Singular Minds
September 1, 2004 • Volume I, Issue 1
Laura Zink de Diaz
Prolinguistica Dyslexia Correction Center


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Welcome to the first issue of Singular Minds,
the newsletter for anyone interested in the dyslexic gift.

”A gift?” you say, ”With all the difficulties it causes, how can dyslexia be a gift?”

That’s precisely what this publication will strive to address: the gift that underlies the dyslexic learning style, and a wide variety of related difficulties – ADD, ADHD, trouble with handwriting (dysgraphia), or math, (dyscalculia)… Here, in future issues, you’ll find information about dyslexia and we’ll provide you with links to articles on the web, and sources for books, and materials.

If you or a loved one struggling with reading, handwriting, spelling, math, attention, I want to tell you – most sincerely – that there is help. And it’s closer than you think!

Just what is “dyslexia”?

The shortest, most truthful answer is: nobody knows exactly… But an excellent source for information about dyslexia is the Ronald D. Davis website, http://www.dyslexia.com. Ron Davis is the author of The Gift of Dyslexia, a wonderful book that explains the perceptual processes that can lead to dyslexia, ADD and a number of related effects. These effects can interfere with reading, math – any activity dealing with symbols. Autistic and dyslexic himself from birth, but endowed with a genius level IQ, Davis discovered how these perceptual processes work and devised a way to take conscious control of them. As a result he not only mastered reading, but became an entrepreneur, author, public speaker, and founder of Davis Dyslexia Association®. Today DDA is an international organization. His techniques are bringing relief to dyslexics all across the globe.

So, what is dyslexia? There are many theories about what dyslexia is and also about what causes it. Some are studying brain scans to find out what dyslexic brains are doing “wrong.” Are they routing processes that should be performed on the left over to the right side of the brain (or vice versa)? Is some essential area of their brains under-developed or defective? There’s even talk of a miracle “chip” to be inserted in the dyslexic brain! I believe that these studies will be interesting but unrevealing because since dyslexia is the product of thought, which is always unique to the individual, the condition manifests itself differently in each person affected by it. But such studies will take us down the wrong path for another reason: they start from the assumption that dyslexia is a defect. I start from an entirely different premise: that there is nothing wrong with the brains of dyslexics. In fact, there’s something very right with them! What’s needed is a set of strategies or tools that allow us to be aware of how our brains work -- and the desire to take control!

That’s precisely what "dyslexia correction," pioneered by Ron Davis, is designed to do: give the learner the knowledge and tools necessary to correct the distortions that make dealing with symbols difficult, or impossible. Because one thing we DO know, is that dyslexia has nothing to do with how smart you or your parents are. In fact, the children of highly educated and creative adults are more likely than the rest of us to display dyslexic symptoms.

How can you tell if a loved one is dyslexic? Letter reversals are commonly viewed as symptoms of dyslexia, but the truth is that there are times in the development of young readers when letter reversals are quite normal. And many dyslexics don’t experience reversals. In fact they may read quite proficiently but be unable retain or understand what they read. At the Davis website you can find a list of 37 Common Characteristics of Dyslexia. These are observable behaviors and traits, and most dyslexics will exhibit any ten or so at any given time, though many factors in their lives and environment determine which ones affect them and when.

A careful reading of that article reveals that dyslexics have gifts we barely notice as we focus on their “reading problem”-- hi IQ, talents in the arts, spatial relations, finely honed social skills, uniquely perceptive... Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water! It’s time for us to recognize that there are many kinds of intelligence, many kinds of genius, and value ALL of them!

If you or a loved one display more than a couple of the characteristics mentioned at the web site, it might be a very good idea to visit http://www.dyslexia.com to learn more. – Or to speak with someone personally about these and other symptoms, give Laura a call at Prolinguistica Dyslexia Correction Center, 360.848.9792.

Surfing for Research…

Fewer Noses Stuck in Books in America, Survey Finds

By Bruce Weber - The New York Times - July 8, 2004
Oprah's Book Club may help sell millions of books to Americans, and slam poetry may have engendered a youthful new breed of wordsmith, but the nation is still caught in a tide of indifference when it comes to literature. That is the sobering profile of a new survey to be released today by the National Endowment for the Arts, which describes a precipitous downward trend in book consumption by Americans and a particular decline in the reading of fiction, poetry and drama.
The survey, called "Reading at Risk," is based on data from "The Survey of Public Participation in the Arts," conducted by the Census Bureau in 2002. Among its findings are that fewer than half of Americans over 18 now read novels, short stories, plays or poetry; that the consumer pool for books of all kinds has diminished; and that the pace at which the nation is losing readers, especially young readers, is quickening. In addition it finds that the downward trend holds in virtually all demographic areas.
"What this study does is give us accurate numbers that support our worst fears about American reading," said Dana Gioia, the chairman of the endowment, who will preside over a discussion of the survey results at the New York Public Library this morning. "It quantifies what people have been observing anecdotally, but the news is that it has been happening more rapidly and more pervasively than anyone thought possible. Reading is in decline among all groups, in every region, at every educational level and within every ethnic group," he said, calling the survey results "deeply alarming."
You can read the rest of this article on line at: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/07/08/books/08READ.html?ex=1091592000&en=1a174087576704ef&ei=5070

Laura’s take on this:
Mr. Gioia, these results are indeed alarming – and entirely predictable! What they tell us is that for YEARS, we’ve talked about teaching reading only for its functionality. We’ve been so busy teaching kids that they must not only “learn to read” but “read to learn,” that we’ve completely overlooked the motivation to read. Take a look at reading EALRs for Washington. You will not find the word “enjoyment” or “pleasure”mentioned. OK, formal documents, maybe such words have no place… But ask any avid reader, and I defy you to find even ONE who doesn’t mention almost immediately the pleasure that comes from immersing yourself in the worlds created in those novels, short stories, plays and poetry that no one’s reading any more! Dyslexia occurs in from 5 to 15% of the general population; it’s obvious from this study that it isn’t just people with reading challenges who aren’t reading! If we want kids to read – whether they struggle with dyslexia or have no such challenges at all – we have to remember that the prime motivation for any of us to read anything beyond instruction booklets, warranties, and ho-hum work-related documents, is the pleasure we derive from it. Many’s the teacher I’ve talked with who sighs that she’d sacrifice a limb to be allowed to put some of the joy back into reading instruction, but alas, that takes time and creativity and the suits want quantifiable results YESTERDAY. We tell kids reading is fun, and then hand them stuff designed to fit curriculum goals, not delight or – heaven forbid – entertain! That’s like inviting someone over for a gourmet dinner and serving nothing but rice cakes. Of course, I’m exaggerating, but frankly, I find it stunningly unsurprising that having assiduously turned reading into drudgery, an entire generation has found other things to do with its time!

But hold on a minute! This study focusses on the decline in the reading of fiction, poetry and drama. I'm going to get picky here and point out that drama is not designed to be READ- it is designed to be SEEN. I feel justified in making this comment as a person who read a lot of drama as part of her Master's degree, and my professors made this point over and over. We ask kids in highschool to read Shakespeare. But how many people ever read plays for enjoyment, or outside of a classroom? I'd wager that number has never been high. But I'd like to point out also that there is considerable evidence that people are doing a lot of reading in non-traditional ways. Many people read copiously on the internet. These days, teachers at all levels routinely require students writing reports to include research on the internet in their bibliography. That we are in a period when many people read non-fiction rather than fiction, for work or in pursuit of their own interests, doesn't mean we've turned into a nation of non-readers. So while we rant about the decline of "literature" reading, we should also recognize that this particular study was limited in its scope. I'd also like to know what we know about historical trends in reading. For example, in the course of the last hundred years, how many times have we seen surges and declines in the popularity of reading particular kinds of literature? I don't know the answer, but I suspect that if we looked objectively, with no "agenda" in mind other than to discover the truth, we'd find that interest in reading - anything - rises and falls like the tides, depending on what our culture is experiencing at the time. So put away the life boat. I doubt we're sinking just yet.

So. . . does dyslexia hold you back?

The answer probably depends on who you ask. But... There's a great series of articles in The Dyslexic Reader, avaliable from Davis Dyslexia Association, called, "The Abilities of Those with Reading Disabilities: Focusing on the Talents of People with Dyslexia." These articles address this question. Let’s face it, we’re bombarded by messages that tell us that if our kids don’t become proficient readers by the end of the third grade, it’s all over – school from then on will be a bust, and the child will be relegated to a career behind the counter at a fast food outlet, or worse. But is this a realistic fear?

What about Jack Horner, the well known paleontologist you and your children have seen on TV talking about dinosaurs? You'll learn in Part 2 of the series in The Dyslexic Reader, that he never finished any college degree. Nonetheless, his contributions to the understanding of dinosaur behavior and evolution have earned him an honorary doctorate and the respect of academia.

The article also gives us the story of Craig McCaw, the father of the cellular telephone industry, and Charles Schwab, of the well known brokerage company carrying his name. All three of these gentlemen are dyslexic. Don’t get me wrong – without question becoming a proficient reader is extremely important for all of us in our competitive, demanding society. And few of us are as talented as these exceptional fellows. But perhaps we need to be a bit less simplistic in our assumptions about what it takes to live happy, successful lives. In the end, don’t we go farthest by recognizing, valuing and nurturing our strengths, whatever they might be?

If you'd like to read this series of articles or subscribe to The Dyslexic Reader, you can get more information here. (The stories about Horner, McCaw and Schwab are in "The Abilities of Those with Reading Disabilities: Focusing on the Talents of People with Dyslexia, Part 2," The Dyslexic Reader, Vol 36, Issue 3, 2004, DDAI. I have one copy in my office which I'd be happy to lend.)

New Digs!

Prolinguistica has a new office in the Tridex Building, at

1621 Freeway Drive #208 in Mount Vernon


Same phone (360.848.9792), same email address (dyslexia@prolinguistica.com). And watch for the announcement of our OPEN HOUSE!

Coming Soon to a Web Page Near You!

Prolinguistica has a division on ESL and Foreign Language instruction. Their website is:

http://www.prolinguistica.com

Soon we’ll have our own web site! So…Stay tuned!

Next Issue of Singular Minds: October 1, 2004

Got a topic you’d like to see addressed in Singular Minds?
E-mail questions, proposals, letters, and/or stories to: dyslexia@prolinguistica.com

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