Dyslexics and Letter Reversals

Many people think that the hallmark of dyslexia is letter reversals, writing letters or words upside or backwards.  Although many people with dyslexia have this problem, not all of them do.  It is by no means the hallmark of dyslexia that many people believe it is.  ALL children have trouble with letter reversals at a young age.  Dyslexic children may do it more frequently and until older ages.  Some will always struggle.  However, the problem has more to do with directionality issues and the special way that the brains of dyslexics work. It has nothing to do with eyesight!

Research has shown that a person with dyslexia will generally have a larger right brain hemisphere than a person without dyslexia.  Dyslexics tend to be strong right-brain thinkers.  This is part of why they have reading problems – reading occurs in the left hemisphere.  The right-brain is where we process a lot of creative and visual-spatial thinking.

When a child with dyslexia sees a letter, he often interprets it in three dimensions.  Thus, a stick and a ball are always a stick and a ball, no matter how you look at them.

bat and ball
To a dyslexic, b, d, p and q are all just different arrangements of the same thing.

And a letter S is just a snake.

A snake is a snake is a snake...
A snake is a snake is a snake…

It is easy to see how any young child can reverse letters, but easier to see how a child with particularly strong visual-spatial skills might not be able to understand why it matters which way you put the “objects” that make up a letter.

But have no fear, it is usually fairly easy to teach them some tricks to keep those letters straight!

To read a great article about this, check out The Gift of Three-Dimensionality We Call Dyslexia (http://www.therightsideofnormal.com/2012/10/30/the-gift-of-three-dimensionality-we-call-dyslexia/)

Orthography and Dyslexia

Matrix for base word "act"
Matrix for base word “act”

I was going to write an article about my new-found love of working with orthography that Kelli Sandman-Hurley (of the Dyslexia Training Institute) introduced me to, but Kelli says it better.

I now use these techniques with all of my students to supplement the Orton-Gillingham program (Barton Reading and Spelling System).  I continue to attend seminars and classes to learn more about linguistics and orthography.  I attended a weekend seminar with Pete Bowers (The Word Works Literacy Center) and Gina Cooke (Linguist Educator Exchange) whom Kelli talks about in this article.  Mind blown!  World rocked!  Soon I begin working with Michel Rameau of Real Spelling who started it all!

Please read about it here:

Dyslexia: When Spelling Matters.

Playing Games

Playing Vowel Team Bingo
Playing Vowel Team Bingo

Sometimes it is hard to remember how important games can be to learning.  It is SO easy to say that we just don’t have times for games because we have so much material to get through.  But I am reminded that just because something comes out of my mouth, doesn’t mean it goes into their brains!

Research studies have shown that activities which involve social interaction and body movement improve memory and learning. Games involve both interaction (sadly, only with me!) and bodily movement.  It is a great way for students to construct their own learning, moving information from short-term memory to long-term memory.

Practicing Spelling Rules
Practicing Spelling Rules

There has also been a lot of research on the effect of emotion on learning.  Strong emotions tend to effect memory in both positive and negative ways.  (You remember that day you had the car accident as well as the day you first saw Paris!)  I sometimes wonder if the enjoyment of playing a game will create a more permanent memory.  I hope so.

Of course, I have to assure that the games I use are closely aligned with our learning objectives. They are fun, but, well, not TOO fun.  Students are working hard while they play.

That is why I have invested time and money to make sure that there are plenty of appropriate games to play.  Some I have purchased, others I have created.  Many of these games can be played in more than one way, spelling or reading words, or applying or recognizing spelling rules.  I also have made some games with phrases and sentences so that we fluency is part of the play, too.  Hopefully, I can assure that students have fun while learning at DYScover Learning!

Joyful Learning
Joyful Learning

WordStock III: Third Time’s the Charm

This should be great for anyone who is interested.


For the past few months, I have had the pleasure of meeting with Doug Harper and a handful of eager scholars to talk etymology, online, in our LEXinars. Doug and I plan and deliver a series of cozy online seminars in which we discuss etymology, cognates, historical roots, historical languages, Proto-Indo-European, reconstruction, attestation, and spelling (okay, that last one is more me than Doug). It’s mindblowing. And it’s hilarious, as real language study should be. Doug is one smart cookie, and, while this shouldn’t surprise me, he has a way with words. So along the way, he says stuff like this:

“The language has mud on it.”

“Latin is in its pupa in the Middle Ages.”

“Old English is like clay.”

“It’s like jumping from house to house through the neighborhood looking for a fugitive.”

“I’ve seen seven-year-olds take to it like it’s birthday cake.”

I can’t even write…

View original post 611 more words

Nice Video about Dysgraphia

Another “Dys..” Dysgraphia is a problem with writing, often associated with dyslexia. See a nice video explaining it.


Five ways to understand dyscalculia – SEN Magazine

Great article about different ways in which people might struggle with mathematics.

Five ways to understand dyscalculia – SEN Magazine.


What are dyslexia and dyscalculia, and how do they affect our lives?Brain with gears

Very briefly, they are both specific learning disabilities in which a person has a discrepancy between what they are achieving in a specific area and their overall intelligence.  Generally their IQ in all other areas is average or above average.  People with dyslexia are intelligent people who have trouble with language.  People with dyscalculia are intelligent people who have trouble with numeracy and mathematics.  In both cases, there generally seems to be a genetic link.

CavemanDyslexia research has shown us specific areas of the brain that seem to be wired differently.  People are now beginning to think of it more as a cognitive difference than a cognitive defect.  People are born with a natural ability to speak and understand language.  Reading and spelling, however, are not innate.  Some people have brains that are just designed to process written language more efficiently.  Some people call it “word blindness.”  If you can imagine, throughout most of human history, written language was not necessary to live or thrive.  People with dyslexia did not have a disadvantage, in fact, their strong visual-spatial skills may have put them at an advantage.  It is our use of written language in society that has changed over time, making it more important to be able to read and write.

Count the dots

While there has been a lot of research on dyslexia, the research on dyscalculia is much more sparse.  There is still a lot to learn here.  Dyscalculia is sometimes called “math dyslexia,” or “number blindness.”  People with dyscalculia have trouble with basic numeracy.  Again, while people have an innate ability to understand larger or smaller quantities based on visual assessment, numbers themselves are an abstract concept, and the mathematics we do with numbers is even more abstract.  These are skills that must be learned and are not innate.  Some people have brains that are structured so that this is harder for them to learn.  Again, this was not so important while trying to hunt large animals, so what is now perceived as a problem is a very recent phenomenon.  People with dyscalculia can have trouble with math in different ways, but very often it is the abstract qualities of numbers that underlie the problem.

Multisensory - I can!So, how do we help?  In both cases, we must help develop new connections in the brain.  In some ways, we have to think about how a child learns since this is how we first make those connections.  Children learn by touching, tasting, smelling, seeing, feeling, hearing — using their senses.  This is how we have to teach people with dyscalculia and dyslexia.  We must use multi-sensory learning to retrain the brain.  Then we can move to more abstract ways of thinking.

Multi-sensory learning is at the heart of what we do at DYScover learning.

I hope you will explore our website more to learn more about us!