How I Defeat my Dyslexia

Before my reading comprehension issues had a name, I didn’t understand why I struggled to read, let alone remember or understand the words on the page.

In 1970, my parents purchased a system. The experience is a bit of a blur, but it involved reading words on a page from a three-ring binder while a record told me what to read. The assumption, I believe, was if I wasn’t comprehending the words on the page, auditory learning was needed. I can’t say it worked, but who knows, maybe it did a little.

In 1981, while at Virginia Tech, I took a Business writing course where there was not text book. You can imagine my delight. The professor taught us how to write via a formula that is similar to the old “tell’m what you are going to tell’m, tell’m, tell’m what you told ‘m” approach to presenting information. Although it wasn’t until my senior year, I believe this writing course helped me create my “Framework” approach to reading comprehension.

In 1983, my senior year at Virginia Tech, I reached new levels of frustration. Long story short, I created my “Framework” approach. It went something like this:

  • Write, by hand or type, the major sections of a text book chapter. Don’t highlight. You need to write.
  • Read and then write the content subsection headers. Look for relationships between the subsections. Are they a list? Are they steps? Are they categories? Make a note.
  • Read a subsection as many times as necessary to glean the instruction. Summarize the content in your own words and write the summary into your notes document. In 1983, that was spiral notebook.
  • Repeat summaries for each subsection.
  • Read each summary and note content relationships between your summaries. Confirm your initial relationship assumption based on subsection headers. Update accordingly.
  • Return to page 1 of the chapter and just read. Don’t highlight. If additional understanding comes to light, now that you have created a framework in your brain for the content, jot down notes in the applicable content section or subsection.
  • Review your notes again.
  • Walk away.
  • Return the next day or so. Read your notes. Reread the chapter. Write a summary of the chapter’s teachings.
  • You are ready to compare classroom notes with text book notes, make connections, glean new understanding, and thus prepare for your next test.

The Framework approach got me through graduate school decades later.

In the 1990s, I listened to books on tape during my 2+ hour commute everyday to work. That’s when I realized that fiction can be interesting. That it wasn’t the writing or the stories, necessarily, but my reading challenges – as assumed. In sharing my frustrations with a colleague, he mentioned dyslexia and its symptoms, and everything made sense.

So, around 2000, I forced myself to read fiction and started with Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone. A children’s book. Simple writing. It was time to train my brain to comprehend the words on the page without using a framework approach. It took time, the occasional use of my finger or a ruler on the page to keep my eyes focused. But, as an adult, I was able to persevere.

The final step in reaching the top of my reading challenges mountain was the invention of eBooks and their applicable readers. I started with a Nook tablet.

Screenshot of a book page in the Nook app on a smartphone.

However, it wasn’t until I add the Nook app to my new smartphone that my world shifted.

Not all dyslexic issues are the same for each person. My challenges were letter flipping, word flipping, and not being able to find my way back to the start of the next line on the page.

On the app, I don’t have to shift my eyes left and right. I can see the line of text at a glance. I’ve gotten to the point where I can scan the content, as if using a speed reading approach, and know what’s going on.

Now, instead of spending days in frustration, I can read a 250-300 page novel in a day – assuming I have nothing else to do 😉

In closing, if you know someone who struggles with reading, my framework approach for text books and squishing text down to a narrow column for fiction might be the first step in helping that someone enrich their lives with reading.

Published by Cindy McCourt

I wear many hats: author, website planner, Drupal consultant, instructional designer, trainer.

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