Princess Beatrice reveals how she overcame dyslexia struggle by reading children’s stories

Princess Beatrice has written about her battle with dyslexia and revealed how listening to tapes of stories read by her parents inspired her as a child.

Writing for the Standard on World Book Day, the princess said she found reading “really hard work” as a child and praised her parents, the Duke and Duchess of York, for helping her.

“If my parents ever travelled they would take time to record some of my favourite books on tape and I would listen to their voices as I fell asleep,” she said. “[It’s] one of my favourite memories from story-time with my parents.”

She spoke out after it was announced she had become royal patron of Oscar’s Book Prize. The children’s book award was set up in memory of Oscar Ashton, the son of Standard columnist James Ashton.

Oscar died in 2012 aged three from an undetected heart condition, and the £5,000 award, for the best book published in 2016 for children aged five or under, honours his love of stories.

The princess, 28, told the Standard: “I am delighted to become the patron of Oscar’s Book Prize.

“Taking the time to read together as a family became a ritual for us and I treasure the memories created whilst poring over the pages of the books my mother would collect for us, many of which I treasure to this day.”

Beatrice, who wants dyslexia to be seen as an opportunity rather than an inhibition, said: “I was diagnosed with dyslexia quite early in my childhood and it was noticeable in my reading abilities.

“Reading was really hard work, even trying to get through the pages of some of the simple school reading books.

“I could not understand why I was still reading behind my classmates. It was at this point that stories became one of the key things which inspired me.

“I was lucky my mother, with her great imagination, took the time to work on these with me. By the time I read Harry Potter, aged 11, I tore through the pages.”

The princess, whose mother, Sarah, has written several children’s book series, added: “During my early years my father was in the Royal Navy as a helicopter pilot and spent a lot of time at sea.

“To help us feel close to him, my mother was inspired to create the Budgie The Little Helicopter series. To this day, these stories make me think back, with the fondest memories, to a time when books would take me into the best adventures.”

Amazon and The National Literacy Trust have also joined as new supporters of Oscar’s Book Prize. Among this year’s judges is Strictly Come Dancing presenter Claudia Winkleman, who joined the panel in January.

The mother of three, daughter of ex-Fleet Street editor Eve Pollard, said: “I can’t wait to read all the entries. I can still remember sitting on my parents’ lap while they read to me, loving their accents and squealing ‘more’ when they finished.

“My mum kept every book and I read them to my children.”

I am delighted to become the Patron of Oscar’s Book Prize.

Reading stories was always a big part of my childhood; reading is one of my most incredible memories of growing up. Taking the time to read together as a family became a ritual for us and I treasure the memories created whilst poring over the pages of the books my mother would collect for us, many of which I treasure to this day.

I was diagnosed with dyslexia quite early in my childhood and it was noticeable in my reading abilities. Reading was really hard work, even trying to get through the pages of some of the simple school reading books. I could not understand why I was still reading behind my classmates.  It was at this point that stories became one of the key things which inspired me. I was lucky that my mother, with her great imagination, took the time to work on these with me. By the time I read Harry Potter, aged 11, I tore through the pages of the magical books.

My mother writes children’s books and so many of the stories we discovered together came to life in the book series Little Red and through other characters she created for our bedtime stories. If my parents ever travelled they would take time to record some of my favorite books on tape and I would listen to their voices as I fell asleep. This is one of my favorite memories from story time with my parents.

During my early years my father was in the Royal Navy as a helicopter pilot and spent a lot of time at sea. To help us feel close to him, my mother was inspired to create the ‘Budgie the little Helicopter’ series based on imagining the many adventures brave helicopter pilots would face every day. To this day, these stories make me think back, with the fondest memories, to a time when books would take me into the best adventures and fill my mind with the best images.

I especially loved the Penguin Classics books as child and still treasure my collections today. I loved the illustrations and would spend ages staring at all the details captured in their pages. Their books seemed to stand the test of time and their pages still bring back memories of my sister and I playing teacher in my bedroom and reading to a few cuddly animals (and even a family pet if we could get him to sit still long enough).


Using Red Ink on Yellow Paper for Memory Enhancement

Recently I was discussing with Karen Hope,  the co-founder of Dyslexia Victoria Online,  how colors help people, with dyslexic issues, retain the spelling of individual words. She said that research shows yellow paper with black text is an effective tool with helping memory. When she told me about this I remembered something I had learned about ten years ago.

I was enrolled in a local Technical College in a 2 year Civil Engineering Technology program. The entire program was extremely intense with lots of short duration courses. I can still remember how overwhelmed I was with all the new information I had to learn. One of the instructors insisted that we do all of our rough calculations and drawings for the multi-page engineering problems on yellow paper but with red ink. There were about 20 students in the class and none of us had heard of this method of recording our work. He told us that he had heard from a psychologist friend that the combination of red on yellow was helpful with memory.

My associate confirmed what I remembered was valid by finding some established research on the yellow on red topic and sure enough she found data that showed the combination of red on yellow was effective in assisting people with memorizing information. This doesn’t prove anything about yellow and black versus yellow and red but it does show that using colors can be an effective tool in helping with memory. I am not dyslexic but I know I process information in a very right brained fashion and remember that particular class was one of the least stressful classes in the Civil Engineering program. I got better marks on average and a lot of that information seems to have stuck with me to this day.

Happy Trails


20 Things to Remember If You Love a Person With Dyslexia

It’s hard to understand it, isn’t it?

If you’re not one of the ten to fifteen percent of the population with dyslexia, it’s really hard to understand what it’s like.

It’s easy to think that it’s a bit of a scam. That if people with dyslexia worked harder, and really applied themselves, they could “get over it.” But that’s not the case.

Life is actually much more difficult for people with dyslexia. They have brilliant minds, but they’re hard to focus.

Dyslexia is a gift—the gift of being able to see things from lots of different points of view, all at once. But the gift comes with a curse, and the curse is that it’s hard to prioritize, or make sense of, all those perspectives.

People with dyslexia can be hard to live with, and hard to love, because their brains work so differently to ours. Even if you love someone with dyslexia, the day-to-day living with it can drive you insane. Because they can forget things, believe they’ve said or done things they haven’t, be incredibly messy and disorganized, and be less socially aware than other people.

The best thing you can do is to understand more about dyslexia, so you’re less exasperated and more sympathetic.

This is an insight into how their minds work.


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1. They have lifestyle challenges.

Dyslexia is much more than just having difficulty reading, writing, and using numbers. They see the world in a completely different way, communicate differently, and have trouble organizing things.

Some people describe it as a lifestyle challenge, others as a lifestyle curse, because it affects almost all aspects of their lives.

2. They can seem weird.

Despite their high intelligence, and because they see so many different perspectives at once, they can appear incoherent in conversation. They can come out with strange ideas, and lack the ability to check if their thoughts are suitable for conversation. They can seem almost autistic because they’re often unaware of social rules.

3. They find details exhausting.

Because their brain is less efficient at processing letters and sounds, it has to work harder—much harder. So any time spent reading, using numbers, or focusing on details is really, really exhausting.

4. They function differently on different days.

Some days they seem to function better than others, and can appear to be improving. Other days, it’s like everything is getting worse. There’s no reason, and no pattern. It just is.

5. They are highly creative.

Their ability to view the world from all perspectives makes them highly creative. They can come up with wildly creative ideas, partly because they’re not constrained by the laws of physics, mathematical logic, or the impossible.

6. They see things that others don’t.

Like words moving on the page, or even off the page, and letters flipping about. You know how challenging it can be to read letters and numbers incaptcha? Imagine reading a whole book like that. Or reading a book through a magnifying lens that a child is holding, and moving about.

They can even see the word cat more than 40 different ways.

7. They get overwhelmed by what they see.

They see so many possibilities that their thoughts can become garbled and distorted. It’s hard to sort through all that information and work out what’s important or appropriate. Without the ability to filter, this special gift becomes a tragic, confusing, disability.

8. They are more likely to have ADD.

People with dyslexia are more likely to have ADD. About 40% of people with dyslexia have ADD, and 60% of people with ADD have dyslexia.

9. They can experience thoughts as reality.

They can fully believe they’ve told you something, that they haven’t, or swear that you haven’t told them something that you have.

Often they express themselves in such a unique way that their message hasn’t come across coherently. And they may not realize that this aspect of their communication is part of their dyslexia.

10. They may not know they have dyslexia.

According to the Mayo Clinic, dyslexia can go undiagnosed for years, and may not be recognized until adulthood. This is one reason why it’s hard to calculate the number of people with dyslexia. And, unfortunately, people with undiagnosed dyslexia often label themselves as stupid or slow.

11. They think in pictures instead of words.

Not surprisingly, they tend to be highly visual, think in pictures, and utilize visual aids to help them plan and organize their lives. Rather than using self-talk, their thought processes are more subliminal. Most people with dyslexia are not even aware that they do this.

12. They will always have dyslexia.

They can learn to read and spell, but they will always have dyslexia. To make life easier, a font and a dictionary specifically for people with dyslexia are on the way.

The font is designed to avoid confusion, and add clarity, while the dictionary will favor meaning over alphabetical order.

13. They use their brain differently.

People with dyslexia don’t use their brain the same way that most of us do. Their brain underutilizes the left hemisphere—the area required for reading—and the bridge of tissue between the two sides of the brain (the corpus callosum) doesn’t function in the same way. So, their brain doesn’t always direct information to the correct place for processing.

14. They get it from their family.

Dyslexia is inherited, and most people with dyslexia have an aunt or uncle, or a parent or grandparent with dyslexia. Scientists have discovered that the DCD2 appears to be a dyslexia gene.

15. They often have low self-esteem.

People with dyslexia are just as intelligent as the rest of us. And they’re fully aware that other people can read and write much more easily than they can. So they feel stupid compared to other people.

As Albert Einstein said:

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by it’s ability to climb a tree, it will live it’s whole life thinking it’s stupid.”

16. They have different symptoms.

Dyslexia is a tricky thing, because no two people have the exact same symptoms. Some lose things, or have poor organization skills. Some are slow at reading or have poor comprehension. Some may have difficulty organizing ideas to write, or have difficulty processing auditory information. Some also have difficulty sequencing the days of the week, or months of the year.

17. They are full of contradictions.

They may be highly aware of their environment, but appear lost. They may recognize, or read, a word on one page but be unable to recognize it on the next. Their brains are often very fast, but they appear slow, because they’re filtering through all the possibilities that they see.

18. They have great strengths.

People with dyslexia are often very good at reading people, and have great people skills. They usually have fantastic memories, and rely on them. They’re often good at spoken language, and frequently spatially talented (think architects, engineers, artist and craftspeople). They are highly intelligent, and intuitive, with vivid imaginations.

19. They can be incredibly successful.

People with dyslexia can be incredibly successful, often because of their dyslexia.

Famous people with dyslexia include entertainers like Whoopi Goldberg, Jay Leno, Henry Winkler, Danny Glover and Cher. As well as artists like Leonardo da Vinci, Tommy Hilfiger, Andy Warhol and Pablo Picasso.

Carole Grieder and Baruj Benacerraf utilized their dyslexia to becomeNobel prize-winning scientists. People with dyslexia also go on to be writers and journalists like Scott Adams (of Dilbert), Agatha Christie, F Scott Fitzgerald, and Fannie Flagg (the author of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café).

20. They can change the world.

People with dyslexia can, and have changed the world. People like George Washington, Richard Branson, Henry Ford and Stephen Spielberg have changed, and continue to change, the world we live in.

People with dyslexia are kind, creative, highly intelligent beings who are just as frustrated at their inabilities as you are. They just can’t take a break from the way their minds work.

Instead they rely on the people that love them to help them interpret the world, and to help them function in a world that’s not adjusted to their needs.

Yes, they can be frustrating to love at times, but they have incredible, unique, world-changing gifts.

With your help, maybe the person you love can change the world too.


Mental Health In Schools: A Hidden Crisis Affecting Millions Of Students

You might call it a silent epidemic.

Up to one in five kids living in the U.S. shows signs or symptoms of a mental health disorder in a given year.

So in a school classroom of 25 students, five of them may be struggling with the same issues many adults deal with: depression, anxiety, substance abuse.

And yet most children — nearly 80 percent — who need mental health services won’t get them.

Whether treated or not, the children do go to school. And the problems they face can tie into major problems found in schools: chronic absence, low achievement, disruptive behavior and dropping out.

Experts say schools could play a role in identifying students with problems and helping them succeed. Yet it’s a role many schools are not prepared for.

Educators face the simple fact that, often because of a lack of resources, there just aren’t enough people to tackle the job. And the ones who are working on it are often drowning in huge caseloads. Kids in need can fall through the cracks.

“No one ever asked me”

Katie is one of those kids.

She’s 18 now. Back when she was 8, she had to transfer to a different school in Prince George’s County, Md., in the middle of the year.

“At recess, I didn’t have friends to play with,” she recalls. “I would make an excuse to stay inside with the teachers and finish extra work or do extra credit.”

We’re not using Katie’s last name to protect her privacy. She’s been diagnosed with bulimia and depression.

She says that in the span of a few months, she went from honor roll to failing. She put on weight; other kids called her “fat.” She began cutting herself with a razor every day. And she missed a ton of school.

“I felt like every single day was a bad day,” she says. “I felt like nobody wanted to help me.”

Katie says teachers acted like she didn’t care about her schoolwork. “I was so invisible to them.”

Every year of high school, she says, was “horrible.” She told her therapist she wanted to die and was admitted into the hospital.

During all this time, she says, not a single principal or teacher or counselor ever asked her one simple question: “What’s wrong?”

If someone had asked, she says, she would have told them.

Who should have asked?

We talked to educators, advocates, teachers and parents across the country. Here’s what they say a comprehensive approach to mental health and education would look like.

The family

The role: The first place to spot trouble is in the home, whether that trouble is substance abuse, slipping grades or a child who sleeps too much. Adults at home — parents, siblings, other relatives — are often the first to notice something going on.

The reality: Many families do not know what to look for. Sometimes a serious problem can be overlooked as “just a phase.” But it’s those sudden changes — angry outbursts, declining grades, changes in sleeping or eating — that can signal problems. When something unusual crops up, families can keep in close touch with the school.

The teacher

The role: During the week, many students see their teachers even more than their own families. Teachers are in a prime spot to notice changes in behavior. They read essays, see how students relate with other kids and notice when they aren’t paying attention.

The reality: Teachers already have a ton on their plates. They’re pressured to get test scores up, on top of preparing lessons and grading assignments. Plus, many teachers receive minimal training in mental health issues. But when they do see something concerning, they can raise a flag.

The social worker

The role: Social workers act like a bridge. If teachers come to them with a concern — maybe a child is acting withdrawn — one of the first things they’ll do is call home. They see each child through the lens of their family, school and community. They might learn that a family is going through a divorce or homelessness.

The reality: There aren’t enough of them. According to one model, every school should have one social worker for every 250 students. The reality is that in some schools, social workers are responsible for many more.

The counselor

The role: In some schools, counselors focus solely on academics: helping students pick classes and apply to college. But in others, they also act a lot like social workers, serving as a link to families and working with students who need support.

The reality: Like school social workers, there just aren’t enough counselors. On average nationwide, each counselor is responsible for nearly 500 students. The American School Counselor Association recommends a caseload nearly half that size.

The special education teacher

The Role: Special education teachers may start working with students when a mental health problem affects the ability to do school work. They are primarily responsible for working on academic skills.

The reality: Again, there aren’t enough of them. Nearly every state has reported a shortage of special education teachers. Half of all school districts say they have trouble recruiting highly qualified candidates.

The school psychologist

The Role: Here’s one job that, on paper, is truly dedicated to student mental health. School psychologists are key players when it comes to crisis intervention and can refer students to outside help, such as a psychiatrist.

The reality: If you sense a pattern here, you’re right. In the U.S., there is just one school psychologist for every 1,400 students, according to the most recent data available from the National Association of School Psychologists.

The school nurse

The role: Most any school nurse will tell you, physical and mental health are tough to separate. That puts nurses in a prime spot to catch problems early. For example: A kid who comes into the nurse’s office a lot, complaining of headaches or stomach problems? That could be a sign of anxiety, a strategy to avoid a bully, or a sign of troubles at home.

The reality: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least one nurse for every 750 students, but the actual ratio across the country can be much higher.

The principal

The role: As the top dogs in schools, principals make the big decisions about priorities. They can bring in social-emotional, anti-bullying and suicide-prevention programs.

The reality: Principals also have a lot on their plates: the day-to-day management of student behavior, school culture and teacher support.

Getting help, and “excited for life”

Katie says things started to turn around for her when she met a nurse at the Children’s National Health System in Washington, D.C., who finally showed interest in what was wrong.

Now, she’s begun college and wants to be a pediatric nurse.

“I’m doing a lot better now” she says. ” Obviously, I mean, I’m a lot happier. I’m excited for school. I’m excited to graduate. I’m excited for life.”


Is auditory processing disorder just another name for dyslexia?

In 2015 the California legislature passed a dyslexia law, known as AB1369. Part of this new law requires schools to include phonological processing as one of the psychological processing disorders listed on the IEP documents under which a student can qualify for special education services. During the legislative process it was repeatedly stated by the opposition that this was unnecessary due to the fact that there was already the category of auditory processing.

LA-1223_LRIt became painfully obvious that there is confusion about the difference between an Auditory
Processing Disorder (APD), also known as Central Auditory Processing Disorder (C)APD, and dyslexia.

It is easy to understand why this confusion happens when we stop to think about how we describe dyslexia, but the difference is big and it is important to understand. Understanding this difference between (C)APD and dyslexia can save children from wasted time working on the wrong skills. But be aware, (C)APD has suffered the same fate as dyslexia, there are a lot of professionals who do not believe (C)APD is real. So, let’s dig in and see if we can come out with a clear explanation of the differences. Let’s start by investigating the definitions of (C)APD and dyslexia.

Central Auditory Processing Disorder (C)APD)

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and theAmerican Academy of Audiology define (C)APD the following way:

“(Central) auditory processing disorder [(C)APD] refers to difficulties in the processing of auditory information in the central nervous system (CNS) as demonstrated by poor performance in one or more of the following skills: sound localization and lateralization; auditory discrimination; auditory pattern recognition; temporal aspects of audition, including temporal integration, temporal discrimination (e.g., temporal gap detection), temporal ordering, and temporal masking; auditory performance in competing acoustic signals (including dichotic listening); and auditory performance with degraded acoustic signals.” (Central) Auditory Processing Disorders—The Role of the Audiologist

The definition very clearly delineates that (C)APD is the difficulty with processing sound. In addition, ASHA states:

“It (C)APD) cannot be contributed to higher-order language, cognitive, or related confounds (e.g. language disorder, language processing disorder,autism).” ASHA also clarified that: “Although abilities such as phonological awareness, attention to and memory for auditory information, auditory synthesis, comprehension and interpretation of auditorily presented information, and similar skills may be reliant on or associated with intact central auditory function, they are considered higher order cognitive-communicative and/or language-related functions and, thus, are not included in the definition of (C)AP.”

LA-615_LRThis caveat is extremely important in understanding the difference between (C)APD and dyslexia.Higher order language factors are factors that are involved in processing language, not sound. For example, there is a simulation that has participants try to write down information that is being spoken to them amongst a lot of background noise. This simulation is doing a great job simulating (C)APD, but not dyslexia.

Lastly, while Speech and Language Pathologists and other professionals can screen for dyslexia, according to the American Academy of Audiologists, only an audiologist can actually diagnose (C)APD. What is included in that battery of tests will be discussed below.


So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at the definition of dyslexia according to the International Dyslexia Association:

“Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.”

The definition of dyslexia is very clear stating that those with dyslexia may have difficulty manipulating language either verbally and/or when reading and spelling. Phonological processing is not difficulty hearing sounds, it is difficulty blending and manipulating phones and or phonemes.

Furthermore, many people with dyslexia actually have average to above average phonological skills, but they cannot apply that strength to the written word. This can manifest in slow reading and poor spelling, which is orthographic dyslexia. This has nothing to do with auditory processing. (See note about the misconception that spelling is completely dependent of hearing sounds).

Dyslexia is a higher cognitive function involving the language process. That is what sets it apart from (C)APD.

Identification of (C)APD and Dyslexia

Identification of (C)APD

How (C)APD and dyslexia are identified is another way to understand the differences between them. According to The Role of the Audiologist, when assessing for (C)APD the following skills are observed and measured:

  • Auditory discrimination tests: assess the ability to differentiate similar acoustic stimuli that differ in frequency, intensity, and/or temporal parameters (e.g., difference limens for frequency, intensity, and duration; psychophysical tuning curves; phoneme discrimination).
  • Auditory temporal processing and patterning tests: assess the ability to analyze acoustic events over time (e.g., sequencing and patterns, gap detection, fusion discrimination, integration, forward and backward masking).
  • Dichotic speech tests: assess the ability to separate (i.e., binaural separation) or integrate (i.e., binaural integration) disparate auditory stimuli presented to each ear simultaneously (e.g., dichotic CVs, digits, words, sentences).
  • Monaural low-redundancy speech tests: assess recognition of degraded speech stimuli presented to one ear at a time (e.g., filtered, time-altered, intensity-altered [e.g., performance intensity PI-PB functions]), speech-in-noise or speech-in-competition).
  • Binaural interaction tests: assess binaural (i.e., diotic) processes dependent on intensity or time differences of acoustic stimuli (e.g., masking level difference, localization, lateralization, fused image tracking).
  • Electroacoustic measures: recordings of acoustic signals from within the ear canal that are generated spontaneously or in response to acoustic stimuli (e.g., OAEs, acoustic reflex thresholds, acoustic reflex decay).
  • Electrophysiologic measures: recordings of electrical potentials that reflect synchronous activity generated by the CNS in response to a wide variety of acoustic events (e.g., ABR, middle latency response, 40 Hz response, steady-state evoked potentials, frequency following response, cortical event-related potentials [P1, N1, P2, P300], mismatch negativity, topographical mapping). The use of electrophysiologic measures may be particularly useful in cases in which behavioral procedures are not feasible (e.g., infants and very young children), when there is suspicion of frank neurologic disorder, when a confirmation of behavioral findings is needed, or when behavioral findings are inconclusive.

Identification of Dyslexia

It’s important for the student to first rule out any hearing issues. Then, the following list from Dyslexia Help at the University of Michigan outlines the areas to be tested to make a identification of dyslexia:

  • Language: A test of language that will give information about an individual’s receptive and expressive language abilities, language processing, morphological skills and pragmatic language skills.
  • Phonological awareness: The most distinguishing feature of dyslexia is poor phonological awareness, which manifests in an inability to identify and blend together individual phonemes in words.
  • Rapid naming/word fluency: Rapid naming is the ability to name symbols, words, or pictures rapidly. This discriminating skill is based on speed, not accuracy.
  • Reading fluency: Reading fluency is the combination of the score of the accuracy of reading and the rate (speed) of which one can read.
  • Reading comprehension: Reading comprehension is the understanding of the printed word.
  • Spelling: Spelling ability provides insight into other types of knowledge necessary for written communication. Poor spelling may reveal weaknesses in one or more of the following: Linguistic knowledge, Orthographic knowledge, Semantic knowledge, Morphological knowledge.
    *Note: this website also stated the following: “Poor spelling may also be a possible indicator of a hearing deficit or auditory processing disorder.” However, this is erroneous, since English orthography is not always a direct sound/symbol correlation. Therefore, if a student is spelling words the way they sound them out, that is not an auditory processing issue or a hearing issue, it is the student’s misunderstanding about how our written word in English differs from our spoken word. For example, a student who spells <try> as <triy> actually has superb auditory and phonological skills. This student is hearing all four phones in the spoken word but has failed to be taught that those four phones are represented by three phonemes. 
  • Writing: Deficiencies such as spelling errors, syntactic and semantic errors, morphological errors, omissions of words or word endings, and general incongruities may be present.


Comparison of Symptoms between (C)APD and Dyslexia

(C)APD Dyslexia
In school, children with APD may have difficulty with spelling, reading, and understanding information presented verbally in the classroom. In school, children with dyslexia may have difficulty with spelling, reading, and understanding information presented in print in the classroom.
Have trouble paying attention to and remembering information presentedorally Difficulty manipulating language bothverbally and in print
Need more time to process information Difficulty with spelling
Difficulty distinguishing between verbally presented sounds or words. They may hear clamp instead ofcamp. Difficulty with reading comprehension
Difficulty focusing when background noise is present. Difficulty with fluency
Have difficulty with reading, comprehension, spelling, and vocabulary. Difficulty with word problems
Difficulty remembering what was said to them
Difficulty following directions
Often responds to questions or comments with “what” or “huh?”


Now Hear This

Interestingly, after hours reading articles by audiologists and SLPs, I was struck by how they all referred to dyslexia LA-1287_LRas a co-existing (co-morbid) condition with (C)APD, this is important in understanding that they are two separate conditions that require different interventions. There were also many comments about the ambiguity and lack of consensus about (C)APD.

Now when someone asks you what is the difference between dyslexia and auditory processing you should be comfortable informing them that dyslexia is difficulty processing and manipulating language and auditory processing is difficulty processing sound. The differences have huge implications for how we help a child with either processing difficulty and the differences should not be taken lightly. A child with dyslexia should not be involved in interventions for auditory processing  and a child with auditory processing difficulties should not be involved in interventions for dyslexia, unless of course, that child has both. Now what about the difference between visual processing and dyslexia? Oh, that article is for another time and another day! Stay tuned.


A Letter to Parents of Children With Special Needs, From a Pediatric Nurse

I’ve worked in pediatric nursing for more than a decade. This work has changed me more than anything else I have experienced in my life. My patients and their families have taught me more than I could have ever taught them. I am so grateful for this extraordinary life.

For most of my career, I have worked with children with special needs. During my shifts, I have given G-tube feedings, administered medications, held children while they seized, suctioned airways to ensure a child could continue to breathe, moved their limbs so they didn’t stiffen, coordinated all of the child’s therapies and all of the many other tasks needed simply to keep the child alive and comfortable for another day. At the end of my shift, I am always dripping with sweat and exhausted — ready to go home. I give a report to the you, the parents, at the end of my shift, and even though you may have already worked a full day at your own job or worked beside me with your child, you do not get to rest. You are the parent of a child who needs round-the-clock care, and there is not rest for you. I have seen your tired eyes and weary bodies day after day, and yet, you never give up on your child. 

In my career, I have sat beside parents while a doctor gave them the news that no parent should hear — that their child is not long for this world. I have held mothers while they wailed the most horrific, animalistic sound of grief after their child took their final breaths. I have placed a morgue tag around the toe of tiny bodies. I have waited until my shift is over to run to my car and desperately cry into my steering wheel with grief for my patient and their families.

 But, even though I was grieved, I got to go home to my own healthy children — you had to live the remainder of your life with empty arms. 

The parents I have worked with have often shrugged away my compliments at their strength and tireless work to benefit their children. They have reminded me that they did not ask for this life, but that they love their children enough to keep fighting. 

You may not have asked for this life, but you have taken it on with such grace and persistence, even in the face of steep odds. Your incredible strength inspires me in every area of my life.  

I have worked with children when new medications, therapies and treatments did not work, or worse, were detrimental to the child’s health. I have seen you agonize when doctors give you choices and you aren’t sure which to choose for your child. I have seen you search the internet with sleep-deprived eyes to find every bit of information you could before making your choice. You often know more about your child’s condition than any doctor or nurse ever could. I have held you while you wept when the choice you made did not turn out the way we had all hoped it would even though you were never, ever at fault for any treatment that failed. 

I may have administered the medication or treatment, but you were the one who held the emotional burden of the choice and lost sleep praying over the outcome. No matter how many people are involved in your child’s care, I know you carry the heavy, heavy weight and desperate wanting for your child’s health and well-being. I know this weight is carried 24 hours per day on your already weary shoulders, but you carry it with such grace that many do not notice. 

The very first family of a child with special needs I worked with told me to never take away their hope. That has become a mantra of sorts in my life — to “never give up hope” in my personal life and my work as a nurse. I have watched children walk, talk and achieve many things the doctors deemed impossible. I have seen children live for many years beyond what many specialists said was possible. I have seen children beat odds in extraordinary ways that is nothing short of a miracle. I know your child could not have achieved these miraculous things without you, their dedicated parents. 

The children I have worked with are some of the most extraordinary children on the planet. They inspire me beyond words. Over and over and over again these children — your children — have reminded me what a true miracle is. I am so thankful for them. Just as much so, I am thankful for you– the parents of these children. Many of you are so humble that you may shrug off my words, but I wish to say them anyway. 

You are amazing, strong, compassionate, incredible people. Your children would not have made it this far without you. You are the backbone of your child’s life. I see how absolutely, back-breakingly exhausted you are and how weary you are with the constant, unyielding stress of this life. I can only imagine how hard your life can be. I see you. You are not invisible in your struggle, although it must often feel that way. You are my heroes — cape-less but no less amazing. There are no words that can truly tell you how extraordinary I think you are.  

I know an open letter on the internet from a stranger is a cold thank you for you warriors. I know. It is simply too hard to continue to stand aside and not tell each and every one of you how amazing you are, and I have no other way to do so. I know how invisible and lonely you must feel at times. I want you to know that I see you. Many see you. We are inspired by you, each and every day. You make this world a better place, not only for your child but for all of us. You thank us, your nurses, at the end of every shift, and I wonder if we should be the ones thanking you — for giving us the extraordinary gift of getting to know your amazing children and their phenomenal parents. Thank you, from the very bottom of my grateful heart.

All my love,

Nurse Mandi


When a School for People With Dyslexia Rejected Me for Being ‘Too Dyslexic’

Before I was school age, Mom would read to my older brother and me before bedtime. It was my favorite part of the day. I would imagine the images on the pages, moving to her words. If there were no pictures in the books, I would create my own images and have them move in the ceiling. They were my private movies.

When I started to learn the alphabet in school, I couldn’t understand what I was seeing. As everyone was learning how to spell their names, I could barely read mine. It was humiliating. I can’t remember how many times I cried in class, trying to learn to read.

To deal with my struggle, I taught myself braille and Egyptian hieroglyphics. I thought I could get away with this so I wouldn’t have to learn how to read. But I couldn’t. I had to learn how to read. With the helpful advice from a family friend, I was tested and diagnosed with severe dyslexia and auto processing difficulties. It was great to finally have a label, but now, how to work with it?

My time at school was split between special education and regular classes. But it wasn’t enough. I was still behind my grade reading level. To help myself, I would try to read the dictionary. It built up my vocabulary, but I couldn’t remember how to spell, nor put the words in a sentence.

Justina Bonilla in grade school

Finally, after years of struggling, Mom found a private school that focused on language learning disabilities. From what information Mom gathered, the school’s goal was to help students from kindergarten to eighth grade by using a multi-sensory approach to teach dyslexic students how to read, spell and write. We though we found my educational salvation.

After I applied, I was allowed to attend it for one week for testing. From the moment class started, I was constantly being pulled out for testing. When I’d get back to class, a subject would be getting finished up. It was grueling trying to keep up with the class work and do the constant testing.

On the Friday of my brain-frying week, I got my results. I would not be accepted because I was “too low functioning.” How can a person be rejected by a school for dyslexics for be too dyslexic? Where is the logic? How can you proclaim you help those who struggle when you reject those who need you the most?   

I felt like the dumbest person in town. At 10 years old, I wanted to give up on school. What would be the point in continuing? I truly believed I was beyond help. It was the lowest point of my academic life. This belief of intellectual inadequacy, though disproven, still haunts me.

Defeated and humiliated, I reluctantly went back to public school. My parents fought harder to get the accommodations I needed. I spent the rest of my grade school years struggling between regular and special education, and at times, homeschooling. Thanks to the help of tutors, I was able to academically survive.

Despite getting A and B grades in my class, I still felt inferior to my high school classmates. They were able to read at grade level while I was still at a fifth/sixth-grade level.

But I graduated high school with a 3.0-grade average. Today, I’m in college, perusing my AA in sociology, with a minor in media and film studies, and working a career in writing. I have the imagination to write, but it still takes me a long time to process the words.  According to my last reading test, I’m at a reading level of sixth/seventh grade. The average reading level of American adults is seventh/eighth grade.

Recently, I drove past that school. Surprisingly, its school sign said it now helps students with autism spectrum disorder. Considering how wide the autism spectrum is, I thought, “Finally things have changed.” But, this enthusiasm was cut short, when I learned the school rejected one of my brother’s friends — for being “too autistic.” It’s sad to see history repeat itself.

Why these Core Muscle Exercises Help Prevent Learning Challenges in the Classroom

When I talk with parents for the first time, they often have questions about why their child can’t read, comprehend, remember math facts, follow instructions and why they aren’t excelling in the classroom. They know something is missing, but they can’t put their finger on what. I often have moms and dads tell me, “I know my child is smart, but I just don’t know why they aren’t reaching their potential.”

Why these Core Muscle Exercises Help Prevent Learning Challenges in the Classroom |

As I begin asking questions, I try to first focus on the educational aspects of reading, writing and spelling, but as the conversation continues, I then veer off in a different direction, asking questions that seem unrelated to learning. I ask parents if their child has sensitivity to light, texture or sound; if they fidget in their chair or if they ask “huh?” or “what?” when the teacher asks them to work on an assignment. We talk about how athletic the child is and if they can skip, bounce, run and cross the monkey bars. We also ask about the child’s birth and if they crawled as a baby and reached all of theirdevelopmental milestones.

Many parents often find it curious when I ask these types of questions and are even more surprised when they come to our center and see all the bouncy balls, balance beams, hula-hoops and jump ropes. As I see the wheels turning in their head, I’m sure they often think, “How is this going to help my child to read, write and listen to their teacher?”

Why these Core Muscle Exercises Help Prevent Learning Challenges in the Classroom |

Unfortunately, in today’s world, there is a lot more pressure on our children to excel at higher academic levels than what their brain and body is prepared for in the classroom. Children are now expected at younger ages to be experts at subjects and topics that even just 10 years ago wasn’t required. Many schools have even limited recess or have removed recess altogether from their curriculum and kids are now expected to sit still in their chairs, listen to the teacher and learn at a faster pace.

Play-based Movement

Now why is this a bad thing? “We just want our students to be better prepared,” most educators would say. The problem is, we are beginning to see more learning challenges like Sensory Processing Disorders (SPD), ADHD, Autism, Dysgraphia and Dyslexia because we are taking away play-based movement from our classrooms. I’m now seeing more and more children with poor posture, deprived vestibular systems (balance and coordination), sensory overload and above all, almost no core muscle. Sitting inactivates these muscles and makes them weaker or or leads to developmental delays. Many researchers are now finding that children in mainstream schools have immature motor skills, which is directly related to educational achievement.

Poor Core Muscle

While many exercises can be used to help your child’s brain and body work together, as you may have already read in our “Crossing the Midline” article, we also want to make sure our children build strong core muscles in their neck, tummy, legs, eyes, arms and fingers. Each body part plays a key role in triggering the brain for higher learning concepts. For example, I hear parents tell me that their child struggles with copying information from the chalkboard to their paper, only to find that their child has poor muscle strength in their neck and shoulders and they struggle with hand-eye coordination activities. They can barely do a sit-up or collapse when I ask them to lie on their back and lift their head to look at their toes.

Another problem I am often asked about is why their child can’t attend and focus in the classroom. Usually they are clumsy, they run into walls or furniture, they fidget in their chairs, lean over their desks, and they can’t process what their teacher is saying because they are focused on other distractions in the classroom. These can all be issues related to their vestibular system, which is their balance and coordination. When we see these issues, we know the child isn’t getting the movement they need to help improve their inner ear and core muscle. To perform well in an educational environment, kids need to strengthen their motor skills and core muscle to manipulate a writing instrument, control their eye movement to track words on a page, and calm their bodies so they can attend and focus on the instructions the teacher is giving.

Another problem I am now seeing is that many of these children who struggle with poor core muscle and learning challenges often like video games. While there are many video games that are educational and great for kids, too much sitting causes the muscles to become weak.

These children are at risk of under-achieving in school, not because they aren’t bright, but because they don’t have the physical skills and core muscle strength needed to support their intelligence in the classroom. Plain and simply, their motor skills are under-developed.

Another issue we see with children who have poor core muscle strength that affects learning is retained primitive reflexes that stem from birth, which could cause toe walking or children sitting in the W-position or bed wetting, but we will discuss it in greater detail with more exercises in later articles.

Miracle Grow for the Brain

In a recent Washington Post article, there is a school where teachers and educators are getting their students moving in the classroom with play-based activities to build their core muscle while working their brains.

I couldn’t have put it better when one of the teachers said, “There is another neurotransmitter that is directly connected to muscle movement in the body. That’s like taking miracle grow and putting it on the brain. And what we need to do as teachers is plant the seed in that well cultivated brain. And, that well cultivated brain comes about by movement and exercise.”

Core Muscle Activities

Now that we know how important core muscle strength is and how it is connected to learning in the classroom, what can we do to test for poor muscle strength and what exercises will help improve our child’s core for higher learning?

How to Test

Testing for core muscle strength isn’t too difficult. Here are some easy ways to check:

  • Can your child move their head from side to side and up and down without moving their whole body?
  • Can your child hold their breath for a long time or is it too difficult?
  • Do they grip their pencil correctly?
  • Do they have poor handwriting?
  • If they are standing still when you slightly push them, do they remain standing or do they fall over?
  • Can they throw a ball or kick a ball?
  • Do they spend too much time playing video games causing hyperfocus?
  • Do they use both legs and arms in sports, or do they only use one side of their body?

Strengthening the Core

Now that we have completed some quick checks to test your child’s core muscle, let’s talk about some fun and easy ways to strengthen your child’s core. All exercises should be completed at least 10 times for 20 minutes a day.


You are probably all familiar with the superman, but it is a great activity for helping your child build the muscles in their neck, tummy, arms and legs. Have your child begin on their stomach. Count to three and then have them engage their tummy muscles and bring their legs, arms, and head off the ground just like Superman. Have them hold this position for as long as they can (10 to 20 seconds) before coming back to the ground.

Why these Core Muscle Exercises Help Prevent Learning Challenges in the Classroom |

Wrong way or what to watch for

If your child cannot bring both their legs and arms off the ground because their core muscle strength is not yet ready, first have them lift their arms and head only while leaving their legs on the ground. When they are ready, add the legs. If your child wobbles or if they can’t physically lift their head, position yourself on your knees in front of your child and help keep them still or hold their head straight until they develop the muscles to complete the exercise on their own.

Knee Crosses

This is a great activity to not only help your child build core muscle, but to also help them cross the midline (to see why this is important, click here). Have your child begin in a plank position with their arms extended and legs straight. Then have your child bring their right knee to their chest and cross it over their body to the left side. When they have crossed over the body, have your child bring their leg back to the plank position. Switch sides and have your child complete the exercise for the left leg.

Why these Core Muscle Exercises Help Prevent Learning Challenges in the Classroom |

Wrong way or what to watch for

Some kids tend to do this exercise too quickly and rush through it. Help your child use slow and controlled movements. This will strengthen the core and help them properly cross over the midline. If they cannot cross their body and tend to do same arm to same leg, help them cross their knee to the other side. If they fall over, you may need to help steady their bodies.

Leg and Arm Reach

This exercise may be a bit tricky for kids so you may need to help them. First, have your child begin on their hands and knees. Then have your child extend their left arm straight in front of them and lift their right leg straight behind them and hold for about 10 seconds. Remember to use opposite arm with opposite leg. After 10 seconds, have them return to their hands and knees and then lift their right arm and left leg.

Why these Core Muscle Exercises Help Prevent Learning Challenges in the Classroom |

Wrong way or what to watch for

This is another exercise where your child may wobble or lose their balance. You may need to start them out with arms only or legs only and then add them both together as they build their core muscle. You may also notice your child using the same arm with the same leg. This doesn’t engage their core as well so you will want to ensure they are using opposite leg with opposite arm.


Now these aren’t just your normal every-day crunches. You will be watching for a few other things. Have your child lie on their back and place their hands behind their head. As they lift their head to do a normal crunch, have them look at the ceiling and engage their tummy muscles. You want to help them hold their head still and also have them hold their breath for about 10 seconds. Release after 10 seconds and go back to the ground. The reason for holding their breath is to engage their core even more and it also helps with speech, language, anxiety and attention issues.

Why these Core Muscle Exercises Help Prevent Learning Challenges in the Classroom |

Wrong way or what to watch for

If your child’s neck muscles are physically not strong enough to lift their head, you may have to lift it for them at first, but eventually you want them to do it on their own. Make sure if you lift their head that they are still engaging their tummy muscles. You may also see your child want to lift their legs or feet off the ground. Make sure they are firmly planted.

Air Kicks

This is by far my favorite exercise and one of the best for core muscle. You will need a medium-sized ball for this activity. It may be difficult for the kids at first, so you will probably have to help them. Have your child lie on their back, but prop themselves up on their elbows (children must be on their elbows, not laying flat on the floor). Have them bring their legs to their chest in the ready position. You will be standing in front of them with the ball. When they are ready, throw the ball toward their feet. They must kick the ball back to you with both feet. When they have the hang of it, complete this exercise at a faster pace.

Why these Core Muscle Exercises Help Prevent Learning Challenges in the Classroom |

Wrong way or what to watch for

You’d be surprised at how many kids can’t do this exercise. They may have a tendency to come up off their elbows or lie on the floor, but make sure they stay in that ready position. Some children will want to kick the ball with only one foot, usually with their dominant leg. We want to ensure they are kicking the ball with both feet at the exact same time. Your child may also have a tendency to kick the ball behind you or to the side. This is a sign of proprioception issues that we will discuss in later articles. Help your child kick the ball straight back to you, instead of to the side or behind you.

Why these Core Muscle Exercises Help Prevent Learning Challenges in the Classroom |

These are just a few exercises that can help your child build their core muscle, but there are many others. As a reminder, keeping your child involved in sports, gymnastics, swimming lessons and other fun activities all help their balance, coordination and muscle strength.


Shark Tank’s Kevin O’Leary: Having Dyslexia Is a ‘Superpower’ in Business

Shark Tank's Kevin O'Leary: Having Dyslexia Is a 'Superpower' in BusinessKevin O’Leary, a.k.a. “Mr. Wonderful,” has struggled with dyslexia ever since he can recall. But he’s not the only Shark on Shark Tank with the learning difference: both Barbara Corcoran and Daymond John were diagnosed with it, too.

However, all three credit much of their success to learning to overcome the challenges of dyslexia.

“The way to look at dyslexia is as a unique power instead of an affliction,” O’Leary recently told Entrepreneur on the Culver City, Calif.Shark Tank set. “Very few people have the abilities that dyslexics have. If you look down the road, as they grow, what happens to dyslexic men and women is they become very successful in business. This is because dyslexia gives you some really unique perspectives and abilities that I’d call superpowers.”


In his book Cold Hard Truth, the multi-millionaire financial guru writes that back in his home country of Canada in the 1960s, his educational therapists helped him restore his shattered self-confidence in an unorthodox way, especially for the time.

“You have the ability to read backwards, read in a mirror, read upside down. Can any of your classmates do that?” O’Leary says they asked him. “And that actually got me back the only thing I really needed, which was my confidence,” he says.

To this day, the 61-year-old mutual funds magnate still believes overcoming his learning difference continues to pay dividends in business.

O’Leary points to David Neeleman, the founder and former CEO of JetBlue airlines, as an example of a fellow successful entrepreneur who turned what many view as an obstacle into an opportunity. “He is one of many, many business leaders who are dyslexic and who succeeded beyond their wildest dreams, as I have as well.”

Neeleman, who also has ADHD, encourages dyslexic individuals to leverage their learning difference as an “asset” in their professional pursuits.

“I did and I’m pretty happy with my outcome,” O’Leary tells us. “You have to put it in your own mind that this is not an affliction that will negatively impact your future. It shouldn’t in any way diminish your self-esteem or be considered something that is going to hurt your chances to be successful at work or in life.

“Dyslexia just doesn’t do that and there’s no evidence in history that it does,” O’Leary continues. “It’s just that it affects math and reading scores early on, and so what? That’s something you can get around. Never give up and never let dyslexia hold you back. It’s a gift.”

The acute ability to focus on the task at hand is one of the many ways O’Leary says he believes dyslexia can benefit affected entrepreneurs. “For entrepreneurs, that turns out to be 80 percent of the battle,” he says, “staying focused in challenging times and on the tasks you’re trying to achieve in business is very important, and that is actually how you get over dyslexia. Forcing yourself to focus over and over again.”




Test for Dyslexia : 37 Common Traits of Dyslexia

Most dyslexics will exhibit about 10 of the following traits and behaviors. These characteristics can vary from day-to-day or minute-to-minute. The most consistent thing about dyslexics is their inconsistency.


Dyslexic children and adults can become avid and enthusiastic readers when given learning tools that fit their creative learning style.
  • Appears bright, highly intelligent, and articulate but unable to read, write, or spell at grade level.
  • Labelled lazy, dumb, careless, immature, “not trying hard enough,” or “behavior problem.”
  • Isn’t “behind enough” or “bad enough” to be helped in the school setting.
  • High in IQ, yet may not test well academically; tests well orally, but not written.
  • Feels dumb; has poor self-esteem; hides or covers up weaknesses with ingenious compensatory strategies; easily frustrated and emotional about school reading or testing.
  • Talented in art, drama, music, sports, mechanics, story-telling, sales, business, designing, building, or engineering.
  • Seems to “Zone out” or daydream often; gets lost easily or loses track of time.
  • Difficulty sustaining attention; seems “hyper” or “daydreamer.”
  • Learns best through hands-on experience, demonstrations, experimentation, observation, and visual aids.

Vision, Reading, and Spelling

  • Complains of dizziness, headaches or stomach aches while reading.
  • Confused by letters, numbers, words, sequences, or verbal explanations.
  • Reading or writing shows repetitions, additions, transpositions, omissions, substitutions, and reversals in letters, numbers and/or words.
  • Complains of feeling or seeing non-existent movement while reading, writing, or copying.
  • Seems to have difficulty with vision, yet eye exams don’t reveal a problem.
  • Extremely keen sighted and observant, or lacks depth perception and peripheral vision.
  • Reads and rereads with little comprehension.
  • Spells phonetically and inconsistently.

Hearing and Speech

  • Has extended hearing; hears things not said or apparent to others; easily distracted by sounds.
  • Difficulty putting thoughts into words; speaks in halting phrases; leaves sentences incomplete; stutters under stress; mispronounces long words, or transposes phrases, words, and syllables when speaking.

Writing and Motor Skills

  • Trouble with writing or copying; pencil grip is unusual; handwriting varies or is illegible.
  • Clumsy, uncoordinated, poor at ball or team sports; difficulties with fine and/or gross motor skills and tasks; prone to motion-sickness.
  • Can be ambidextrous, and often confuses left/right, over/under.

Math and Time Management

  • Has difficulty telling time, managing time, learning sequenced information or tasks, or being on time.
  • Computing math shows dependence on finger counting and other tricks; knows answers, but can’t do it on paper.
  • Can count, but has difficulty counting objects and dealing with money.
  • Can do arithmetic, but fails word problems; cannot grasp algebra or higher math.

Memory and Cognition

  • Excellent long-term memory for experiences, locations, and faces.
  • Poor memory for sequences, facts and information that has not been experienced.
  • Thinks primarily with images and feeling, not sounds or words (little internal dialogue).

Behavior, Health, Development and Personality

  • Extremely disorderly or compulsively orderly.
  • Can be class clown, trouble-maker, or too quiet.
  • Had unusually early or late developmental stages (talking, crawling, walking, tying shoes).
  • Prone to ear infections; sensitive to foods, additives, and chemical products.
  • Can be an extra deep or light sleeper; bedwetting beyond appropriate age.
  • Unusually high or low tolerance for pain.
  • Strong sense of justice; emotionally sensitive; strives for perfection.
  • Mistakes and symptoms increase dramatically with confusion, time pressure, emotional stress, or poor health.