"One to two of these employees could be Dyslexic"

The common understanding of Dyslexia is it is a condition which causes difficulty with reading, writing and spelling; ‘children who get their letters back to front’.

Early attempts to describe the condition did focus on its implications for written language skills, particularly reading, but the modern understanding is much broader.  Dyslexia is for life and the constitutional difference which caused problems with reading, writing and spelling persists into adulthood.

What is Dyslexia?

People with Dyslexia have a differently organized brain structure and therefore have a different way of learning and organizing their thoughts.

This may cause a variety of ‘symptoms’, and the particular selection and severity to which each is affected will vary from person to person.

The condition is independent of intelligence but those in whom it is most easily recognized are those who range from average intelligence to those who are exceptionally bright.


Studies have shown that 1 in 6 of the population will be affected to some degree and may need help for their difficulties at some stage in their life.

Types of difficulties

The most common weakness is in short term memory, whether visual or auditory. It is this which makes it difficult for the Dyslexic to learn the correspondence between the written symbol and spoken word. Language represents a memorised code and written symbols are the code for spoken sounds.

Sequencing is often another weakness. Besides affecting spelling – getting the letters in the right order – it also has a bearing on planning and organization.

Reading for information is often not a problem, though reading aloud is very difficult for some Dyslexic people.


In the identification of Dyslexia, ‘incongruity’ is the keyword.

A discrepancy may be observed between academic achievement and real life performance in practical problem solving and verbal skills.

The Dyslexic person will often have an aversion to writing notes, reports, or, in fact, anything at all.

He may have difficulties with organization, or may be ‘super-organized’ as a compensating strategy.

Note: The Dyslexic adult will often have developed excellent coping strategies and avoidance techniques and may be quite difficult to identify.

Dyslexic adults will often refuse promotion, even if the job is well within their capabilities, if the new post requires more literacy skills.

The Employer’s role

Dyslexia is best thought of as an alternative or different learning style.  By using methods which suit their learning style, Dyslexics can overcome many of their problems.

A good employer will bear in mind the incidence of Dyslexia and that several of his employees may be Dyslexic. There will be those whose problems are obvious in that they relate to basic literacy skills but there will be those whose difficulties only manifest themselves subtly. There is much that an employer can do to make it possible for the Dyslexic person to carry out his job efficiently.

Training and induction courses, interviews and all presentations need not rely heavily on the written word.  Multi-sensory (hearing, seeing, saying, doing) aids should be used where at all possible.

Internally produced policies, procedures and factual data can be kept to a minimum and produced with good indexing for easy retrieval.

Pictograms can be used wherever possible for instructions and information.

Alan McDowell
Proud to be Dyslexic
Assessor and Trainer for Dyslexia Awareness in the Workplace in the UK – Retired
If you would like communicate with Alan please email him at:


We have found the young children around six years of age we assess for Dyslexia have a common issue. They generally have tremendous difficulty recognizing letters, numbers, words, the alphabet, counting in a correct order, printing and following instructions.  No surprise.

They generally squirm, roll their eyes, sigh and lean their heads on their hands when we pull out worksheets or manipulatives for the dreaded alphabet or numeracy exercises.   They will ask us if they could do something else, anything else.  We listen to them struggle to identify letters, guess randomly at what a word might be, and attempt to print their letters legibly.  The whole experience is excruciating and frustrating for them.

Recently I was visiting my daughter and her family in California and spent some time helping my six year old granddaughter, Isabell with her spelling and reading homework.  I don’t get many opportunities to work with kids who are successful learning to read by grade one so it was a bit of a shock.  She had been able to recite the alphabet accurately since she was about four.  Isabell could also count to one hundred and was doing well with basic arithmetic functions.  She was sounding out words, blending easily and reading out loud with fluency. Her printing was fairly neat and she was able to stay on the lines. Spelling tests were not an issue for her and she enjoyed school.  Obviously Isabell has no issues with Dyslexia.

Wow, what a difference comparing her school experience with many of the Dyslexic children we work with. We notice they don’t start to really identify and remember letters, words and numbers until about grade three.   By this time they are starting to fall seriously behind in school, becoming stressed and developing low self-esteem.  These bad feelings and their fears make it even more difficult to open up to learning because they are starting to believe they are stupid and beginning to shut down.  Compound that with “left-brained” teaching methods in their classroom they don’t understand which makes their school experience even more confusing and maddening.

Teaching Dyslexic children to read in the first grade is like trying to teach quantum physics to elementary school students.  They are not ready yet. The ability to understand abstract symbols like letters, numbers and what they represent comes at a later age for Dyslexics than other children.  Also, Dyslexic children decode words, letters and numbers with the right side of the brain instead of like the majority of the world’s population who use the language center of the left hemisphere to decode. The right hemisphere thinks in whole images not words or the parts of words so trying to decode letters, phonemes, etc. can often be useless when they are younger.

But for most Dyslexics they can learn to spell, read and work with numeracy when they are ready and with appropriate teaching methods. Maybe it would be better to focus on other skills for the first two grades and slowly introduce letters, numbers and words and in ways that make sense to them.  They could be allowed to have extensive practice printing.

Dyslexics tend to be exceptionally bright and although they may not be ready for reading they can think about complex concepts on many levels with a maturity beyond their years.  If learning to read can be adapted to their needs and delayed a little they can then apply their incredible intelligence and become successful in school and often top of their class.  Dyslexic children wouldn’t have to experience low self-esteem due to their reading and spelling skills and they would be  ready to realize their full potential.  Wow, wouldn’t that be great?

Karey Hope
Co-founder of DyslexiaVictoria Online

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Dyslexia Friendly Schools in the UK Benefit all Children

New Zealand 4D Dyslexia ProgramIn England they have Dyslexia Friendly schools that use teaching systems suitable for  Dyslexics and they have found that not only are the Dyslexic students doing better, the “normal”  students are achieving higher grades.  A reality check that might cause educating bodies to take a hard look at our teaching methods in general especially with literacy scores in many western countries dropping every year.

Educational programs across the world should take the possibility of dyslexic students into serious consideration. A recent US News & World Report article indicates that as many as one in five college students may suffer from some form of dyslexia. Top-notch traditional schools and the best online college programs should ensure that their curriculum is conducive to students suffering from dyslexia. Neil MacKay, an international  dyslexia consultant who has worked with the British Dyslexia Association,  Education Authorities and departments in the UK, Hong Kong and Malta has much to say about the benefits of  Dyslexia Aware and Friendly Schools.

From data collected by Neil MacKay, dyslexia-aware schools in the UK are recording improvements in arrange of measurable indicators, including attendance, attainment (measured through data), achievement(measured through assessment for learning), student and parental confidence, not just for dyslexic students,but also for a wide range of vulnerable learners.

This data, collected from schools engaged in the UK Quality Marking initiative – which recognizes schools for the quality of their inclusive practice – shows improved attendance and punctuality once teaching  styles, methods and materials are modified with a dyslexia-aware focus. This focus enables teachers to pull together a range of approaches into a coherent response, and head teachers comment that once they get it right for dyslexic students, this seems to enhance the learning of a majority of pupils in the school, with or without specific learning needs. For those with dyslexia, significant gains towards closing the learning gap have been made, with improvements recorded specifically in writing, reading, maths and science following targeted support.

Quoted from: “4D is For Dyslexia (a Guide for New Zealand Schools

I strongly suggest you check out their websites and informational pdf files on their progress with getting Dyslexia Awareness Programs into the schools and recognized by the New Zealand government.  Very exciting stuff and a positive hopeful note for the future of all Dyslexics.

power to the dyslexic people“Power to the Dyslexic People”

(Okay, maybe I’m getting a little too enthusiastic.  We do need to start working together to overcome a world that doesn’t understand our special way of thinking and unlimited talents)

Cheers till next time.
Karen Hope
Co-founder of Dyslexia Victoria Online

Karen Hope- Co-founder of Dyslexia Victoria

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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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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I Learned Something New from a Dyslexic Today.

Goofy and Donald drawn by an 11 year old dyslexic

Goofy Scrooge McDuck and one of the nephews drawn by an 11 year old dyslexic

It seems like I learn something new every time I talk to someone with dyslexic issues.  During this past holiday season I spent some time with Wil, a son of one of the co-authors of DYSLEXIA VICTORIA ONLINE. He is an adult now and a very successful welder and metal fabricator with a large construction company in California. He had to deal with many problems as a dyslexic child but with his mother’s assistance he succeeded in school and now he is not only successful but also confident of his abilities. We were talking about how he is able to fabricate complicated metal projects so well because he sees the finished product in his head before he has even started.  Now this is an example of what many professionals call “seeing the big picture” or maybe an example of a problem solving skill at it’s finest level.  I have heard of people who do this very well and usually these examples are rather commonly mentioned as “learning strengths” when talking about people who are dyslexic or right brain predominant.  It was the next two observations that I found so fascinating.

We were talking about his musical interests and how frustrating it was for him to learn how to play a guitar in school.  When the music teachers tried to have him learn the musical notes as written on a page he couldn’t do it.  The notes appeared all smooshed together and every time he tried to study the notes they appeared different, even on the line of notes that he had just read.  What did work for him was when a picture of the parts of the guitar was drawn showing where his fingers should go in relation to the frets and the strings.  So just like we have said lots of times in our blogs, on our website and in our books, these students need to see a real world image of what they are working with.  I found this interesting because it is another example of how the dyslexic brain can process  information and that it is so very different from the left brain. As interesting as that was the next observation was even more so for me.


This site is an example of good visual instructions for dyslexics wanting to learn to play the guitar: http://www.learntoplayguitarland.com/learn-guitar-chords

A couple of years ago, while editing an early book in the website, I saw a hand drawn picture of Goofy,  Scrooge McDuck  and one of the nephews.  It was drawn by Wil when he was about 11 years old.  At the time I didn’t really pay much attention to it. It was drawn well but what I must have missed about the drawing that makes it interesting is that he drew each drawing without lifting his pencil off the page. I remembered this drawing when we were talking about some of his recollections of his school years.  He said to me that when ever he drew things on paper he actually traced what was already on the page.  I didn’t understand what he meant so he explained it to me like this.  When he thought about what he wanted to draw, he first saw the complete image in his mind.  Then when he looked at the blank sheet of paper he saw that image on the paper.  All he needed to do then was use his pencil to trace over the lines of the drawing that he already saw on the blank paper.  Absolutely fascinating.

The point I’m trying to make here is we can only understand and appreciate what a dyslexic student is going through when we get a better idea about what they actually see or perceive when they are given information.  Yes, sometimes they have difficulties when they are expected to do tasks in a manner  we think makes the most sense.  Problem is, sometimes what makes sense to us doesn’t make sense to them but they can get there anyway by using their own processes.  We need to meet these people halfway, we need to hear what they say and listen to what makes sense to them.  Many times they find the solution to tasks when we just stop insisting that our preconceived notions are the only way to get a job done.

Just goes to show that we can all learn something new if we are willing to really listen to others.

Happy trails



Seven Major Causes of Dyslexia

“When a dyslexic understands how they think and what information they need to learn a new task it is like finally getting the pieces of a puzzle to fit.”

First Major Cause:

Difficulty understanding any concept without starting with the “whole picture”. The right brain learner thinks and understands the world in whole concrete images. If the whole concrete image has not been presented first and is available when the student is starting to learn the parts, the parts will not make any sense and the brain will discard them. The right brain needs to start with and see whole images and whole concepts, not the separated parts.

Second Major Cause:

Difficulty with understanding the parts separate from the whole image of the word. If these students cannot see the parts within the whole and the whole image at the same time, they cannot make sense out of pieces or parts of information.
For example, demonstrating fractions. Use two oranges, keep one whole, cut the other up first into halves then into quarters, but always have the visual image of the whole orange present. The student must understand that the word fraction stands for the equal parts you have created from the whole.

Third Major Cause:

Difficulty with the skills of hand printing, spelling, reading and composing sentences correctly. This usually means that the right brain cannot transfer its concrete images adequately to the left brain which works with abstracts and uses the language of words and numbers.

The right-brain thinker cannot learn, analyze or work with what they do not understand or can process. This is a strong indication that although the students are taking in information and attempting to store it in whole concrete images, they are not using it for thinking or learning that requires abstract processing. Instead they are memorizing the image of the information and giving it back verbatim in their answers. They can do this easily if they are expected to give one word answers or complete a sentence, but thinking out cause and effect is next to impossible because it is an abstract task that means nothing to them and requires proper training to cope with it.

Fourth Major Cause:

Difficulty with sequencing (put in a logical order) numbers, letters, words, sentences, ideas, thoughts. If the students can neither see the “parts within the whole” in their correct sequence, they cannot spell, read, write sentences and paragraphs, nor do mathematical calculations.

Fifth Major Cause:

Difficulty understanding the abstract. The right-brain learner does not always understand the abstract words, thoughts and ideas they hear or read as they cannot easily turn them into whole concrete images they can visualize. If the dyslexic student cannot complete a thought in a visual image, they will have problems saving it and storing it in long term memory because it does not make sense.

The right-brain thinker attempts to understand what is being read or spoken by catching the concrete nouns and active verbs, or by using intuition to fill in the blanks or reason it out.

Sixth Major Cause:

Difficulty with building a memorized word list.It is very important for all students, including dyslexics,to have a memorized sight list of words that is appropriate to their grade level. These words must be memorized beforehand so the brain does not have to lose time during reading figuring out how the word is decoded, what it sounds like or means.

If the student spends too much time in decoding and recognizing the individual words, comprehension of the story is lost. The student is forced to reread the passage over and over to understand what they have just read. Their short-term memory can consequently dump the information when the right-brain has struggled too long to decode the words and find context in what they are reading. Therefore, the student will not be able to answer any questions about their reading assignment because the student has not processed the information correctly or stored it in long-term memory.

Seventh Major Cause:

Difficulty in following instructions. Dyslexic students need very specific and complete instructions on how to do an assignment, project, test or complete a lesson. Again this is about the necessity to see the whole picture.

They need to understand how the assignment starts and ends. They need to know: where to put their name, date and title; what kind of paper to use; pen, pencil or computer; the date to hand it in; how the answers should look (for example: one word answers, a paragraph or a page); and any other issues that may be of concern for the student.

Once the student has all the information they require they have the “whole picture” of what to do and can now see the parts so they are ready to start the assignment. Also the entire lesson or explanation must be given at one time on the same day.  If this does not happen, the students will forget everything they should have learned to be able to work on and complete the assignment.

Dyslexic students should always be allowed and encouraged to ask questions to fill in any gaps they have in understanding what they are required to do. The Five Steps to Learning“ for dyslexics (discussed in my next blog) shows how and why an assignment should be presented to the dyslexic students if you expect them to learn the material or do the assignment correctly.

Check our website for more info and solutions for teaching dyslexics: dyslexiavictoriaonline.com or dyslexiavictoria.ca


Karen Hope