Dyslexia – uncovering the mystery

Dyslexia – uncovering the mystery

As a well-known SABC radio personality, Jan Viljoen is known as a man of many words, but when his daughter was diagnosed with dyslexia, his focus changed completely. Now an expert on the topic, we find out more.

Eight years ago his attitude towards words changed. Jan says, “Our youngest daughter was dyslexic and suddenly our world revolved around ways and means to help her cope with the demands of studying – starting with the ability to read properly.” In his search for a trustworthy and effective remedy, he stumbled upon The Gift of Dyslexia, written by Ron Davis.

The book is based on his own experience of being falsely labelled as dumb, stupid, hopeless, and even retarded or autistic, because he could not read. Fortunately for parents like Jan and the many children worldwide suffering the same fate, Ron discovered his own dyslexic gifts and started to share them.

In Jan’s quest to help his daughter, he took the bold step to change careers and enrolled for an intensive two-year international training course as a dyslexia facilitator. Since then he became a highly sought-after Davis Dyslexia Correction Facilitator, based in White River. There are only seven of them in the country and Jan is the only one in Mpumalanga.
“Our programmes range from a five-day Dyslexia Correction, to a four-day ADD/ADHD Correction and a three-day Math Life Concepts Exercise to bring understanding to the basic principle of mathematics,” Jan says.

What is dyslexia?
He relays the story of nine-year-old Sandra (not her real name), a Lowveld girl who wants to become a marine biologist. “Sandra is an expert on most of the creatures in the ocean, like the large Baleanoptera musculus or the tiny Desis formidabilis.
She reads these species names with full comprehension and doesn’t experience any issue with their spelling either. She pages through marine-life books, watches Discovery Channel and collects every bit of knowledge about marine life.

In short, Sandra is highly intelligent. She is a quick thinker, with an excellent memory and also extremely talented in the arts. But she has difficulty reading and understanding a simple sentence like “The sun is really just like a star, it only looks larger because it is closer to the earth”.
She can only accurately figure out the words “sun” and “star”. The rest of that sentence is blurred, letters and words look like line drawings and have no meaning to her. Because of that, Sandra was made to believe that she is dumb, lazy, doesn’t apply herself, cannot participate in class activities, doesn’t do her homework and is never punctual.

She has trouble reading basic sentences, fails spelling tests time and again, and hates school. She nearly failed her math and language subjects last year. But Sandra is nothing of the above; she is just dyslexic.
Jan explains the basis of dyslexia as certain individuals possessing a natural ability to use disorientation in their thought and recognition processes. Their perception easily becomes distorted. Disorientation may be necessary for creativity, but it is not ideal for learning.

Research found that the majority of dyslexics are visual instead of verbal thinkers who interpret their world in terms of images. Dyslexics do not read words according to their phonemes, but read meaning in terms of images. The written word “horse”, calls up a picture of a horse. They seldom have problems with nouns or even adjectives. Their risk area is with the so-called sight words: words that have no pictures associated with them.

When a person with a dyslexic ability encounters the words “the”, “and”, “but”, “while”, “so”, “for” or “of”, they get stuck. They can’t attach meaning and their confusion leads to disorientation and their dyslexia kicks in. Now they try to turn letters around, omit or replace words, escape into a self-made dream world, and if not solved, it becomes a learning disability.

During a state of disorientation the dyslexic finds it difficult to grasp the concepts needed to do maths, like cause and effect, sequence, consequence and order.
The person’s handwriting often becomes poor in order to obscure possible spelling mistakes.
Jan says the main tool given to dyslexics through the process of facilitation and mastery, is the ability to recognise and resolve their disorientation. That is done by identifying confusions regarding the alphabet letters like b/d, y/u, and others.
“Then we start a highly effective process of symbol mastery, which entails letting the client find the definition of a word (symbol) as per dictionary, create a true picture, and model the 3D image in clay. There are 220 such words identified in English and about 157 in Afrikaans that almost always trigger disorientation.”

During the programme the client also masters a unique visual study method and takes responsibility for his/her own motivation to improve. What’s more, issues with balance and coordination are addressed, and a stress-release method is mastered.
The success of the programme is noticeable almost immediately. Dyslexics are on average up to two years behind their grades, but catch up within one school term. The success rate of the Davis programmes worldwide is close to 90%.

But back to Sandra. “How is she able to read Baleanoptera musculus and Desis formidabilis?” asks Jan. “Because she has images of what the names mean: the massive blue whale and the tiny shore spider.” But would she know what “if” looks like? And the words “what”, “would” or “like”? “Would the readers of this article be able to draw a picture of those words?” Jan challenges.

Parents should never underestimate the disastrous long-term effects of uncorrected dyslexia, he warns. “The longer the child has to struggle in school, the worse the effect is. The extent of uncorrected dyslexia grows greater every day, and is a sure basis for a serious learning disability.”
Jan concludes by stressing that dyslexia is not a disease, not due to brain damage, has nothing to do with left-handedness, and is not a sign of stupidity. It is just a different way of thinking and is hereditary. It will be with the person forever, but can easily and effectively be corrected.
Control over the disorientation will turn into gifts like innovation, designing, holistic planning, engineering, storytelling, moviemaking, art, music, drama, and many more.

Contact Jan on 083-413-1428, or see more at or Mastering my Dyslexia on Facebook

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