Reprinted from:

Otago Daily Times

Making pictures to fit the words

David Culling (14) had been home-schooled until this year and had not been diagnosed as dyslexic until recently. "I just thought I was dumb."

His low self-esteem is a commonly-observed characteristic for dyslexics.

When he entered form 3 (year 9) at Logan Park High School in January, David felt keenly the change of environment from his collective family-based learning.

"It was alright in home-school because there were quite a few people who had reading difficulties, so we all helped each other out," David said.

"I thought if I went to a real school, I would have been able to read. I just thought that every other kid that went to school could read or write and I couldn't."

David's form of dyslexia made it hard for him to concentrate, and he often had to read sentences several times before understanding their content.

"Sometimes my eyes would just skip lines and I would lose my place."

Although David struggles to see dyslexia as a gift because of the limitations it has placed on his reading, he does appreciate having picture thinking.

This makes it possible for him to not only see a cat when he reads the word "cat" but also to move the image in his mind's eye.

"Everything we [dyslexics] read we can see as a picture."

Trouble arises when trigger words, such as "in", "the" and "at", are inserted in the text. Because he can not find an associative picture to go with them, David's brain does not register them with a meaning.

In desperation, David and his parents decided he should try the Davis correction programme.

David said a particularly helpful part of the week-long course was using clay to make models of trigger words. It meant he was able to create a visual image, so instead of stumbling, his brain would register each word as a picture and consequently process it.

An example was the word "in". David made it look like a person in a swimming pool and now when he sees the word he also sees the picture.

However, the Davis programme is not an instant or simple cure. There are 12 different definitions for "in" and David has to learn and painstakingly make a model for each meaning.

"The programme helped heaps but it doesn't all happen just then."

Daily homework has to be done to ensure he keeps re-training his brain. Though David is still behind his peers, he at least has a positive structure to work through.

Saturday, 11-October 2003