One simple thing you can do today to help your child at school

old ways new doorsIf your child has a learning difference, chances are there are areas of learning at school that are challenging at best, debilitating at worst.

You may be exploring different options for helping your child either inside or outside of school.  Your child might already be receiving extra help.  Wherever they are on their journey, here is one simple tip for making an instant difference to their school experience.

Help them to create an information sheet on themselves to give to their teacher, teacher-aide and other support people.

It can include any or all of the following:

  • Their strengths
  • How they think/learn
  • What they find challenging at school
  • How they learn best
  • What helps them to learn
  • What their teacher can do to make learning easier for them

Here is a fictitious example of a girl called Sammy who has dyslexia:

Screenshot 2015-07-01 13.23.19

This idea can be adapted for any child with any learning difference.

The sheet can be kept at hand for the teacher to refer to, and can be passed on to the next year’s teacher too.

It is also a wonderful tool to use at parent-teacher meetings.  You can have a copy of the sheet and discuss how the teacher is making accommodations to enable your child’s learning.

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Reading with dyslexia: from phonics to meaning

iStockFlying Words_XSmallWhen people think of dyslexia, it often conjures up images of people who spell words backwards; or perhaps children who get their b’s and d’s confused. Mostly it is viewed as a learning disability.

Dyslexia is not a learning disability.

People with dyslexia generally learn easily – when taught in a way that works for them. They are typically smart and creative individuals, who are often highly intelligent. Their challenges generally lie in difficulty with the written word. There is no correlation at all between reading challenges and lack of intelligence. According to Jeffrey Gruen, associate professor at the Yale University School of Medicine, “the reading disability is not a global effect on the entire brain function.”

Ronald D. Davis, author of “The Gift of Dyslexia” and “The Gift of Learning”, states that dyslexic people think in images, not the sounds of words. This is the reason why a common characteristic of dyslexia is difficulty with phonics. Their brains just don’t work with sounds. “We now know that dyslexic learn to read differently – most do not learn phonetically,” states Dr Gruen.

So if phonics isn’t the answer, what is? A visual-spatial, meaning based approach, that works in harmony with the visual-spatial learning dominance of a dyslexic learner. According to Ron Davis, every word has three parts: what it looks like (how it is spelled); what it sounds like (how it is said); and what a word means. looks, sounds, means Traditional reading instruction links the first two parts of words through phonics instruction, with the third part – the meaning – often not touched on. For a dyslexic learner, it is the missing meaning that causes such challenges. As a picture thinker, the dyslexic individual creates meaning by forming mental images as s/he reads. This is ease-ful when reading words such as “horse” and “tree”. However, it is very difficult to form a mental image of ‘abstract’ words such as ‘where’ and ‘were’. These words create blank pictures – comprehension becomes interrupted. These abstract words make up approximately 75% of print. Can you imagine how many times meaning may be lost when just reading one sentence?

Ron Davis developed a beautiful, simple, highly effective solution, which is taught to students who complete the Davis Dyslexia Correction programmes. Add meaning to the abstract words. Get the students to create what the word looks like, what the word sounds like and what the word means – using the visual, kinaesthetic medium of clay.

Take the word ‘too’. It means ‘also’. The model below is of one person sitting reading, and another person sitting and reading alsotoo. The student who created this model now has understanding of that abstract word. It will no longer be a blank picture that causes confusion. too Dr Gruen states, “Some kids just learn differently. Not all children learn to read with the current one-size fits all methods.” Dyslexic students have many areas of strength. Helping them to minimise the challenges associated with the written word removes a significant barrier within a predominantly word-based education system, and helps to keep their self esteem intact – empowering them towards reaching their potential.

Melanie Curry  B.Ed, Dip.Teach, Licensed Davis Dyslexia Facilitator, Licensed Davis Autism Facilitator/Coach

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Book:  “The Gift of Dyslexia” by Ronald D. Davis

Article: The DCDC2 gene and dyslexia, by Michelle D. Jones-London, Ph.D.

Six things you need to know about learning differences

Do you have a learning difference?

Maybe you are dyslexic, or perhaps you have been diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum.  Maybe you have ADD/ADHD.  Dyspraxia. Dyscalculia. Auditory Processing disorder…..the list goes on.

Whatever your learning difference, here’s what you need to know:

#1. You do not need fixing. wired differetnly

Your mind is not defective, you are not broken.  Your brain is wired differently and it is supposed to work in the way it does. Let’s forget labels such as ‘specific learning disability’ and move away from terms such as disorders.  I love the term ‘neuro-diversity’ – a word invented by sociologist Judy Singer, to shift the focus away from the deficits and call attention to the fact that many atypical forms of brain wiring also bring with them unusual skills and aptitudes.*

#2. You learn best through visual-spatial methods. Screenshot 2015-06-30 16.07.45

One strong feature of learning differences such as dyslexia is the ability to think in images rather than words. Learning is so much more natural for you if it can be filled with images, colour, and hands-on experiences, rather than constant reading and writing, which for a picture thinker can lead very quickly to confusion, frustration – and ultimately shutdown.

#3.  You have so many gifts. imagination

You may be a great problem solver, you are probably highly imaginative and creative, you could be really good at designing, or perhaps your areas of strength lie in sport, music, or art.  You might be able to see the big picture easily.  You might excel at thinking outside the box. Or you may be fabulous at detail-oriented tasks. Every individual who I have worked with, without exception, has possessed real gifts. Celebrate them, use them, and let them shine!

#4.  You share your thinking style with many successful people. richard_branson

Herman Hollerith, who helped launch the age of computing by inventing a machine to tabulate and sort punch cards, once leaped out of a school window to escape his spelling lessons because he was dyslexic.*  The list of successful people who have learning differences are endless.  Successful dyslexics include  Richard Branson, Steven Spielberg and Cher.  Famous people on the autism spectrum include Dan Aykroyd, Temple Grandin and Darryl Hannah.

#5.  You have the right to ask for the support you need.

google extensionsIf you are at school, tell your teacher what it is that will help you learn.  Maybe using a computer or a tablet will enable you to get your ideas down easier.  Perhaps text to speech software will help you to access text through listening to it.  Instead of laboriously copying from the board, your teacher could print out a set of notes for you.  Perhaps you could have extra time, or a reader/writer for tests. If you are employed, get support in the areas you need it.  Be honest with your colleagues – remember your learning difference means you bring many strengths to the table – it is just that you may need help in certain areas.  High quality assistive technology is forging ahead in ways that can offer robust support.  One example is this range of google extensions for dyslexia.

#6.  Your challenges can be overcome. Sally Shaywitz has a wonderful analogy of dyslexia being a small island of weakness in a huge sea of strengths. I would go further to include all learning difference in this analogy. And you know what? You can use your strengths to help you overcome your challenges.  Find a programme that is strengths-based, rather than one that thinks you need to be fixed.  Learn how to harness your gifts.  My personal favourite is of course the Davis programmes – created by a dyslexic, autistic genius that works from a place of strength and empowerment. abc

And last, but not least, always remember….

beautifully unique Sources: ‘Wired Differently” image from Wrong Planet *Neurodiversity rewires conventional thinking about brains Sally Shaywitz – article on Dyslexia Google Extensions for dyslexia

Happy Holidays Tips for those on the Autism Spectrum

I recently wrote some top tips for the Davis Autism International Christmas newsletter, about how to help your loved one on the Autism spectrum to cope positively with the holiday season.

I’ve posted them here too for you to read 🙂  Please feel free to add your tips in the comments section.  Your ideas could make all the difference to someone this Christmas.

Accommodate sensitivities

Christmas decorations

Christmas can come with lot of new sensations which can be overwhelming for children who experience sensory overload – twinkling lights, candles burning, fresh pine tree smells, not to mention the sights and sounds of frantic shoppers in the mall.

How can you lessen sensory stimulation?

  • Don’t go overboard on decorations in the house.
  • Use battery powered tea-lights
  • Use an imitation Christmas tree
  • Avoid taking your child shopping on those busy days around Christmas day.

If appropriate, you could let your child help decorate the tree and the house, so that s/he is involved in the change that happens in their environment. They can also help you to gauge when enough is enough.

Keep it relaxed


Relaxation will help to keep the balance and is so important for your child’s mind, body and lifeforce. And it just may be the key to keeping the meltdowns at bay at this time of year (for all of us!).

  • Have a slow start to the day rather than rushing from the moment you get up.
  • Let your child do what makes them happy and comfortable in between the get togethers and parties.
  • Be organised so that you don’t get sucked into the hustle and bustle that can happen at this time of year. It is very difficult for a child on the spectrum to rush without becoming stressed, anxious and angry.
  • Deep belly breathing creates a feeling of calmness for you that your child will pick up on. So it is a win-win

Manage the get-togethers

Family get together

Parties and gatherings of people who your child may hardly know can be challenging for all involved. The key is to allow your child to participate in a way that they feel comfortable, with the option to opt-out in a stress free way if they choose.

How can you make these get-togethers more positive?

  • Have a signal that your child can use if they start to feel overwhelmed and needs a break. Let them know that if they give you this signal, that you will respond straight away so that they get the time-out that they need.
  • Let them take a toy or item that they can fidget with if they are expected to sit still for a period of time.
  • Look through photos of family members with your child before the get-together. This will help your child to feel more comfortable with those people s/he doesn’t see very often.
  • Let your child know what to expect – will there be dinner, games, presents? Explain what is likely to happen.

A life-changing solution!

If you would like to help your child to participate more fully in life, and that includes holidays like Christmas, the Davis Autism Approach is just a wonderful gift, for the child and their family.  For more information, please visit the Davis Autism website.

Davis Autism Approach

Davis Autism International

I would love to introduce Davis Autism International and the Davis Autism Approach.

At Davis Autism International, we are committed to helping these beautiful individuals with autism to be able to participate more fully in life.  The Davis Autism Approach is gentle and non-invasive.  It has been developed by Ronald Davis, who is autistic himself, and who has committed his life’s work to helping others with autism and nurturing the seed of change.
We invite you to  look at our website at

Famous Dyslexics: #9 Cher


Cher’s career in music, film and television has been filled with success and prestigious awards.  Not only has she won a Grammy, an Emmy and three Golden Globes, but she is the only female solo artist to have been in the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 in each of the past six decades.

Cher’s life has not always been glamorous and successful.  She was born in California on May 20, 1946 and named Cherilyn Sarkisian.  Her parents divorced when she was very young and she was even put into foster care for a time due to poverty.

Cher was diagnosed as dyslexic as an adult, finally explaining why school was so difficult for her.  Of her time in school Cher explained, “I never read in school. I got really bad grades, D’s and F’s and C’s in some classes, and A’s and B’s in other classes. In the second week of the 11th grade, I just quit. When I was in school, it was really difficult. Almost everything I learned, I had to learn by listening. My report cards always said that I was not living up to my potential.”

Because of her dyslexia, she developed the ability to be able to listen closely and retain information.  This has given her an edge in the studio, on stage or while filming, allowing her to hear things other people may not notice, and to adjust her performances accordingly.

Cher’s dyslexia allowed her to develop her extraordinary talent, and achieve worldwide fame.



Good Learners

The Power of Dyslexia

Famous Dyslexics: #8 Vince Vaughn


Vince Vaughn credits his dyslexia and ADHD with his success.

Like many adults with dyslexia, Vince struggled through school as a child.  His ADHD gave him a short attention span and his dyslexia made reading difficult for him.  Vaughn did not like being singled out to get special help for his ‘disability’ and worked hard at fitting in by joining school sports teams and taking the focus away from his challenges.

Doctors prescribed Vaughn medication for his ADHD, but his father refused to consider drugs as an option.  Vaughn believes that because of this, he had to work harder than his peers and thus developed the perseverance, determination and the willingness to put the extra effort in – all characteristics that have no doubt  helped pave the road to stardom.  “When you have setbacks, you develop a really good work ethic, because you have to try harder.”

The dyslexic thinking style brings with it talents as well as challenges.  Vince Vaughn discovered his gift for acting and has not looked back.  He has won an MTV Movie Award, the People’s Choice Award and Teen Choice Award.  He is an inspiration to dream big and follow your dreams, no matter what.




The Power of Dyslexia