Saturday, March 7, 2015

2014 NextGen Article for the Manatee County Early Learning Coalition.

Born in 1959 with dyslexia, my “learning disability” created an arduous journey for me, my parents, and educators, finding out what dyslexia can do, how it can create, and after a long road, how it can be considered a “gift.”  For those persons who have been diagnosed with dyslexia today, life can be less arduous and become exciting once the person is provided with the available tools. Today is a technical dream come true world for those who struggle with the printed word.

For most who knew me growing up, they would probably call me the class clown in elementary school, the crazy guy in high school and the fun guy in college.  Inside, though, was a brewing storm of lack of self-worth, feeling empty with lack of knowledge from books and the “self-titled” dark horse of the family.  All of these clouds of deceit kept either me or others away from the truth.  We are all made perfect when we receive the gifts of our Maker.  I grew up in a compassionate, Christ oriented and successful family, of which I struggled to feel academically a part of due to my inability to process the printed word.

In 1967, the validation of my inability to learn with the then current way of teaching was documented and defined as Dyslexia at the University of Miami, much to the relief of my parents. My parents were struggling with the difficulty I had learning.  My normal way of school life abruptly ended when I was placed in a school for students with special needs.  It did not last long, but the remembrance that the drug line, my drug was Ritalin, was longer than the lunch line, was a constant reminder I was not considered normal when compared to the educational world I had just come from.  After about 6 months, I was pulled from the "pharmaceutical (One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest) school" back into the mainstream and was then tutored in reading until the early days of middle school.  Back then, and even today, a good question to ask is how long do you teach a child to read?  To an educator, the answer is you never stop teaching a person to read; to the dyslexic the answer is, “please embrace the way I consume the printed word.”  To teach me how to read is to tell me that I cannot read and I am not going to succeed like my peers.  It ushers me to the back of the bus and lays upon me, the guilt which comes from feeling different and inadequate when it comes to processing the printed word.
 Four foot heirs to a ten-foot throne
With its rusted out dishwashers
And its ivy grown Home.

It may become theirs with a form of neglect, or it may bloom to be theirs with religious care.

They are our flowers
which some will turn to weeds.
Weeds which are our own from unmet needs.

So to the chieftains, Mayors,
and unlikely parents,
to caring hands, kisses and well packed lunch boxes.

What is it that we want to pass on,
is it hoops and snares to our four foot heirs?

Or is it our dreams which become their dreams to a wonderful kingdom.
Which will be their new thrones?

Poem by Davis Graham, after visiting a ground breaking event for a Learning Disabled facility for LD students.
The damage that ensues from feeling inadequate is immense! Most self-worth slowly leaks away one spoken word at a time.  One such occurrence was at a conference in Colorado Springs, Colorado, when the keynote speaker came up to speak and held up a book.  The keynote addressed the 400 plus crowd by saying everyone should read this book titled “Good to Great" by Jim Collins.  As soon as I heard “everyone should read this book," I sank into depression because I knew I would never be able to passionately read the book.  Immediately I wanted to numb the shadow of failure which followed me around because of my past failures with the ever waiting fillers of darkness this world is so quick to provide.  Those failures were from High school with a SAT scores of 650 timed and 800 untimed. In my senior year my high school counselor told me I would never make it through college; his words initially came true with not just one but 2 academic suspensions from 2 separate colleges within a 2 and a half year time span.  Thank goodness it was not 2014 where I would have an FCAT/PARCC score follow me around constantly telling me I am a failure as early as elementary school, not to mention how test scores allow peers to validate their teasing the person who is different and has a failing FCAT/PARCC score and left behind. Even today there are no accommodations for the print disabled student for the reading sections for the FCAT testing. As for me, I persevered and graduated from the University of South Florida in 1985 with BA in Psychology.

Today, these failures are successes and the finish line is now a starting line; I survived, there are many that do not.  The statistics are atrocious.  Our education system is passing up some of the most creative students by pushing the testing aside to diagnose them with the gift of dyslexia.  To be diagnosed is one thing, but to provide the tools to succeed is an invitation into the world of the printed word, which can become a virtual experience with everyday life which is exciting and looked at with renewed expectation.
 
In 2013 I was offered to go back to graduate school, although I would not go back without receiving accommodations in the form of receiving my books in a digital format, in addition to having longer time to take tests and turn in papers.  In order to receive these accommodations, I needed to be reevaluated through a battery of tests to validate my print disability.  So today, after being re-credentialed in 2013 with the gift of dyslexia, I am a graduate student at Brandeis University.  I am going into my fifth semester towards earning a Masters of Science in Health and Medical Informatics.  In 2013, I was honored to be asked to represent Brandeis University as their attending Scholar at the 2013 Health Connect Conference Sponsored by Partners.org.  My most recent accomplishment outside of achieving academic excellence in my last 4 semesters is recently winning an essay contest sponsored by Eric Siegel who is an author and graduate of Brandeis University and founder of Predictive Analytics World.

How do I now thrive in the "academic" world?  I use assistive technology.  To get a taste of assistive technology, all you have to do is look at any Apple iDevice. For iOS 7: Go to settings, general, accessibility, speak selection, turn it on and turn on the highlighted words and adjust the speed or for iOS 8: Go to settings, general, accessibility, Speech, then turn "on" Speak Selection, Speak Screen, adjust speed, and turn "on" Highlight content . Then go to any text, such as a news article, highlight the words, and instead of copying, press "speak."  Or with iOS 8 swipe two fingers down from the "very" top of the screen and it will begin to read the text. This is a simple illustration of the power Steve Jobs has given those who have the gift, as he did, of dyslexia. Voice Dream Reader is another text to speech Apple application for $9.99, although schools can get a very hefty discount for their students, all students.  Then for those who have the documented print disability, Bookshare is the digital library come true for all those who have the qualifying disabilities.

I am still my own advocate until the rest of the world catches up by overhauling the archaic delivery system of education to one which is electronically and technologically advanced to empower those persons with the tools which enable them to consume the printed word.  So today for my graduate classes, I write the textbook publisher asking for the person in charge of providing permission to send an alternative format of the textbook to me, the person with the print disability.  They send me the form for my school to fill out; the school fills out the information needed, signs it, sends it back to the publisher and receives the book in an alternative format. I prefer the PDF format and I am off to reading.  I consume/read most of my books on my iPhone. When I want to make a note, I dictate in “notes” speech to text and if I do not know a definition of a word I ask Siri or Google for the definition to be read to me.  At work I use Dragon Dictation to dictate written communications.  I read with text-to-speech software such as Balabolka and at conferences I take my notes with Xmind note taking software.  The last 2 software programs mentioned are free, as is Dragon dictation on the iPhone.

For all those parents and children/students who have the gift of dyslexia, it only feels like a gift when you receive the proper tools, and once you receive those tools your determination and perseverance which has delivered you to this point in life explodes into one of expectation and a thirst for knowledge to be applied to the intelligence you have always had.


Today, I tutor students with assistive technology and speak words of encouragement to those who seek me out. I am blessed and remain gifted with the gift of dyslexia.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Thursday, August 1, 2013




The Gift of Dyslexia sources:


50% of successful suicides for children 15 years of age and under had a learning disability:
Understanding Children's Hearts and Minds: Emotional Functioning and Learning Disabilities
By: Jean Cheng Gorman (1999),  http://www.ldonline.org/article/6292/

80% of children with a Learning disability actually have dyslexia.[1]
Pediatric Clinic North Am. 2007 Jun;54(3):609-23, viii.,Management of dyslexia, its rationale, and underlying neurobiology. Shaywitz SE, Gruen JR, Shaywitz BA. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17543912

Up to 50% of juveniles who are incarcerated have learning disabilities.
Transitioning Students into a Facility: Comprehensive Assessment at Entry, By Angeline Spain and Regina Waugh http://www.neglected-delinquent.org/nd/resources/spotlight/spotlight200503a.asp#1

Up to 600 words per minute. Some researchers have actually suggested that listening may occur at a rate of 1,000 to 3,000 words per minute. - Communicating Effectively, (10th Edition) by Richard L. Weaver II and Saundra Hybels,Chapter 5, page 132

35% of Entrepreneurs in the United States are dyslectic
New Research Reveals Many Entrepreneurs Are Dyslexic, Posting Date: January 23, 2008
http://www.amanet.org/training/articles/New-Research-Reveals-Many-Entrepreneurs-Are-Dyslexic.aspx

Steve Jobs and his gift of dyslexia: The Guardian
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/jun/24/dyslexia-not-a-disability-gift

Friday, May 31, 2013

Neurobiology of Learning Disorders by Drs. Brock and Fernette Eide on Oct 16, 2012

Drs. Fernette and Brock Eide and their talk to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in San Francisco, CA. Latest updates in research-based understanding of learning disabilities and learning differences. Topics covered include: co-morbidity of LD, prevalence, neuropsychological testing, fMRI, auditory and visual processing, development, dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, and ADD / ADHD, reward and motivation, creativity, gifted, neurodiversity. 

For more information about dyslexia, join our community at: http://dyslexicadvantage.com

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Friday, September 7, 2012

A Mother and Son Talk About Bookshare

Listen to the mother and then just do it. Eccl 9:10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.....

Monday, June 4, 2012

Guest column: FCAT fails to allow dyslexics, disabled to use technology


Published: June 3, 2012
Click here to listen to the commentary.

By Davis W. Graham — Commentary (Bradenton.com)

As a person with the gift of Dyslexia, today I am thriving with text-to-speech technology that enables me to read at 340 to 510 words per minute. Not all the population has the ability to access such "free" tools.

Over and over again I hear stories of people who have dyslexia and other print "disabilities" and are still struggling. Their lives, like mine, could be changed with such Tools of Engagement.

Then I began to hear of lives and families who have been devastated by the FCAT and the lack of accommodations for those with print disabilities.

Did you know a child with the gift of dyslexia is not permitted to have assistive technology to help them in the reading portion of the FCAT?

High failure rate

The recently posted scores on the 10th-grade reading test show 81 percent of kids with disabilities failed. It is suspected that means about 80 percent of the students with specific learning disabilities failing -- compared to 73 percent last year.

Once they fail this test, they are then set on a path of lifelong struggles centered on this one failure, one of which I have endured.

The cost of funding this failure is enormous. We have increased populations in juvenile detention. Some 30 to 50 percent of juvenile detainees have a reading disability.

Even if the person is not in a correctional facility, the knowledge of failure can lead to addictions which numb the present to forget the past. The list goes on.

Our test-based education system not being held to American Disabilities Act standards is blatant discrimination. ADA is required in almost every other facet in our lives.

This is the beginning of a child's life in the education system and hence begins an intelligent life being measured and changed by a discriminatory test.

It is said there is a 16-year-old who is still in middle school because of failure to pass the FCAT. If not for a counselor's intervention, a woman who has been sight impaired since age 13 would not have been allowed to graduate from high school because she did not pass FCAT -- even though she was in the top 10 percent of her class.

Technology bridges gap

People with dyslexia or other print disability are living in a technical dream-come-true world which can equip the 10 to 20 percent of those who have dyslexia with tools such as Balabolka, Readplease, Xmind (note taking tool), Read2Go and Bookshare.org -- which will change their future outlook.

This technology has bridged the gap, but for this technology not to be allowed in today's educational journey -- such as the FCAT -- then our education system is living in a two-faced world.

When a building is built today, it is required by law to have ADA-compliant restrooms. A person in a building that does not have an ADA restroom may be put at a temporary disadvantage. Because the FCAT does not accommodate a person with a print disability, that mars the person and family for life.

We are on the edge of the digital age where we can power up all students by advocating technology, but as it stands we are asking students in some academic settings to "power down."

Davis W. Graham, is the executive director and CFO of Manatee Diagnostic Center in Bradenton.

Read more here: http://www.bradenton.com/2012/06/03/4061085/guest-column-fcat-fails-to-allow.html#storylink=misearch#storylink=cpy#storylink=cpy