The Dragonfly Forest

They have been given names such as devil’s darning needle, ear sewer, horse stinger, skeeter hawk, and the snake’s servant. Actually, Dragonflies are beneficial, peaceful, and stunning. You are a Dragonfly if you are: ADD/ADHD, dyslexic, dysgraphic, Asperger’s, NLVD, autistic…

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Power of Outrospection and Importance of Empathy

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I have worked hard to help the world understand Empathy here is a great video that can help you learn more about what I mean every time I stress the importance of Empathy.  We need to teach children how to become more Emphatic.  Every school should have Empathy as a goal for their students! We need to practice empathy on a daily basis!  

Here's the direct link if needed: RSA Animate-The Power of Outrospection 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

What it might be like to have dyslexia

October is Dyslexia Awareness month so this article will help you understand what it might be like to be a person with dyslexia.  I used the words “might be like” because one of the first thing to understand is that dyslexia is different for each person.   Everyone is an individual and the brain is a unique as a person’s fingerprints; no two are alike! 


Let me explain in a simple way how the brain processes language.  

This is the NON-DYSLEXIC brain working.  When the person sees the words on the page they quickly go to the language center of their brain.  In the non-dyslexic language center the information (letters, sounds, numbers, colors...) are all stored in an orderly sequential way so that each piece is easy to retrieve. Having an organized language center makes learning, especially learning to read fairly easy.













The language center of a person with dyslexia is very different.  
Here the person sees the words on the page and goes up to their language center of their brain to find the corresponding letters and sounds.  When they get to their language center, it is not organized.  Depending on how dyslexic they are, their language center can range from having only a few things out of place to major chaos.  If the person also has ADD/ADHD there may be even more difficulties.  A person with dyslexia doesn't often come back quickly with information because they are sorting through all the mess in their language center to find just the right words, letters, sounds, numbers...  This can be seen when a student has low reading fluency and/or difficulties with Rapid Automatic Naming (RAN). Since the language center is disorganized the person often struggles with sounding words out and may read the words incorrectly.  A great deal of time they will just guess a word based on beginning letters and the shape of the word because it is very time consuming searching all over their language center for just the right match.  
   






















Hopefully this gives you an idea of what it might be like for a person with dyslexia.  If you look up on the internet what it is like to be a person with dyslexia you may come across some activities that "simulate" dyslexia.  I'm not a fan of these "simulations" (explained below) but what I hope you get from these is an understanding of the frustration and feelings of learned helplessness (important topic to understand) that comes from being a person with dyslexia

So, why am I not a fan of some of these simulations?  Well, for a few reasons.  As I pointed out before, every person with dyslexia is different and often these "simulations" give the impression that these experiences are universal and they feed into many myths.

The first one I don't like is the one where the people have to read from a paper where the letters are backward, squiggly, or missing parts.  The point is to demonstrate how hard a person with dyslexia has to work in order to read.  The problem with this simulation is the way the letters are presented.  For the most part, people with dyslexia do NOT see things differently.  It is NOT a vision problem.  True, there are some people who also have difficulty with convergence or have eye problems but this is NOT dyslexia.  A better way to present this activity is to try to read something in a foreign language that you do not understand, especially out-loud. These are real words and in order to read them you have to know the phonetic codes that go with each letter and foreign language. Try this:


















The other simulation I'm not fond of is the "mirror writing."  Again, this is to show how frustrating it is for the person with dyslexia to share their thoughts on paper but it also adds to the myth that people with dyslexia have difficulty with their vision.  Also, not everyone with dyslexia also has dysgraphia.  Dysgraphia is often common in people with dyslexia but some people with dyslexia are great at writing (penmanship & written expression).  Most people don't even know about dysgraphia which is similar to dyslexia. See, in writing there are also a lot of steps the brain has to go through to process the language and tell the hand how to form the letters, space the letters, spell the words, formulate the sentence, and express thoughts.  Some people may be dysgraphic and not dyslexic - remember everyone is unique.  Doing the mirror activity can be very confusing for people.  A better way to simulate the difficulties with writing for some people with dyslexia is to have people listen to a few sentences in different foreign languages (ones they do not know) and have them write down what they are hearing.  Remember that most adults have learned to adjust to the most non-phonetic language, English so for some people this task may be fairly easy. So to add to the challenge have participants write with their non-dominant hand and go quickly so there is no time to sit around an think.  It is also good to have the sentences to be dictated by someone who fluently speaks that language.

Thanks for still reading this post.  I know it is long and I made it that way on purpose.  People with dyslexia don't like to read because it over works their brain. This is called cognitive overload.  When students are in school all day they will experience cognitive overload.  These students are working 2, 3, and sometimes even 4 times harder than their non-dyslexic peers but it is not often obvious.  So only when a non-dyslexic person (parent or teacher) understands this then changes can be made to the way the person with dyslexia is viewed and treated.  I hope you now have a better understanding of what it might be like to be a person with dyslexia.

Finally, the very best way to know what it is like for a person with dyslexia is to ASK them!  Have them explain what it is like for them in school or work.  They will have the most accurate insight into what it is like to be a person with dyslexia.    










Friday, October 21, 2016

Fox on Friday!

This fox came and visited a girls soccer game last night & I just love how cute this fox is so I'm sharing here...  enjoy!  Happy Friday!



JM





Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Must Watch TV show about Dyslexia from 1984

I miss ABC After-school Specials.  The episodes on this series allowed the view to live vicariously through the experiences of the characters.  After-school Specials were educational and entertaining. ABC also did some other things right- they made sure it was multicultural.  Growing up in a very multicultural environment I appreciate seeing people of all races and cultures not just one.   What I don't like is how they make dyslexia look like a visual disorder but I love how Brian (the main character played by River Phoenix) gets others to help him out.  

Here is episode 6 from Season 12 - Backwards: The Riddle of dyslexia.  This episode aired in March 1984 and stars young River Phoenix (RIP my friend)  and his younger brother Joaquin who went by the name as as Leaf back then.  This episode is broken down into 5 short parts so that you can watch is more easily since the whole show is over 45 minutes long.  Enjoy...

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Part 1

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Part 2

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Part 3

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Part 4

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Final Part 5



Friday, October 7, 2016

Who I am....

Re-sharing because it is Dyslexia Awareness month & I want to share my dyslexia story...

My story:  Jill Marie-Grandstaff Lam (because I am dyslexic and ADD I don't eye-read fast so I added a lot of short video clips to help tell my story).

Dyslexia, dysgraphia, and ADD are genetic and strong in my family tree.  Like many others, I didn't know what was wrong with me or the names dyslexia and dysgraphia.  I also didn't know that I had Attention Deficit Disorder, I just thought everyone lived in the thoughts in their head.  Here's an example of me in school & even now - 
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I could always relate to these Ralph Phillips cartoons!  I still don't know my math facts (times tables) and it wasn't because I was daydreaming during the lessons it was due to being dyslexic.  My rote memory just isn't there.  School was also challenging because I struggled with reading.  I have NEVER been able to sound out an unknown word.  I was taught Whole Language (insert eye-roll here & if you are educated about dyslexia I bet you did the eye-roll all on your own) and therefore was not taught phonics.  I didn't even learn how to say some of the letter sounds correctly until my own children were going through their private Orton-Gillingham tutoring. Finally, my reading fluency sucks.  I can't even get half-way through the subtitles of a movie before the screen changes. I had to see each of the Star Wars movies 12 times before I completely read the opening words- (okay, those of you who know me well know I was thrilled to see each one a dozen times).  
Yes, I struggled immensely in school from kindergarten to my Ph.D. program. Oh heck, I struggle every day with my disabilities!  I could share some stories of heartache and pain, stories about how I never fit in and worked so hard to hide my disabilities; but I will not share these stories today.  I want to share with you 3 SUPERPOWERS I have BECAUSE of my disabilities. 
1:  The Superpower of Empathy
My brain is not able to process language like a non-dyslexic brain but I have more mirror neurons than my peers which means I experience deeper levels of empathy.  I knew from very early on that I felt the feelings of others.  I used to take these feelings on as my own because I didn't know the difference between the other person's feelings and my own feelings. Here's a video of mirror neurons & empathy to help you understand!   
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So how do I know I have more mirror neurons & excess empathy?  I wish I could explain it or even prove it scientifically but I can't right now (working on that).  I just know.  Over the years I have developed this sixth sense so well that I am able to read even subtle body language and facial expressions of others.  When I meet people I can tell exactly what they are feeling and experiencing.  I can sense those around me that have this similar Superpower and it is often very strong in people with dyslexia.  Let me point out that not everyone has this as a Superpower or even a strength.  They may think they do because they have some mirror neurons and can show empathy but it is very different than what I am talking about; what I mean is an exceptional level of being able to feel exactly what another person is experiencing.  For those of you who have it to this degree - you know exactly what I mean. 

2:  The Superpower of Acceptance
I not only have an abundance of mirror neurons and empathy because these are the strength of my brain, I was also raised by parents who also have a brain wired with extra mirror neurons and empathy.  My parents taught me to accept EVERYONE and to help those in need.  I was blessed with acceptance and not judgment. I was taught the love of ear-reading and given audio books to listen to from Zig Ziglar, Earl Nightingale, Dale Carnegie... and many more.  I was taught about Leo Buscaglia and his values.   I live my life based on the teachings of Leo even when people are mean to me or treat me bad.  Oh, you don't know Leo Buscaglia?  Well then, here's a very short clip oh him in action:
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Doesn't he just make you smile?  Well that's my reaction.  I have an intrinsic passion for inclusion of everyone.  
3:  The Superpower of Tenacity
Having dyslexia, dysgraphia, and ADD is not easy and as a child I didn't know anyone else like me so I knew that I was different.  I was on a quest to find others like me, as well as, to find the real ME.  I searched for answers in movies and books.  In high school, I found the answer in Joseph Campbell's book The Hero with a Thousand Faces and knew that I was on my own Hero's Journey!  I learned we are all on our own Hero's Journey and each movie and book took me on these adventures. The characters in these books and movies are like friends to me.  I an not an outsider looking in, but immersed in the stories as if I too were living them and experiencing the same adventures. I mastered my own Superpower skill of Tenacity!  I don't give up.  Watch my friend, Samwise Gamgee, explain exactly what I mean to Frodo Baggins:
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Yes, I am a person with dyslexia, dysgraphia, and ADD but I am also a person with many Superpowers- Empathy, Acceptance, and Tenacity.  In elementary and junior high my life was filled with shame and exclusion.  In high school when I became "friends" with Joseph Campbell I heard my calling to help others.  Like many, I refused this calling. I thought, who was I to help others- I am not worthy.  Due to my inner tenacity I took the leap of faith and headed off to college to pursue a degree in Psychology (I also have minors in Health Education and Marketing).  With the help of all my Supernatural Aids (the characters of my movies & books) I went on to get a Master's degree in Clinical Counseling and became a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor with supervisory status and then entered Crossing the Threshold into the working world.  I was taught how to diagnose all types of learning disabilities, worked in many areas of special education as a therapist, and eventually I entered the Belly of the Whale by opening my own private practice as a Psycho-educational Diagnostician and Counselor in 2007- Forest Alliance Coaching (& Forest Alliance Coaching FB page).  On my journey of helping others I have been down many Roads of Trials and I'm still on these roads but I have tenacity to just keep going. I now have my Ph.D. in Psychology with a specialization in Educational Psychology.
As I continue my journey I have ventured into many other areas where I can help others live a better life.  A few years ago I started The Dragonfly Forest a blog where I can share insights and motivate others who are different and often have disabilities (ADHD, Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Asperger's...).  Through The Dragonfly Forest blog, FB page, and my private practice I have become even more involved in the disability community and now have Dragonfly friends all over the world.   
In early February 2013 I read about the Decoding Dyslexia movement in New Jersey and knew I was receiving another calling (one I didn't hesitate to answer).  I contacted Deborah Lynam from DD-New Jersey and got started on Decoding Dyslexia Ohio by making a commitment to DD-NJ and then starting Decoding Dyslexia here in Ohio and created the Decoding Dyslexia Ohio Facebook page.   The DD-OH journey has been an exciting one and I know that I was guided this way so I can continue to help make the lives of others a better place.  I meet with the wonderful parents of children with dyslexia in Ohio and look forward to sharing this journey with them.  The parents have been such a great support system as well and these parents suggested there be another Facebook page that focused Family Support (since the website & other FB page were focused on school and legal issues) so DD-OH Family Support FB page was started.  I am so excited by all the adventures we will be having on this DD-OH journey and thrilled that God, the Higher Power, or the Universe guided me in this direction. 
Here is one final video that I think really supports my life's journey and my Superpowers. Some of you will recognize a young Ben Foss (it was filmed in 2003 btw).   I love being on this journey with some great people like this - and YOU!  Thanks for sharing this journey with me! 
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Sunday, October 2, 2016

5 ways to Celebrate National Dyslexia Awareness Month

October is Dyslexia Awareness Month and a great time to put a spotlight on dyslexia.  Although remember~ for full acceptance and inclusion we need to always have a spotlight on dyslexia and all types of disabilities not just once a year. The best way to embrace differences is to focus on all the unique qualities we all have.  

So, here are 5 ways to not only bring dyslexia into a classroom setting in October but ways you can add it to your curriculum to touch on all year long.

1.) Hang up pictures of people around the room with dyslexia (and other types of disabilities).  Here's a great link of famous people with dyslexia where you can find people in all types of fields for any classroom.  This is important because we have learned from the Harvard Implicit Bias Project that we have less bias toward people of specific races, genders, and disabilities when we are frequently exposed to positive images of people in these categories. (You can find plenty picture quotes, like the one below, I make for the Decoding Dyslexia Ohio Facebook Page).  




2.) Explain to students the signs of Dyslexia- A quick way to do this is to show one or both of these videos
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Also pass out this information from the The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity




























** Note: be prepared to see yourself in these symptoms and have a number of students in your classroom identify with these symptoms because 1 in 5 is a person with dyslexia!  

3.) Add books to your classroom - a great page to find these resources is the Yale's list of books for young people focused on dyslexia.  Furthermore, teach about famous authors with dyslexia such as: Avi, Victor Villasenor Burro, Agatha Christie, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John IrvingDav Pilkey, Patricia Polacco, Henry Winkler... 

4.) Show one or more of these short videos.  Each is a famous person speaking about their experience being dyslexic.  When students learn about people with disabilities beings successful, the students become more motivated.  

Orlando Bloom:
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Whoopi Goldberg:
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Sir Richard Branson:
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Daymond John:
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It is also powerful to have a young person share the story of their own journey toward success despite having a disability and this video of Piper Otterbein is very inspiring!  

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5.)  Do not... I repeat DO NOT do a dyslexia simulation where the letters on the page are flipped, reversed, half missing, or blurred. People with dyslexia do not see things wrong and this type of activity only feeds the myth that dyslexia is related to seeing the letters/words backwards.  If you do feel that you want to help people understand how reading can be challenging for a person with dyslexia have them read something in a foreign language.  The following is a simple paragraph with each sentence in a different foreign language.  Have people try to read this accurately and fluently - they will discover that it isn't easy.  Explain that this is similar to what some people with dyslexia experience.  Make sure the students understand that each person with dyslexia is unique and it doesn't mean the person is not smart- their brain is just processing language differently.  Also do NOT explain what it is like to be a person with dyslexia if you do not have dyslexia.  Have a guest speaker come in and talk to the class on what living with dyslexia is like for that person.


Finally, make sure you talk to students daily all year long that each and every student is unique and it is being different that makes the world a great place.  Have them think about all they ways they are a unique individual!