Monday, April 6, 2009

My Gift of Dyslexia

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 Ridilin 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. is a family business; I work with my father and two other administrative personnel. We have 70 folks who I work for and with and we together serve close to 80,000 patients a year.

Today I’m married to my wife Trish going on our 7th year in July; we are have four children. Our oldest son is Davis Woodward (5), Mary Grace (4), Andrew James (2) and Sarah Abigail born October 2008.

Enter Readplease
I found in 2001, while needing to read a 30+ page contract, while reading 170 words a minute with 50% comprehension, 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.

My spelling has improved by 60 to 70 percent, I read between 300 to 480 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.

This opportunity to present to you today is 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. 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. Readplease as well as other text reading software are here to give you and your students a “New read on Life”.

And what a glorious life it is.

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