Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Dyslexia - Recognizing the genius sitting next to you...

I requested one of my readers to write an article on her personal experience with dyslexics and the following is what she wrote.

When I was a kid, I had two genius brothers who were always taking apart everything: my walking doll, my tricycle, the neighbour's old lawn mower. Pretty soon those things became something new...a working lawn mower for my dad, a tricycle that looked like a low rider, a doll that didn't walk any more (not everything turned out right).

By the time we were teenagers, they had restored a 1967 Chevrolet Camaro from a box, sewed the entire interior on my mom's sewing machine, and won first place awards at every car show they went too.

These two were stars in the garage, but they struggled in school. I remember my mother spending almost every night reading their textbooks to them while I practised piano. I remember my brothers struggling to write reports, and how they cried that they felt "dumb." My mum and I could not figure out why these two very smart boys struggled so much in school. With perseverance and a strong desire to succeed, they graduated with engineering degrees after 6 and 8 years of post-high school education.

So, when my 6 year old son who was as creative as the day is long, building with Legos all day, and making an entire human skeleton by looking at a text book started showing signs of struggling with reading and writing, I began to remember those long nights my mum would spend with my brothers, and the pain of them thinking they were stupid still lingered in my mind.

With the prodding of his second grade teacher, I started the testing phase with him. And, he came back diagnosed as ADD. I kept thinking it didn't fit. He didn't have trouble paying attention or sitting still: he could write a three-page story and sit still on a four-hour car drive. But, he did have trouble writing his name, telling p, b, d and q apart, memorizing anything including mathematics facts and his weekly spelling words, and hearing the teacher's instructions. I dug deeper. I read every article on every learning disability there was. Pretty soon, I read about dyslexia, and my son had 75% of the symptoms. So did my brothers! And dyslexia can be hereditary. Dyslexia often causes attention problems because the children with it have such a tough time paying attention because they are taxing their brains so heavily. (For a list of the symptoms refer to this web site:

Once I knew what I thought he had, finding help was not so simple. The schools would only help kids performing in the bottom 10% of their class. Many programs promised miracle cures for ADD and Dyslexia but they cost thousands of dollars, and they had no research to support them. So, I slowly researched what was available in the area and invested in the Davis Program and an Orton Gillingham program. The Davis program focuses on helping the dyslexic brain that is so good at picture-visualization learn the alphabet frontward and backwards with clay, learn how to re-focus their brain when they are tired, and how to recognize when their brain is tired from concentrating too much. It also helps them associate words like "the, of, a, but, and, etc." with a picture or action by making these "trigger" words in clay format. Orton-Gillingham programs focuses on the logical gifts of the dyslexic mind. The dyslexic mind recognizes patterns and gets confused when things that do not follow a logical, visual pattern (for example, the words dome, come, but, put). Orton Gillingham programs help the dyslexic student learn the different sounds of every letter, and literally, they learn every English spelling rule, in a logical, progressive format that starts with one syllable words and moves up to 6 syllable words.

These two programs helped my son, and just the other day, he won his classroom spelling contest for the week. These programs were not miracle cures, but were the result of hard work he put forth for four years, going to tutoring.

I encourage every parent of a student who struggles to not give up on your child...research all over the web and read books at the library, but also do not believe everything you read. The research may take months, and even years. Many times, I would search, and not find anything. Six months later, the Internet would turn up something new. Some new article, some new web site, some new contact on Facebook.

Recognize the genius in your child. What is he or she great at? What is he or she good at? Build their self-esteem by focusing on those aspects and explaining that school does not measure everything that one needs to be successful in life. When was the last time anyone learned to rebuild a tricycle or lawn mower engine in grade school? Art and music are luxuries at many schools, even in the US. Focus on what your child is good at, and then work to find them help in the areas they struggle. Your child will feel that he is valuable with this approach.

Dyslexics have many, many talents that a school never uncovers because it focuses on reading, handwriting, hearing instructions and memorizing. Many of these are the exact talents that dyslexics don't have. If your child is like this, don't be discouraged. They can learn, they just learn differently than the average person.

I wish more school systems would recognize dyslexia. If someone has cancer, we call it cancer. We don't treat every symptom separately, and not call it cancer so their feelings aren't hurt.

Have a genius sitting next to you who doesn't do well in school? Build their self-esteem, and persevere till you find out how you can help them.

Written by Heidi Kroner, USA
Heidi and Dave

For Lesson 32 click here:


Unknown said...

Thank you Heidi:

Here, here. Well put. It mirrored my story. I struggled with spelling and reading, I failed grade 3 was labelled retarded. I lacked self esteem and was discouraged.

As a kid I took everything apart and put it together. At 11 years old I rebuilt a 1956 Ford pickup. Rebuilt the engine, replaced the cam, replaced a bent tie rods, replaced the main engine bearings, shimmed the piston bushings, reamed the pistons, and replaced the ground gears in the transmission that were broken and worn, replaced the U-joints.

At school they encouraged me to become a mechanic. They discouraged me from an academic future. It was not my mechanical ability that got in the way but the stuff that the schools were suppose to teach me that were my stumbling block.

After the truck was repaired and functioning I was bored with mechanical world and wanted another challenge. The idea of becoming a grease jockey revolted me. It was against the odds I continued with my academic endeavours. Undiagnosed I walked a lonely road.

I eventually made it, but want to say to all that will listen. Do Not Limit the Future of our budding geniuses by neglecting that which is difficult, do not neglect the tools of academe because the student is not doing well.

You sound awesome.


Luqman Michel said...

Hi John, When I read Heidi's post the first thought that came to my mind was your e-mail to me when I first started my blog. Thank you for your encouraging comment.

Unknown said...

I truly believe that visual-spatial people learn quite differently from the rest of the population. I think it is part of the reason there is an over-diagnosis of ADD/ADHD in the States. I met a man via facebook who has cataloged hundreds of scientific research articles that explain how dyslexics learn differently than the average person. In the US, only 2 of the 50 states recognize the learning pattern and have programs in elementary school geared for it (Texas and Colorado). I worked with mechanics for 11 years developing training programs, and 90% of them had poor self esteem because they did not do well in school. I am glad you pursued your dreams!

Luqman Michel said...

Visual spatial people learning differently is what my blog is all about.
Where can one assess the scientific research articles from?

Unknown said...

Luqman, I have learned a lot from Graeme Wadlow's articles he posts via facebook. Some are very scientific and pretty wordy. Linda Silverman is considered the top expert on visual spatial learning...however, I don't agree with all her stuff. She goes towards the far end thinking that dyslexics can not handle intense language programs like Orton Gillingham, and I disagree. At least, I have proof that they can handle it living in my house. I know most of my visual spatial info from Linda Silverman. The first tutor I took my son too only taught him the Davis Dyslexia Program because she believed Linda Silverman's theory that they could not handle intense language programs. I went against her advice, and took my son to the O-G tutor after he still struggled with reading and spelling.

Luqman Michel said...

I have not read much of Graeme's writings. I will read from now on. But I hardly have time. I wish I had learnt to type at a faster rate. Typing takes a lot of time and e-mails are getting more and more.

My advise to all parents is to read whatever they can read but read with an open mind and act according to their own feelings. Do not brush off anything new but at the same time do not accept anything as Gospel truth. You know your child well and you are the best guide and teacher for you child.

I definitely don't buy the theory that dyslexics cannot handle intense language programmes. Just look at the number of dyslexics who write so well. Look at the dyslexics who are writing book after books.

Anonymous said...

Superb blog. I'm 45, an avid reader, and also dyslexic, but moderately so according to the online tests. For years I've had poor concentration skills insomuch as I'd focus on one subject for a while before loosing complete interest. And energy to continue to finish what I started.

My Maths skill are very poor, but remembering numbers are easy. Which has always baffled me to say the least. After looking at some research today I'm starting to wonder whether I've left treating my problem a little too late.

Reading your blog inspired me to continue trying and believe, like so many authors, it is possible to be a dyslexic writer. Thank you so much fof your time.

Unknown said...


It is good to hear that it is working for you. It is never to late to try treatment. The brain is elastic and it continues to create new nerve matter. It is slower at an older age but it does continue.

Mental excercise helps us grow, improves our outlook and slowes the aging processes.

Good luck and best wishes.

Luqman Michel said...

Hi there my friend Bit. Welcome back.
Thank you for your input. I completely agree with you. I do teach my students on ways to memorise and they do well in their examinations. I may one day write about this in my other blog for students.