CaptionsVerbatimPro & Dyslexia

CaptionsVerbatimPro : Dyslexia

This A.M., March 30, 2011, in The Register newspaper was an article about Dannel P. Malloy, the new

Governor of Connecticut.  The headline caught my attention:  “Governor Shines Large Spotlight On His Dyslexia”.    It went on to say, “Teachers said he was mentally retarded.  Some classmates called him dummy.  Today, Dannel P. Malloy is called something else:  Governor of Connecticut!

I’m always looking for ways CaptionsVerbatimPro can help others…help themselves.   The entire purpose is to help all be independent and CaptionsVerbatimPro can do that.   I have 2 adult sons who have dyslexia.   Both experience the same educational problems Dannel Malloy talks about in his growing up years. 

Things have changed a lot in the last 20 years and people are more understanding about those with disabilities, such as dyslexia and hearing impairment,  than they were back before the 50’s when I was growing up and up through the 80’s when my boys were attending school.   Malloy is 55 years of age and my two sons are age 52 and 54 years of age.  Back in those days teachers, parents and students did not understand dyslexia or hearing impairment.   We were not as tolerant and / or as flexible and understanding as we are today.  But we still have a long way to go.  One thing I’d like to see happen is to get rid of the word, disability.   It means disabled.   Disabled is negative in the eyes of many.   Why use the word at all?  We are all different.  Why the label?  We need to get rid of labels on  people.  

I’ve had a moderate to profound hearing impairment since I was 4 years of age and it progressively became worse throughout my life.  By the age of 14 I had a severe loss of the nerve type and by the time I was 18 it was profound.  My mother had German Measles when she carried me so I was destined to be deaf, blind, mentally retarded or a combination of those.  I did not know that until my mother told my late husband when I was 56 years of age.   We took my mother out to dinner for her birthday and my late husband, Dr. Glorig, ENT/Audiologist asked my mother how I lost my hearing.   She at first said she didn’t know.  Then he asked her if she had German Measles when she carried me and she said she did.    

When I was 14 years of age my family moved to California and I enrolled in the 9th grade at El Monte High School.   I walked to school with 3 girls who lived nearby, everyday.  At school, I had 3 different guys who had asked me for dates to future dances.  I was what one might call, “popular”, in those days.   I believe that was the year schools started testing hearing at the schools. 

When they tested my hearing, they found I had a severe to profound hearing loss.  The nurse informed the teachers and the teachers announced it to all the students in my presence and assigned me a specific seat in the front middle of the classroom, in every class.  I was embarrassed.   I also noticed the classmates were no longer talking to me.

I always knew something was not right with me but I did not know I couldn’t hear normally.  Or better yet, I didn’t know others could hear better than I could.  I do remember I couldn’t understand what was being said on the radio.   I used to sing with my girlfriend in the school assembly and I always asked her to listen to the song on the radio and write the words down for me.  I could hear the melody but I couldn’t hear the words. 

My mother did not even know I couldn’t hear well.  She thought I just didn’t listen.  I made A’s, B’s in all my classes.   I was good in reading, math and spelling; and the teacher asked me to help other students with math from grade 2 up through grade 8. 

Once the students at El Monte High found out I couldn’t hear well they treated me differently simply by ignoring me, my 3 girlfriends no longer wanted to walk to school with me and the 3 guys who asked me to upcoming dances didn’t even speak to me again.  I cried myself to sleep every night for the next 3 weeks.  

Fortunately, we moved to Redondo Beach, Ca. and I enrolled in Redondo Beach High School.  I made a beeline to the nurse office and asked her not to tell anyone I couldn’t hear.  I begged her to just let me deal with it.  It seemed when others knew, then I had 2 problems:  my problem plus now I had to deal with how others looked at me and / or ignored me.  I asked her to just let me deal with this on my own.

 She suggested I go to Riverside School for the Deaf and learn Sign Language.  I refused because I couldn’t figure out why I should learn another language to understand the language I already knew and I didn’t know I was lipreading but I was doing just fine.  She finally agreed to allow me to stay at RUHS if I could keep a C average.  That was no problem. 

I finished all 4 years of high school there and had many wonderful friends and memories who accepted me as I was without any discussion of my problem.  It was never brought up and I never mentioned it to any of them.  It was my dark secret from that time on until I was 29 years of age, married and 3 children aged 10 yrs., 8 yr, and 6yrs of age. 

I could live with the knowledge of knowing now what my problem was but I couldn’t live with being treated shabbily by others who didn’t understand.  I married my husband when I was 18 without bringing up the topic.  I couldn’t bear to lose him  In today’s world that sounds like I didn’t come clean as they call it today.  But I’m not talking about covering up something I did wrong…I did nothing wrong.  I believe if anyone had gone through the pain of losing 3 girlfriends and the friendship of 3 guys overnight simply because they found out I couldn’t hear, and being treated shabbily by the teachers at the school, the very people who were there to protect the students,  I think they’d do the same. 

There was no one for me to discuss this with.  The counselors, if there were any at the time, would not be any more understanding than the teachers who announced it and the teacher even treated me badly after that point.  It was a night mare for me.  I couldn’t talk to my mother because she was involved with a separation in her marriage and was not very understanding of my problems.   I learned early that it was my problem and I not only had to deal with it I chose to do it comfortably.

Those were different days.  But my experience at El Monte High School forever made an indelible impression on my mind.   And, it took me many years to get past that.  I couldn’t admit I had hearing loss to anyone in fear of losing their friendship.   I didn’t even tell my children.   I’ll talk more at a later time on how I finally came around to admitting my problem.   I was in denial stage for many years.   I know the pain that others have experienced with the label of disability and we need to get rid of that label.  We all have talent and we all learn differently and we all strive to find our niche in life.   We don’t need labels.

 As Malloy states he experienced a lifelong struggle not only with dyslexia but the added problem of non acceptance in the classroom and being labeled as a “dummy” and / or “mentally retarded”.   That kind of damage to a small child self esteem, who is in a vulnerable stage of life, can sometimes last a lifetime and / or it will teach him/her to reach deep inside and find the strength to get through this and become stronger.    To help those who are weaker and can’t seem to shake it off in later life is another entire writing and we can talk about that in another blog.

In the last few years more and more people, specifically parents, are talking more about dyslexia and also writing books.   As a result, it is opening the door to the fact that a person with dyslexia is an intelligent person in other ways such as having strong listening skills, high vocabularies and excellent communication skills and a good memory.   They learn by listening. 

Parents today are not accepting the labels of the past on their children’s back.  They are doing something about it and more people are listening.    They are not accepting the old idea that their child cannot be educated and have a fruitful and normal life.    They will not stand idle if their child is called a dummy and / or mentally retarded.  There are many people in the celebrity field that have dyslexia and they have found their niche.  That is the secret in life:   Finding your niche.   Whatever it is….yet, that’s the goal for everyone, is it not?  Everyone has something they can do as well or better than others.  

So many words we use in our daily vocabulary have no meaning to someone with dyslexia.   Those words are words that have no picture.  For example when we talk about a house they can see a picture of a house…lots of houses.  When we talk about the ocean they can see lots of water in an ocean in their head.  When we talk about a table they can see a table in their mind.   Those are picture words.  

When we use words such as, this, that, those, these, them, and, an, a, what, when, where, why, which, the, all, if, about, also, however, for, to, too, have, had, like, on, of, etc. ….all these words have no picture attached so they have no meaning.  They are just filler words to complete a sentence and it’s called grammar.  That is why they struggle with writing.  When they hear these words…they have no picture. 

In short, most who have dyslexia hear a word and they see a picture.  If the word has no picture…it has no meaning to them.   There are numerous words that have no picture.   They cannot process something they cannot see.   It’s not there and it has no picture…therefore it has no meaning.   If it has no meaning it can’t be remembered or translated.   If there is no picture there is nothing to translate or interpret.

My son, Bryan, attended a seminar a few years ago that helped him understand all this.   When he hears the word, “boat”, for example…he can see a boat in his mind and he can see the top of the boat, the bottom, and all sides of that boat in his mind.   He does not see the actual word, “boat”…he sees a picture of a boat and sometimes lots of boats.  Both my son’s, Tony and Bryan, are very intelligent.  They both have excellent memories, broad vocabularies, beyond par communication skills and many wonderful friends and relationships.  They are very understanding about life, themselves and others; but, they can’t write, they can’t spell and they don’t read books.   They do listen to audio books and CD’s.   They can spell words phonetically.  And, that brings up a great thought.   I just got an Aha! feeling we’ll talk about in the final paragraph.

Most normal people I have spoken to have no difficulties reading, writing,  and when I ask them what they see in their mind when I say or hear  the word “boat”, they tell me they see the word, “boat”, in their mind and they also see a boat but they say they do not see all sides, top and bottom of the boat.  What we see in our mind when we hear a given word is our interpretation of that word based on what we understand.   If a person with dyslexia cannot see a picture then there is nothing to interpret because they cannot see words…they only see pictures.

In Japan there is no such thing as dyslexia!   That’s because their alphabet is in pictures.  Our alphabet is 26 individual letters and someone with dyslexia may not see any of those letters in their heads.  That is, unless you attach the letter to something that is a picture.  For example…A is for Apple then there is a picture of an Apple.  They see the Apple but not the word “Apple”.   B is for “Boy”  …then there is a picture of a boy.   In the mind of someone with dyslexia, s/he might be seeing all these pictures for the alphabet.  He sees a picture of an  Apple, Boy, Cat, Dog, Elephant, Farmer, Girl, and etc. 

In the U.S. according to the International Dyslexia Association as much as 20% of the population has a language based disability such as dyslexia.  That’s a lot of people considering the Census 2006 reported 303,763,031 total population in the U.S.   If 20% has language based disabilities that equates to almost 61 million people within the dyslexia category.   We have to do something about that. 

Let’s get back to the thought that most who have dyslexia can spell and read phonetically.   If this is a true fact then there is no reason why CaptionsVerbatimPro cannot have a button to translate a classroom lesson to phonetic.   If we have the ability to translate English to another language, then we can also  translate to phonetic.  The word, “thought” would be spelled, “thot”.    The word, “would”, could be spelled, “wood”.  The goal is to teach and to teach all students in a way s/he can understand; and, if it means changing the spelling then so be it!  We can do that with the click of a button in the classroom with CaptionsVerbatimPro.  

The English language is a difficult language to learn especially for those with dyslexia.  These are the times of learning to be more tolerant to the needs of others who learn differently.  As a teacher, we are supposed to be flexible to that need.  I can’t help but wonder how great it would be for CaptionsVerbatimPro to provide the entire lesson in audio if the student preferred.   Translating to phonetic is just a thought at this time but certainly worth trying and let the student tell us what works for them.  At least it should be available.  In talking to my sons, they both say they would learn more simply by listening by audio.  But we need to be ready to offer options to meet the need of every student and get rid of the label of disabled. 

Bobbi Barras


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