Dyslexia is not a curse, it’s a gift according to a retired Chilliwack teacher who spent a good portion of his teaching career working with gifted students.
Walter Loewen, an educational consultant, has been helping dyslexics transform their disability into an ability for 13 years.
On March 20, Loewen shared those tools in a free hour-long seminar held at the library entitled Hope and Help for the Dyslexic.
“It’s amazing what happens when you see it unlock for a child,” said Loewen, who works with both children and adults.
“To see the light go on, to see parents have hope, it’s the most exciting thing I’ve ever done.”
When Loewen took early retirement from the school district after it phased out its gifted student program, he started a consulting firm for gifted students. But not long in, requests for help from parents with dyslexics struggling in the mainstream school system started pouring in. When his own grandchildren were diagnosed with dyslexia, his eyes began to open.
He saw the struggles they had in school, the frustrations and judgements they endured every day.
“Many dyslexics are made to feel stupid, are told they’re lazy, not paying attention, but how much attention would you pay if you only understood nouns,” said Loewen.
Dyslexia is a developmental reading disorder where the brain does not properly recognize and process certain symbols. For many with the disorder, they have difficulties determining the meaning of a simple sentence; learning to recognize written words; rhyming and separating sounds that make up spoken words. They struggle with the transferring of seasons, and of telling time on a two-handed clock.
“They’re three-dimensional thinkers,” said Loewen. “They’re creative, they think outside the box, they’re bright, some of the brightest people have had dyslexia, but they’ve been made to feel stupid.”
In researching the disorder, Loewen discovered he had dyslexic tendencies, and soon realized he wasn’t the only one.
“All of us have dyslexic tendencies,” he said.
In fact, during his interview with The Progress, he pointed out a dyslexic tendency of the reporter before him, noting how she held her pen wrong.
When she replied that she had been forced in elementary school to be right handed, he clapped his hands in excitement.
“Many left-handed people have dyslexic tendencies,” he exclaimed.
That is just one of many identifying factors of someone with dyslexia, said Loewen.
In his presentation, he’ll be discussing the character of dyslexics, brain dominance, problems dyslexics face, and providing tools to overcome those issues.
He will be discussing how phonics, the standard, sounding-out-words method used to teach youngsters how to read, doesn’t work for dyslexics.
“Most dyslexics can’t read phonetically, because they can’t process from eye to mouth,” said Loewen. “It’s like teaching a right-handed person to be left-handed – it’s not how their brain works. It’s not their natural way of thinking.
“They think in pictures, not words.”
It’s a matter of what’s happening to the brain, and figuring out how to work with it, said Loewen.