Dyslexia Victoria Online’s Approach to Teaching Spelling to Dyslexics

Dyslexics Learning to SpellSpelling is the most difficult skill for the right brain but it is the most important. More time should be given to spelling and building a reading and writing vocabulary than any other learning skills.

The Dyslexia Victoria Online Approach to learning to spell is through “drawing” words and understanding them in wholes, not in their separate parts or separate letters or phonic sounds.

It provides an easy method for changing the concrete picture images formed in the right brain into letters and words (the language of the left brain) and then sending them to the left brain for use in thinking and analyzing.

Training should begin with using concrete word images that form whole pictures.  The right brain easily understands word images as it sees and understands the world in wholes: whole sentences, whole paragraphs, whole essays, whole stories, whole lessons, whole concepts and whole assignments. The right brain understands word images it can turn into pictures in the mind’s eye.

We start with learning what a concrete image is and what letters represent. Then we work with concrete words from a story that describe strong images familiar to the student such as pictures of a horse, a man, a child, a house, a barn, an animal, and object such as a table, a book, ruler, eraser, car, truck, box, etc. When the pattern of a concrete object, sound of its name and a concrete word image are understood, we move on to abstract words that are needed for putting sentences together such as  and, for, too, which, why, who because, through, under, beneath, second, third, although, however, whole, whenever, rather, everything, etc.

For more information about Dyslexia and our teaching solutions check out our website at: www.dyslexiavictoria.ca

If you have questions we would love to hear your feedback!  You can email me at:  khope@dyslexiavictoria.ca

Karey Hope deGraaf
Co-founder of Dyslexia Victoria Online

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What Is Dyslexia?

The left hemisphere thinks and expresses ideas in terms of letters, words, and numbers. It coordinates information in a computer-like fashion, giving it structure and sequence. It is linear in operation. Most importantly, it understands abstract words and ideas. It is the location in our brains where verbal language is processed and where about half of the world’s population decodes, processes and produces written language.

The right hemisphere thinks in whole concrete images and pictures.  It does not like to break down words into their phonemes (sounds of individual letters or groups of letters). These only confuse the right-brained person who thinks in whole concrete pictures. Phonetic sounds have no meaning on their own, and cannot be easily processed and stored as images in long term memory. Storing information depends on having all the parts present in a whole context such as the complete image of a printed word or a complete lesson or assignment. Through memorizing whole words the right brain understands what the words are symbols for.

Unfortunately, most of our teaching and learning depends on reading, listening and writing in abstract words and numbers that cannot be turned into whole concrete pictures. The dyslexic student learns very differently from the left brain, and so must be taught differently.

The Dyslexia Victoria Online approach to being right-brained or dyslexic offers alternative teaching methods, insights and explanations for the many learning problems classified as dyslexia. Our most important realization has led us to stop treating it as a learning disability. Our classroom and tutoring experiences, assessment and evaluation program, and our work with parents who are homeschooling their children have shown us that the right-brained student is generally very intelligent, but often held back by a number of learning differences that are overlooked by educational systems.

However, to be able to use these learning traits in the modern world predominantly right-brained persons still need to be able to spell, read, write, and work with mathematical numbers and concepts.

For more information about Dyslexia and our teaching solutions check out our website at: www.dyslexiavictoria.ca

Hope to hear from you. You can email me at: jturner@dyslexiavictoria.ca

Karey Hope
Co-founder of Dyslexia Victoria Online

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What’s with the Medical Model and Dyslexia?

Medical Model for Dyslexia

It seems when people start discussing important issues having to deal with Education, Sociology, Psychology etc, the discussion goes to whether the Medical or Social Model is most appropriate. So we are all about Dyslexia Awareness and we advocate for the Social Model. It just makes sense to me that because we are talking about people and how Dyslexia affects them that the Social Model is the most appropriate. The reason I feel this way is because the Medical Model says that people with Dyslexia are broken, their brains need rewiring or statements like that.

People with Dyslexia are not broken, they don’t need to be cured and there is no pill that makes Dyslexia go away. Sure the Medical Method is appropriate for lots of issues, just not Dyslexia. Maybe the pharmaceutical companies want to get a piece of the action for a “cure”, so far all the medical evidence and research I have seen just is not conclusive. So if the Medical Model is inappropriate then let’s look at the Social Model.

The Social Model basically states that any barriers that we impose on people with “disabilities” are the ones we make because of ignorance of the issues. The issues surrounding Dyslexia are really simple. Dyslexics are not stupid, not lazy, they can focus just like you and me, most can learn to read, write and spell and do all the regular tasks in school and in the work place. All the tasks that non-Dyslexics do aren’t learned without some sort of specific knowledge; it’s the same with Dyslexics. People with Dyslexic issues just need to have the information presented in different ways.

There, now you know what has to be done, just implement some different teaching methods. Sounds like a huge and difficult task but it’s not. The methods we have created are simple to learn, simple to teach, inexpensive and quick. Just how effective is it you ask? Well recent information I found from a major New Zealand Dyslexia Awareness association made quite a profound impact on me. They found that schools in the U.K. who used Dyslexia Friendly methods in the classrooms had amazing results. By using teaching methods that work well with Dyslexics, the whole class, including the non-Dyslexics, moved forward more quickly than if the class was taught using traditional teaching methods. The same traditional methods we are using in Canada and America. What this means is that schools can teach more quickly and effectively if they adopt these Dyslexia Friendly methods.

But why is it taking so long for the “powers that be” to implement the necessary changes, why aren’t teachers in North America being taught about Dyslexia? I know that the ignorance that has surrounded Dyslexia 25 years ago is still with us now. We have done seven presentations to Federal and Provincial “Service Providers” and Pro-D Days for teachers in the last three months and at every single one of them we get the same comments. The Teachers and Service Providers all need more information about Dyslexia because they haven’t gotten the training they need to understand or accommodate it. If they need more information and help and are not getting it why is that so?  I don’t know the answers. I do know one thing though; let’s not wait for the people in charge of the Education of our kids to make the necessary changes any time soon. We have to take action ourselves; we need to be our own advocates.

Good luck.
Howie deGraaf
Editor for Dyslexia Victoria Online

For more information about Dyslexia and our teaching solutions check out our website at:  www.dyslexiavictoria.ca

Howard de Graaf -Editor for Dyslexia Victoria Online

Dyslexia is a Learning Difference, not a Learning Disability

In our Dyslexia Awareness workshops we talk extensively about how we look at Dyslexia as a learning difference or style, not a learning disability.  However for the last twenty-five years “Dyslexia” has been used incorrectly as a common term for a wide range of learning disabilities.  I heard one teacher refer to it as an “umbrella” for any type of reading, spelling or writing problem.  If a person can’t learn to spell or read they must be dyslexic.

Another common perception of Dyslexia that irks us is the medical opinion that Dyslexics are broken.  Their brains are wired wrong.  Without this particular wiring we would not have Einstein, Churchill, Leonardo Da Vinci, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, many of the actors in Hollywood, Edison, Jackie Stewart and Jay Leno to name a few. Their “faulty” wiring was part of why they became who they are.

Albert Einstein

Churchill - dyslexic

Leonardo DaVinci - dyslexic

Bill Gates - dyslexic

Richard Branson - famous Dyslexic

Edison - famous Dyslexic

Jackie Stewart - famous Dyslexic

Jay Leno - famous Dyslexic

So when we talk about a different learning style what do we mean?  Let me explain by asking a question.  Do you have a particular innate talent such as being an artist (painter, sculptor, writer, poet, etc.), musician, exceptional athlete, gifted mathematician or scientist, intuitive mechanic that can always figure out what’s wrong, star race car driver, a comedian or maybe a natural orator?

But if you do not consider yourself an artist for example and can’t draw anything more detailed than a stick figure because your brain does not provide you with the ability to draw does that make you broken?  If the highest level of math you ever managed was fractions and percentages, forget algebra, geometry or trigonometry, are you wired wrong?

If you are not proficient with these types of abilities no one realizes or cares.  No one points at you and says you have no ear for music and your singing is like listening to a cat screeching (unless you feel the need to demonstrate to everyone that you can’t sing). But if you are Dyslexic everyone notices that spelling is really difficult for you and that you can barely read or write.  You ask a lot of questions all the time before you get on with a task.  You can’t tell time or read a clock so you have difficulty with arriving somewhere on time.  You misunderstand questions unless they are really specific because you think about everything from many different directions and levels.  You have difficulty communicating because you think in images, not words and sometimes can’t find your words when you are talking so you stumble or say the wrong thing.  People might think you are stupid, lazy or annoying. These issues are hard to hide.  However nobody notices that you are not a gifted race car driver unless you are in a race.

Spelling, reading, writing and number systems were created about 3000 to 5000 years ago (depending on the authority quoted) and learning and working with them are not natural abilities we are born with like talking.  Children are trained to spell and read from a young age by using parts of the brain that have made new connections with each other to accomplish these cognitive tasks.  In Dyslexics these connections are not made the same way as they are in left-brained people who read and spell easily and well.  A Dyslexic brain processes information differently with other areas of the brain and does not respond well to left-brain teaching methods. This can result in problems with spelling, reading, identifying and understanding numbers and other tasks that are related to them.  So if reading,  spelling and numbers are not naturally hardwired into our brains why do we say a Dyslexic brain is broken if it has difficulty performing these skills?

With more and more new information coming from medical and scientific research maybe Dyslexia will finally come to be considered what we believe it is – a learning difference.  Then teaching skills for spelling, reading, writing and arithmetic can be taught in a way a Dyslexic does understand rather than forcing us to use methods appropriate for a left-brained person.

Karey Hope
Co-founder of Dyslexia Victoria Online

Karey Hope - Co-founder of Dyslexia Victoria Online

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An Apology from Dyslexia Victoria Online

This is not a blog or newsletter or weekly report, it is an apology. We have been so busy doing seminars, workshops, presenting at school Pro-D days and meeting other “Service Providers” that we just have not attended to our website responsibilities. I mentioned earlier that we had begun to partner with Vancouver Island Dyslexia Association and were working to raise awareness of Dyslexia. Well, we are sure getting the word out.

The combination of dyslexia awareness presentations by both VIDA and Dyslexia Victoria Online has proven so popular that we are in demand all the time now. We have also done presentations for private and government service providers. As of right now we are booked up to the end of June.

The wake up call, for me, that we had lost track of our website responsibilities occurred when we were doing a seminar for a group of local Government and private service providers. One of the attendees noticed the name of our website on the brochure we had handed out. This person asked if we were involved in the weekly chats and blogs, “Rants and Raves From the Right Side” and she wondered why the articles had stopped. That kind of made this even more real for me. Our messages are getting out around the world and I found a person in my home town who is reading our information. We will try to be more responsible.

So again, this is not really a blog or anything else other than an apology and we will try harder to get back on track and inform you about what we have learned about the world of Dyslexia.

This video shows some of the news coverage we are starting to get. Woo hoo!

Happy Trails!
Howie deGraaf

Howard deGraaf of Dyslexia Victoria Online

Dyslexics don’t See Words in their Minds, they See Pictures

When you ask a dyslexic/right-brain child or adult what they “see” in their minds when you tell them to imagine a concrete word such as “car” they will usually tell you they see a picture of a specific car or multiple cars – they don’t see the word “car”.  Normally when you ask a left-brain person what they “see” when you ask them to think about the word “car” they will see the written image of the word in their mind, a car or a car and the word. But generally they can visualize the word when they need to.

How right-brain and left-brain people think about a word

This is a huge difference between a right-brain and left-brain thinker.  Dyslexics have a difficult time trying to learn to read because they see pictures of what the word is, not the symbols of written language that represent the word.

Now let’s take abstract words.  To a dyslexic words like “up”, “down”, “when”, “now”, “is” are difficult to learn how to spell and remember if they can’t easily visualize the idea of “down”.  They need context so they can come up with a visual image to understand and remember these type of words.  You can have a dyslexic practice these words with all the different methods to learn to spell and read that are appropriate for dyslexics along with visualization exercises to pair the meaning of the word with a concrete image in their minds.

One way to have dyslexics practice visualizing abstract words is having the student write sentences using these abstract words in a sentence that represents  a clear picture in their minds of what this abstract word means.

For example, go to Google Images, google a word like “down” and you will get many webpages of concepts of what “down” can mean.  Have your dyslexic student pick images of “down” that make sense to them, copy the pictures to your computer into a document in a program like  Microsoft Word and then on the same page create and write sentences about the picture using the word “down”.  The sentences can be serious or silly, whatever pleases your student.   Always remember to keep the picture and sentences on one page so that they connect the picture with the word as this will help them remember the written image of the word “down”.  This method can be used effectively paired with individual concrete words (animal, place or thing).

Teaching methods for the dyslexic should always incorporate the idea that they see “whole concrete images” best. Dyslexics will often learn how to spell and read words more successfully if they can use their ability to see pictures of the meaning of a word paired with seeing the word as a picture and not several parts and individual letters. For example: instead of emphasis on the letters in the word “d-o-g” they are taught “dog” as a total picture.

More on this another day.

Karen Hope
Co-founder of Dyslexia Victoria Online

Large Print Books for Dyslexic Students and Adults

Large Print Books for Dyslexics

Today I would like to talk about large print books for dyslexics. When we work with dyslexic adults or children we notice that reading small print is often difficult and tedious like slogging through mud.   They cannot track print on a page or see the individual words and letters.  They see all the text on a page as one entire image and cannot separate one word from the other.

Some dyslexics can read small text, but the process  of reading can be exhausting requiring all their mental energy and concentration to decode the words so comprehension becomes very difficult.  Often the dyslexic will read passages over and over trying to understand what they have read because their brain was concentrating on seeing and recognizing the words and cannot retain the information in their short term memory or move it onto long term memory.

So what can be done to help with this problem? One way is using large print books. They make it easier to see the words separately from each other and from other lines of text. The brain doesn’t have to concentrate so hard on decoding because the pictures of each word can be easily differentiated from other words. Comprehension and memory is improved and reading doesn’t feel like such a hard job.

Many children’s books are set in large print and should definitely be used with dyslexic students if at all possible. There are many websites that sell large print books for older children and adults. You can also find them in bookstores or libraries.

I have provided a couple of websites that I found that also sell large print books. www.largeprintbooks.com and www.amazon.ca/large-print-Books or www.amazon.com/Large-Print-Books

For more information and teaching solutions for dyslexia check out books on our homepage at www.dyslexiavictoria.ca

Thanks for listening.
Karen Hope
Co-founder Dyslexia Victoria Online

Karen Hope, Dyslexia Victoria Online

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