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

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”.

____________________________________________________________

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

How to Teach Dyslexic Students Fractions

My husband, Howie and I were tutoring a Dyslexic 9 year old girl a few months ago. She was having difficulty understanding fractions.  The method her teacher was using confused her. The exercises our student was working with set problems up this way:

The problem with these two dimensional diagrams is they are as abstract as the numerical image 1/4. For a Dyslexic student including the little girl we were working with these both meant nothing to her. They are symbols for something real – portions or parts but the child does not know that.

My husband, Howie is the math person between the two of us and went to work showing her physically what these two dimensional abstract images meant. He started with oranges. When demonstrating math concepts with real objects always make sure you have one whole of the object being used as you show the parts. If there is no complete object in view a Dyslexic child tends to lose the concept being taught.

Use several examples of fractions of things until they start to understand what the concept of a fraction is. They need to connect the abstract language of math with the concrete ideas it represents.

Now let’s go back to the exercise with the squares. Once Howie had our student understanding he was talking about parts he took two pieces of paper and drew a four part  rectangle on both of them. One piece of paper was coloured yellow. He cut this rectangle into four pieces. The first piece of paper was blue ( she had Irlen Syndrome and blue was the best colour for paper and acetates for her – see our website for informationIRLEN SYNDROME & DYSLEXICS ) so that her ability to see the paper clearly was not an issue – text on white paper is hard to see for those with Irlen compounding problems with learning fractions. Then he started to put one or more of the yellow pieces on the blue squares talking about whether they were one, two, three or four quarters. She got it immediately and actually moved onto adding fractions that session. She left with a smile on her face and her mom felt relieved. She was also able to do the exercises using  two dimensional squares for school and understand what she was doing so her answers were correct and not guesses.

What was accomplished with this process was filling the needs of a Dyslexic requiring meaning and connection to what is real. Dyslexics don’t easily follow sequences well and anything they learn has to be fully understood. They will generally not follow how a square divided up in portions on a flat piece of paper means because it doesn’t connect to anything real to them. Provide physical demonstrations, connect them to the diagram and now you have meaning.

So when you are having difficulty teaching Dyslexics to connect the dots of a concept make it real and then connect it to abstract written languages such as words, arithmetic and math. We have also found this helps kids who do not have Dyslexia.

Cheers!
Karey Hope
Dyslexia Victoria Online

 

Dyslexics are 10 Second People in a One Second World

When talking about Dyslexia most people are focused on problems with reading, spelling, writing and arithmetic. As a Dyslexic I find this very narrow thinking and not really the point. These are issues that arise from being a right brain dominant thinker. Dyslexics are strong right brain thinkers who are neurologically wired differently from the left brain dominant person. Functional MRI’s over the last twenty years have proven this.

Left brain dominant thinkers who make up the larger part of the western world population think in words and then images. Right brain dominant thinkers start with images and then find their words, hopefully. This is a huge difference. Left brain thinkers look for a path to find where they are going and start at the beginning taking one step at a time until they arrive at a specific location. They are not as concerned with their surroundings and concentrate on staying on the path.

“Righties”  and Dyslexics start at the end with the big picture of a subject and immediately start adding to this first picture or begin to create worlds that relate to the first or are inspired by this picture to go in totally different directions. As the “leftie” proceeds down the path, focused on their mission, the rightie is building a world around this path much like the picture above. Their focus is always on the horizon and beyond. For righties the possibilities are endless, enthralling and all consuming. Their eyes glaze over and they are lost in their imagination or what people often refer to as daydreaming, preoccupied, unfocused, lazy, rude, or as my family always said, “in my own little world”. My sister gave me a shirt that says “I may live in my own little world but everyone knows me there”.

The reality is Dyslexics are extremely focused, just elsewhere. This can be an overwhelming problem in life such as the classroom, talking to other people and at work. I am going to talk about this more in other blogs but right now I want to concentrate on this one frustrating aspect of a Dyslexic’s thinking style.

When a left brain dominant person asks or answers a question they are generally fairly straight forward and their answers are based on what they believe the other person wants to hear. They will mentally go down one path and stick to it. This is where the one second versus ten seconds comes in.  When a Dyslexic or strong right brain dominant person is asked a question, answering is never simple for them. They need to create images in their minds to understand the question and then they are pondering all the possible answers. Then they need the person asking the question to clarify and to help narrow the potential replies.  They also prefer to answer with a story where their answer or point is wrapped up in it somewhere.   A simple straight forward response is almost impossible.

This can drive lefties crazy. Righties will make statements like ” do you mean this or that?” and “well, you could do it this way or that way”. Yes/no answers are very difficult without complete understanding of the question so there is less confusion and possible answers for the Dyslexic person.

So when you ask a Dyslexic a question there is no answer given in a second. Dyslexics need time to consider your question and their answer. And then they need to ask questions to make sure they understand your question and finally telling you a story to cozily wrap their answer in. Ten seconds gives them time to ponder.

This becomes very sad for Dyslexics and righties because teachers, parents, other people and fellow workmates can get very impatient and rude about this lag replying and the response of asking questions about the question. Many Dyslexics become momentarily speechless with fear and desperation to give the right answer in a timely manner after years of humiliation when dealing with questions . This delay is often mistaken for stupidity or slow thinking and this can be very demoralizing for a Dyslexic.

If you recognize this trait in someone you know, let them know they can take all the time in the world and to ask their questions. You could also listen closely to the story they weave to explain themselves. The stories are often very creative and illuminating and they will then give you the best answer they can think of or many answers. One way to structure questions is to be specific. My husband, Howie will say to me, “Do you want to go out for Chinese tonight, yes or no”. The “yes” or “no” removes any doubt about what he wants to know and helps me focus on saying yes or no without a story.

If you are the Dyslexic telling the story as an answer, try to understand that you do things differently; you are not wrong or stupid, just different. Your type of thinking has been critical for new innovations, ideas, science, story telling, counseling, artistic endeavors, etc. and is always important.

The two thinking styles, sequential and linear (left-brained) and spatial (right-brained) compliment each other and can provide a complete view and method of action for any task. I have a friend who is very right-brained who works with a leftie. Recently they did a project together, respecting each other’s viewpoint. The result was creative and innovative with the big picture and details provided. Their boss was very happy with the result of their collaboration. You might want to find your opposite style thinker and work towards understanding each other, working together and see what magical project you can come up with pictures and words.

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

“WHAT IS DYSLEXIA?” Dyslexia Victoria Online is introducing videos on Dyslexia Awareness, Teaching, Accommodations & Resources

We are introducing a series of videos about Dyslexia awareness, teaching and learning strategies, accommodations, computer programs and resources for children and adults. If you are interested please email us at: khope@dyslexiavictoria.ca”.

We are also planning to have some webinars and involve people in the discussion portions of the webcast.
We welcome you to join us!

Cheers! Happy New Year!
Co-founder of Dyslexia Victoria Online