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

“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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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

2 + 2 equals 22

Karey and I were driving to nearby Victoria yesterday to view the venue we were considering using for our Second Annual full day Dyslexia Awareness Workshop. The one we did last February was so successful we had we were happy to do it again, especially because of all the new things we have discovered since last year.

The drive to view the place took us about an hour so we took that time to sort of roll some ideas around.  Karey and I spend a lot of time researching new techniques to help teach Dyslexics. While doing so we find information concerning studies about Right and Left Brained thinking and related topics. Karey had her laptop open to an article about how the Right Brain and Left perceive information differently. At first I thought this was just stuff I already knew and sure enough, most of what we talked about was familiar to both of us. Then I had an epiphany. Well maybe not an epiphany but I did make a connection I hadn’t thought about before.

As I have mentioned before I don’t consider myself  Dyslexic but I am very Right Brained and as a result I share many views about the difficulty of understanding abstracts with Karey, who is Dyslexic.  Karey mentioned something from the article she was reading about “2 + 2” and how this concept is perceived differently by the Left and Right brain. Can you imagine that, the Left and Right brain can actually come up with different answers to the question: what is 2 plus 2?

The mono-semantic nature of the left brain is consistent with its syntactical and arithmetical functionality. Broca’s area, or the language processing center of the brain, is a complex of nerve cells that structure a thought into a syntactically correct sentence. Broca’s area is predominantly in the left hemisphere, even for left-handed people. The scattered and poly-semantic thinking of the right brain is not very good at producing language or arithmetic. To the left brain, 2+2=4. To the right brain, maybe it is 4, maybe not. The right brain will eagerly search for scenarios in which 2+2 does not equal 4, and might be disappointed when it doesn’t find any.
Brack—March, 2005.
http://neuropolitics.org/Conservative-Left-Brain-Liberal-Right-Brain.htm

To just about everybody it is  well accepted that 2 plus 2 equals 4, but maybe not. One of the things I sometimes point out to people at our workshops is an example of how abstract our English language is. When we print the symbol 2 on a chalkboard or Smartboard we usually say this is the NUMBER 2. It is not the number 2 but rather the NUMERAL 2 and it represents a group of 2 things. Sure this is a tiny little distinction but an important one.  There is a very real difference between a symbol that refers to something and the actual concept described. So let’s look at the equation 2 plus 2.

When you add two groups of two things of course you are going to come up with four objects. But that Right Brain of mine went a different way. If you actually look at what the equation is says, put the symbol 2 and put it with the other symbol 2. So, 2 plus 2 equals 22. Does seem like a little thing to you? Yes it does and most teachers would have hard time accepting the logic of what I just described. So what is my point?

Right Brained individuals and dyslexics think on lots of different levels, they are always looking for connections to ideas. Processes can be improved, ideas can be looked at from different directions and many times a concept that seems pretty obvious to some people are not obvious to others. Right brained thinkers always look for these connections, they can’t help it.

This is a great ability when “out of the box” thinking is required which is often in the real world outside of school. But if a Dyslexic student looks at “2 + 2” and thinks “22” and they can if they misunderstand the instructions, they are marked wrong. Some of these children will bravely argue a point like this and get shut down. This can be confusing to them on one level but can also shut them down in the classroom to the point they start believing they are stupid. In the UK this is called RSI which stands for Repetitive Statement Injury and means if something is said enough times to someone they start to believe it’s true.

Thank goodness for Left and Right brained thinkers; different answers to the same question can just be considered creative.

Happy trails!
Howie deGraaf
Co-founder of Dyslexia Victoria Online
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Dyslexic Preschoolers learn Capital Letters easier than Small Letters

We gave a 6 hour work shop recently about Dyslexia Awareness and Teaching Strategies. It’s always interesting what some attendees will get focused on. We were talking about preschoolers and that we believe teaching a child who is already showing Dyslexic tendencies or a right brain learning style should be taught the alphabet very carefully.  They will generally respond well to learning the uppercase letters first and later being taught the lower case in kindergarten or first grade. The reason for learning the uppercase first is the letters are more clearly defined from each other than the lower case.

Nine of the lower case letters contain circles (a, b, c, d, e, g, o, p, q). Four of the letters are the same symbol set in different directions (b, d, p, q). Four of the letters have a “u” shape in them (h, m, n, u). The letters “i”, “l” and “t” look very similar. All these similarities make letters hard to learn for Dyslexics as Dyslexics often have issues with directionality.

“A child with a directionality problem has difficulty dealing with directions of objects in relation to self, such as “to my right,” “to my left,” “above me,” “below me,” etc. Such a child has difficulty following directions on paper-pencil tasks such as “write your name in the top right-hand corner,” “draw a line under the word ______,” and the like. He may also confuse letters like b and d, numbers like 17 and 71, or write backward, from right to left, the letters appearing like ordinary writing seen in a mirror.” ~ Audioblox”

Also the alphabet is a type of abstract concept that Dyslexics have a frustrating time trying to learn because unless the letters are part of a word they don’t mean anything other than sounds. Dyslexics need concrete real images that can be connected to symbols such as words and numerals. “C – A – T” are sounds but do not bring up any images of real things. The word “CAT” however can be imagined.

We have found that if you start a Dyslexic child with the upper case alphabet, in colour and practiced in a modeling medium such as clay or playdoh  they will be able to mentally connect to the letters. Check out Ron Davis’ The Gift of Dyslexia, Revised and Expanded: Why Some of the Smartest People Can’t Read…and How They Can Learn.  The last part of the book uses a number of methods that make the alphabet real and shows how to memorize the sequence of letters more effectively for the Dyslexic. Sequences are very difficult for Dyslexics as the right brain learner thinks in the “big picture” and then the parts. The alphabet is learned by memorizing the “parts” or letters first.

So getting back to our workshop. We had a preschool teacher get upset with our suggestion of studying the uppercase alphabet first. She said  all their teaching materials used the lower case letters first and she insisted the lower case was easier to learn.  The reasons I listed above that make the lower case confusing for a Dyslexic are probably beneficial for left brain learners because they are similar and fewer shapes to learn. The preschool teacher was adamant we were wrong.  This is unfortunately one of the viewpoints of teachers that make it so difficult to help Dyslexic students learn the alphabet, spelling and reading.

Cheers!
Karey Hope
Founder of Dyslexia Victoria Online