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

Helping Dyslexics do their Homework

School is starting and for parents of Dyslexic students all the worries for their children’s education become a daily concern again. Homework is always a big one.

Dyslexic children use more areas of the brain to process language tasks than the average reader therefore they expend more energy – 5 times more! 

“…according to a new study by an interdisciplinary team of University of Washington researchers…to explore the metabolic brain activity of six dyslexic and seven non-dyslexic boys during oral language tasks..
~The dyslexics were using 4.6 times as much area of the brain to do the same language task as the controls,” said Richards, a professor of radiology. “This means their brains were working a lot harder and using more energy than the normal children.”~  ScienceDaily (Oct. 6, 1999)

So when a Dyslexic child comes home from school the last thing they want to do is homework. They are mentally and physically exhausted from 5 times the exertion as a other students, frustrated with not understanding what they are learning and humiliated by impatient teachers and cruel classmates. If they have Irlen Syndrome which is common with Dyslexics (see info on our website: Irlen Syndrome and Dyslexia – Dyslexia Victoria Online) they can be further drained  experiencing stomach and head aches, dizziness, irritated eyes and other physical ailments of Irlen. Dyslexics can also experience a lot of discomfort from sitting in a desk all day and other issues that torment Dyslexics.

Parents of Dyslexic students will often set up a homework environment that they believe will help their child focus on their homework. Their good intentions however can actually make it more difficult for their child to get their homework done. Some considerations to think about to create a “dyslexia friendly” atmosphere:

        • Let them have a break before starting homework after school – exercise is a great relaxer and way to de-stress rather than sitting down in front of the TV. They could ride a bike, go for a walk, play some kind of sport, play with their friends, etc. before settling down to their homework. The break can work wonders.
        • Give them a protein snack after school to give them energy – protein bar or drink, raw nuts, peanut butter crackers, boiled eggs for example. No sugar as it can make them over-stimulated and then they crash when the sugar wears off.
        • Make sure they have all their homework. Dyslexics tend to have difficulty organizing themselves. They will forget to bring their homework home. Ask the teacher if they could have a handout with the assignments listed and remind the student before school is out to gather their work to take home. Dyslexics often forget even with the best of intentions. This is not deliberate or lazy.
        • Make an arrangement with the teacher to let you know about big projects and their dates for completion. Dyslexics often have a terrible time keeping this information together also. My Dyslexic son had great difficulty remembering his homework. The teachers and I tried everything. Finally I got one teacher to communicate with my son’s other teachers and send home a list of all his homework for me. It worked and eventually as he grew up he got better at organizing his work. Of course this was a very thoughtful teacher. Teachers generally don’t have time for helping a student this way but it can’t hurt to try to get cooperation.
        • Help them with a list of what they have to do. Remind them what to do next. As I mentioned before – organization is tough for Dyslexics and needs to be understood, tolerated and supported. Write the list on a whiteboard or big piece of paper.
        • Create star charts for homework assignments, chores and tasks that need to be done such as getting ready for school. Rewards for completing these charts is a great incentive for a reluctant, disorganized child. You can even take photos of them doing the chore or task and adding them to the poster. A picture is always “worth a thousand words” – which is the Dyslexic way. Here are a couple of examples – one you can purchase from amazon – the other is a free download.

Homework Chart

          • Another reason to have the teacher make a homework handout for the Dyslexic student is they often cannot copy notes from the whiteboard easily and cannot get it all written down.
          • Establish their learning style (auditory, visual or kinesthetic). Everyone generally has a dominant sense for learning and processing new information but Dyslexics especially respond well to teaching approaches and environments that take their best learning sense into consideration.
          • A multi-sensory teaching program strongly based on physical  hands-on demonstrations for all lessons is effective for all children  but especially Dyslexics. They think in images first and then words therefore they need a concrete example of what they are learning to understand and process new information.  They do not learn sequential step by step methods easily if at all so everything should make sense to them first.                                                                  If they are visual learners you also want to use movies, posters, painting, drawing, etc. Auditory students like to be read to along with a demonstration and kinesthetics do best using movement.
          • To go along with learning style consider the physical environment.
            • Do they need the room dead quiet or music, TV or white noise (beach or jungle noises for example)? A set of headphones with the right background music or white noise works great at home or school. I have parents get teachers permission for this accommodation and usually they get their approval.
            • Do they need no one including animals in the room or do they prefer the activity?
            • Do they need to stand a lot, walk around and work on a white board or lay down and roll around on the floor while doing their school work?
            • Do they need something in their hand(s) like a worry ball or  playdoh? Some kids do well with tossing beanbags around while practicing spelling words or facts for tests.
            • Keep their working area clear of objects. Dyslexics tend to get distracted by stuff on the table or desk they are working on.

The way to determine what the best working environment is talking to your child about what feels right for them and observe when they are on task and when they are not. Everybody learns differently so the conditions that compliments their thinking style is going to be much more beneficial than just sitting at a table in total quiet – unless of course that works for your child.

I often work with a Dyslexic students moving or playing with objects in their hands. The parent wants them to stop. The student however will be understanding and remembering everything we are talking about. The parent  generally says they have noticed that despite this behavior their child has been learning in the past. The parent thought however they should be sitting at a table or desk and still.

Think about your own situation when learning, concentrating or doing work – what is your best scenario? I bet it is different from other family members.

If you have found any great ideas for doing homework with a Dyslexic child, let me know. Much of what we have learned about Dyslexics is not just from the experts but from adult Dyslexics, parents of Dyslexics and of course Dyslexic children. Dyslexics are after all incredible problem solvers and always have amazing solutions or observations.

Cheers!
Karey Hope
Founder of 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 http://www.readingandwriting.ab.ca/irlen.htm#Irlen


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 (www.hudsonpaint.com)

Walls Love Ink Sealer (www.wallsloveink.com)

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.

http://www.marthastewart.com/271574/custom-color-chalkboard-paint

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

PHYSICAL DEMONSTRATIONS AND “HANDS-ON” PROJECTS FOR ALL SCHOOL SUBJECTS FOR DYSLEXIC STUDENTS

Dyslexic students learn differently from the large group of left brain dominant learners in an average classroom. Many children can learn efficiently with an auditory teaching approach that primarily presents information orally to a class along with assignments and projects that are based on written materials about the subject. The students are expected to read these materials and then ‘regurgitate’ (to give back or repeat, especially something not fully understood or assimilated: to regurgitate the teacher’s lectures on the exam) this information in worksheets, reports, tests and projects that are primarily in a written format.

This information is usually presented sequentially, step by step, eventually ending up at a conclusion or result. The left brain students accept the information that is presented to them, follow the directions and are not necessarily concerned with the reason or meaning of the lesson. They memorize the information from the lesson and the steps necessary to get a correct result.

An example would be long division. It is not unusual for a teacher to go through the steps of long division and instruct the students to follow their directions. A teacher can  further confuse this process by breaking up the discussion and practice of the steps over days rather than in one lesson. The students are told if they follow these steps exactly, their work and answers will be correct. The left brain learner accepts what the teacher says and follows their directions. They practice the steps, memorize the process and learn to do long division without necessarily understanding what they are doing.

The right brain dominant thinker or Dyslexic will have difficulty with this type of presentation of new information or new skill sets from beginning to end. The result is frustrating for the Dyslexic student; they don’t comprehend it, remember or retain it, or are able to apply this knowledge to their classroom work.

This lesson is missing a number of components that are important to a Dyslexic student. There needs to be:

  • an overview or “big picture” of what the lesson is about
  • a connection to something the class has already learned
  • a physical demonstration, video, story, discussion of its purpose, etc to bring the  subject alive for the students and give it a meaning or reason to be learned
  • start to give exercises practicing the subject
  •  be sure to give and use completed examples of these exercises
  • go over their completed work, correct it and discuss with the students what they don’t understand
  • carry on the study of the lesson by creating class projects and connect this information to new concepts

So Dyslexic students need the “big picture” first, meaning or reasons, connection to real things by physical demonstrations, practice and connection to new ideas. Without this process, they are often lost in the class. Their confusion with teaching methods that do not use these elements can also cause anxiety and fear. Anxiety and fear shuts them down so nothing gets through to them.

The presentation of new information needs to be applied or related to “real world” examples the student has experienced before a Dyslexic can begin to understand it. Also if the information cannot easily be imagined, tasted, smelled, seen, heard or felt these students will have a difficult time trying to comprehend it.

Dyslexics do not easily absorb information they do not know the meaning of or reason for. In other words, if a Dyslexic is being taught long division they need to know what it is – “the opposite of multiplication”.

Multiplication is “adding in groups”

Division is “subtracting in groups”

This becomes the “big picture” or overview for the beginning of the lesson. This is the meaning of division. Then a short discussion follows focused on When? Where? How? would division be used.

  •  at Christmas when sorting presents and dividing them up
  •  at a birthday when cutting up a birthday cake
  • picking kids for two teams to play a game

Next division would be demonstrated by using objects such as candies, apples, etc. The objects are presented in one big group and then divided into smaller groups for some purpose such as a certain number of candies in candy bowls.

Once the students have practiced dividing, then the brackets used in long division would be introduced. The students would be shown what each number position on the division brackets represents; the complete group, the number of objects in each group or how many smaller groups there are when divided up.

*Refer to example with dogs and dog houses in “Teaching Methods for Arithmetic Basics” in our Summer School Program E-Book on our website:

Dyslexia Victoria Online Summer Program

The Dyslexic student and many other students will be clear about what division means, why we use it and how to use dividing brackets to figure out a division problem.

This type of physical demonstration and explanation of new information is very important for the Dyslexic student. Any information they are given to learn in a rote manner will not stay with them nor will they be able to remember a sequence of steps in a process.

This method of teaching with an overview and physical demonstrations can be used for all subjects and should be standard practice in a classroom for all new concepts. This approach can be taken forward another step by taking concepts and reinforcing them for the student by running a similar theme through all subjects. This creates connections (neural pathways) in their knowledge base that strengthens their understanding of all their school work.

Example:

Main Topic: Thanksgiving

Language – creating a project with written material, pictures, posters, a story of the first Thanksgiving, writing and performing a play

Reading – reading a story about Thanksgiving

Spelling – a spelling list pulled from the story about Thanksgiving

Social Studies – the history behind Thanksgiving – writing a report about the history or a story with the Pilgrims as characters.

Science – how did the Pilgrims cook food for Thanksgiving and how is that different from our preparation of food today

– make recipes the Pilgrims or First Nations people would have made. This involves measurements, heat, types of heat, following a recipe like an experiment, etc.

Cook  – cook foods that the First Nations peoples and the Pilgrims would have brought to the feast.

– have a Thanksgiving feast with these foods

Arithmetic  – measurements in recipes, worksheets using Pilgrims and First Nations people for characters in word problems.

These teaching methods are not unusual. They have been kicking around forever to be used with all students, not just Dyslexics. I first learned about them in the 1970’s by a brilliant psychology professor  at the University of Victoria, British Columbia. His name was Chuck Galloway. I owe much to him and his teaching methods. He taught us how effective this approach was by using his students as very fortunate Guinea pigs. Consequently the whole class of 400 students received excellent grades. The knowledge I picked up from that course has always stuck with me and I am very grateful to him.

Cheers!
Karey
Co-founder of Dyslexia Victoria Online

A Typical Confusing Day in the Life of a Dyslexic

I was recently sent a “funny” email. The author  was poking fun at attention issues that older people can experience. What I found so fascinating about this piece is that it describes my life as a Dyslexic as far back as I can remember.

Robert Burns’ poem, “Ode to a Mouse” has a line in it –

‘The best laid schemes of mice and men
Oft go awry,’

Okay, the poem is about other things but taken out of context of the poem, I think it really applies well here.

I always have to write lists and keeping looking at them and marking off those I have actually finished.  And hopefully I don’t get side-tracked making my list look pretty, more efficient, divided up into different types of tasks, on different coloured paper, using many different coloured felt pens to make things stand out, a fancy book to put them, a system to decide when to do the tasks and what order……. sigh…

For example, I took way too long looking for clipart to express visually what I think the theme of this blog entry is. I am always told I can’t just keep it simple. Oh well, this is my life and I love to play with pictures and words.  As do many Dyslexics!

The other problem is I often lose my lists and then I have to make a new one….sigh again…

Anyway here is the email. Let me know, if you are Dyslexic or think you are, do you recognize yourself?

A.A.D.D.- KNOW THE SYMPTOMS…..
Thank goodness there’s a name for this disorder. Somehow I feel better, even though I have it!!
Recently, I was diagnosed with A.A.A.D.D. –
Age Activated Attention Deficit Disorder.
This is how it manifests itself:

I decide to water my garden.
As I turn on the hose in the driveway, I look over at my car and decide it needs washing.
As I head towards the garage, I notice post on the porch table that I picked up from the postman earlier.
I decide to go through it before I wash the car.
I put my car keys on the table, put the junk mail in the recycling box under the table, and notice that the recycling box is full.
So, I decide to put the bills back on the table and take out the recycling
first.
But then I think, since I’m going to be near the postbox when I take out the recycling paper anyway, I may as well pay the bills first.
I take my cheque book off the table and notice that there is only one cheque left.
My extra cheques are in the desk in my study, so I go into the house to my desk where I find the cup of coffee I’d been drinking.
I’m going to look for my cheques but first I need to push the coffee aside so that I don’t accidentally knock it over.
The coffee is getting cold, and I decide to make another cup..
As I head toward the kitchen with the cold coffee, a vase of flowers on the worktop catches my eye – the flowers need water.
I put the coffee on the worktop and discover my reading glasses that I’ve been searching for all morning.
I decide I better put them back on my desk, but first I’m going to water the flowers..
I put the glasses back down on the worktop, fill a container with water and suddenly spot the TV remote control. Someone left it on the kitchen table.
I realize that tonight when we go to watch TV,I’ll be looking for the
remote, but I won’t remember that it’s on the kitchen table, so I decide to put it back where it belongs, but first I’ll water the flowers.
I pour some water in the flowers, but quite a bit of it spills on the floor.
So, I put the remote back on the table, get some towels and wipe up the spill.
Then, I head down the hall trying to remember what I was planning to do.
At the end of the day:
The car isn’t washed
The bills aren’t paid
There is a cold cup of coffee sitting on the kitchen work-surface
The flowers don’t have enough water,
There is still only 1 cheque in my cheque book,
I can’t find the remote,
I can’t find my glasses,
And I don’t remember what I did with the car keys.
Then, when I try to figure out why nothing got done today, I’m really
baffled because I know I was busy all bloody day and I’m really tired.
I realize this is a serious problem, and I’ll try to get some help for it,
but first I’ll check my e-mail…..
Do me a favour. Forward this message to everyone you know, Because I can’t remember who the hell I’ve sent it to.
Don’t laugh – if this isn’t you yet, your day is coming!!

Cheers!
Karey
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.

Cheers!
Cate Hope
Our wandering right brain writer
For a little background on Cate go to our  www.dyslexiavictoria.ca website page
“About Us”