Famous Dyslexics: Inspiration

Explorer Ann Bancroft. Source: Wikicommons.

Explorer Ann Bancroft. Source: Wikicommons.

Plenty of famous people in history are supposed to have been dyslexic. Even though it appears some of these assertions are conjecture, there is no doubt that you can find many successful dyslexic folk in all fields and disciplines. Even a short list of a few modern-day dyslexics includes some impressive names.

Let´s go to Hollywood first. Director Steven Spielberg, who brought us Indiana Jones, Schindler´s ListJurassic Park, and Lincoln, spoke to the Friends of Quinn website about being dyslexic. Spielberg was only diagnosed with dyslexia as an adult. His words to young people with learning disabilities are as inspiring as any scene from one of his movies:

“You are not alone, and while you will have dyslexia for the rest of your life, you can dart between the raindrops to get where you want to go. It will not hold you back.”

Another film luminary who was not diagnosed young but who went on to win an Oscar, Emmy, Tony, and Grammy Award is Whoopi Goldberg. Besides her phenomenal talent, Goldberg possesses plenty of grit and overcame struggles in school and drug use to become one of the most successful performers of all time.

Moving to the world of business, we find many successful dyslexics among top entrepreneurs. The companies Cisco´s, Kinkos, and Virgin all were led by dyslexic CEOs. Another influential business figure and adviser to the Congressional Budget Office and the Federal Reserve Board, Diane Swonk, is also dyslexic and nearly failed English in college despite her high level of intelligence and abilities in math and economics.

highway

Where are you going?

Many people with dyslexia are creative. Take Scott Adams, creator of the popular comic strip Dilbert. Or writers Natasha Solomons and Jane Elson. Or micro-sculptor Willard Wigan. Not sure what a micro-sculpture is? These tiny but perfect creations need to be seen to be believed.

We end with a dyslexic who defines “boundary-pusher”: explorer Ann Bancroft. Bancroft has traveled by foot and dogsled to the North and South Poles and is a living example that there are no places dyslexics cannot go.

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Weekly Roundup: Dyscalculia

Headlines

Mount Kilimanjaro. Source: Wikicommons.

Mount Kilimanjaro. Source: Wikicommons.

Having dyscalculia or dyslexia is challenging enough, but what about having both? Jack Harley-Walsh, 16, has both these learning disabilities but this didn´t stop him from climbing Mount Kilimanjaro when he was only ten or reaching educational heights now that he is a teenager.

Jack was rejected by thirty schools because of his special needs when he was younger, which makes this month´s news all the sweeter: the dyslexic/dyscalculic passed his GCSE exams and is now the subject of a documentary. For non-U.K. readers, these are the General Certificate of Secondary Education exams and are taken at age 16. Passing the exams is necessary for any student wanting to take the A-Level exams later. In Jack´s own words:

I never thought I would be able to tell you that I am looking forward to going back to school and getting on with my A level studies. Read more.

Resources

School is back in session and if you´re looking for a few math apps that work for children with dyscalculia, check this list from dyscalculiaservices.com. We haven´t reviewed the apps ourselves but the site´s author, A.M. Schreuder, gives a description of each as well as listing at which grade levels the apps are aimed.

We´re fans of the resources over at Understood.org. If you´re wondering whether a student might be dyscalculic then have a look at their list of signs of dyscalculia. Each symptom is also broken down by location, so you will find useful information depending on whether you are observing the child at home or in the classroom.

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Get Involved, Make a Difference

Last week we featured 18 year old Robert Lawrence and his fund-raising run for dyslexia. This got us thinking that some ddd readers interested in volunteering for dyslexics might like to be pointed towards a few possibilities.

Reach out: volunteer to help people with dyslexia.

Reach out: volunteer to help people with dyslexia.

If you are a parent of a dyslexic and based in the United States, the first website you might want to stop off at is DecodingDyslexia.net. This is the mother site of the organisation and introduces you to a grassroots movement pushing for more educational intervention in the public school system. Led by parents, the movement is represented in all fifty states and each state has either an own website or social media presence or both. Contact the representative in your state to find out how to get involved.

For readers in the U.K., check out the British Dyslexia Association or DyslexiaScotland.org.uk. Here you can find information on everything from manning hotlines, fundraising, or as an employer how to make your office dyslexic-friendly.

Based in the Pacific region of the U.S.? Headstrong Nation is looking for a volunteer social media contributor to help manage the organisation´s Facebook page. If you have killer writing skills, a flair for social media, and a passion for raising awareness of dyslexia then get in touch via the non-profit´s website.

For college and high school students who themselves have dyslexia or another learning disability, have a look at the Eye to Eye mentoring program. This organisation matches mentors with young students in an art program, designed to provide mentees with both role models and a means of self-expression. To participate you do need to be enrolled at a school with a chapter of the program (full list available here) but should that not be the case and you are sufficiently determined then you can talk with Eye to Eye about opening a chapter at your school.

These are a few of our suggestions but you can come up with your own ways to help, just like Robert did with running. Open up your heart, your mind, and your time, and you can make a difference.

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Weekly Roundup: Dyslexia

Headlines

If anyone can understand the challenges faced by children with dyslexia, it´s someone who grew up dyslexic. Robert Lawrence, an 18-year old student who popped up in the dyslexia headlines this week, is such a someone. He not only remembers the difficulty of growing up with dyslexia, he wants to help those kids who are going through it now.

running on a beach

Photo: barnimages.com

Robert´s main source of help when he was young was the Children´s Dyslexia Centre in Peoria, the Illinois town where he is from. When the centre ran out of funding, Robert decided to help raise the funds so the place could stay open. Drawing on his love of running, he founded “Robert´s Run” and raised thousands of dollars for the centre. With this and donations from other sources, the centre will be able to reopen. Read more about how one teenager helped make a difference in the lives of children with dyslexia.

The next headline is a little more controversial. British professor Julian Elliott on an August trip to New Zealand tossed off the idea that the term “dyslexia” should be got rid of altogether. According to Elliot, there are too many different symptoms associated with reading difficulties that have come to be called dyslexia. Elliot was prepared to discuss his ideas in meetings with the Dyslexia Foundation of New Zealand. The Ministry of Education responded with the comment that in any case “dyslexia” should not be a label but rather a “call to action”. Read more.

Resources

This week the discuss: dyslexia, dyscalculia blog is focusing on resources for adults with dyslexia. Not all dyslexics are diagnosed as children. For those looking for a list of symptoms in adults, head over the Dyslexia Reading Well´s page on Adult Dyslexia.

We really like this resource from DyslexiaScotland.org.uk. Scroll down past the links for parents and teachers and you´ll find guides on such concrete topics as applying for jobs as a dyslexic and university study advice.

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How do the Orthograph Learning Games Help Children with Dyslexia?

Orthograph software was developed around the concept of a link between dyslexia and difficulty in mapping spoken language to written language. This difficulty is known in neuroscience as the phonological deficit.

What does this phonological deficit look like? Basically, the brain areas responsible for automating phonological processing are less populated by neurons in people with dyslexia than in people without dyslexia. This means dyslexics have difficulty converting the spoken word to written, and the other way around.

The brain processes information through various channels. Dybuster Orthograph‘s concept is based on activating new channels for learning. Words are not just depicted as black letters on a white background but shown in specific sequences of colors, forms and sounds. The syllables within a word are presented in 3D, so that a spatial aspect is introduced into the learning process.

This is explained in more detail in this handy video we put together:

Using the program allows the brain to be able to link, process and combine the information from these newly activated channels. The result is that a dyslexic child is better able to map spoken language to written language and the phonological deficit we discussed above is decreased.

Results of using Dybuster OrthographIn a study involving 80 children, the results of using Orthograph software were compared against the progress of children who did not use the program. Playing through the learning games for a few months resulted in the users making 33% fewer spelling mistakes than previously.

Orthograph software can be tried for free: just click here to access the trial version. The games are meant not only to be fun but to allow dyslexic children to make lasting improvement in reading and spelling.

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Weekly Roundup: Dyscalculia

Headlines

Research on dyscalculia is going on at universities all over the world, from England to Israel.

Research on dyscalculia is going on at universities all over the world, from England to Israel.

This week´s dyscalculia news included this interesting article from no less a source than Horizon (the E.U. Research & Innovation Magazine): How do you solve a problem like dyscalculia? Besides raising awareness of what dyscalculia actually is, the article informs readers of current research being conducted on the disability. This research includes studying the development of mathematical abilities in a project funded by the E.U. European Research Council and conducted by Professor Roi Cohen Kadosh at Oxford’s Department of Experimental Psychology. Other researchers studying visuospatial working memory in subjects with and without dyscalculia and non-countable dimensions in arithmetic development are based in Jerusalem and Negev, Israel. Read more.

Over on the Learning Success Blog, a post by Judy Hanning breaks down the symptoms of dyscalculia and offers advice on dealing with the learning disability. This is a good introduction for those less familiar with the signs and effects of dyscalculia. Read more

Resources

We´re giving a shoutout to a new dyscalculia blog on the block: that dyscalculic feel. There´s not a lot of material on here yet, but it´s always good to see new personal accounts on the web that other dyscalculics can relate to.

Games, activities, and information on dyscalculia: all these are available for free over on DyscalculiaServices.com. Pop over there and find new material to keep your dyscalculic child learning and entertained.

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Dybuster Schools: Visiting Students where they Learn

Swiss schools where Dybuster software is used.

Map of Swiss schools where Dybuster software is used.

Since its founding in 2007, Dybuster has had the privilege of working with over 1000 schools and more than 35,000 children (discuss: dyslexia and dyscalculia is produced by Dybuster International). In May 2015 we went to visit a couple of the schools that use our software made to help children with dyslexia and dyscalculia. Getting to meet some of these children was the best part of our school visits!

Though Dybuster software is used around the world, the programs were initially developed in Switzerland at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. So our learning games for both dyslexia and dyscalculia really took off first in Switzerland before spreading to other countries like the U.S. and Canada.

The first stop on our road trip was Uttwil, a tiny town in the canton of Thurgau. The school is also small: only 160 students in the first six grades. Our software has been part of their curriculum since 2011. The village is right on the shores of Lake Bodensee and a lovely place to visit. After first consulting with the school´s special education teacher, our CEO Christian Voegeli spent some time in the classroom.

Dybuster CEO Christian Voegeli gets feedback from a young learning software user.

Dybuster CEO Christian Voegeli gets feedback from a young learning software user.

Speaking with teachers is an important part of our school visits. Learning software does not replace traditional learning but is meant to enhance and support instruction from a teacher. By meeting with teachers in their classrooms we can find out what they need and how better to suit their requirements.

Mirjam Rutidhauser, classroom teacher at school in Uttwil.

Mirjam Rutidhauser, classroom teacher at the elementary school in Uttwil.

Next stop on the trip was Nidererurnen, another small town, this one nestled in the beautiful mountains of canton Glarus. Here we visited another elementary school and talked to the kids about the programs. They were obviously happy to see us:

Student at elementary school in Niederurnen

Student at elementary school in Niederurnen

These visits were a highlight of the end of the school year for us. In the midst of rolling out new features such as the Orthograph Module Editor and the Dybuster Cockpit, it was great to take some time and meet with the people the software is actually for: children and their teachers. Many thanks to the students and teachers who shared their school day with us!

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