COGNITIVE TESTS FOR GETTING YOUR DRIVER’S LICENSE BACK AFTER BRAIN INJURY COULD BE DIFFICULT WHEN YOU ARE DYSLEXIC AND/OR HAVE IRLENS!

cognition test - CopyRecently I had a scary event. I had a minor stroke. Luckily I’m fine and with certain changes I should be able to avoid another one. I wasn’t allowed to drive however until I had fully recovered and was able to pass a cognition test. When I went to take the test with my family doctor I discovered something that really concerns me.
I’m dyslexic and certain types of questions on the test were difficult for me. The doctor told me 5 numbers and asked me to remember them in the correct order. I can’t write someone’s phone number down correctly let alone retain 5 numbers. I asked her to repeat them 2 or 3 times and with great effort, I was able to recall them. Next I was given 3 numbers and told to say them backwards. More effort. She gave me a verbal list of things and asked me to repeat them in order. I can’t hang on to a person’s name and am constantly embarrassed after being introduced to people! Then my doctor said 2 long sentences and asked me to repeat them. I can’t remember accurately the names of books I’ve written and depend on copy/paste. Aaarghh!

Another issue for Dyslexics is Irlen’s Syndrome which causes visual distortions when looking at white backgrounds such as paper, whiteboards and computer screens. Research shows roughly 40% of Dyslexics and 20% of the general population experience Irlen’s to varying degrees . Also, after a brain injury Irlen Syndrome can become an issue and a person doesn’t realize it. I imagine Irlen’s could also affect people’s ability to get through one of these cognitive tests and be allowed to drive again.


Fortunately as a dyslexia consultant and tutor, I’ve learned techniques to recall this type of information but it was difficult. I also have Irlen’s moderately but was able to pass this test and get the right to drive again.


I started to think about this required test to drive again and wondered what happens to other dyslexics or those suffering from Irlen Syndrome who have a stroke or other brain injury. What can a person do if they have recovered and can drive but can’t pass these cognition tests due to dyslexia or Irlen’s issues and don’t know to point this out to the doctor testing them?
Something to think about.


For suggestions and accommodations for children struggling with retaining words and improving their reading fluency, I invite you to check out my book “14 Steps to Teach Dyslexics how to Spell and Read” http://www.dyslexiavictoriaonline.com/14-steps-to-teach-dy…/

“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

DYSLEXICS CAN HAVE GREAT DIFFICULTY WITH LISTS OR CHORES

I was talking to one of the grandparents of a nine year old boy that we assessed recently. She was commenting on the problems he had doing a list of chores or remembering things like handing his homework in at school or even remembering his homework.  She despaired at how difficult it was to get him to do these things unless she reminded him and had to keep reminding him until he got them done.  She talked about how he had three things to do before he got on the school bus in the morning.  He apparently was lucky if he got one or two let alone all three done.

This is typical behavior for boys in general but especially for Dyslexic children (both girls and boys).  They are “big picture” people and not very good at the details.  They get lost in details,  sequences,  lists and responsibilities. Usually they are not doing this on purpose and they are not trying to annoy anyone; they just can’t remember.  This affects Dyslexics and Right-brainers of all ages.

My very right-brained sister is an accountant which is kind of interesting because much of accounting is all details. However the concept of a General Ledger which is the heart of an accounting system is all about the “big picture”.  So she may not be very good at the individual items in an account in the ledger but she does see how the whole business connects to the General Ledger  and how it  connects to all the different accounts and departments.  In this sense her ability to see the “big picture” of a business and its accounting system is probably more important than seeing the individual entries.  Other “left brainers” who are better at the details can handle that part of the job.

By the way,  my sister has adapted well to her difficulty with lists and chores.  She makes thorough and constantly updated written lists and marks off each item when she completes them.  She always writes down a task as they come up otherwise she knows she will forget.  I love how she keeps track of her lists.  She doesn’t use a Blackberry, Calender or DayTimer.  Generally too much information for a Dyslexic. She takes a regular lined notebook (8 1/2″  x 11″) and draws a small square check box on each line on the left. She then writes the task beside the box.  When the task is completed she checks the box (very satisfying for Dyslexics).  She always keeps these notebooks when full because they can save lots of info.

Besides having problems with the details or a list, Dyslexics are often overwhelmed with mental images at any one time and their minds  can’t focus or concentrate on instructions.  When a parent or a teacher, for example, start talking to them they can either be swept up by their imagination at that moment or the words being spoken to them can create mental pictures or stories that will also take them away to other places.  Then at some point they look at the teacher or parent and say “what did you say?” or go off and not do anything because they are caught up in their thoughts or maybe manage one thing that was asked of them.

Also if they get overwhelmed with their “list” they can start to shut down and you might find them sitting somewhere staring off into space a million miles away.  As a Dyslexic I did this a lot when I was a child.  I would not know where to begin or how to handle a whole list of jobs.  My mother often would add more jobs to the first list and this would really confuse and frustrate me.  Prioritizing the jobs can also be daunting and cause a Dyslexic to feel paralyzed,  not knowing where to start.  When I’m tired, organizing can become impossible and I get very scattered. My partner, Howie likes to tease me because every morning I ask him to help me figure out what we should get done that day and in what order.

How does a parent handle this issue with their child?  First of all, be understanding. They do care and they do want to please you.  Here are a few helpful tips:

– keep lists short – 2 or 3 items. When they finish then give them more.  This way they don’t get overwhelmed and possibly shut down.

–  teach them how to write down chores and school assignments on a piece of paper or on a white board on a wall.  Be very specific and complete with the instructions.  Ask them if the tasks are clear. If not, ask them what they don’t understand and write it down.  This is teaching them to speak up in different situations such as a classroom when they aren’t sure and have more questions.  Always tell them that there are no “stupid” questions.  Draw a check box for them to mark each task off.  If writing is really difficult for them then write it for them.

–  keep instructions specific and clear. We had one mom we were working with tell us that this all started to make sense to her when her fifteen year old Dyslexic daughter had made a mess in the kitchen when she had prepared some food for herself.  She asked her daughter to clean the kitchen. Her daughter asked what part of the kitchen.  She thought her daughter was being cheeky.  The daughter said “Do you mean the counters, clean the fridge, sweep the floor?”  The mom laughed and said clean the mess she had made.  She then realized how specific her instructions she needed to be.

–  in the UK they are working on  exercises that help with focus. Try this one:  have the student stand on a cushion on one leg, then throw a beanbag from one hand to another for a few minutes. Do this twice a day. Try this before doing chores and see if it helps with their concentration.

–  if a list is too much for them then give them one task at a time, check up on them to make sure they are not getting distracted. You can use reward systems such as when they get their homework or chores done they get to do some activity they enjoy.

–  draw a poster of the chores or homework and mentally or physically walk through it with them so they can see the “big picture” and this might help them understand what they are trying to accomplish.  If they want to use pictures from the internet or magazine that can be very helpful.

–  Dyslexics tend to do a list of tasks all at once. For example if they are cleaning the house they will probably do a little here, a little there and eventually finish. They generally cannot do one room or job at a time.  Let them do it this way because it feels natural and probably makes it easier for them to finish.  Their homework would apply here also. This may sound odd but is completely normal and appropriate for some  Dyslexics.  You have probably noticed that they do this and you get irritated and telling them to get one job done at a time.

An example of this would be to wash the dishes, dust the living room, make their bed, take out the garbage, dust the dining room, dry the dishes, clean their room, sweep the kitchen floor, clean the closet in their room (this one may take days).  From this you can see they are moving from one area to the next and back again.

–  if they need music or the T.V. on in the background  or an IPod for example let them have it. Sometimes this is the only way they can function well and be able to complete their list.

–  be persistent but patient so they learn to follow through and complete things.  You are training them for the future to handle responsibilities their way.

The ability to follow a list or instructions is an important problem area of Dyslexia and should be taken very seriously.  You are helping to train them for working in the classroom with lists and assignments and the future when they are on their own in their personal and work life.   With a concentrated effort from both the parent and child tremendous progress can happen.  These kids are brilliant – teach them how to use their own personal tools and mental processes and success is within their reach.
Cheers!
Karey Hope
Co-founder of DyslexiaVictoria Online

The Story of a Dyslexic Mother and Daughter

I would like to tell you a story.
Twenty-four years ago when my daughter, Genevieve was in grade two, I was called in for a meeting with her teacher. He told me that he suspected that she had a reading problem and he thought it might be “dyslexia”. I had heard the term when I was in university studying to become a teacher but I didn’t know anything about it.

KAREN AND GEN

He wanted me to talk to the teacher in charge of the program for slow readers. She did some tests on Gen and then told me she was setting up an appointment with a specialist for learning disabilities. More tests followed and then I was told that Gen was very bright and most likely dyslexic. She also said there was no assistance or tutoring help in the school system for her problem.

This was the beginning of a very long and frustrating journey.

The internet was not available back in the 1980’s and very little was known about dyslexia. It was also difficult finding anyone in my children’s education system that really believed it existed. Most teachers, principals and school psychologists who make up the majority of the individuals at an IEP(Individualized Education Program) meeting told me my expectations were too high for my child.

MY EXPECTATIONS WERE TOO HIGH?!!!

I said if she couldn’t read, write or do basic math she couldn’t even work at a gas station! My expectations were too high… can you imagine? I even had one school psychologist tell me about a girl with dyslexia she knew in middle school who was a cheerleader, an artist and very popular. She told me the girl seemed very happy and wasn’t concerned about her spelling and reading problems. I asked her how being a cheerleader, artist and being popular was going to help in the REAL world?

Realizing the schools would be no help I started to look for tutors or specialists in the phone book. I found a a woman who was running a school for dyslexics and had  her assess Gen.  She confirmed that she was dyslexic.  It was explained to me that she needed to have everything taught to her in whole and real images, not abstract. Also a dyslexic sees the complete picture of something first and then the parts. Think of the expression “forest before the trees”. People who are dyslexic would need to understand what a forest is in its entirety before they could identify, see or visualize the individual trees. Learning in whole concrete images or concepts is the key to their thinking and learning style and how a right-brained individual processes information.

So I started to explain everything to her with real life concepts and when I taught her a new piece of information I gave her the whole idea first. I’ll give you an example. One day Gen was working on a arithmetic sheet in grade three. The exercise listed specific amounts of money like $1.00, 75 cents, $1.50, etc. The directions asked what six coins (pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, etc.) would you need to add up to those amounts. This was too abstract for her. She couldn’t begin to imagine what those coins would be. I got her a jar of change, poured the coins out in front of her. She knew what coins were because they were real, she knew what to use them for and how much they were worth because she had bought items from stores with me. I then said count up different coins until they added up to the amounts on her sheet. So a $1.00 could be 3 quarters, 2 dimes and one nickel. She understood immediately and went through the exercise sheet in minutes!

Suddenly after years of confusion she could be taught! This was the start of FINALLY understanding my daughter and how she thinks and how she learns.

From there I found some help from tutors who worked with dyslexics,  I read any books on the subject I could find and anyone  who had some ideas. I started to come up with ways to help her with her class work and how to work with the left-brained teaching methods she was being taught at school.  She was able to follow the teacher by knowing what questions she needed to ask to understand and comprehend what was being taught and what was expected of her.

I also developed methods to teach her spelling, reading, arithmetic, telling time, etc. that helped her stay caught up with the class.

We had terrific success!

Genevieve successfully graduated high school with good grades and the ability to go on to college successfully.

We also had the rest of my kids, my husband and myself tested for dyslexia. We all have varying degrees of dyslexia. Turns out my father, my sister, one of my brothers and many of my husband’s family are also dyslexic.  We are all coping with it and many of us are using our “right-brain dyslexic gift” very effectively! I have discovered that being right-brained and dyslexic can be an incredible asset.

My three dyslexic children are now adults starting their own families. They are all doing very well in their fields of work and have overcome the stigma of dyslexia. They all can spell, read and write.

Today Genevieve manages our family fence construction business with 23 employees. She handles all aspects of the business which includes those skills she wasn’t able to do back in elementary school when we first became aware she was dyslexic. She is also married, has a husband and two children and somehow finds time to help family and friends with their problems!  Because she is right-brained , Gen has incredible problem-solving skills which is a trait of this learning and thinking style.

Any questions, I encourage you to please email me at: khope@dyslexiavictoria.ca or check out our website at: www.dyslexiavictoria.ca or www.dyslexiavictoriaonline.com

Thanks for listening.

Karen Hope