I first heard the word dyslexia after I had spent 18 years trying to learn to read, flunked out of college, gave up on my dream to be an adequate visual reader, and came up with what I now call reading by listening and writing by speaking. That's when a neurologist told me that I had developmental dyslexia. My visual reading and spelling, now, are probably comparable to that of many third-graders. However, I read voraciously at 250 to 400 words per minute using reading by listening and write as fast as I can speak using writing by speaking.
I'm sometimes asked what it's like to have dyslexia, and I typically give general statements like it's a problem that mainly affects visual decoding and spelling. However, I observe things about my reading and spelling behavior that I haven't heard others describe. These are things that surprise and puzzle me. I study these observations so that I might be able to understand better what my dyslexia is, how it makes me different, and how I and others with dyslexia might function better in this world that's design for rapid visual decoders.
Teachers, students, and others touched by dyslexia come with me as I explore my own dyslexia, how dyslexia makes us different, and how to thrive in the world of print. I'm hoping to learn from your feedback, ideas, and experiences by having a discussion.
There will be three kinds of content to start the discussion:
(1) my personal struggles growing up and living with dyslexia,
(2) educational changes that will dramatically improve outcomes for students with dyslexia,
(3) accommodations for reading by listening and writing by speaking, which eliminates the disadvantage caused by inadequate visual decoding and spelling.
I want to share my experiences, have conversations, and learn what it's like for others with dyslexia. Visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/AudioExamCreator and speak up! We want to hear your thoughts and opinions. Tell us what you think about living with dyslexia.
- Mike Matvy
I used to notice that the teachers taking notes in individual education program (IEP) meetings would intermittently stop writing. I first noticed this when I was dictating to them and found it curious. Why did they stop writing? Sometimes, people stop writing so they can plan what to say next, but when I was dictating, they didn't have to do that. All they needed to do was write what I said. Observing that behavior at other times during meetings, I came to realize that they were alternating between writing and reading what they had written. It was a process. It was not just spelling words one after another.
I talked with some of these writers and found that getting their writing to make sense, be accurate, and be organized, required them to do much more reading than spelling. They often read important writing seven or eight times before it's finished. I find this to be similar to the earlier observations I had made when asking someone how to spell a word. They would say, “give me a pencil.” That was puzzling to me; I didn't ask them to write a word. I asked them to tell me how to spell a word. However, I realize that for them, spelling was not done by sequencing letters verbally. They were using motor memory. But the important point here is that after writing the word, they had to look at the word and confirm that they had spelled it correctly. They had to read the word. They could not spell without reading. And, the teachers writing from my dictation could not write without reading.
What can people with dyslexia, like me, learn from this observation? It tells us that reading sentences back immediately after writing them is imperative, and there's much more reading going on in the writing process than there is spelling.
Despite their excellent expressive and receptive language, students with dyslexia typically produce written work far below their language levels. Their slow and labored visual reading is not adequate for quickly rereading what they have written. Together with their struggles to spell, this reading barrier often bogs them down when they attempt to write. To cope, they typically resort to using simple sentences and short passages that do not reflect the skill they demonstrate in their spoken language. For years they miss out on the practice that leads to becoming a good writer. Without automatic reading and spelling, students will not have an opportunity to learn how to become good writers. But, it doesn't have to be this way.
The solution for students with dyslexia is writing by speaking and reading by listening and an important combination feature called "dictation with typing echo.” This feature lets us do the same thing that those teachers were doing when they were writing in the IEP meetings — write a sentence and then instantly hear the sentence read back. And that quick, effortless rereading makes it possible for us to do proofreading, editing, and good composition, like our non-dyslexic peers do.
When you see this, you'll say, "I've got to do this for my students." Your students with dyslexia will become fluent automatic writers just like their classmates.
Here's a video showing "dictation with typing echo" in action: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KOyGnxFvpmI&t=6s
Did you know that students who struggle to read visually or read slowly, and with much effort, could be reading quickly and effortlessly using reading by listening, made possible by our new technologies and a clear understanding of what dyslexia is? Instead of struggling to sound out words or avoiding print, students with dyslexia who use assistive technology make use of their advanced reading skills and thrive in the world of print. For example, my visual decoding and spelling skills are comparable to the average third grader, yet I read and write voraciously and teach others with dyslexia to do the same. How can that be? This happens because we have learned to avoid letting poor visual decoding block us from using our advanced reading skills. We read at 250 to 400 words per minute using reading by listening technology and write as fast as we can speak using writing by speaking technology.
What are these advanced reading skills? While most people think of reading as pronouncing the print words that are seen on a page, that visual decoding of the words is only a tiny step in the process of reading. The more essential steps happen after we hear the words pronounced. These are the steps that give meaning to the words. If a student doesn't have the advanced skills for getting meaning, they may be able to pronounce all words but won't understand what the words and sentences are saying. I once did a psychological evaluation of a young girl who could visually decode and pronounce words far above her grade level, and you would think she would be a good reader, however she could pronounce words quickly and effortlessly but she didn't know the meanings of the words. The result of the evaluation was that she was borderline mentally disabled. She could pronounce words, but she didn't know what they meant.
On the other hand, students with dyslexia have very well-developed advanced reading skills. For instants, when they hear words, they instantly recognize them as known words. They know the meaning of words and often no multiple meanings for words. They know how words that are put together give other meanings. When they hear a complex passage, they can understand it. They have skills for interpreting, analyzing, and comprehending language. These are the crucial reading skills, and bright students with dyslexia have an innate talent for these reading skills. They are like the opposite of that young girl. Once a bright student with dyslexia removes that visual decoding barrier by using reading by listening, they unleash their advanced reading skills, tap into their innate talent for language, and become rapid and effortless readers. These talents are instantly and automatically unleashed as soon as the words are spoken.
Are your students with dyslexia making full use of their innate reading skills?
To accompany this blog post, we have a Facebook post for talking about dyslexia, please join in the conversation at https://www.facebook.com/AudioExamCreator/photos/a.306383879528247/2046309428869008
Living with Dyslexia
I seem to have little or no alertness when looking at print. It can be exhausting, overwhelming, and nearly impossible to find a word or start of a sentence on a page of print. I look to see if I can recognize the word I'm trying to find. I can keep looking through all that text, but I cannot hear the words say themselves. On the other hand, while struggling visually to find a word on a page, the start of a sentence on a page, or even an icon on a page, sometimes I accidentally swiped my mouse across the word, hear my screen reader say the word, and instantly say "That's it. Where is it? It's as if my eyes are "deaf" but my ears are not. The words don't talk when I see them., but the words talk when I hear them. Next, I just need to find out where my mouse was when I heard the word, and I will have found the word.
For me, even common sight words or not processed fast enough for the real world if they're processed visually. For example, the words "push" and "pull" are common words to me. I can decode them accurately. However, when I approach a public door that has one of those words, I cannot quickly enough understand the meaning of the word to know if I'm supposed to pull or push. I can't keep walking and decode the word fast enough to know what to do when I get to the door. So, I walk up to the door with the plan to push then pull. On the other hand, if the door was equipped with a speaker which simply said either push or pull whenever someone gets close to it, my reaction would be instantaneous. I would simply do what was intended by the word without missing a step. I instantly understand what's being said when I hear it, but I don't hear anything at all when it's being said in print. To hear from the print, I must go syllable by syllable, sound out the words, say the words in my mind, and listen to what they are saying. The print words don't talk. The spoken words do.
To accompany this blog post, we have a Facebook post for talking about dyslexia, please join in the conversation at https://www.facebook.com/AudioExamCreator/photos/a.306383879528247/2026029234230361/
1-28-21, Lucus generously helped me get this blog set up.
The next thing I need to do is add functionality so people can comment.