Ask Susan: Help for Dyseidetic Dyslexia

Hello Susan

Our daughter has been diagnosed with dyseidetic dyslexia. She reverses b’s and d’s, reads words like ‘rat’ as ‘tar’, loses her place on the page, spells words as they sound, for example spells ‘enough’ as ‘enuf’, and has a very limited sight vocabulary. We have tried a number of treatments but none have helped.

Yesterday my daughter was in tears. She says her teacher shouts at her and says she is daydreaming, but she was quite insistent that she is not daydreaming and is trying to work out what the teacher had told her to do.

Our friends have seen great results with your system and customized program and we were hoping you could compile a program that would suit our daughter’s needs.

We are desperate, especially since her IQ is in the superior range.

Melany and Brian

Dear Melany and Brian

Dyslexia isn’t just an academic and individual problem; it’s also a family problem. Having a child with a learning problem impacts the entire family. Parents, brothers, sisters, and even grandparents become involved, must adjust, and are changed in the process.

The dream of a boy or girl who tops the 1st grade reading groups and shines in the spelling bee is shattered and replaced by the recognition that years of reading help lay ahead. Millions of families live this reality daily, but not without it taking a toll on every family member and changing them in some way. It’s tough, and comes with scars, but fortunately Edublox offers a light at the end of the tunnel.

I am adding three exercises which will make Reading Tutor a perfect fit for dyseidetic dyslexia: I am adding (1) the Directionality exercise and (2) bdpq exercise, which together will address both possible causes of reversals as well as improve eye tracking so that your daughter will not lose her place on the page when reading, as well as (3.) an additional Reading/spelling exercise, which will build her sight vocabulary.

What causes reversals?

The inability to discriminate between a ‘b’ and a ‘d’, or to read words like ‘was’ as ‘saw’ is usually caused by a visual perceptual problem, specifically a problem with processing position in space.

Before one can read or learn anything, one has to become aware of it through one of the senses. Usually one has to hear or see it. In other words, perception must take place. Subsequently one has to interpret whatever one has seen or heard. In essence then, perception means interpretation. Of course, lack of experience may cause a person to misinterpret what he has seen or heard. In other words, perception represents our apprehension of a present situation in terms of our past experiences, or, as stated by the philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804): “We see things not as they are but as we are.”

The following situation will illustrate how perception correlates with previous experience:

Suppose a person parked his car and walked away from it while continuing to look back at it. As he went further and further away from his car, it would appear to him as if his car was gradually getting smaller and smaller. In such a situation none of us, however, would gasp in horror and cry out, “My car is shrinking!” Although the sensory perception is that the car is shrinking rapidly, we do not interpret that the car is changing size. Through past experiences we have learned that objects do not grow or shrink as we walk toward or away from them. We have learned that their actual size remains constant, despite the illusion. Even when one is five blocks away from one’s car and it seems no larger than one’s fingernail, one would interpret it as that it is still one’s car and that it hasn’t actually changed size. This learned perception is known as size constancy.

Pygmies, however, who used to live deep in the rain forests of tropical Africa, were not often exposed to wide vistas and distant horizons, and therefore did not have sufficient opportunities to learn size constancy. Colin Macmillan Turnbull, an anthropologist and author of The Forest People, wrote about one pygmy who, when removed from his usual environment, was convinced he was seeing a swarm of insects when he was actually looking at a herd of buffalo at a great distance. When driven toward the animals he was frightened to see the insects “grow” into buffalo and was sure witchcraft had been responsible.

To summarize: in order to be able to interpret size constancy, one must have had enough exposure to wide vistas and distant horizons. In the same way, in order to be able to interpret position in space — the learned perception that makes it possible to distinguish a ‘b’ from a ‘d’ — one must have had enough exposure to relevant experiences. Relevant experiences include the ability to distinguish left and right and the ability to cross the midline.

The human body consists of two halves, a left side and a right side. The human brain also has two halves, which are connected by the corpus callosum. Mindful of the wise words of Immanuel Kant that man does not see things as they are but as he is, it is inevitable that a person will interpret everything in terms of his own sidedness. A child or adult, who has not learned to interpret correctly in terms of his sidedness yet, who has not learned to distinguish properly between left and right, will inevitably experience problems when he finds himself in a situation where he is expected to interpret sidedness. One such a situation, where sidedness plays a particularly important role, is when a person is expected to distinguish between a ‘b’ and a ‘d’. It is clear that the only difference between the two letters is the position of the straight line — it is either left or right.

Memory aids don’t work

It is important to note that people who are confused about left and right cannot use mnemonics or memory aids while reading, as is often advised. Children, for example, are often advised to remember that “left” is the side on which they wear their watch. This never works to improve reading ability. It can be compared to learning a language. One cannot speak a foreign language if one only has a dictionary in that language. One has to learn to speak it. In the same way one has to learn to interpret sidedness. As all the other skills foundational to reading, the ability to distinguish between left and right must be drummed in so securely that the person can apply it during reading and writing without having to think of it at all.

Auditory processing

Reversals of b and d might also be caused by an auditory processing problem, specifically an inability to discriminate between the two sounds, ‘buh’ and ‘duh’, but that is rarely the case.

Follow the program below, which is a perfect fit for dyseidetic dyslexia. Other parents in need of this program are welcome to contact me.

Dyseidetic dyslexia program, weeks 1-6

Do Edublox Online Tutor (Reading Tutor) daily, or as close to daily as possible. The absolute minimum is 4 lessons per week.

Reading Tutor aims at improving cognitive skills including concentration, visual and auditory perception, visual and auditory memory and reasoning ability. The program also comprises a comprehensive exercise aimed at teaching reading and spelling, and at expanding vocabulary.

Before starting Reading Tutor one needs to select the introductory level for the learner. Choose one of three: Basic, Intermediate or Advanced. Examples of the words in each level are provided — two start-up words and two words more toward the end.

* Basic: 2-4 letter words, starting with at and hop, and ending with twig and hope.
* Intermediate: 4-9 letter words, starting with kite and straight, and ending with continue and encourage.
* Advanced: 6-15 letter words, starting with thwart and rhythm, and ending with ophthalmologist and extraordinaire. .

Dyseidetic dyslexia program, week 7 and onward

Three exercises must now be added to your program. 
Once you’ve completed week 5, send me an email and I’ll give you free access to the Directionality exercise and bdpq exercise. Also send me a list of the first 50 sight words that you want to teach to your daughter. I will need the words to make word cards for the Reading/spelling exercise, and will show you how to do the exercise via Skype. 

This is your program from week 7 and onward:

Continue with Edublox Online Tutor (Reading Tutor), followed by…

Directionality exercise for 2 minutes*

bdpq exercise for 2 minutes*

Edublox Reading/spelling exercise for 10-15 minutes*

Feel free to send me an update after three months, so that I can help you make adjustments to your daughter’s program, if necessary. 

Hard work pays off 

Carole Derrick, a teacher in the USA, reported: “After working for 6 weeks with Allen who is functioning at a non-reader level with a fragile self-esteem, I have witnessed academic progress as well as a boost in self-confidence… Allen’s difficulties with dyslexia has improved. In the first 3 weeks of the program, Allen was reversing letters frequently (b for d; on for no). If such reversals occur during the 6th week, he usually corrects himself.”

Mrs. K. G. Robertson wrote: “My son has tried the following: Remedial teaching, extra lessons and occupational therapy. Unfortunately, although there was an improvement my son’s problem remained. This resulted in him avoiding any reading and writing. He developed behavioral problems. He was ashamed of his dyslexia. We started your program and within a period of two months he improved to the extent that he will pick up and read a newspaper or magazine of his own free will – without prompting. He has stopped reversing and substituting the letters b, p, and d. He writes messages freely. Your program has made an immense difference.”



* These are additional exercises and are not included in the Edublox Online Tutor product range.

Tips for sending questions

Send your questions to [email protected]. Type “Ask Susan” in the subject line.

Try to give as much detail as possible when sending your questions. Include your child’s age and grade and the specific problems that you have noticed, which concern you.

Sign your letter to Susan with your first name only, or a pseudonym if you prefer. Your identity remains private and we will not publish your contact details.

More about Susan

Susan is an educational specialist in the field of learning problems and dyslexia and has a B.A. Honors in Psychology and B.D. degree from the University of Pretoria. Early in her professional career Susan was instrumental in training over 3000 teachers and tutors, providing them with the foundational and practical understanding to facilitate cognitive development amongst children who struggle to read and write. With over 25 years of research to her name Susan conceptualized the Edublox teaching and learning methods that have helped thousands of children who were struggling academically to read, learn and achieve. In 2007, Susan opened the first Edublox reading and learning clinic and now there are 30 Edublox clinics internationally. Her proudest moments are when she sees a child who had severe learning difficulties come top of their class after one or two years at Edublox. Susan always takes time to collect the ‘hero’ stories of learners whose self-esteem is lifted as their marks improve.