Over the past few weeks, I have been sharing – and busting – some common myths regarding learning differences such as dyslexia, ADD/ADHD and autism. This week’s myth:
Myth #3: “My dyslexic child just needs to concentrate more.”
Disorientation is the opposite to being focused. When someone is disoriented, they will not be ‘present’, and will be experiencing inaccurate perception.
Can you imagine how difficult it must be to stay focused when your brain is constantly wanting to disorientate because you are confused about a word? So many words cause confusion for dyslexic leaners. Any abstract word has the potential to do so, because they are not able to create a picture for it. It is easy for a picture-thinking dyslexic person to picture a tyrannosaurus rex, therefore even though the word seems difficult, it tends not to trip a dyslexic reader up. It is not so easy to picture a ‘the’, a 'was' or a 'put' - these are the types of words that cause disorientation.
Making a dyslexic person concentrate doesn’t work. In fact in my experience all it seems to do is cause stress, headaches, tummy aches and meltdowns.
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Their challenges generally lie in difficulty with the written word. There is no correlation at all between reading challenges and lack of intelligence. According to Jeffrey Gruen, associate professor at the Yale University School of Medicine, “the reading disability is not a global effect on the entire brain function.”
Ronald D. Davis, author of “The Gift of Dyslexia” and “The Gift of Learning”, states that dyslexic people think in images, not the sounds of words. This is the reason why a common characteristic of dyslexia is difficulty with phonics. Their brains just don’t work with sounds. “We now know that dyslexic learn to read differently – most do not learn phonetically,” states Dr Gruen.
So if phonics isn’t the answer, what is? A visual-spatial, meaning based approach, that works in harmony with the visual-spatial learning dominance of a dyslexic learner. According to Ron Davis, every word has three parts: what it looks like (how it is spelled); what it sounds like (how it is said); and what a word means.
Traditional reading instruction links the first two parts of words through phonics instruction, with the third part – the meaning - often not touched on. For a dyslexic learner, it is the missing meaning that causes such challenges. As a picture thinker, the dyslexic individual creates meaning by forming mental images as s/he reads. This is ease-ful when reading words such as “horse” and “tree”. However, it is very difficult to form a mental image of ‘abstract’ words such as ‘where’ and ‘were’. These words create blank pictures - comprehension becomes interrupted. These abstract words make up approximately 75% of print. Can you imagine how many times meaning may be lost when just reading one sentence?
Take the word ‘too’. It means ‘also’. The model below is of one person sitting reading, and another person sitting and reading also – too.
The student who created this model now has understanding of that abstract word. It will no longer be a blank picture that causes confusion.
Dr Gruen states, “Some kids just learn differently. Not all children learn to read with the current one-size fits all methods.” Dyslexic students have many areas of strength. Helping them to minimise the challenges associated with the written word removes a significant barrier within a predominantly word-based education system, and helps to keep their self esteem intact – empowering them towards reaching their potential.
B.Ed, Dip.Teach, Licensed Davis Dyslexia Facilitator, Licensed Davis Autism Facilitator/Coach
Book: “The Gift of Dyslexia” by Ronald D. Davis
Article: The DCDC2 gene and dyslexia, by Michelle D. Jones-London, Ph.D.