Sydney Dyslexia

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Math Aliens come, I need you



Declan, a sensitive, clever and gorgeous 8-year old client of mine inspired me to write this book. He had started off our three days together by writing: “MATHS ALIENS, I NEED YOU! COME NOW” in big red letters onto the white board. After a couple of days, he erased his message and wrote the words: “DON’T NEED TO COME AFTER ALL. THANKS!”

Not everybody has Maths aliens to call upon. Declan was happy that he didn’t need to rely on them any longer and that he had found that he gets it now.

Lauren is 15 and finds it really hard to read. A Dyslexic program improved her reading, but it is still a struggle and not enjoyable. It was the Maths program, another area of difficulty, where she really found a strength and instead of working at it, she now plays at it. On her last day of the program, I stared in amazement at a really complicated calculation which she had just finished successfully and correctly. She asked me if she can do one more, please! That, for me, is the reason I love these programs. Where else can you measure success as clearly on a logical as well as an emotional level?

Let’s start, with the help of Declan and Lauren, to discover how to release your child’s Maths genie from the bottle!




‘A mum is very worried as her 8-year old son is struggling in Maths and falling behind further every year. He is attending the local public school and they are trying as much as they can to help. When her friend suggests to put him into St. Mary’s, the local Catholic School instead, she hesitates, as they aren’t religious. But after her friend assures her that they have a wonderful way of teaching Maths and her own son is finding it really easy, she enrols her little Tom. After only one term, to her amazement, he has caught up and after a while, he tops the class. ‘Tom, what is your new school doing differently? How come you are now so good at Maths?’ Her son says that they don’t teach differently but that he is just working much harder. His mum wants to know why. He says: ‘You know, mum, when I first entered the new classroom and saw that man nailed to the plus-sign, I knew they meant business.’


Unfortunately, a lack of motivation is rarely the reason for a child’s struggle at Maths.

Many of my Dyslexic clients are challenged in Maths, not because they don’t have a ‘Maths brain’ or are lacking intelligence. Quite the opposite! They may even find that they get the most advanced Maths easier than the simple basic Math questions.

They need to be taught Maths in a different way – a way that makes sense to their visual or kinaesthetic learning style. As a problem with Maths doesn’t point any struggling child to a facilitator for Dyslexia, I won’t make this book into the Dyslexic’s Guidebook into the Maths Galaxy. It will help any child that has a creative, visual mind.

to be continued at next week’s blog…


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Philosophy at school

I have found this interesting, but almost more interesting that it hasn’t happened on a regular basis and on a broader scale? Isn’t that what life is all about, expressing, articulating, listening, allowing differing opinions, open minds and learning in that way social interactions that are probably not always happening on the home front.

Can only commend the principle of Malabar Public School for that initiative.

“They’re so much more articulate, you see it even when you’re having discussions outside philosophy, and you see it in their writing too, that ability to reason and the skills to back up their arguments,”

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Inspiring Dyslexia talk

Dean Dragonier has done a great job talking about the gifts and challenges of dyslexia, with some startling statistics:

35 % of all dyslexic student’s don’t finish high school

50 % of all adolescents in alcohol or drug rehabilitation are dyslexics and

70 % of young delinquents in juvenile detention centers are dyslexic too.

I was, however, even more shocked when he tells about a study that apparently found that dyslexic individuals (anyone who cannot read and write) feel the same sense of shame as people who engaged in incest! Apart from the fact that this is a weird comparison, it is quite alarming that this is the case and that we allow this to happen to any individual.

Dean also talks about taking part in a ‘learning disability conference’ and the very impressive professors had a ‘simple’ solution to teach dyslexic learners by introducing them to ‘social-emotional learning executive functioning methodology’ – in short sequencing, time management and emotional intelligence.

Well, I think that sequencing and time management are valuable tools to learn and add, but I have rarely met individuals other than dyslexic ones who portray a higher level of emotional intelligence, empathy and social interaction skills.

I’m seriously wondering whose Emotional IQ is needing attention.

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Sydlexia – a Journey

You may remember that a lovely young South African has made a website for me, using my original website name ‘Sydney Dyslexia’ to combine the words to ‘SYDlexia’ (and having the S and D dance and shift across a smiley face, making it DYSlexia or SYDlexia). The site has other neat little features like a variety of colourful backgrounds and an origami option.

Some origami posters can be printed off for free and a video on my website explains how to fold it in a way that the word of the animal is showing after the project is finished, instead of the letters in scrambled order – hence a metaphor for dyslexia.

Well, that little website has been given more attention than I had ever thought possible. Firstly it won gold, silver and bronze metals first in Dubai, then at the New Show in New York and recently in Cannes at the IT awards. As a result I have been getting a couple of clients from Dubai and Singapore, had emails to ask for permission to use the website as a teaching tool at the Chinese University of Hongkong Shenzhen, to print off hundreds of these posters and enter them into ‘origami folding competitions’; I had enquiries from Germany, Italy, Spain and Japan to write about it in magazines, blogs and e-zines.

I am constantly amazed and in awe, and even if I don’t need any more clients, it gives me a pleasure to see that dyslexia is being seen in a more positive light, to serve as an educator rather than a facilitator.

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Insight tonight

Just watching ‘Insight’ tonight, where they show again a program from last year, that has clearly evoked many emotions. What astounded me most was the statistic that showed a staggering 44 % of Australian adults not able to reach a literacy level to fully participate in life. More than 600,000 Australians have reading levels below band one!

Do you know anyone like that? I’d be seriously interested to help.

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Maths Concepts


“The Universe is change; our life is what our thoughts make it.”

(Marcus Aruelius)

Recently I had the pleasure of working with a very intelligent and highly gifted adult, a man called Anthony. He is 28 years old and is already working in a senior position of a global tech company, where his creative solutions are valued. Anthony is Dyslexic and had done a Davis Dyslexia correction program a year ago, which helped him greatly. However, he still struggled with Maths, not the complicated formulas, algorithms or algebra – he said to me that he simply doesn’t get basic Mathematics.

For many people that would be hard to understand. How can someone work in a field where arithmetic is an advanced skill, yet Anthony told me that he cannot work out anything simple, like money. He’d give someone a $ 5 bill to pay for a sandwich, which costs $ 3.50 and he would not know how much change he is supposed to get. ‘You learn to hide this fact and hope people don’t take advantage of you, discover your secret or test you in anything basic.’ Anthony paid everything with credit card in order to not be caught out.

It was the concept of ‘change’ that turned his understanding around.

Change is defined as:

“Something becoming something else.”

 In a Math program we choose amounts to represent that something. Initially we talk about the many changes we see or experience in our lives, changes that take place without any interference or those that are consequences of our action or inaction. We talk about nature changing the seasons, the tides, the moon, the aging process and every evolution we may witness, like a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. This is a time for questions. “Apart from humans and animals, what else changes, without us doing anything?” You want to make sure that some kind of flora will be named, like a seedling becoming a tree.

The concept of ‘change’ was the first big ‘aha’ moment for Anthony. He had created a small tree  with an arrow next to it, which was pointing to a larger tree to the right: something had become something else. For a moment there was silence, then the realization: “Change doesn’t mean ‘difference’ then?” In his mind, time had never played any role in change. That made so much sense to me – of course he would have had trouble with time, if ‘change’ was merely the difference between the size or the amount of two objects or people.

As soon as this realization had hit, money and getting change was easy to understand and to work out. Change, one of the main pillars of maths, had helped to finish the ‘building’, the understanding and ease around mathematics.