Beyond words ….Dyslexia Awareness Week

DyslexiaThe theme for this year’s Dyslexia Awareness Week is Beyond Words with its aim being to simply demystify the myth that dyslexia is just a difficulty with reading and spelling. Beyond Words highlights the other difficulties dyslexic people face.

When most people hear the term ‘dyslexia’ they probably think that it is all about reversing letters, or words and sentences moving or blurring on a page.  And although indeed people with dyslexia do struggle with the printed word, for many this can be just the tip of the iceberg.

Beyond Words indeed shows that dyslexia is a whole lot more that a series of  jumbled up words.  For instance, let’s start with this familiar rhyme ….

30 days has September, April June and November,

All the rest have thirty-one,

Excepting February alone,

And that has twenty-eight days clear,

And twenty-nine in each leap year.

Many of us may remember this from school, but for a dyslexic person it hardly helps in figuring out the sequence for the months of the year –  the information is too abstract.

Could you recall the above rhyme? Well then it was stored in your ‘long term’ memory with all other the other memorable stuff that you have experienced over the years. But why do we remember some things but forget others?

Well it is all about developing memory traces, strategies that make that  important piece of information ‘stick’. Remembering is personal, it is about finding the right strategy that is right for you.

For instance,  I never much cared for a dish of chilli… to me it was just mince with far too much chilli powder added. Well that was until I discovered this fabulous recipe by TV cook Lorraine Pascale!

A good trick for instance it you too wanted to remember this recipe is simply to ‘paint a picture’ and  the more colourful and visual the better. To remember her name, you might already know someone called Lorraine or you could paint a picture in your mind of her in her car in ‘lots of rain’ with her name painted brightly on the doors – in big letters. The more exaggerated the picture… the better the information ‘sticks’.  You might even associate ‘your picture’ with a piece of music.

But what is your brain doing? It is now creating a pathway for the information to be stored however, not just in your short term memory (where information may only be saved for seconds) but transferring this into your long term memory so that it can be recalled or retrieved whenever you wish. But how do we remember the sequence for this recipe?

Well first of all we are going to start to read the instructions where this information will briefly stay in our short term memory. However as we start to make this delicious chilli, the information starts to move across to our working memory. We are now slicing the onions and garlic, watching them gently fry in the oil, smelling the aromas as you add the herbs, weighing and adding the meat, gently stirring as you add the (optional) glass of red wine and kidney beans. Continually repeating the ingredients and the instructions to yourself is also another good strategy – what your brain hears, your brain remembers.

Then because this recipe is just soooo good…. you start to make it regularly and now this information begins to  ‘store’ in your long term memory. You may occasionally have to revisit the recipe but you will find that you will be able to quickly recall the ingredients and its processes so much more quickly – why?  Because you have opened that neural pathway. Imagine that  shortcut across a field –  after a while, with people continually walking across it,  the grass doesn’t grow back  and now you can visually see the path. It is the same principle. And the best part is that you can use these strategies for lots of different things you may want to remember. Like how to remember your pin number for the bank, where you parked the car in that busy supermarket car park. Simply paint that vivid, exaggerated picture in your mind, adding lots of visual clues and colour so that you can recall that fact or memory so much more easily. You are now developing your own personal memory traces…. You are now making that piece of information stick.

We will be publishing further blogs and resources over this week to raise awareness of dyslexia, together with some tools and tips to help those who have dyslexia.

You will find some ‘really useful stuff’ that could help you in our shop.

Glynis Allen
Our ‘Really Useful’ Dyslexia Expert

Glynis Allen