Dyslexia, Irlen Syndrome and Alexia. (This has nothing to do with Amazon gadgets)

This post focuses on writing blogs, website content, social media and emails rather than stories and books.

As independent authors, our ability to write such is of paramount importance to our promotional and marketing strategy. Yet the way you write could be alienating those who are not quite as apt as you or me at reading.


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A couple of years ago, I had a wonderful comment from a person who suffered from dyslexia about a post.

Although his comments were primarily about the content and not the presentation of the post, he mentioned he found my post far easier to read than many, if not most.

Curiosity got the better of me.

Why I wondered, could he read and understand my posts, when he struggled to read so many others?

Over the next few days, he and I conversed, by email, about his reading on a personal AAEAAQAAAAAAAAxCAAAAJDdmZDE5N2IxLWUxZmUtNGMwNi04YzE3LWYyNGUxYjA3MDE1MQlevel and Dyslexia in general.

 

Before I carry on and explain the outcome of our conversations, I think as writers we should all know and understand what dyslexia and some of the most common reading difficulties are. So, I am including the following few paragraphs & bullet points, (which I cribbed from the internet), for clarity.

 

A formal definition of dyslexia used by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development states, “It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and / or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge. “

Unsurprisingly, the International Dyslexia Association defines it in simple terms. “Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability. Dyslexia refers to a cluster of symptoms, which result in people having difficulties with specific language skills, particularly reading. Students with dyslexia usually experience difficulties with other language skills such as spelling, writing, and pronouncing words.”


In contrast, Irlen Syndrome is a perceptual processing disorder, meaning that it relates specifically to how the brain processes the visual information it receives. It is not a language-based disorder and phonics-based instruction will not help someone with Irlen Syndrome improve in the same way it will help someone with dyslexia improve their reading skills.

At its core, Irlen Syndrome is a light sensitivity, where individuals are sensitive to a specific wavelength of light and this sensitivity is what causes the physical and visual symptoms that people with Irlen Syndrome experience. People with Irlen Syndrome have difficulty reading not because their brains have difficulty connecting the letters they see with the sounds those letters make, but because they see distortions on the printed page, or because the white background or glare hurts their eyes, gives them a headache, or makes them fall asleep when trying to read.

Unlike dyslexia, difficulties experienced because of Irlen Syndrome can reach well beyond just reading. People with Irlen Syndrome have difficulty processing all visual information, not just words on a printed page, so they often have trouble with depth perception, driving, sports performance, and other areas not generally connected with dyslexia.


Alexia is a form of dyslexia, but dyslexia is developmental, meaning that it does not happen from an occurrence such as a stroke or traumatic brain injury.

Alexia is an acquired reading disability because of an acquired event such as a stroke. It is most common for alexia to be accompanied by expressive aphasia (the ability to speak in sentences), and agraphia (the ability to write).

All alexia is not the same, however. You may have difficulty with the following:

Recognizing words ● Difficulty identifying and reading synonyms ● Difficulty with reading despite your ability to sound out pronunciation of words.

Although you can read words, it is too difficult to read for very long ● Blind spots blocking the end of a line or a long word ● Focusing on the left side of the paragraph or page ● Double vision when trying to read ● Reading some words but not others. Of course, this makes reading impossible.

A stroke survivor with alexia that can read larger words, but cannot read tiny words such as “it,” “to,” “and,” etc. ● Any combination of some of these traits.

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My conversations with, (I shall call him ‘Jay’ during this post), led me to take a close look at how I was presenting my blogs, what made them so different and, could I improve them further?

It turns out the style I chose… I was going to say developed, but that sounds arrogant. So, the style I was using at the time was to write in small(ish) chunks, using relatively short sentences and paragraphs, as I have so far in this post.

Unlike the following.

This differed to most blogs and posts on the interweb which were, (and still are), long blocks of continuous sentences and sub-sentences, forming large paragraphs with very little line spacing or breaks. This may be a ‘style’ welcomed by universities and those writing technical/medical/professional and some literary journals. I have seen many papers which follow this style. I have even read a few and I must agree it makes for extremely uncomfortable reading. To read such a document, one must concentrate fully and focus on each word of each line. Whenever the eye moves from its forced liner motion, even for a moment, is when the reader finds some difficulty in returning to the exact location they were at previously, often meaning one must, annoyingly, re-read sections already read. Like you have possibly just done when reading with this last long drivelling, over worded paragraph I have written in just such a manner to illustrate my point that it makes for uncomfortable reading, even for those of us blessed with good eyesight and adequate skill. A point which I hope I have now made adequately clear with this paragraph which is representative of many blogs.

Writing in this form creates such a large block of words it becomes challenging to separate them into clear concise ‘bite-sized‘ and manageable ‘lots’ of information.

This is one of the areas of written presentation which was highlighted to me by Jay.

I already used a style of writing which broke long paragraphs into much smaller ones, whenever practicable, but I was not aware of the impact doing so made on the reader. From then on, I broke paragraphs down even further than I did ‘pre-‘Jay’

I was also made aware of unnecessarily long sentences, sentences with too many superfluous words.

This simply meant cutting out all those unnecessary words to make sentences read far more precisely and clearly.

OR

Eliminating irrelevant words.

You see, this is not fictional or creative literature as when writing a novel, or even a short story. This is describing and sharing thoughts, ideas, information and data. Another skill set entirely.

Authors often discover this when having to write a precise about their latest book, like the back-cover blurb, an agent’s query synopsis, or for a promotional activity.

We all know, or at least should, that mixing sentence lengths makes for better reading. But so does spacing and breaking them up, like I have done in most of this post.

Please do not get me wrong.

I am not solely writing or directing my words specifically to those with reading difficulties, but I am looking to be as inclusive as possible and not simply because I am attempting to be politically, or socially correct.

I do it because I want as many people as possible to read my words. That is why I write.

Looking at how one presents their posts on the screen does not take much effort. Neither does adjusting one’s style to make it clearer and easier to read… for everybody, including you and me.

To finish, look at this Git-Hub virtual reality page. It shows how we can best comprehend the way those suffering from dyslexia and associated reading difficulties may see the written word.

https://geon.github.io/programming/2016/03/03/dsxyliea

My lesson following my conversations with ‘Jay’ is, “We can all learn from others, even those we may have previously considered had nothing to give us. After all, I never thought a dyslexic could teach an established author how to write clearer, even better. How wrong I was.”

Thank you for reading another of my Ramblings. Please subscribe to this blog if you will.

I am open to all comments and try to reply to them all personally.

Keep happy, Paul


Oh, take a peek at my website, I have a ton of good stuff waiting there 

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There is always a tomorrow.

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It has been over a month since I last posted on this blog.

That is not because I have been lazy, or that I have had nothing of interest to share, it is simply that I have a full life and priorities are in constant flux.

Take this morning for an instance; I awoke with three tasks on my mind. Three simple little chores that needed attending to. The same three chores I thought of last night when I crawled under the duvet.

I have now, at seven o’clock on an evening accomplished all three of those jobs. They are done and dusted. Finished.

BUT…and this is the point…I have only just completed the last of those three tasks.

You see, life came between the plan I had in mind when I retired last night, the same basic idea which was in my head, as I stumbled from my bed and bounced off the walls on my way to the bathroom, while rubbing the sleepy-man’s dust from my eyes this morning.

Other things swam to the top of the quagmire of the ‘urgent’ lake. Like festering bubbles of noxious gasses, they rose swiftly to the surface of ‘to do now’ forcing other tasks and more pleasant jobs back under the surface of crucial undertakings.

I am not a list man, not any longer anyways. I now, in my years of semi-retirement, prefer the ‘Mañana’ approach to life. I am a firm believer that ‘Irie’ is a far better way to avoid a heart-attack than a daily dose of aspirin.

Therefore, slotting another job into a day, or in fact removing one, causes me no stress or bother. Even the prioritising of these tasks are not really my concern, I allow other people, notably my wife, to dictate the order in which they should be undertaken, if not completed.

I am happy to simply bumble along, plodding my way from errand to errand. Those that are concluded are concluded, those that remain undone, or partial are left as such until the next sunrise.

Simple.

 

This is the way I think it would be best for all of us to live our lives.

As I said at the start of this post, I have a fairly full life which means that all things in my world are constantly and consistently changing, which is the one thing which stays the same!

It is a way of life I have got used to, I have honed the skill of relaxation so that now it looks like I am working. The truth is the same of work, only of course vice-versa.

I consider that to stay de-stressed, calm and collected in this high-speed, terabyte infused, interweb fed technological day and age is a rather rare talent.

But please, consider this…

I have not seen many Rastafarians that look particularly stressed-out if the electricity bill is a day late being settled.

The Spanish Lothario, your amante muy joven, will not be rushed from the bedroom to attend a job interview.

All those things will happen; they will come again in due course. There is no reason to stress about them right now.

Yes, as with my day today, things will alter.

Some things will transcend others, they will, for a short period of time, become prominent in your mind, urgent if you wish to use that term. But they are transitional, they are themselves just another ripple in our flux of life.

Many of these urgencies, the pressures of time and such restraints, are unworthy of true measure. They are false, fake, self-imposed, self-accepted limits.

Take a step back I say. Reassess exactly why it is you are rushing around, why you are stressing out.

Consider this…what is the worst thing that could happen if you do not complete that task within the time limit you have set?

Accept that.

Think. Is it really important enough for you to become so agitated, for your blood-pressure to soar, for your heart to pump so fast?

I think not. Do not allow them, do not allow circumstance to rule your life like that.

Live your own life. Chill out a little.

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There is always a tomorrow.

If there is no tomorrow, there will be no worries either.

Simple.

Now, my own tasks for this day are done, or can wait until ‘later’.

I am going to sit and write some more of my forthcoming novel ‘Floyd’, which I have FLOYD6finalfrntjpgneglected for too long. It will be nice to get re-acquainted with this psychopathic murderer. 

 

I may get one thousand words written tonight, I may get absolutely none down on paper at all.

But then I have tomorrow.

Don’t I?

See you all on the other side, Paul.


To find out more about me, my works and what I am up to right now take a mosey around my website at

 http://paulznewpostbox.wixsite.com/paul-white

It’s not just, “In God We Trust”.

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 Here is something that has crossed my mind recently (on several occasions).

TRUST.

So much can be read into that single word, can it not?

Honestly, how many people do you actually trust?

It would be passé for me to ask who you would trust with your life.

Firstly, because that could take so many forms; from combat, to saving you choking on a chicken bone and because we trust people with our lives each and every day.

When you fly you are trusting the pilot, when you take a cab you are trusting the driver; there are doctors, surgeons, police and such like; so in the grand scheme of things trusting someone with your life is not so alien, in fact it is most common.

But let me ask you this:

Who would you lend your last few dollars to?

I mean your last dollars; the money you depend on; the money you need to live by. Who would you trust to repay that money on time?

Who would you let house sit, or house swap with you? Who would you trust not to pry into your private closets, or rummage through your underwear drawer?

To whom would you show your browsing history, or private files, without the fear of being judged?

I guess you could count those people on one hand?

Maybe I am wrong; maybe you are lucky. Or maybe you have more fingers on your hand than I do!

Okay, so trust can be considered on many levels, I agree.

But I have a feeling that you may trust someone you have not met, or have never seen, a little less than you might trust your neighbor, or a work colleague, even an acquaintance; you know, one of those people who are almost your friend!

Am I right?

Generally, I think I am.

Which brings me here, to the point of this rambling.

I often ask people, complete and total strangers to trust me every day. I ask many of them for money, in return for promises.

Why?

Because I offer some services. You see, apart from being a writer and an author, I design books covers, I have an online magazine and a book promotion site.

When it comes to designing covers I promise I shall do my best to create an eye-catching cover, one that will attract people to take a look, to ‘pick the book up and investigate’. Initially I only have my word to give.

I rely on a person’s trust.

The same is true of my magazine.

People buy features and advertising, often two or three months in advance. They are trusting me to produce the magazine, to distribute it, to hold up my end of the bargain.

On my book promotion website, the trust is, that I will provide information as promised, list books as agreed, market the site and so on.

I know I am honest. I know I will do everything within my abilities to ensure I deliver, to keep my promises. Yet many of those who place their trust in me do not know that, not initially, not the first time we make an agreement.

Luckily, I have a track record of successfully completing the tasks I undertake.

I have lots of happy clients and that, in a strange way, turns the tables. You see, once I have done business with someone, once I have done ‘a good job’, I trust them to return to me. I trust that they shall, at some point in the future ask me to help again.

Thankfully, most do.

Now that may, at this point, sound like standard business practice. But what makes all this stand-out for me is, that most of what I do is with people who are, in the physical world, (the Meat-Space), strangers.

I may belong to the same social media ‘groups’ as they. I may have ‘messaged’ or emailed them many times, over many months or even years. I may know (vaguely) what they look like, at least in the best photograph they have, even if it was taken twenty-years ago!

BUT…I have never met them, never heard their voice naturally, or felt their flesh, smelt their scent, seen how they walk, talk and laugh, not in the real world. Yet some I consider to be friends, not the i-space, ethereal electronic type of friend, but Friend with a capitol ‘F’.

And I trust them.

As, (hopefully!), they do me.

Please, do not deceive yourself by thinking that I am a product of this technological age. I am not.

I am far older than that. But I accept it, even somewhat embrace it; although with a certain amount of mistrust and caution as to its future influence and where it may eventually lead us.

But a little vigilance is no bad thing.

So, here I am, connected tentively to un-met people around the globe, via fiber-optics and satellites, yet conducting business on less than a physical handshake; often simply on a few keystrokes that spell out the word ‘Yes’, or even the lesser ‘OK’.

I suggest that is a form of true trust?

If it is, then in my world that is not a bad thing.

If something that can be isolating, even as divisive as the internet, can bring ‘people who have never met’ (we used to term this as ‘strangers’ when I was a child), together by the bond of trust my fear for the future of mankind is somewhat diminished.

All we need now is for those who in power to take note, for those who print ‘In God We Trust’ on our banknotes to realise that, in an ideal world those words would actually read ‘In Us We Trust’.

Just a thought that was running through my mind.

 

Please feel free to comment, like, share or ‘whatever blows your frock-up’

Paul

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Dumbing down

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     The term dumbing down describes a ‘deliberate diminution of the intellectual level of education, literature, cinema, news, and culture’.


The term dumbing down originated in 1933 as slang used by motion picture screenplay writers to mean:  ‘revise so as to appeal to those of little education or intelligence’.

I have also heard the phrase that information should be designed for ‘the lowest common denominator’ of intelligence.

The nature of dumbing down varies according to the subject matter and the reason for the dumbing down, but it usually involves the over-simplification of critical thought to the degree of undermining the intellectual standards of language and of learning; thus tending to trivialise cultural, artistic, and academic standards, as in the case of popular culture.

Here is simple example, television advertising no longer use the word ‘Twice’ as in ‘Twice as many’ or ‘Twice as fast’, preferring to use the term ‘two times faster’!

Researchers at the Institute for Studies have warned that it will soon be impossible to dumb down news and entertainment media any further.

Professor Henry Brubaker said: “Most television is about cooking, the paranormal or poor people having arguments. The news is just opinions and conjecture punctuated with pictures of ‘extreme weather’.

‘The only books being published are ghost-written celebrity biographies or thrillers about serial killers called things like ‘The Face Collector’. Apart from that people just read lists of ’10 facts about muscle growth’ off websites.

‘The problem is that if the mass media continue to further dumb down information human intelligence will continue on its downward trajectory. (thedailymash.co.uk)

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In the latest instance, a research team from universities in Sweden, Holland and Ireland found “a pronounced decline in IQ since the Victorian era, three times bigger than previous theoretical estimates would have us believe.”

Yes, those repressed prudes – notoriously obsessed with keeping table legs covered up in case they gave men sexy thoughts about finely-turned ankles – were actually substantially smarter than the free-wheeling techno-nerds of today. The scientists compared reaction times – regarded as a key indicator of general intelligence, productivity and creativity – from the late-19th century to the present and discovered that our brains are definitely slowing down. The Victorians were positively whizzy: the average man in 1889 had a reaction time of 183 milliseconds, while the present-day Mr Dopey can only manage a sluggish 253 milliseconds.

I’m not surprised. We don’t need studies and statistics to tell us this stuff, the evidence is staring us in the face every day.

Last year, I made a radio programme about the Belfast writer and poet Helen Waddell, who became one of the biggest literary stars of the 1920s and 1930s.

Her historical novel, Peter Abelard, was a runaway success, praised by everyone from Queen Mary to factory workers and prisoners. It was the must-read novel of 1933, reprinted an incredible nine times in the first year of its publication.

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    But Waddell’s breakthrough novel would never, ever make the bestseller lists today. Why? Because the writing, while beautiful and resonant, is simply far too challenging. Reading it takes a certain effort of concentration, not to mention a passing knowledge of medieval theology. With Fifty Shades of Grey, today’s popular publishing miracle, all you need is some basic literacy and a sick, prurient interest in getting lashed with a whip for pleasure.

In culture, in politics, in everyday life, superficial froth and twaddle regularly triumphs over substantial, thought-through ideas. Attention spans attenuated by the 140 character demands of Twitter, we often behave more like bored toddlers than sentient adults, expecting to be continually indulged and entertained.  (Fionola Meridith)

Sadly, our country has been hijacked by a compulsion to homogenise society, to control individualism and turn us all into one classless soup.

In Bog-Standard Britain, defenders of crisply enunciated English are told they are ‘toffs’. This class neurosis lowers standards. It spreads mediocrity. It permits pre-Victorian levels of coarseness to pollute our streets.

Intervene? No, that would be an act of class prejudice. Opprobrium has been driven from our public life. Shame and propriety and judgments of right and wrong are replaced by whispered orthodoxies about what is ‘appropriate’, codes which can be understood only by sociology graduates.

Manners have disappeared, to be replaced by strict ‘ guidelines’ about sexism and racism. Classy people once knew instinctively how to behave. Now manners have to be taught in rehabilitation classes. They have lost their humanity and become ‘codes of conduct’.

Commissions, working parties, think tanks, steering committees, conferences, charities, consultancies: egalitarianism has become an industry for the self-righteous.

From university admissions to unisex hospital wards, tokenistic equality runs like bindweed, strangling common sense. Officialdom towers over us, wagging its disapproving finger, instructing us to observe equality codes or face the withdrawal of public funds.

Despite all this, equality has not achieved its aims. Social mobility is dropping. The wealth divide broadens.  ‘Equality practitioners’, as they call themselves, have simply become brahmins amid the beggars, sixth-form monitors of thought who draw their salaries from the pockets of the very poor they profess to help.

Clearly, as with most topics that affect mass populations, there are those who believe in conspiracy. The following paragraph is an extract taken from the vigilantcitizen.com

Is a dumber population something that is desired by the elite? Hitler once said “How fortunate for the leaders that men do not think.” An educated population knows its rights, understands the issues and takes action when it does not approve of what is going on. Judging by the incredible amount of data available on the subject, it seems that the elite want the exact opposite: an unhealthy, frightened, confused and sedated population. We will look at the effects of medication, pesticides, fluoride and aspartame on the human body and how those products are being pushed by people from inside the power structure.

To end this post I have included the following, which is supposed to be a rant against Dumbing Down, but actually is an extremely good example of dumb media in action.

This, as you will see, also supports the Goebbels view on propagandaDr__Joseph_Goebbels_by_tree27

‘From the minute you get up its trashy soap and Celebrity and Hollywood gossip and programming aimed at bored housewives. Dumbed down breakfast TVs followed by This Morning which is obsessed with soap and reality TV chit-chat and z list guests, sex change couples and fashion tips like what’s the latest handbag or which nail file should I buy and general couch potato crap aimed at people who read National Enquirer and Heat magazine. Nothing of any actual intellect at all.

Then its Jeremy Kyle interspersed with ads for online bingo and debt management and quick cash adverts. Afternoons are dominated by more gobshatting by Loose Women or other such drivel. Dumbed down quiz shows for thickies, dumbed down news for the less intelligent, and soaps’.

Thank you for reading, your comments and feedback welcome as always.

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