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What is Dyslexia: Gift or Problem?

Dyslexia, like everything else in our life, has two sides:

- problematic, caused by difficulties with reading, speaking, understanding the text or mathematics,

- and pleasant one, associated with a amazing creative imagination.

Let's take a look at each of these sides.

We all think in three ways:

- with the help of sounds of the words (it is as a radio in our head, that is talking with our own voice),

- with the help of images (pictures),

- with the help of sensations (feelings).

And we all have a dominant ("favourite") way of thinking.

People with learning disabilities tend to have non-verbal thinking.

This way has many advantages. For example: we can only think (and speak) with about 3-4 words per second, while dyslexics can see up to 24 pictures per second. When we think verbally, we think linearly: in the same way we speak and read but dyslexics can see a few pictures at the same moment, and these pictures can begin to evolve immediately and develop simultaneously in several directions! Fancy that, a person can immediately see several great ideas, start developing them, guesses the possible answers, calculate the effectiveness, choose the best ones ... in a limited time! But that is not all yet.

The key point of the dyslexic talent - in the multidimensionality (or three-dimensionality) way of thinking. If you ask a person who thinks in words to imagine a volcano, then most likely it will be either a picture from a book or a photograph. But a person with dyslexia is likely to see a “video”: an erupting volcano, smoke, spreading magma, flying boulders, ash. .. and not only the volcano itself, but all the details of the surrounding landscape ...

However, the talent is not limited to this either! If a person with dyslexia encounters something unknown and incomprehensible (something they cannot recognise yet), his imagination is automatically switched on and this person enters a state of disorientation. He sees not the picture of the real world around them, but what his imagination shows him. The imagination begins to "play" with the object, imagine it from a different sides, turn it over, imagine what may be inside it, guess what it may be connected with, see the object as part of something, compare with something similar, identify relationships, penetrate deeper, etc ...

Therefore, if a person faces something unknown or incomprehensible, he begins to explore it with the help of their imagination. This phenomenon is called disorientation.

Orientation is a condition when the focus of the attention directed to the outside world, and a person sees what is really happening.

Disorientation means, that the attention is directed into imaginary world, and imagination draws a pictures of what are not in reality. The person brain doesn't get what eye's see, it gets what he thinks his eyes are seeing or doesn't get what his ears hear, it gets what he thinks his ears hear. And balance and movement sense changes and internal sense of time can either speed up or slow down. This is how the distortions appears.

Where do the problems come from?

As strange as it sounds, the same wonderful creative multidimensional imagination is causing problems!

At school, a child starts to learn letters of the alphabet: boring black two-dimensional letters on white paper, and it often happens that the child's brain is not yet ready for such abstractions as symbols: letters, numbers, written words. So then various misunderstandings and confusion may arise. The child learns to read and sees a word that he cannot recognise: a mechanism that he had successfully used up to that moment - disorientation - immediately turns on.

Imagination is connected and begins to "help": it turns the letters - this is how the letter b turns into d or p or even q (b, d, p, q are the same symbol, turned in different directions), begins to swap letters in words and the word "saw" becomes "was", swap the words in sentences ...

Although the imagination does all this with a good purpose: to help recognise the incomprehensible and get rid of confusion, but as a result, the child sees some letters instead of others, sees other words instead of written ones. This is how dyslexia occurs (the word dyslexia origins from other Greek δυσ- - a prefix meaning a violation, and λέξις - “words, speech”) - a selective impairment of the ability to master reading and writing skills while maintaining a general ability to learn.

While person thinks with pictures, another difficulty happens: not all words have pictures, which causes problems with understanding of the text. For example, you can easily imagine the words "table" or "chair", "sing" or "jump", "red" or "round". But is it possible to imagine the words: "where", "why", "because", "often", "on", the definite article "the"?When these little words appear in the text or in speech, blank spaces appear instead of pictures.

Let's take a look at a very simple sentence: The cat sits on the bed.

This sentence has 6 words, 3 of them have pictures - "cat", "sits", "bed" and 3 without pictures - "the", "on", "the". It is 50% of words in this sentence are without pictures. On average, there are 40 to 60% of such words in each sentence. When child reads this sentence, he sees some pictures: cat, sits, bed. But where the cat sits exactly, he can only guesses: on the bed, under the bed, near the bed, behind it... and what kind of cat it is (the article "the" gives us an understanding that we already know something about this cat, as well as about the bed) ... The child tries to understand the meaning of the sentence as well as join those words into the one picture with their imagination. But often the meaning of sentence changes, distorted or abracadabra appears.

The all above, makes understanding of the text very difficult. Processing of information becomes extremely tedious and energy-consuming. This happens in every sentence (when reading, listening instructions or explanations from the teacher). As a result, the child gets tired and ... stops listening, doesn't want to read... gets distracted.

In order to cope with all problems and continue studying, some children begin to use strong concentration of attention, which can cause exhaustion, accompanied by headaches, nausea, dizziness, weakness, tommy ache, enuresis ...

These “little” words without pictures ("little" because most of them consist of a small number of letters from 1 to 5), we call trigger words, because they trigger disorientation. In other words, they trigger imagination, and distortions of the perception of the information appears. The child can "see" some words instead of others, understand the content of the instructions in a different way.

As the child grows up, the texts become more and more complex, pictures leave the books, terms that combine a system of concepts appear... The tension is increases, the child can`t cope any longer. An accumulation of confusion, which is caused by the incomprehensible content of the text and a strong concentration of attention, occurs. The threshold of this confusion goes down and down.

Next time, when the child opens a book or notices, that the teacher is preparing to start a new lecture on the topic, he get disoriented faster and faster (and also he starts to use his imagination for self-entertainment).

So a phase of complete rejection of books and study in general may occur, when the child feels that he can no longer cope with this pressure...

Dyslexic children are often addicted to gadgets. Have you probably already guessed why, huh? Because this is pictures based, that makes it easy and understandable! Place, where child can have a rest and release after all the accumulated stress! He can easily focus on games for hours and without any fatigue ...

So what can be done about all of this?

Ronald Davis, the founder of the theory of dyslexia correction, is a talented dyslexic himself. He learned how to read at the age of 38 only, carefully concealing that he could not read! Working as an engineer, architect, sculptor and businessman, Ron noticed that sometimes his state of distortion of perception of the reality can be significantly increased. As an engineer, he concluded that there is also should be such a state in which these distortions can be reduced.

This is how the first part of the Dyslexia Correction Program started:

-Self control tools for the focus. A person learns to control imagination and perception himself, depending on his own will.

The second part of the program consists of creating the alphabet out of clay. In order to identify the symbols, that cause problems. So when stress and concentration from the letters go away, and reading becomes a pleasant, and low-energy process.

The third part is working with understanding. Mastering the trigger words out of clay. Person creates the concept of the meaning of the word out from plasticine. When he meets this word in the text, there is already a picture with it. This word is easily recognisable and carries its semantic load. Creating the pictures for all trigger words remains the client's homework. There are about 220 word-starters in English, about 300 in Russian.

The fourth part is reading exercises. Dyslexic sees the text as the picture, without splitting it into the lines, sentences, words and letters ( imagine the tree, you will not scan it for separate brunches and leaves!). So reading exercises helps to develop the new habit. As well as helps to use the imagination for better memorisation of the information.

After completing the homework, reading becomes easier. The reading process itself turns into a fascinating video watching, with the such impressive special effects that producers have not learned to create in a movies yet! ...

The person may even become addicted to reading, but that's another story...

© Copyright 2019, Elena Nikulina

Elena Nikulina, DDAI (Davis Dyslexia Association International) licensed facilitator of correction of dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, dyspraxia, Attention Deficit Disorder with or without Hypo / Hyperactivity, using the author's Ronald Davis method, director of Dyslexia Correction and Support Center, London, UK. Davis Autism and Davis Concept for Life facilitator.

For more information read Ronald Davis's books "The Gift of Dyslexia" and "The Gift of Learning".

Photo: creating an image for a trigger word «between».

Video: This video was created by my daughter showing how easily her imagination can be triggered. The flying ball becomes a dragon and turns into a ball again.

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