Thursday, March 30, 2017

My Lifesong to you....

Davis Graham's educational history and resources, in his own words
My Early Background
I was born in Fort Benning, Georgia, USA

We left Bradenton when I was four years old and moved to Saudi Arabia for four years, and then returned to Miami where my father went into radiology. When we were in Saudi Arabia my parents became frustrated with my learning and were concerned for me, I was tested in 1967 and was diagnosed with Dyslexia at the University of Miami. I was put on Ritalin and directed to a private school for children with learning disabilities.

My family moved back to Bradenton in 1970. I went to St. Stephens Episcopal School and became the class clown to keep people at bay as to what was going on inside, got into trouble and was asked not to come back. Transferred to St. Joseph Catholic School in 1972 where the Head master had some knowledge of dyslexia. Then off to Manatee High School, class clowned again thru school, used every opportunity to make it thru, did get my pilot license, and graduated from High School in the top 50%. SAT totaled 650, SAT un-timed 800. My guidance counselor discouraged me regarding college by saying, “why would you try for something like a college degree and not be able to finish it.” A college degree was the only thing no one could take away from me. I was accepted to three schools: Emory Riddle, University of Montana, and Westminster College. I decided it would be Westminster College.

Westminster College accepted me under their L.D. Program, I was held back on taking some classes. At Westminster I received some great tools, RFBD books on tape, dictating papers and group therapy.

I Transferred to University of The South, Sewanee, Tenn.
Great academic environment; I learned more about studying and wanting to learn than in any other environment. I discovered frustration with professors not understanding my gift of dyslexia but felt accepted. There were several times I felt as if I did not want to go on in life, but my faith saved me.

I Transferred to the University of South Florida
At USF I was accepted in under the Special Services for the Handicap program. For a year and a half I did not take all the help which was given and was academically suspended in 1983. There was a time I wanted to end my life during the end of this time in college, but I reached out to Sally Jesse Rafael, who had her own radio talk show at the time, and was then again renewed in hope.

When I received the letter of Academic Suspension, I was very depressed; however, my strong faith in God and a lot of friends and family got me through a very tough time.

Interesting Experiences
I worked for a night club for 2 years and was in the Movie “Cocoon” in the break-dance scene. Was given an opportunity to be promoted, then decided to go back to school.

I applied and was accepted back at USF. In order to get a psychology degree the Dean of Social Behavioral Sciences told me that I would be required to make a 3.0. So be it.

After registering for classes, I met Chris Martin; she was the administrator for the Special Services for the Handicapped. She asked me how my “gift” affected me; it was also the first time I was ever willing to talk about my gift. I was asked “Well then what do you need?” My answer was I need a note taker, my books on tape, my test given orally and tutoring whenever needed. 3 semesters later I graduated with “a 3.0” no more, no less. My degree was earned by grace, faith, and an ear for my compassion and persistence.

First Job as a Graduate, Director of the Florida House: In 1986 I was offered a job as an intern at Florida House, Inc. in Washington, D.C. The Florida House was started by Rhea Chiles, Senator Chiles wife in 1972. It is an Embassy of sorts for Floridians who are visiting our Nation’s Capital. In October 1986 I was offered the Director’s position, and worked for 7 years for Mrs. Chiles. Highlights were many, broadcasting with Willard Scott weather show on the Today Show was one, working with the full Florida Congressional Delegation closely for 7 years, the Clarence Thomas hearings, Iran-Contra hearings, working with the Reagan and Bush administrations on special needs children, Walt Disney programs, dissidents coming from the Eastern Block countries trying to get family members to the USA, the “Iron Curtain” falling and then Desert Storm.

After 7 wonderful years it was time to move on. I joined Manatee Diagnostic Center, Ltd. in 1993 after taking 6 months off and touring/camping/being a cowboy and writing a book titled “In Search of the Risen Son”.

Manatee Diagnostic Center, Ltd. was a family business; I worked with my father and two other administrative personnel. We had 85 folks who I worked with where together we served close to 80,000 patients a year.

Today I’m married to my wife Trish; we have four children. Our oldest son is Davis Woodward, Mary Grace, Andrew James and Sarah Abigail.

Enter Readplease/Bookshare/Voice Dream Reader
In 2001, while needing to read a 30+ page contract, while reading 69 words a minute, I needed to read this contract with 98% or higher comprehension. The internet had come into fruition, so I Googled “Text reading Software” and second in line was Readplease, with “free-download” now called “freeware”. Downloaded the software, it was so similar to my recorder controls it became a part of my life, like an old shoe. The contract was read in about an hour and a half, and I have not stopped reading since.

Today I use Voice Dream Reader with which has taken on the task with other Print Disabled organizations to make copyrighted books available to the Print Disabled public. The membership is free to all qualifying students in the United States; a paid membership is required for non-students. They have 500,000 and growing are now books available  to its members along with the text-to-speech software. The most text to speech software blends the internet technology and the written word in to a virtual book. If there is a word, person, place or thing the reader does not understand or know, then just highlight the word and you go to the World Wide Web and then the reader can read about the unknown and make it known.

My spelling has improved by 60 to 70 percent, I read between 370 up-to 650 words per minute with 90%+ comprehension; fear of the written word is no longer present. There is nothing in my way except for motivation. When I get ready to read a document such a 59 page lease, I have to gear up and focus, and then I’m living the word as I read.

Today I am here to inspire those who still look at the written word as a threat. Today I’m here to say this threat should no longer exist, so much so I went back to Graduate School at Brandeis University for a Master of Science in Health and Medical Informatics, graduated on May 22, 2016 with academic honors, nominated as Student Marshal. Reaching goals which once seemed out of reach because of the written word is no longer out of reach; it is available to read and comprehend. Voice Dream Reader, Balabolka, and Apples two finger swipe option, as well as other text reading software are here to give you and your all individuals with dyslexia a “New read on Life”.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

I've received my Masters from Brandeis University with the Gift of Dyslexia

On March 29, 2016 I finished my Masters of Science in Health and Medical Informatics from Brandeis University and was nominated by the faculty and administration to be the Student Marshal at the May 22, 2016 graduation ceremony. Without the assistive technology that Apple has incorporated into my devices this would not be my story.

I was diagnosed in 1967 with dyslexia and had to be retested in 2013 for dyslexia to receive my accommodations at Brandeis University.

The future is yours....
Thank you Apple for being an advocate for those who are trying to understand that dyslexia can be a gift once it is diagnosed and the proper tools are given to the individual.  There is hope which can be turned into success with assistive technology in education/life. There is a huge struggle within my state of Florida, and other states who do not recognize dyslexia as a learning disability which is protected by the American Disabilities Act (ADA). There are some staggering statistics which I would like to briefly express in my hope that my success can change the minds of educators, politicians, parents and encourage children/individuals/students to turn what most people call a disability into the gift that it can be with the proper tools.

32% of students with dyslexia fail to graduate from high school
50% of youth in juvenile detention system have dyslexia (why it will be a 0 budget item, if legislation is passed to test individuals in schools and provide tools to succeed)
60% of adolescents in drug and alcohol rehabilitation have dyslexia

50% of successful suicides for children under the age of 15, had a learning disability
50% of the unemployed between the ages of 16 and 21 cannot read well enough to be considered functionally literate.
School dropouts cost our nation $240 billion in social service expenditures and lost tax revenues.  

Sources: ,  and

My studies and papers were all done with assistive technology I used  Voice Dream Reader  (VDR) to read my textbooks and articles and I used Dragon Dictation to dictate my discussion post and papers. Sometimes I had up to 500 pages a week to read and with Voice Dream Reader while reading the text I would make notes within the VDR Apple application and export them out for referencing in my papers and discussions. allowed me to enhance my learning by downloading books such as "Confessions of a Successful CIO" or another such example "Less Medicine, More Health." It was an exhilarating 3 years/90 weeks of education, the light of this education shine so bright that the shadows of failure which have plagued me all my reading life disappeared into the glorious success of a bright future with a Masters degree from a premier university.

During my education, I had to be my own advocate to get my textbooks from the publisher directly and then hand off the information to Brandeis University who was authorized to present the textbook company with my proof of disability. The fear of the past, I could not leave in the hands of the school. I had to be my own advocate and make sure that I received the textbook in time of the course. At one point, the professor changed the textbook a week before class started, but Wiley publishing stepped up to the plate, as did my advocate at Brandeis University and we got the job done.

It is my hope my story is an inspiration to others who struggle with the unknown gift of dyslexia.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

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  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.
Dec/Jan 2014-2015Edition

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),

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.

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

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

Steve Jobs and his gift of dyslexia: The Guardian

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:

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.....