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.
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 Bookshare.org 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”.