Ron Davis, in his book The Gift of Learning said, and I quote "that all the symptoms of dyslexia were actually all the symptoms of disorientation. When a dyslexic individual is sufficiently confused, he will disorient spontaneously without noticing it.
But this is not the case with ADD, math and dysgraphic handwriting problems. For them, the effects of disorientation occur during early childhood development, long before a child is old enough to go to school.
During childhood development, both the person's natural state of orientation and the mental function of disorientation, working together, distort some children's perception of their environment to the degree that they develop an alternate reality or concept of essential life lessons, such as change, consequence, cause and effect, time and so on.
The establishment of these alternative realities can lead to the development of ADD, and to some extent, problems with math and handwriting."
Here is a mother's experience in dealing with her son's ADHD.
Q: What intervention programme should I let my child go for? There are so many out there. Any criteria I can use to assess if those programmes are going to help my child?
A: Parents do get overwhelmed when it comes to deciding which intervention programme to put their child through.
Having gone through the process myself and having learnt what dyslexia truly is, not just from a pure research perspective, but also through a first person’s experience (Ron Davis himself), this is what I think.
Many intervention programmes being offered today can be generally summed up as seeking to teach a child how to learn. Sounds perfectly legit right? However, to correct dyslexia (yes, it is possible), it is important to recognise the cause of the dyslexic symptoms and to remove that cause. In another words, the starting point is not to teach a child how to learn but to remove what is preventing their ability (we all know they are smart cookies) to learn. Once the obstacle to learning is removed, then easeful learning can take place.
If a child is being taught how to learn without first removing the obstruction to learning, it will be an uphill task and the progress is slow. Time is not on their side, especially if they have already entered our Singapore education system.
Putting my daughter through the Davis programme was a game changer for her and I cannot be more thankful for that. If you are at the crossroad now, why not find out more about that programme?
Q: Can you explain with an example, how a dyslexic gets confused when reading, and how that leads to disorientation when the threshold for confusion is reached, and subsequently mistakes are made in the process?
A: Let me unpack this for you by using Ron Davis’ step-by-step breakdown of what happens when a 10-year old dyslexic reads the sentence, “The brown horse jumped over the stone fence and ran through the pasture”.
The first word “the” caused the mental imagery to go blank, because there was no picture for it. A blank picture is the essence of confusion. Using concentration, however, the child pushes past the blank picture and says “the” and forces himself to skip to the next word.
The word “brown” produces the mental image of a colour, but it has no defined shape. Continuing to concentrate, he says the word “brown”.
The word “horse” transforms the brown picture into a horse of that colour. Concentration continues and “horse” is said.
The word “jumped” causes the front of the brown horse to rise into the air. He continues concentrating as he says “jumped”.
The word “over” causes the back of the horse to rise. Still concentrating, he says “over”.
The next word, another “the”, causes the picture to go blank again. Confusion for the dyslexic has increased, but the threshold for confusion has not been reached. He must now double his concentration so he can push on to the next word. In doing so, he may or may not omit saying “the”.
The word “stone” produces a picture of a rock. With concentration doubled, he says “stone”.
The next word, “fence”, turns the rock into a rock fence. Still with doubled concentration, he says “stone”.
The next word, “and”, blanks out the picture again. This time, the threshold for confusion is reached. So the child becomes disoriented. The child is stopped again, more confused, doubly concentrating, and more disoriented. The only way he can continue is to increase his concentration effort. But now because he is so disoriented, the dyslexic symptoms will appear. It is very likely that he will omit saying the word “and”, or just as likely that he will substitute “a”, “an”, or “the” instead. At this point, he is no longer getting an accurate perception of the words on the page. He is now expanding a tremendous amount of effort and energy on concentrating, just to continue.
The next word, “ran”, because he is now disoriented, is altered into the word “runs”. He sees an image of himself running, entirely unrelated to the picture of the hovering horse. Then he says “runs”.
The word “through” is altered into “throws”. He sees himself throwing a ball and says “throws”.
The next word, “the”, blanks out the picture again, even more confused, and still disoriented. His only recourse is to quadruple his concentration. In doing so, he omits saying “the”.
By now, his disorientation has created a feeling like dizziness. He is feeling sick to his stomach, and the words and letters are swimming around on the page.
For the last word “pasture”, he must track down each letter, one at a time, so he can sound out the word. Once he does, he sees a picture of a grassy place. Even though he is disoriented, because of the extra effort and energy he puts forth in catching and sounding out each letter, he says it right, “pasture”.
Having competed the sentence, he closes the book and pushes it away. That’s enough of that! When asked what he just read, he is likely to answer with something like “a place where grass grows”. He has a picture of a horse in the air, a stone fence, himself playing ball and a grassy place, but cannot relate the separate elements in the sentence to form a mental image of the scene described.
To everyone who saw or heard him read the sentence or heard his answer to what it was about, it’s obvious that he didn’t understand any of what he just read. As for him, he doesn’t care that he didn’t understand it. He’s just thankful that he survived the ordeal of reading out loud.
Do you see some similarities between what was described above and what you see in your child when he/she attempts to read?
Not all math/numeracy difficulties are signs of dyscalculia. Especially in our Singapore curriculum, where understanding math is first about English comprehension, before we can apply our mathematics skill. We have all had our fair share of trying to figure out what a problem sum is getting at, haven’t we?
Math has its unique set of symbols and words that can cause confusion and disorientation. Very often, resolving the dyslexia and dealing with the trigger words specific to mathematics, can help the child have the understanding required to handle math.
Punctuation marks give meaning to what we are reading and writing. Very often, dyslexics omit or ignore punctuation marks because they are symbols, and some symbols can confuse dyslexics if they are not able to connect how the mark looks, to what it's called, how to use it, where to place it in relation to a word and what you should do when you come across the mark when reading (stop, short stop, pause or continue reading). Life would be so confusing without proper punctuation marks!
Once the gaps are addressed, do something fun with your child to reinforce the learning, like getting him/her to spot and highlight as many different punctuation marks as he/she could find in an old magazine, newspaper or book.
P/s: get hold of a good grammar book (with a punctuation mark explanation section) for use when instructing the child.
The end objective of reading is to have comprehension. In the case of dyslexia, most children could not even read, let alone have any comprehension. And so, we continue drilling them in phonics, hoping that they will eventually get it and is able to decode.
I am not about to invalidate the merits of phonics. It has its place in the process of acquiring literacy for most people. But we need to acknowledge that while it works for some, it may not work for others, dyslexics being one such group. My daughter struggled with phonics and many parents have shared the same observations. If that’s the case, giving them more phonics programme isn’t going to work for them.
What do you need to consider before you buy into any phonics programmes?
You may have heard this before: when something is repeated often enough, it gets perceived as the truth.
There are some misconceptions about learning difficulties that are accepted by parents as the truth and so they figured there is nothing they can do about it and accepted things as they are.
It is important for us to question what we are reading or hearing. Don’t just accept what you’ve been told, especially if you have a nagging suspicion that something does not sound quite right.
The mistakes we see a dyslexic make when reading, such as omissions, substitutions, insertions and reversals, are as a result of disorientation.
Disorientation causes perceptual distortions in our various senses: vision, hearing, balance/movement and sense of time.
Just like the idea depicted in the picture, dyslexics need a way to ‘refresh’ their sensory perceptions so that they can turn off the disorientation, and have accurate perception.
Dyscalculia is a specific learning difficulty associated with math/numeracy. This means that a person with dyscalculia will struggle with concepts required to understand mathematics.
Math is about measuring change. It is a series of consequence, done in sequence and in a certain order. People who have an inherent sense of these concepts can easily learn and understand math.
Here are some ideas for teaching math that appeal to a dyslexic’s visual thinking style.
In the world of learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, disorientation causes perceptual distortion which explains many of the symptoms of dyslexia.
When I was first shown this comic strip, I could see how it aptly illustrated what disorientation is like for someone with learning disabilities; experiencing an alternate reality.
You and I have also experienced disorientation. A classic example is when you are sitting in a stationary vehicle and another vehicle next to you moves, creating the false perception that you are moving.
The difference is that our disorientation does not so much as affect our day-to-day functioning. But to a dyslexic, they encounter disorientation so frequently that it impacts their learning.