The Gift of Dyslexia

The Gift of Dyslexia

Anyone who knows me at all will not be surprised to learn that when I found out my child had dyslexia, the first thing I did was check out a bunch of books from the library. I decided to read this one first, mainly because it was the shortest. There seems to be some controversy regarding this method. The entire recommended strategy is based on the anecdotal experience of the author rather than scientific evidence. However, the procedures recommended are intriguing and I don’t see how they could possibly hurt. I also learned a lot about the potential advantages of dyslexia and a bit about how the dyslexic mind works.

The Gift of Dyslexia by Ronald D. Davis

Title: The Gift of Dyslexia
Author: Ronald D. Davis
Publication Year: 1993
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First, I should probably mention that I was only able to get the first edition of this book from the library, not the revised and expanded second edition. However, I still found it to be enlightening, so I’m documenting my notes. After I finish the rest of the dyslexia book I check out, I might see if I can get an inexpensive, used copy of the updated version. If I do, I will try to come back and note the differentces.

This book was written by a highly dyslexic individual who ended up leading a distinguished career as an engineer, businessman, and artist. He taught himself how to eliminate his dyslexic symptoms at will and founded a center for helping other dyslexics learn to do the same. He calls the strategies and techniques he teaches the Davis Perceptual Ability Assessment, Davis Orientation Counseling, and Davis Symbol Mastery.

The work is divided into several short chapters in 4 main sections. The sections are:

Part One: What Dyslexia Really Is
Part Two: Little P.D. (Potential Dyslexic): A Developmental Theory of Dyslexia
Part Three: The Gift
Part Four: Doing Something About It

In reading this book, I learned that there are several famous dyslexics such as Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Leonardo DaVinci, Hans Christian Andersen, Walt Disney, and Winston Churchill. Dyslexics are often highly creative, insightful people with vivid imaginations.

The author describes dyslexia as a process of disorientation that a child teaches themselves beginning in infancy to make sense of situations. They are big picture, visual thinkers who are able to use their imaginations in order to intuit information that they can not directly see. People with dyslexia are able to move in three dimensions using their mind’s eye to get a better understanding of what they observe. As they grow, they find that this ability helps them to make sense of the world around them and they become better and better at this technique until they seem to have a supernatural ability to assess 3-dimensional situations. 

While most people think verbally, dyslexic people rely more heavily on images in their brains. This allows them to think and process much faster than those using verbal thought. However, they experience difficulties in reading words with which they cannot create a mental image, such as “the” or “and.” When they are experiencing confusion, they tend to allow their mind’s eye to wander since they have had so much success with this technique earlier in life. However, when analyzing two-dimensional written words, this causes their brain to distort and rearrange those words in ways that makes reading more difficult. In essence, their gift becomes a liability when it comes to reading and writing. 

The author relays three procedures that I found interesting for overcoming these difficulties. The first is called the Davis Perceptual Ability Assessment. In this assessment, the person doing the assessment is trying to determine whether the individual can consciously and intentionally move their mind’s eye to view an object in their imagination from a direction other than the one their eyes directly perceive. To do this, he has the subject imagine holding a piece of cake in their non-dominant hand. Then the assessor moves the index finger of the subject’s dominant hand to see if they can imagine the cake from these alternate positions. 

The second technique is called Orientation Counseling. In this strategy, the individual helping the person with dyslexia guides the subject through a number of techniques to train them to move their mind’s eye to a location 3 to 12 inches behind and slightly above the head. First, they need to picture the same cake in the palm of their hand, in front of and slightly below the center of their face. Then they draw a line from the cake through their head and place their finger at the location of this line behind their head. The person guiding the session will move their finger to the midline if it is off-center.

Once the orientation point has been found, the subject imagines drawing “anchor lines” from this point to both ears and to the top of the head. Through a series of steps in which the subject is intentionally disoriented by triggering words, the dyslexic person can practice consciously moving the mind’s eye back to this orientation point. It is important that the individual also learns to release this focused attention on this point through either breathing exercises or tightening and relaxing the fists so that they don’t develop headaches. 

The third technique is Symbol Mastery. In this word, the person with dyslexia first forms all the letters of the alphabet out of clay and learns how to recite the alphabet backward and forwards by imagining the order of the letters relative to each other. It is important that they are not just singing the alphabet song, but rather know where all the letters visually belong in the alphabet. Next, the dyslexic person forms difficult, triggering words using clay to create a three-dimensional object. Then they also form a scene to help them connect the symbolic letter representation with a concrete image. For example, for the word “the,” they might form a 3-dimensional person pointing at a ball or a specific piece of fruit.

I am planning to wait to try some of these techniques with my dyslexic child until I learn more and have a chance to see if his Orton Gillingham tutoring is helpful on its own. Even though this book was written nearly 30 years ago, the Davis method is still being taught today. However, in researching it a bit, I did find that there are many who consider it to not be backed by science and unethical method for psychologists to recommend. Despite this, I am still eager to try some of these techniques with my kids in a month or two once we have time to see if the Orton-Gillingham tutor is helping on its own.

Mostly for my own reference, here is the list of words that often cause disorientation. These are the words that the author says dyslexics are likely to need to practice Symbol Mastery with.

  • a
  • about
  • again
  • ago
  • all
  • almost
  • also
  • always
  • an
  • and
  • another
  • any
  • anyhow
  • anyway
  • as
  • at
  • away
  • back
  • be
  • am
  • are
  • is
  • was
  • were
  • being
  • been
  • because
  • become
  • became
  • becoming
  • becomes
  • before
  • between
  • but
  • by
  • can
  • could
  • can’t
  • cannot
  • come
  • came
  • comes
  • coming
  • do
  • did
  • does
  • doing
  • done
  • don’t
  • doesn’t
  • down
  • each
  • either
  • else
  • even
  • ever
  • every
  • everything
  • for
  • from
  • front
  • full
  • get
  • gets
  • getting
  • got
  • go
  • goes
  • going
  • gone
  • went
  • have
  • had
  • has
  • having
  • he
  • he’s
  • her
  • hers
  • here
  • him
  • his
  • know
  • I
  • if
  • in
  • into
  • isn’t
  • it
  • its
  • it’s
  • just
  • last
  • leave
  • leaves
  • leaving
  • left
  • least
  • less
  • let
  • lets
  • let’s
  • letting
  • like
  • liked
  • likes
  • liking
  • make
  • made
  • makes
  • making
  • many
  • may
  • maybe
  • me
  • mine
  • more
  • most
  • much
  • my
  • neither
  • never
  • no
  • none
  • nor
  • not
  • now
  • of
  • off
  • on
  • one
  • onto
  • or
  • other
  • others
  • otherwise
  • our
  • ours
  • out
  • over
  • put
  • puts
  • putting
  • run
  • ran
  • running
  • runs
  • same
  • see
  • saw
  • seen
  • sees
  • she
  • she’s
  • shall
  • should
  • so
  • some
  • soon
  • stand
  • standing
  • stands
  • stood
  • such
  • sure
  • take
  • takes
  • taking
  • took
  • than
  • that
  • that’s
  • the
  • their
  • theirs
  • them
  • then
  • there
  • there’s
  • these
  • they
  • they’re
  • this
  • those
  • through
  • to
  • too
  • unless
  • until
  • up
  • upon
  • us
  • very
  • we
  • we’re
  • what
  • when
  • where
  • where’s
  • whether
  • which
  • while
  • who
  • who’s
  • whose
  • why
  • will
  • with
  • within
  • without
  • won’t
  • would
  • yet
  • you
  • your
  • you’re
  • yours

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