May. 7th, 2012

Brain Gym

May. 7th, 2012 11:45 am
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Brain GymBrain Gym by Paul E. Dennison and Gail E. Dennison This book was recommended to us by a friend, who had great success with both of her children using the exercises in it. I had to have it sent via ILL, and was rather surprised when I got it. It’s a small paperback only 48 pages long with amateurish drawings. The theory behind it is both simple and not much talked about: problems with reading, math, concentration, etc., can be helped by physical exercises, particularly ones that require crossing the body’s midline. For what we were looking at, drawing sideways figure eights in the air, first with just one hand and then with both held together. I think the theory is that problems like these can be caused by lack of communication between the two hemispheres of the brain, and doing physical integration can prime the pump, as it were, making the academic exercises easier. If you or someone you’re helping has difficulty, you can just flip to the appropriate page, where the exercise is drawn out with text descriptions of how to do it and what it should accomplish. I’m not sure we’ve remembered to do this quite as often as we ought, but it has seemed helpful when we do. In order to up the interest quotient, my brilliant husband had the idea of having our son do the exercises holding a foam sword, rather than just tracing the pattern in the air with his hands. It worked. For those more interested in the theory (which, come to think of it, would probably be me), there’s also a teacher’s guide, which has more detailed notes on everything.
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I have stacks of books waiting to be reviewed and even bigger stacks at home waiting to be read. Onwards!

The Gift of DyslexiaThe 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?

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