I have stacks of books waiting to be reviewed and even bigger stacks at home waiting to be read. Onwards!
The Gift of Dyslexia by Ronald D. Davis with Eldon M. Braun. This is the dyslexia theory that my son’s school espouses, and at least per Amazon.com, seems to be among the top three dyslexia books currently out. Davis’s theories are based on his own experiences as a dyslexic, and the results from helping dyslexics in the clinics he founded. That’s a lot of experience, but as there are no scientifically based studies behind it, it’s more like a very large body of subjective evidence than truly scientific. Anyway, Davis’s theory is that dyslexics are visual learners. They think in pictures, and are used to being able to rotate, explode and reassemble objects in their minds without knowing they’re doing it. This is great for art and engineering, but really unhelpful for reading, where the letters need to stay two-dimensional and in the right order. The more words in a text that don’t make pictures, the more the brain tries to use its unhelpful skills to solve the problem, and the worse it gets. Davis has a test to see if this is the case with the person in question, and then a couple of methods (based primarily on age) for teaching them to be conscious about controlling their mind’s eye and its focus. Once they can do this, the program calls for hands-on work with making letters out of clay and working intensively with the toughest words to read – those that don’t easily translate to pictures. This, Davis says, will effectively cure dyslexia, while still preserving the gifts that caused it in the first place. I’m not sure how much of this really applies to my son, though some of it clearly does. I don’t know whether the school is using their treatment method or just subscribes to the theory that dyslexia stems from a gift rather than a disability. This book does some things very well, though. It has good descriptions of typical symptoms, good and bad, that go along with dyslexia. It is relatively short, printed in larger type with a minimum of hyphenated words to make it easier for dyslexics to read.
I find I have some problems with calling dyslexia a gift that maybe have more to do with the limitations of a title than with Davis’s actual theories. I think Davis finds the abilities that cause the dyslexia the gift, but I don’t think that having a hard time reading is a gift, flat-out. Readers of this blog might guess that I’m somewhat passionate about reading, and I don’t like anything that makes reading harder for people. I would not have read this book for that reason if my son’s team hadn’t recommended it. Now that I have, I’m recommending it for purchase to my library. It might not have all the answers to dyslexia – but no one seems to, despite their claims, and it is the easiest book about dyslexia for an adult dyslexic to read that I’ve found. The need for this was recently brought home as I ran into someone who said (paraphrasing) “I don’t have dyslexia. I just don’t read so much because it’s hard to make the words into pictures.” How many more people with dyslexia could be helped if the myth of dyslexia as seeing twisted letters weren’t still so rampant?