If dyslexia is not a ‘deficit’, what is it?

I recently read an interesting article called “Neurodiversity and Dyslexia: Compensatory strategies, or different approaches?”  The article argued that the current educational system classifies people with dyslexia as people with deficits. As such, the educational system is focused in “remediating” / “fixing” these deficits.

However, if schools would adopt a new approach of recognizing that people with dyslexia simply learn differently and create programs for students to excel at how they learn best, then people with dyslexia would graduate school with a higher quality education, and with a much improved level of self-confidence.

So can this be realistically implemented?

The first step is to formalize how people with dyslexia think and learn differently. If this is understood, then educational programs can be created geared for people with dyslexia. For example, these programs can focus less on demonstrating short-memory skills and visual processing for details (e.g. demonstrated in good spelling) and more in promoting a holistic learning approach when teaching a given subject.  Such programs will allow a person with dyslexia to excel and demonstrate his strengths. Potentially, as formal recognition is given to these special analytical strengths, the dyslexic person will strengthen his relative learning and cognitive advantages.

Making the change of seeing dyslexia not as a ‘deficit’ but rather as a valuable and unique skill set is a huge leap. Society is so ingrained with the concept that dyslexia is a deficit that most dyslexics themselves live under this assumption.  Dramatic and enlightened shifts from these misconceptions are required to produce a real and long-lasting effect on the quality of education for a dyslexic.


Mom – My Personal Spell Checker

When I started to learn to write (in the mid 70s) there were no personal computers and no available computer word processors. As a terrible dyslexic speller, I had only one spell checker available – my mother. She was my personal spell checker.

On the one hand her processing time was quite slow, as she had great difficulty understanding my handwriting and spelling; but on the other hand her correction accuracy was quite high, as she always knew the context of what I had written, and therefore could make very educated guesses to what I intended to write.

Once my mother finished correcting my text, the paper sheet was so full of crossed out words and corrections, that I always needed to copy the text to a clean sheet of paper… which usually meant copying the text with mistakes again and going through an additional iteration with my mother… and then being requested by my mother to read out loud what was written… the process was tedious and tiring, many  times resulting in one of us losing our patience.

Years passed by, and the personal computers overtook the world. By the end of the 80’s I owned my own personal computer, and was using the word processing software WordPerfect and its spell checker. When Microsoft Word 95 added its underlining spell checker, I adopted the Microsoft’s squiggly-red spelling errors markings.

But though Microsoft’s word spell checker processing was extremely faster than my mother… the correction accuracy was quite low… Microsoft often gave me wrong suggestions… or no suggestions at all, as it simply could not decipher my spelling… as Microsoft had no understanding to the context of what I was writing about.

Microsoft Word spell checker failed to provide me the value that Mom my personal spell checker provided.  That’s why years later I founded Ghotit – the only spell checker designed for dyslexia spelling.  And Ghotit has adopted some of the same spell checking characteristics displayed by Mom my personal spell checker:

  • Ghotit boasts of context-based algorithms, understanding the intended word from the context of the written text itself
  • Ghotit is patient – supporting correction re-iterations based on additional corrections and inputs provided by the user
  • Ghotit  can be asked to read out the text out loud

PS After so many years… I believe Mom my personal spell checker has finally met her match

Ten Reasons Why It Is Difficult for a Person with Dyslexia to Spell Correctly

Spelling with dyslexia is not an easy play:

1)  It is difficult for a person with dyslexia to break words into phonemes/discrete sounds.

2)  The more phonemes/discrete sounds a word possesses, the bigger the challenge of deconstructing a word correctly to its phonemes.

3)  It is more difficult for a person with dyslexia to deconstruct the “middle” phonemes of a word, rather than the first and last phonemes.

4)  It is difficult for a person with dyslexia to associate sounds to letters that make up the sound.

5)  People with dyslexia tend to reverse letters in words (e.g. “on” instead of “no”).

6)  People with dyslexia tend to confuse letters that are visually similar (e.g. “bad” instead of “dad”).

7) People with dyslexia tend to confuse letters that sound similar. (e.g. “sity” instead of “city”).

8 ) People with dyslexia do not have strong visual memory for spelling. For example they will not be able to distinguish from memory the correct spelling of the word of “meet” versus the word “meat”.

9) People with dyslexia have difficulty to gain meaning from text.

10) Regular spell checkers are not “optimized” to understand and correct the spelling of a dyslexic.

For a solution, look at Ghotit Real Writer and Reader specifically designed for those with Dyslexia and Dysgraphia.

Albert Einstein Interviewed about Dyslexia

The following is an interview performed by Ofer Chermesh, the founder of Ghotit, the leading writing and reading assistive technology for dyslexics, and Mr. Albert Einstein that suffers from learning disability like many other famous people, the man synonymous with the word GENIUS and the world’s most famous dyslexic. All of Mr. Albert Einstein texts are exact quotes.

Ofer: Thank you, Mr. Albert Einstein, for joining this interview. And thank you also very much for being a dyslexic genius. One of the major misconceptions that people have is that people with dyslexia have a lower intelligence. That is ridiculous of course…

Mr. Albert Einstein: “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe”.

Ofer: Your son Hans Einstein has be quoted as saying that your “ teachers reported that . . . you were mentally slow, unsociable, and adrift forever in his foolish dreams”. How do you describe your experiences at school and with your teachers?

Mr. Albert Einstein: “Most teachers waste their time by asking questions which are intended to discover what a pupil does not know. Whereas the true art of questioning has for its purpose to discover what the pupil knows or is capable of knowing”.

Ofer: Any insights for dyslexics who are struggling with their studies at school?

Mr. Albert Einstein: “Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school”. “The important thing is not to stop questioning.”

Ofer: You know, Ghotit, the company I have founded offers a unique spelling and grammar checker. It offers a solution that I as a heavy dyslexic have been dreaming about my whole life. What guidance can you provide for Ghotit?

Mr. Albert Einstein: “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”

Ofer: Developing an intelligent spell checker that offers word suggestions based on the context of the sentence has taken a longer time then expected?

Mr. Albert Einstein: “When a man sits with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute. But let him sit on a hot stove for a minute and it’s longer than any hour. That’s relativity!”

Ofer: So what do you see in the future of Ghotit?

Mr. Albert Einstein: “I never think of the future. It comes soon enough.”

Ofer: Any business recommendations for Ghotit?

Mr. Albert Einstein: “Try to become not a man of success, but try rather to become a man of value.”

Ofer: Any final words?

Mr. Albert Einstein: “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving”.

* Nobody really knows if Einstein was indeed dyslexic.

Since we published this blog, we have learned about its popularity. I wonder why so many dyslexics look with admiration at Einstein?

I believe that the following solution would have been appealing to Mr. Albert  Einstein.


Understanding how dyslexics write


Labeled as a Person with Dyslexia

I recently read an interesting article called “A rose is a rose is a flower” (http://www.thehindu.com/arts/magazine/article881892.ece). The article discusses the pros and cons of being labeled as a dyslexic.

The “pros” – in many cases the diagnosis of being dyslexic, provides the reasoning of why an intelligent adult or child is under-performing in school or in work. Suddenly behavior, that seemed inexplicable to an employer or parent not familiar with dyslexia, is explained. Not only that, once diagnosed correctly the appropriate instruction and assistive technology may be implemented to assist the person with dyslexia.

The “cons” – the dyslexia label brings the disability into focus, also at times when it is not necessary to highlight the disability. As quoted from the article “a person with a label has to be extremely mindful of ‘minor failings’ as all his behavior is perceived through the lens of his disability.” Giving people one-dimensional labels may result in disregarding personal differences and strengths. “While we readily accept that ‘normal’ kids can be quite different in terms of their personalities, preferences and proclivities, we tend to assume that all children with a particular clinical tag (e.g. dyslexia) are alike.”

Do the pros overcome cons in dyslexic labeling?

Well, in my opinion, it depends on the situation. In a supportive school environment, where the main objective is to improve the learning abilities of a dyslexic, it should be beneficial to be classified as dyslexic. In such an environment, the school, together with the support of the parents, will work out the best program and learning environment offered by the school to the dyslexic student.

However, in a work environment, where the main objective is to optimize the productivity of the employee, being classified as a dyslexic may be harmful. The main objective of a modern workplace is not to optimize the work environment of a dyslexic person, but rather to ensure that the person filing a given position is providing maximum value. In such environments, being categorized as dyslexic may not benefit the person with dyslexia; rather this categorization may result in unnecessary discrimination against the person with dyslexia.

Bottom line

I think that at the bottom line it is up to the dyslexic/ dyslexic parent to assess if it is advantageous or disadvantageous to be categorized as a dyslexic. If it is advantageous, then sure, let the word out, and try to maximize the benefits of being labeled with dyslexia. However, if it is not, and you feel that being categorized as dyslexic may be used against you, then withholding the fact that you are dyslexic should be the right way to go.

When a Mother Realizes That Her Son Has Dyslexia

I was sitting at the hairdresser’s shop, reading an article in a women’s magazine. Suddenly I realized: This is my child! The article is talking about my child. Each sentence re-enforced this realization. They are talking about my son.

The article was about dyslexia, describing the characteristics of dyslexic children. I don’t remember the exact details of the article, as 25 years have passed since.  However, this was the first time I ever heard of dyslexia. This was the first time I learned that Reading and Writing, these learned skills, skills that almost everyone succeeds in mastering, may be very difficult to very intelligent people diagnosed with dyslexia.

Unbelievable. This piece of information was the most important piece of information I have ever received in my life. Now I understood, that my son was not lazy, my son needed help. Till then I tried to teach my son by forcing him to sit down and repeat again and again words and letters. That was not easy and in some way looked cruel. But what was the alternative? Can a person succeed in our world without the knowledge of reading and writing?

25 years ago my son, Kevin, was 10 years old. At that time, awareness about dyslexia was quite low. I remember talking to my son’s teachers and educational counselors and being amazed about their ignorance on this topic. How can it be that a women’s magazine publishes information about learning disabilities that professional educators are not familiar with. The best were those teachers, principals and psychologists who admitted their ignorance but were eager to learn more about dyslexia. The worse were those educators who pretended to know everything or were simply indifferent to the condition. Against these people you have to decide to fight.

I hate arguments and conflicts but sometimes you have no choice. After all, Kevin is my son, and my son must know that his parents fully support him and will fight for him.

My husband and I embarked on a battle to educate my son’s school about dyslexia. It was no easy tasks, and sometimes I wondered what happens to all those children whose parents do not know how to persistently argue a case until it is won…

After a long battle we were able to adjust the learning conditions of my son in his school. At certain points we realized that our son understood his parent’s defense incorrectly. He began to behave as if he was granted permission to do in school whatever he wanted, avoiding assignments and tasks that he did not wish to perform. I was informed that he was coming in late to school almost every morning. Coming late to school is not one of the privileges a dyslexic child is entitled to. It is important that you fight for privileges that are required to compensate for your child being dyslexic, but at the same time make sure that your child is not abusing these privileges to avoid his responsibilities.

My son’s son (my grandson) has recently been diagnosed with dyslexia. When looking back, I feel that some conclusions may be drawn from my experience of raising a dyslexic child:

1.       Look at the truth straight in the face. If you suspect a problem, consult a good and reliable therapist. Consulting does not tag any child in a negative manner.

2.       Although your child may be treated by the best professionals, keep being involved with his progress.

3.       If your child experiences misunderstandings at school and you are expected to intervene, examine all facts and sides carefully, before forming an opinion.

4.       And last: although dyslexic children may reach high achievements, they usually cannot overcome all spelling errors from appearing in their writings. Here is where assistive technology (like Ghotit Writing Assistive Technology) offers its value.

Ghotit hosts from time to time guest blog posts about dyslexia.

The writers of these posts may be dyslexics, dyslexic family members, dyslexic tutors, teachers, assistive technology specialists or any other writer as long as the post provides quality information about dyslexia.

This is the second hosted post by Mary, a parent of a dyslexic.

Bookmark and Share

Seeing Your Dyslexic Child’s Writing For The First Time

Millions of kids have recently started going to school worldwide, about 10% of them suffering from dyslexia.

As the year unfolds, some parents of first and second graders will see for the first time the written text that their son or daughter has just written, and will ask themselves “ What is this? What gibberish has my son or daughter produced?”

For some of these parents this will be the first indication of their child’s writing disability, and their initiation as dyslexic parents…

As a lifelong dyslexic and a dyslexia advocate, I would like to provide these parents my non-scientific definition of  “dyslexia spelling” – spelling produced by dyslexics…

Dyslexia Spelling = Phonetic Spelling + Creative Spelling

What is Phonetic Spelling?

When you’re dictating a word and tell your son or daughter that he should write what he hears, a child, including a dyslexic, will attempt to map the sounds in the words to the sounds of the letters.

However, English is not a phonetic language. There are a very large number of English words where there is a gap between how the word sounds and how the word is actually spelled. Not to mention, there are many times multiple correct phonetic options to a sound (for example: k , c, ck, and qu all sound about the same)…

What is Creative Spelling?

Given that English spelling is not phonetic, and per each sound may have several spelling options, a lot of correct English spelling is dependent on the visual memory of a written word. If you have good visual memory of words, you will be able to spell a word correctly simply by writing it down, and from memory deciding if this is the correct spelling.

But people with dyslexia, have very poor and consistent visual memory of spelled words, and therefore can hardly rely on their visual memory of words.  (see my example of how I spell the word “unfortunately” in a previous Ghotit Post – My Dyslexia and Phonological Processing.)

Not to mention that dyslexics sometimes simply confuse the direction of letters, and though they meant to write the letter “b” actually end up writing the letter “d”…

I term all the above spelling challenges as “creative spelling”. It is “creative” in the sense, that given that a person simply has no idea of how to spell correctly certain syllables of a word, he creatively makes them up as he writes. And each time he “creates” a word’s spelling, it usually ends up as a different spelling creation.

Can a regular spell checker correct dyslexia spelling?

If English was a phonetic language, then regular spell checkers who have implemented phonetic spelling rules would probably provide some value for dyslexics with poor visual spelling memory…

However, English is not a phonetic language, and therefore the “creative spelling” of a person with dyslexia must be taken into account in a spell checker. However the “creative” spelling of a dyslexic is basically “noise” and therefore any computerized program, such as a regular spell checker, that tries to correct a single word at a time (and not based on the context of the sentence) is doomed to fail… That is why Microsoft spell checker many times simply fails to correct a heavily misspelled word written by a dyslexic.

Context-based spell-checkers for dyslexia spelling

Here is where benefits of a context spell checker such as Ghotit’s Contextual Spell Checker come to play. Context-based spell checkers not analyze directly the “creative spelling” of each word written by a dyslexic, but rather based on the context of what was written, intelligently offers corrections, predicting what was actually intended to be written.

Bookmark and Share

Does High Education Pay Off for People with Dyslexia?

Studies show that education pays off in terms of employment and earnings.

Here is a study produced by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics that clearly demonstrates that a higher education, on average, pays off:

The graph above demonstrates that there is a strong positive correlation between education and income; and a strong negative correlation between education and unemployment. In order words, a person with a higher education, on average, will have higher earnings, and less probability to be unemployed then a person with a lower education. The statistics displayed above are true, on average, for the entire population.

However, do these same statistics apply for people with dyslexia?
I believe not…

I remember reading in the past a UK study that claimed that the gap of unemployment between a person with dyslexia and without dyslexia rises with increased education (sorry – could not find the link of the study – if anyone can help let me know). In many ways these findings make sense. Dyslexics receive support from their families and teachers and government aid during their school years, to ensure their academic success. But, once they leave the school gates, they are usually left alone with their reading and writing disability.

In many countries there is already a high awareness to learning disabilities and dyslexia, with government aid being offered (e.g. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)). These government intervention projects provide proactive aid to dyslexic students to graduate from high schools and universities. However, there is minimal or no official support offered to graduating dyslexics, promoting those same people who were aided in schools, to obtain and maintain a job.

This information presents a real challenge for educators and decision makers. In order to help people with dyslexia to succeed in life, on one hand education assistance is required. But on the other hand proactive aid should be offered assisting a dyslexic to obtain and maintain a job.

Only then can education really pay off for dyslexics too.

Would love to get your inputs…

7 Tips for Living Successfully with Dyslexia

I have read articles about people who were able to beat dyslexia. I cheer these people…

I, though diagnosed relatively early in my live, and having both my parents and myself invest a lot of time, effort and money in treating my dyslexia, was never able to beat my dyslexia. Rather, I learned to live with my Dyslexia.

Here are my seven tips of how you can live successfully with your dyslexia:

1)      Practice, practice & practice reading – till you can enjoy reading a good book, or read up on all required work materials. For some, audio reading solutions can help in improving their reading capabilities.

2)      Gain your reading and writing independence – find the right reading and writing assistive solutions. Solutions like Ghotit, enable even heavy dyslexics to independently produce correctly written text as well as read any text.

3)     Keep up to date of new technologies/inventions – the technological world is leapfrogging. Today having computer access is quite easy, and the internet provides a direct route to knowledge of all new findings and developments for dyslexics. Keep up to date of these changes/developments as you may one day find that these new innovations may dramatically change the quality of your life.

4)      Know when is the right time to “divulge” your dyslexia – Dyslexia is not a disease, but there are quite a few misconceptions that people have about dyslexia. Raising an “I Have Dyslexia Flag” it not always in your best interest. Fine-tune your detection capabilities to determine when is the best time to share with others your “dyslexic” condition.

5)      Re-gain your social confidence– many times dyslexics attending regular educational institutes lose their social confidence during their school years. Schools usually grade students based on the weaker aspects of a dyslexic – his reading and writing abilities. To succeed in life, you must regain your social confidence…

6)      Learn your strengths – People with dyslexia are not the worlds’ most accomplished readers and writers. In a world focused on the written word, dyslexics have a major disadvantage.  However, dyslexics usually boast of high intelligence and “big-picture” / strategic thinking. Learn your strengths, as these must be leveraged in your real-life struggles to compete with those common non-dyslexics :-).

7)      Never ever ever give up – You must always believe in your abilities and to quote the famous Charlie Brown – simply “Never ever ever give up”. The world is full of people who have lost because they simply gave up. But we the dyslexics, who have been struggling more or less from elementary school, are trained for the struggle. We have been trained for disappointments and the ability to overcome these disappointments. We are the ones who shall teach the others to “Never Ever Ever Give Up”.

I will be happy to hear  ideas for “How to Overcome Dyslexia”

Least and not least don’t feel sorry for yourself and smile – it really helps

A new insight I received form my daughter try again and again to convince the person you are working/studding to look at things differently.

How The Brain of a Person with Dyslexia Works Differently

I recently came across a short video that provides a simple description of how the brain of a person with dyslexia works differently. I was impressed with the simplicity of the explanation. Here is a short recap.

3 Key Areas of the in the left side of the Brain that work simultaneously:

1) Phoneme Recognizer: Area used to sounding words out loud in our brain and breaking down words to similar sounds, known as phonemes (Example: the sound of the letter “T”).

2) Word Analyzer: Area used for analyzing words even more, analyzing together word syllables and phonemes (Example: the sound of “Ti” and “ger”)

3) Word Detector: Area responsible for detecting word forms, allowing to instantly recognize words without having to sound them out

People with Dyslexia, have problem to get access to both the Word Analyzer and the Word Detector. This may cause them to compensate and rely more heavily on sounding out words. Dyslexics may compensate by using the right side of the brain that takes visual cues from story pictures  to decipher words.

Here is a link to my previous Ghotit Blog My Dyslexia and Phonological Processing

And for a relieve, look at Ghotit Real Writer and Reader designed for those with Dyslexia and Dysgraphia.