Sydney Dyslexia

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Wonderful Testimony of Adult Dyslexic

I have had the pleasure to facilitate a program at the Entrance – the Dyslexia Retreat away from home – last week with a bright 28-year old Englishman. Nick (I changed his name) wants to get ahead in life, out of the building industry or moving up in the same industry.

In either case, his literacy levels kept him back – and despite his hard-working attitude and intelligence, his confidence was rather poor and a result of a traumatic life and school experience. The entire week was filled with these ‘aha-moments’ that make our work so worthwhile.

At the end of the week, I asked Nick to summarize his experience for me – and that’s what he wrote:

“Now, I believe I can do anything I set my mind to. For the first time in my life, I am excited to learn, to read – I can’t wait to. There are a lot more opportunities for me now. 

I feel I turned from a rock to a sponge.

I used to be frustrated just to fill out a form. I wouldn’t even be able to look at the form, like it was some terrible stress and strain on my mind. I’d leave it and push it away until the last minute. Strange, now the idea of doing that feels like an opportunity to learn and I am excited about that.

I am looking forward to reading a book from cover to cover. I’m thinking more when I am writing – I like to be correct and do things in the right way. I am like that at work and now I am like that with writing too. When I wrote my first text yesterday without a single mistake, I felt really happy.”

Now, Nick is back home and sent me the first text – a very long text too – on how he just bought all these healthy things to cook, as our meals in the past week so inspired him and stopped his sugar cravings.

Then he bought his first book and found it hard to choose, as there were so many that jumped out at him – he now can’t wait to read ‘the Girl on the Train’.

He wrote, “I am very grateful for your help. You are an inspiration and I want you to know that you should be very proud of what your are doing. You’re making a real difference in people’s lives; maybe more than you know.” Well, I know that he’d be proud to have used the semicolon here so cleverly – and I was pleased to see it.

He continued, “Got up this morning, feeling great. I made myself a nice work space, did my health food shop and got my first book. It took so long picking one, there are so many to choose from,…” and he’d be equally pleased that he’s one of the few people know who knows that these three dots are ellipsis and he knows how to spell that word too.

Keep up the great work, Nick – very proud of you!

 

 


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Dadirri: Deep Listening

 

The healing power of listening in deep stillness has not only been the topic of my most recent talk at Toastmasters, but is beautifully demonstrated here by an ancient Aboriginal tradition.

What is Dadirri?

“Dadirri is inner, deep listening and quiet, still awareness. Dadirri recognises the deep spring that is inside us. We call on it and it calls to us. This is the gift that Australia is thirsting for. It is something like what you call ‘contemplation’.”
– Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann, Ngangiwumirr Elder


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Wednesday – Crunch Day

Maybe some of my fellow Davis Facilitators would agree: When a program lasts from Monday to Friday, one-on-one for five full days, Wednesdays can be a challenge.

I have been working with a lovely young man, who at the age of 28 has decided to take matters of learning to the next level. He has left school early, which had been a struggle anyway and now finds that his level of literacy will not be enough to study. He wants to study business and  construction management. His reading is good, comprehension, spelling and writing aren’t.

We had two amazing days, which really ought to have been three days. He was breezing through the alphabet, very happy to be able to remember all 26 letters backwards in a very short time. He has been spelling words forwards and backwards with he had never been able to spell before. His reading had started well and he had learned to make movies in his head and remember almost everything he was reading. There were so many aha-moments, when things just all made sense to him. Even balancing on one leg, when he caught those two balls, was awesome – and then came Wednesday – today.

What happened over night? Did someone exchange my client for a sniffling, hay-feverish, tired,  quiet copy of himself? Sleeping in, feeling off, having had trouble sleeping last night, looking pale, I thought that it must have been that his brain/mind was needing a rest. Like having a new program installed, it had obviously crashed the old system and his red nose was like the red warning signal to stay away from more input.

Not knowing what to do without doing, I quietly meditated for a while, hoping for some inspiration. It came with unexpected advice. Harmonize the boy!

I cautiously suggested this, briefly explaining to him, that he didn’t need to do anything, just lie on the massage table, being covered with a warm blanket and go as blank as the blanket. ‘You just focus on the breathing, nothing else’, I prompted and he gladly agreed, probably thinking that at least he could fall asleep again.

I don’t think he did, but the harmonization was really beyond my doing. My hands were guided and my mind was empty. It was quite remarkable, but nothing compared to the difference in my client, when he got off the table 40 minutes later. Not only was he rested, focused and happy to continue to work, he did so on an ever higher level than the previous two days. Things just seemed to ‘stick’ and I think at times he amazed himself with his abilities.

My lesson: meditate more often and do less!

 

 


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Silence and its effect on the Brain

I really think I ought to put Finland onto my bucket list – with the amount of posting I do about this rather small country, which seems to have the most innovative educational and social approaches. This one highlights the value of silence to not only give the brain a rest but to improve learning, focus, imagination and creativity.

Instead of handing a child the iPad as soon as they are bored, maybe silence could be a valuable alternative.

The ‘Lifehack’ article claims that

“Finland may be on to something very big. You could be seeing the very beginnings of using silence as a selling point as silence may be becoming more and more attractive. As the world around becomes increasingly loud and cluttered you may find yourself seeking out the reprieve that silent places and silence have to offer. This may be a wise move as studies are showing that silence is much more important to your brains than you might think.

Traveling to Finland may just well be on your list of things to do. There you may find the silence you need to help your brain. Or, if Finland is a bit out of reach for now, you could simply take a quiet walk in a peaceful place in your neighborhood. This might prove to do you and your brain a world of good.”


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Maths and Dyslexia

This cartoon made me smile – as I am currently writing a Maths book for visual learners, hoping it won’t end up in the Horror Section.

It’s very exciting to see the pictures that come back from the artist and how it will be used to teach visual learners the times tables – very quickly and easily. Having used this method, which I have developed over the years, on many of my clients – it will be great that it will soon be available in a book to add extra reminders and visuals.

Interestingly, most non-dyslexic people find it really complicated and cannot believe how easy their dyslexic child picks it up, even if they had previously struggled for years to get the 6-, 7- and 8-times tables.

I’ll keep you posted on the progress!

 


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An OT speaks out…so true

I have found this article very inspiring. Victoria argues that it is us, the parents, who need to change. I don’t think that children are getting worse every year, as some teachers proclaim, but that they are different – and therefore need a different approach too. With a school system that hasn’t changed much in centuries and parents who are busier and more permissive than ever, it’s not surprising that we have created a generation that won’t mold to our expectations and rules any more. 

Ever since I have thought about the need for a new school system – especially one that is suited for visual learners – I have met parents and teachers who are very encouraging and supportive of this idea.

Here’s the article:

 

“I am an occupational therapist with 10 years of experience working with children, parents, and teachers. I completely agree with this teacher’s message that our children getting worse and worse in many aspects. I hear the same consistent message from every teacher I meet. Clearly, throughout my ten years as an Occupational Therapist, I have seen and continue to see a decline in kids’ social, emotional, academic functioning, as well as a sharp increase in learning disabilities and other diagnoses.

Today’s children come to school emotionally unavailable for learning and there are many factors in our modern lifestyle that contribute to this. As we know, the brain is malleable. Through environment we can make the brain “stronger” or make it “weaker”. I truly believe that with all our greatest intentions, we unfortunately remold our children’s brains in the wrong direction. Here is why…

1. Technology

“Free babysitting service… the payment is waiting for you just around the corner”.  We pay with our kids’ nervous system, with their attention, and ability for delayed gratification. Compared to virtual reality, everyday life is boring. When kids come to the classroom, they are exposed to human voices and adequate visual stimulation as opposed to being bombarded with graphic explosions and special effects that they are used to seeing on the screens. After hours of virtual reality, processing information in a classroom becomes increasingly challenging for our kids because their brains are getting used to the high levels of stimulation that video games provide. The inability to process lower levels of stimulation leaves kids vulnerable to academic challenges. Technology also disconnects us emotionally from our children and our families. Parental emotional availability is the main nutrient for child’s brain. Unfortunately, we are gradually depriving our children from that nutrient.

2. Kids get everything they want the moment they want

“I am Hungry!!” “In a sec I will stop at drive thru” “I am Thirsty!” “Here is a vending machine”. “I am bored!” “Use my phone!”   The ability to delay gratification is one of the key factors for future success. We have all the greatest intention in mind to make our children happy, but unfortunately, we make them happy at the moment but miserable in a long term.  To be able to delay gratification means to be able to function under stress. Our children are gradually becoming less equipped to deal with even minor stressors which eventually become huge obstacles to their success in life.
The inability to delay gratification is often seen in classrooms, malls, restaurants, and toy stores the moment the child hears “No” because parents have taught their“child’s brain” to get what it wants right away

3. Kids rule the world

“My son doesn’t like vegetables” “She doesn’t like going to bed early” “He doesn’t like to eat breakfast” “She doesn’t like toys, but she is very good at her IPAD” “He doesn’t want to get dressed on his own” “She is too lazy to eat on her own”. This is what I hear from parents all the time. Since when do children dictate to us how to parent them? If we leave it all up to them , all they are going to do is eat macaroni and cheese, bagel with cream cheese, watch TV, play on their tablets, and never go to bed. What good are we doing them by giving them what they WANT when we know that it is not GOOD for them? Without proper nutrition and a good night’s sleep, our kids come to school irritable, anxious, and inattentive.  In addition, we send them the wrong message.  They learn they can do what they want and not do what they don’t want. The concept of “need to do’ is absent. Unfortunately, in order to achieve our goals in our lives, we have to do what’s necessary which may not always be what we want to do.  For example, if a child wants to be an A student, he needs to study hard. If he wants to be a successful soccer player, he needs to practice every day. Our children know very well what they want but have very hard time to do what is necessary to achieve that goal. This results in unattainable goals and leaves the kids disappointed.

4. Endless Fun

We created an artificial fun world for our children. There are no dull moments. The moment it becomes quiet, we run to entertain them again because otherwise we feel that we are not doing our parenting duty. We live in two separate worlds. They have their “fun “world and we have our “work” world. Why aren’t children helping us in the kitchen or with laundry? Why don’t they tidy up their toys? This is basic monotonous work that trains the brain to be workable and function under “boredom” which is the same “muscle” that is required to be eventually teachable at school.  When they come to school and it is time for printing, their answer is “I can’t. It is too hard. Too boring” Why? Because the workable “muscle” is not getting trained through endless fun. It gets trained through work.

5. Limited social interaction

We are all busy, so we give our kids digital gadgets and make them “busy” too. Kids used to play outside, where in unstructured natural environments, they learned and practiced their social skills.  Unfortunately, technology replaced the outdoor time.  Also, technology made the parents less available to socially interact with their kids. Obviously, our kids fall behind…the babysitting gadget is not equipped for social skill development. Most successful people are the ones who have great social skills. This is the priority!

The brain is just like a muscle that is trainable and re-trainable. If you want your child to be able to bike, you teach him biking skills. If you want your child to be able to wait, you need to teach him patience.  If you want your child to be able to socialize, you need to teach him social skills. The same applies to all the other skills. There is no difference!!

You can make a difference though in your child’s life by training your child’s brain so that your child will successfully function on social, emotional, and academic levels. Here is how:

1. Limit technology, and instead re-connect with your kids emotionally

  • Surprise them with flowers, share a smile, tickle them, put a love note in backpack or under their pillow, surprise them by taking them out for lunch on a school day, dance together, crawl together, have pillow fights
  • Have family dinners,  board game nights, go biking, go to outdoor walks with flashlight in the evening

2. Train delay gratification

  • Make them wait!!! It is ok to have “I am bored “ time – this is the first step to creativity
  • Gradually increase the waiting time between “I want” and “I get”
  • Avoid technology use in cars and restaurants, and instead teach them waiting while talking and playing games
  • Limit constant snacking

3. Don’t be afraid to set the limits. Kids need limits to grow happy and healthy!!

  • Make a schedule for meal times, sleep times, technology time
  • Think of what is GOOD for them- not what they WANT/DON’T WANT. They are going to thank you for that later on in life. Parenting is a hard job. You need to be creative to make them do what is good for them because most of the time that is the exact opposite of what they want
  • Kids need breakfast and nutritious food. They need to spend time outdoor and go to bed at consistent time in order to come to school available for learning the next day!
  • Convert things that they don’t like doing/trying into fun, emotionally stimulating games

4. Teach your child to do monotonous work from early years as it is the foundation for future “workability”

  • Folding laundry, tidying up toys, hanging clothes, unpacking groceries, setting the table, making lunch, unpacking their lunch box, making their bed
  • Be creative. Initially make it stimulating and fun so that their brain associates it with something positive.

5. Teach social skills

  •  Teach them turn taking, sharing, losing/winning, compromising, complimenting others ,using “please and thank you”

From my experience as an occupational therapist, children change the moment parents change their perspective on parenting.  Help your kids succeed in life by training and strengthening their brain sooner than later!!!”

Victoria Prooday