THE term “dyslexia” simply means difficulty with words, and the most obvious problems are with reading, spelling and writing.
However, there are often a number of additional problems, including putting speech sounds together incorrectly, confusion in directionality (left from right, up or down) and in learning to tell the time.
For the 10% of people diagnosed with dyslexia, problems in remembering things are also common, especially when it involves written language.
There are many ways of addressing the problems that people with dyslexia have through teaching. But one method takes a different approach by looking at the condition not as a learning difficulty, but as a gift.
The method, devised by dyslexic American Ron Davis, claims to have a 97% success rate with its teaching, which is based around people with dyslexia thinking in pictures, rather than words.
Brain-scanning studies suggest that in people with dyslexia the connections between different language areas of the brain don’t work as efficiently as they should.
At the age of 38, Davis, who was labelled functionally illiterate at school, discovered a way to switch off the mental processes that caused him to see printed words in a distorted way.
For the first time, he read a book cover to cover without struggling.
In the 30 years since then, he has written three books, including The Gift of Dyslexia (Souvenir Press, £14.99), and devised the Davis Dyslexia Correction Program, which is taught in 40 countries.
He believes that dyslexia is a result of an inherent mental gift or talent, and says: “People who develop dyslexia think in pictures, rather than words.
“In order to understand the gift of dyslexia, we need to view the learning disability known as dyslexia from a different angle.
“It is the result of a perceptual talent. In some situations, the talent becomes a liability.”
To address that liability, the Davis Program relies on using the dyslexic’s picture-based thinking and teaches a visual and meaning-based approach.
Richard Whitehead, director of the Davis Learning Foundation in the UK, explains: “In diversion from the traditional medical model of seeing dyslexia as a structural or neurological disability, we see it as a different way of thinking.”
Instead of phonics, a creative process is used to make words come to life for people with dyslexia.
By creating some sort of visual meaning for these words, a person with dyslexia assigns them a visual trigger.
“People can then create meaning directly, without having to express that meaning in words,” says Whitehead.
“You can then attach the words to it and master it. It’s a creative learning approach.”
The programme, which is usually delivered in an intensive 30 hours, is available privately in the UK, currently from 45 practitioners nationwide, many of whom are parents of children with dyslexia.
It’s typically used on children from the age of eight upwards, and adults, although there are also programmes for younger children.
“The results are usually very dramatic,” says Whitehead.
Rachel Lawson of the British Dyslexia Association stresses the charity doesn’t endorse alternative therapies, such as the Davis method, and won’t comment on them.
She says: “We endorse multi-sensory structured teaching from qualified specific learning difficulty teachers.
“Multi-sensory teaching means helping a child to learn through more than one of the senses, for example using auditory, visual and kinaesthetic (using touch/movement) learning styles.”
For more information about the Davis Program, and providers in the North, visit www.dyslexia.com