dyslexia Victoria Online