The Gift of Dyslexia with Sue Blyth Hall
Sue Blyth Hall understands dyslexia from the inside out – as a dyslexic person with vivid recollections of frustrations experienced in elementary school, as a parent who searched for and found a solution to enable a once-struggling child to learn become a reader, and as a talented Davis® facilitator with fifteen years of hands-on experience working with children and adults. We are so honored that she stopped by to 'Have The Conversation'.
Inside of this episode:
↣ What is dyslexia and is there a solution?
↣ Discussion on Various Coping Strategies for Learning Types.
↣ Davis Learning Strategies for the Whole Class
↣ The relationship between a good diet and your ability.
Connect with Guest:
Additional Resources + Ways To Connect:
Watch Sue's TedX 👇
Interview with Sue Blyth Hall
Calla: I myself am just I'm beyond thrilled that you're here. I watched your TEDx. I read your book. It was life changing to me. So I just wanted to say thank you first and foremost.
Sue Blyth-Hall: You are very, very welcome. Thank you.
Calla: Leann, do you want to tell her a little bit about what you're gonna bring to the table today?
Leanne: Yeah, I won't bring much to the table, Sue. I'm very uninformed about dyslexia, I do have a few people in my family that kind of struggle. I don't know if they were officially diagnosed, but I'm curious to learn and ask very basic questions to just get a better handle on on what dyslexia is and how we can help people who have it learn.
Sue Blyth-Hall: This is a fantastic combination. Thank you.
Leanne: We've got two experts and a newbie over here.
Calla: Well, I wouldn't say I'm an expert by any means. But I've definitely been in the realm of many a diagnosis and nothing making sense in the parent role. Upon reading your book, it was very reflective on my own experience growing up where I could have really used an advocate like you, so I'm really excited to jump in.
Sue Blyth-Hall: Very excited too, thank you.
Calla: For our audience, can you explain what dyslexia is?
Sue Blyth-Hall: Yes, um, dyslexia is the result of a natural ability, meeting our education system. And what that means is, well, first of all, I should say what it isn't. Our brains are not miss wired, there is absolutely nothing wrong with our brains, everything is communicating exactly as it should. And we're capable, all of us are capable of learning. And that was the theme of my TEDx that drew you to this, that everyone is learning able, if they're enabled, to learn in the way they were born to learn. And that's the key to the whole thing. Unfortunately, our education system doesn't help us to learn in the way that we were born to learn, it asks us to learn in the way that it would like us to learn. So what happens is the the wonderful individuals that I work with, they have this incredible gift, which is a natural ability to alter perception. And what that means is that you guys might like to do this, if you close your eyes, and I asked you to imagine an elephant for example. Would you be able to do that?
Calla & Leanne: Yes.
Sue Blyth-Hall: Okay, so you can open your eyes. What was doing the looking?
Calla: That “mind's eye” you talk about.
Sue Blyth-Hall: Yeah, exactly. There's a part of us that does the looking when we imagine. I know we have our pictures in our memory, right? It's like being in the movie theater, when you're sitting in a movie theater, you're in the seats and you're watching the film, you're not in the film. Right? It's exactly the same when we have imaginary film. We're looking at it from somewhere. Does that make sense, Leanne?
Sue Blyth-Hall: We call the place that's doing the look in the mind's eye, quite frankly, I don't care what you call it. Some of my students call it their dreaming eye, their brains eye, it doesn't matter. It's the point of perception that does the looking when we imagine, right. Now, when we have this particular way of thinking, we are particularly good at moving this point of perception. If we were to imagine that elephant again, for example, it wouldn't matter whether I saw it from the side or the back, or the side or the top or the bottom. It's always an elephant. Does that make sense? But it does matter in the world of print. Because if I have a lowercase D in front of me, and I start seeing that from 180 degrees, it's not a D anymore, it's a P. Does that make sense? In very simple terms, if we use that amazing gift that we have, that really works well for us in the 3d world, if we start using it in the 2d world of print, we're in trouble. And we don't know we're in trouble. Because number one, we automatically assume everybody learns like we do. Because nobody ever talks about how we learn, right? And number two, we have this thinking process, which is 32 images a second. So it's subliminal very often, we can slow it down, we can daydream, obviously, right? But we do have this subconscious way of operating, where those images of that D in all sorts of different forms is happening very quickly, we don't consciously know it, we just make a mistake, and we say P or B, okay. And that's the sort of the basis of so many learning challenges. Whether you have dyslexia, or dysgraphia, or dyscalculia, or even ADD/ADHD, that fundamental gift that we all share, is that ability to alter perception. So there's two more parts. The second part is that when we go to school, we enter a school system, which, if you like, is built for the PC computer, and we happen to be the Apple Macs. Nothing wrong with our computer. Okay, it does everything that the other computer does. It just does it on a different system.
Leanne: Some would argue they do it better.
Sue Blyth-Hall:I'm glad you said that. But the point is that the most glaring sort of example of this is when we're taught to read, we're supposed to sound out to read, because the PCs system, they're based in sound, they're very linear and sequential. They talk to themselves in their heads. Whereas the apple Macs are not based in sound, we're based in images and feelings and we have an internal film going on in our head. Now, obviously, there's a continuum between the two. There are people who only think in sound and people who only think in images, and obviously a whole bunch of people in the middle who are a mixture. But I promise you, everybody has a preference, right? So you can tell the people who love to curl up with a book and the people who wouldn't go near a book and would rather watch a film, right? It's the people in the middle. Pretty much a good mixture, okay. But our education system teaches to the people who are cell based, therefore, they say, we have to learn to read by sounding out all this phonetic instruction. So if you see a word like cat, you're supposed to go “Cuh-Ahh-TT”, right? We don't do that. It's not in our wheelhouse and we just don't, we just don't do it. There's nothing wrong with us that we don't do it. It's just that the system is asking us to, to learn that way and we happen to have a different way of being able to read. That's the second part. So first part is this beautiful way of altering perception. Second part is this difference in in how we're taught. And the third part is that because we think in pictures, we need a picture to think with when we're reading a word. So if we read the word tree, it's obvious we get a picture, bicycle desk table. Easy, right? But if we would read a word like “the”, would you have a picture for the meaning of the word “the”? Words like if, and, of, yet, when and how, no pictures. Sadly, 217 of these little words make up half of what we read. So guaranteed whenever we read, especially the little primers, they're obviously very small words, people think the small words must be easy, but actually very often the hardest, and they get so muddled up like in and on, and there, their, they’re. That type of thing, they're very difficult, particularly, because they don't have an image for the meaning. Every word has three parts to it. The spelling, t-h-e, the meaning, which is completely blank, and how you say it: “the”. When we meet a blank in our picture thinking, we just get confused, we drift up and you can have a whole sentence made up of those little words, especially instructions. So we do we drift off into space, because there's no picture to hold us, right? It's like being in that movie theater where the film suddenly went blank and then it comes back again. And then it went blank. And then it came back again. Would you stay in a movie theater?
Calla: No, you can’t focus.
Sue Blyth-Hall: Yeah, you’d find the one that was working, which is called our imagination. That's working 24/7. It's much more interesting too. The kids drift off into that. And then they're called ADD and ADHD because they're not paying attention. But we didn't give them enough to hold them in that original movie theater. It's a combination of all those three things, this beautiful way of thinking, which works incredibly well for us in the real world. Because if you are an architect, and you go to a piece of land, and you can see the house that they're describing, and all you have to do is have them draw the plans. If you're an event planner, you can walk into a room and see exactly what's going to happen and the flow of people, if you're an athlete, some of the kids seem to see the soccer game from above. So that the kids that are always in the right place at the right time. It's too fast. They don't know they are doing it. Strategists, Curlers, Chess Players, Surgeons, so many people in the trades. I mean, if you were a Carpenter, who couldn't, didn't have this way of thinking, I don't know that you'd be that good at it.
Calla: Right, Yeah. So that perspective, yeah, especially the surgeons.
Sue Blyth-Hall: That's what I was thinking, and pilots and all of that. So. So this beautiful way of thinking meets a system that is built for the PCs when we're the apple Macs, and we're not given all the pictures that we need. And that's the mixture, that, unfortunately means that the children who enter school with this learning difference, leave with a learning disability label. That's not okay. Because they are absolutely 100% capable of learning.
Calla: I agree. You, you wrote in your book that you're grateful for the gift of dyslexia, but you also said that you are grateful for the gift of not knowing. Can you expound on that a little bit?
Sue Blyth-Hall: Yes, definitely. When I'm working with a student it's one on one, right. And I think the best example of this is math. I'm useless in math, I definitely had dyscalculia. But luckily, one of our programs is a math program, and now I get it. But the best part of it is, when I'm working with a student, I can absolutely see where they are totally confused, because that's where I was confused. It's a huge gift. And sometimes we look at something and we both get confused at the same time. That's actually really useful because kids love it when you don't know.
Sue Blyth-Hall:And then we can find out together we can use these tools and we can we can solve the issue.
Calla: I learned fourth grade math last year that way.
Sue Blyth-Hall: Exactly! I think what they don't like is when an adult asks them a question that they know, the adult knows the answer to. Right. So why are you asking me, you know? But the fun part of it is when both of us don't know, and we just figure it out. The method that we often use, when you know those little words that don't have pictures? Well, we looked them up in the dictionary, we see the definition, we make the definition with a little clay model. And then we make the word. And then we've got everything we need. We've got the meaning in front of us, we've made it. We've got the word, the spelling, and we know how to say it. And that's what we use as word mastery. So when we do have a puzzle like that, we do the same thing. We look at the mean, whatever it was making it difficult for us, we look it up in the dictionary, try and make a model. And then very often, it's not so confusing.
Calla:Is it a pretty quick turnaround for the connection to work?
Sue Blyth-Hall: with a child for one week?
Calla: I guess, from the time you kind of formed the words in the clay, that process to when it really starts to stick is that pretty instant or does it take time?
Sue Blyth-Hall:Now if if you look up a word and you make a model, and when you look at the model is absolutely as clear as day what that word means, then, that it's there? It's part of you.
Leanne: Wow, they just truly need the picture.
Sue Blyth-Hall: Absolutely. And most of all, if they've made it, they won't forget it. Because I think there's one of those charts. I think it's Glasser, who said, “you remember what 20% of what you see in 30%, of what you see and hear” that typically. But it's I think it's 80% of what you do. Our enemy is confusion. When we're confused, our mind's eye goes off into space and tries to sort it out. Right? Now, if I look at this mouse, and I think, and I'm thinking, is this my mouse? Yes, my mind's eye will give me 32 images in one second, and yet, sure enough, it's my mouse, right? But when we start doing that, in the world of print and we start doing it at school, we hear one word, we don't know what it means, we go off into space, our minds eye is trying to make sense of it. It doesn’t work so well.
Calla: It sounds so overwhelming.
Leanne: Yeah, definitely. That breaks my heart when you mentioned them now being diagnosed with ADD or ADHD because that's not even close to what's going on. They're just trying to understand what's being said.
Sue Blyth-Hall: Yeah, and I mean, the kids and adults I work with are incredibly smart. Right? They have this fast thinking process very often. They're those children who are basically old souls, they have a wisdom beyond their years, right? They know, that they should know, they get very frustrated when they don't know. And oh, gosh, I've lost my train of thought. See I've gone up into space.
Leanne: Can I ask you a question while you're out there? So for instance, if you're trying to understand the word ‘if’ or the word ’the’, what would you have them form out of clay for the meaning?
Sue Blyth-Hall: The meaning of ‘the’ is one thing, but it's one specific thing. The meaning of ‘a’ is one thing. So if you want ‘a banana’, it's just one banana. So you would make one banana from clay, you would make the word ‘a’, and then you've got the meaning of ‘a’. But when it's the it's one specific thing, because somebody is talking about it and pointing to it. So if I want the banana on the table, it's separated from all the other bananas in the whole wide world. Right? So you would have like a little clay man, and he would be pointing to the banana, and he would be talking about it. And that separates it from other bananas. And then you'd have the word ‘the’ and then you've got everything you need.
Leanne: That's fantastic.
Calla: I’m so excited to put this into play with my with my girl, I'm so excited. I can't even tell you.
Sue Blyth-Hall: That's beautiful. How old is your girl?
Calla: She's 10.
Sue Blyth-Hall:That's that's when the wheels come off very often around grade four. Because all her coping strategies are in place by them. All the the things that she's done to try and survive are really sort of holding her back from being that little Apple Mac.
Calla: Yep, yeah. Knee deep in it for the last 10 years trying to make sense of it and given every diagnosis under the book, all sorts of medicine to try to cover it up. We said enough's enough. And we are just so fortunate to be in a spot now where we have educators who are willing to go to bat for her and trying to be as accommodating as the public school system will allow. While like trying to tag team you know, at home and do the most. So. Yeah, I'm really excited about the steps that you laid out. I just, I can't even, it really means so much to me. What are some of the common misconceptions of dyslexia, when people often hear about like, Leanne, what do you think dyslexia is?
Leanne: Yeah, my basic understanding was scrambling letters and scrambling numbers. And and that's really, that's and they made it very difficult to comprehend whatever you were trying to learn that that's the extent of what I knew.
Sue Blyth-Hall: Absolutely. No. And it's not that we don't do that. Yes, we do see letters from all different ways we, we see words from the opposite ends. And we do get numbers mixed up. That's for sure. But the interesting thing is, when I went to school, I didn't know I had dyslexia. And frankly, I don't think anybody else did. Because I was able to cope with the reading and the writing. And math was my downfall. Right? It you don't have to have all of those things together. And then when I went to school, and it was a while ago, and women didn't have to be good at math. So it wasn't such a big deal, right. And I got by, and funnily enough, I trained as a secretary, I was a big disappointment to my my head ministers because oh, you, your principal, because I had the grades. I worked really hard, I could do the writing. And I could do the the spelling, and I kept rereading and rereading to try and make sense of things. And they got the grades to go to university. But there was some part of me that I know now was just me, saying, No way you are not going, it's not gonna work. Right. And so I didn't I trained as a secretary. And that was hilarious, because it was the days of manual typewriters. Right. And it was shorthand, which was even funnier. Yeah, and carbon paper, you know, for for copies. And you had to sort of wrap everything. Oh, it was it was, I never passed a typing test because they would put this speed thing on. And as soon as that happens, imagine what you can think about. Totally, I just went to pieces. I never passed a test, but they gave me the diploma because they knew I could do it. So. And I discovered as I was working as a secretary, a sense of humor is really important. Because if you giggle and laugh, when you've made a mistake, it's really difficult for people to tell you.
Calla: That is my coping mechanism.
Sue Blyth-Hall: Exactly.
Leanne: It helps you not tell yourself off as well, if you can just be light hearted with it.
Sue Blyth-Hall:Yeah, totally. I mean, I wasn't exactly in denial, but I was definitely gonna make a joke out of it. I can't remember what your question was.
Calla: Just the common misconception that you may think it's one thing and it's really, it carries over from from the letters and numbers to literally every thought that you think. I think that people don't understand that part of it. It's not just reading and writing, it's emotions. I mean, it plays into every thought that you think.
Sue Blyth-Hall: That confusion is, is the key to us being disoriented. So even if we were to walk into a room, and we could feel that maybe the people in the room weren't very happy, that sends us into confusion, right? Was it me that made them not happy? Is it me coming in, you know, that type of thing with all these questions, and you sort of tend to go off into space. And for me, one of the things that besides the math, it was a sense of direction. I can get lost anywhere.
Leanne: Yes, yes. You are speaking to me right now. Yeah. The directions it's a disaster over here.
Sue Blyth-Hall: In the old days, when you used to have map books, the first page is that map book was the overall picture. Right? And then they had the pages where you had the section you needed to go to you might not have seen that. But if I saw that big overall picture, I could sew together hang up the other pages. But if you just put me in that page, just the section page, I wouldn't have a clue where I was.
Calla: Yeah, I see that. I noticed that with my daughter a lot. Like even if they change the way like the flow of traffic in a certain room. I mean, that can just, it's over. I think she really does just panic, you know, and I was the same way as a kid and I still can get that you know, you talk about loss of direction. If I go to the store, I have to park in the same spot every time or very close to it for that same reason.
Sue Blyth-Hall: I know. And if they knock down the house on the corner, you're done for!
Calla: Yes! But what is it by? That's what I always have to say when people are giving me direction. Don’t come with that north, south, east, west. I don't have time for that.
Sue Blyth-Hall:. No, definitely no, definitely. But typically, you mentioned the word change. And that's something that typically we don't like. Because when we have pictures, they're very strong, right? And then we walk into a room, and the, you know, the furniture has changed. And it's, it doesn't match up with the picture that we have in our head. Right? And that can often throw, as you say, with your daughter, and change is something becoming something else. Right? So a typical example would be the caterpillar in the cocoon and the butterfly, right. But sometimes we don't know what that end is going to be. There's no picture for it. Like, you know, when kids move house, sometimes they don't know what their new school will be like, or their new friends or their new home, the new bedroom, that type of thing. So when that the result of that change is not a strong image, or it's not even one they would like. It gets to be a bit scary.
Calla: What are some coping skills that are healthy, that these kids or individuals or in your own journey that
Sue Blyth-Hall: Well, you know, how I told you the three parts to the challenge, this wonderful ability and the system and the no pictures? Well, when we work with the kids, first of all, we have to show them sort of what you might call a parking spot for the mind's eye. And Ron Davis is a gentleman who wrote this book called “The Gift of Dyslexia”, and he discovered quite by accident that if you park your mind's eye, about a foot above and behind your head, it gives you the same perception, as you'll realize the same focus. So the first thing we do with kids is show them how to create that parking spot. And they will see the parking spot with their mind's eye. If they're there, then they know that seeing what everybody else sees and hearing what everybody else hears. If they don't, then they know they're off into space, and so it's a tool that they can use. If you're off into space, don't say anything, it might not be right. And whatever somebody is telling, you might not be really hearing it. Why have this parking spot, then you know that you're in that place to be able to learn?
Leanne: I think that's effective for almost any kid to learn. It's almost like a meditative practice.
Sue Blyth-Hall: Well, funny you should say that. I'll go down the correction part still, but I'll come back to the prevention. So the correction part is, first of all, they have to have this firm focus, and they have to be relaxed, and they have to be able to control their energy levels, very useful for kids with ADHD. So we give them the tools, we check out the alphabet, because when they were learning their letters in the very beginning, they might have been somewhere else, they might not have correct images, right. So we make sure that all the images for all those letters, uppercase, lowercase punctuation marks, they're all accurate. They don't have any confusions. And that has to happen first of all. Then we do the reading exercise, which is based on spell reading. So if you come to a word like cat, and you don't know it, you say, C-A-T. I say cat, the child knows when they see see followed by eight followed by T. It's always going to be cat. And funnily enough, spell reading is what adults do. Because Yeah, and if you didn't know a word Leanne, and Calla was there, you'd say, “Hey, what's g-i-f-t?” You're not going to say what's “Guh-iii-fff-ttt”. Right? So why we do it to kids I have no idea.
Well, I know why we do it because But anyway, the point is, when they've got their way of focusing, and when they've got no confusions left in the letters and when they're able to do the reading their way, and then they can start making the meanings for words that don't normally have meanings. They're good to go. They're just in the same place as anybody who learns any way. That's the correction part. The prevention part, which is where Leanne was going if K-3 teachers learn this, learn what we call Davis Learning Strategies. I was hoping you'd ask about that.
It's the strategies that classroom teachers learn in two days. And then based on all those correction methods, they use them with the whole class. The whole class learns to focus. The whole class learns to control their energy levels. The whole class learns their alphabet with clay. And then they read the spell reading way. They can bring in the sound if they want to, but I would always do it later. Then they would learn how to make words. You can start off with cat you can make a little cat out of clay and ‘c-a-t’, it's a way of learning that would be good for them their entire lives, no matter which way they learned. That way, you can prevent the learning challenges from happening. They only happen because these people are not catered for. But, if you use a method that works for both, no learning challenges.
Calla: They're able to keep up.
Sue Blyth-Hall:They're totally doing what everybody else is doing. Everybody's doing it together, nobody's singled out. I know people think early intervention is such a good idea, but it really isn't because you pull a child out, you test them, you segregate them, you take them out of class for more of what they couldn't do in the beginning, you give them a tutor at home, they still can't do it. And by this time, they are convinced that they are stupid. That's not okay. It's not necessary, it can be avoided.
Leanne: Can I ask something just to make sure that I'm on the same page? So you're talking about the spectrum of learning, right, and you've got the verbal conceptualization, that's the learning and sounding things out, and then the nonverbal, which would be considered dyslexia, essentially?
Sue Blyth-Hall: yeah.
Leanne: So it is a spectrum. I guess, I've always considered myself a visual learner. Would that put me more towards the dyslexic side of that spectrum? Not to make this about me, I'm sorry.
Sue Blyth-Hall: No, it's a great question. Because everybody wants to know, where am I? Where am I?
Calla: We want to put a pin in it.
Sue Blyth-Hall: Yeah. If you divide that spectrum into three, right, mostly sound mostly image and then feeling I would say that I was on the cusp of the middle and the dyslexic. Okay, if you know what I mean. And maybe you might be too because maybe you're visual, but you don't have enough. I was, I was able to use those tools that they gave me in school. It didn't seem to mess me up too much. But that's I'm not right down that end. My son is definitely down that end and there was no way he was going to learn to read phonetically. So the way that you can assess whether you have this way of thinking or not, is, say you were to close your eyes and go back to visualizing that elephant, right? If I ask people to do that, some people can see nothing. So they're definitely down this end.
Leanne: Okay. So it goes both ways then? The verbal, conceptualizer cannot really see any images. That sounds so sad to me.
Sue Blyth-Hall: Me too. We should label them dis-visioning or something.
Calla: There we go. We don't need another label, do we?
Sue Blyth-Hall: No, but it's sort of tempting. But you will have people who can see flat photographs. Like if you say elephant, they'll see a picture of an elephant in a in a magazine. And then you'll have people who can see the 3d elephant in their imagination.
Calla: And then there is me who's just drawing it and can't stop. That’s how I operate.
Sue Blyth-Hall: That's cool. That's very cool. But the actual ability is being able to keep the elephant still and see it as if you're walking around it. That if you have that ability, then you'll be in my world, so to speak. And it might be that you're, you know, you're you can read you can write I could, okay, but then I'll almost guarantee there will be some even coordination and catching and, you know, hand to eye coordination from ball sports, that type of thing that can be something that's a result of your mind's eye being out here in space.
Leanne: Like being well coordinated or being not well coordinated? What do you mean?
Sue Blyth-Hall: A good, good question because actually, it can be both. You can have incredibly good sports people, and amazing athletes, and they're using that ability, very often to see the information before everybody else. And then you will have other people who can't catch to save their lives because their mindset is just out in space somewhere.
Calla: The proprioceptive input is just completely off.
Sue Blyth-Hall: Yeah, the information has to be accurate as it comes in. A lot of kids are very late speaking, right? Because if they're, not hearing correctly, if their minds ear, if you like, is out somewhere, they might not be hearing accurately. You can't learn to speak accurately until you're hearing accurately. It's not structural hearing, it's this perception of hearing of sound rather.
Calla: You’re giving me so much to think about. This is so exciting. My daughter's going to be so sick of me by the end of the day. I'm just gonna be trying out all sorts like,
Leanne: She’s like “Mom, we're done with homeschooling!”
Calla: So, so funny. Sue, you talk about the threshold of confusion and how some days you can feel more dyslexic than other days. Can you help me understand that a little bit?
Sue Blyth-Hall: Yeah. So if you're tired, and you haven't had anything decent to eat, and you didn't sleep very well, and your your head's aching. It's much more difficult to do whatever that coping strategy was to get you in that place for learning. So it's a good idea to talk about the coping strategies, because most children seem to try and concentrate, right? The harder you concentrate, the more stressful it is, the more your headaches or stomach aches. It's exhausting, right? Some children play the class clown and make light of it. Some avoid altogether, “I am not going to school, you cannot make me”, right? Some people are in denial. “That's what he said, No, come on, you know, what's the problem?”, So all these coping mechanisms try to get us through the day when we're in school. But when we're tired, and when we’re hungry, and when we're hurting, they're much more difficult to use. And so we would appear to be more dyslexic.
Calla: That makes so much sense.
Leanne:That that I guess maybe answers my question because I saw on your website that you talked about a good diet, free of intolerances can help decrease or help your ability to learn more easily.
Sue Blyth-Hall: Yeah, well, in particularly with the kids who had ADD and ADHD. I can't help thinking that sugar has quite a lot to do with it. I mean, it's almost impossible these days to to eat anything that doesn't have sugar in it. Processed sugar, processed foods. So sometimes kids arrive, and they've had chocolate milk and cereal for breakfast, and then, you know, then they have like a chocolate chip cookie for a snack. And I'm thinking, I'm supposed to be working with you and you're supposed to be working. It's not good. So I think the diet does have a lot to do with it. Particularly some children know, I mean, they say to me, “No, I can't have candy. I'll go off the wall.” So they sometimes they know it.
Leanne: Wow. That's very, like, intuitive for them at a young age.
Calla: Yeah. Tell them you have to you have to tell them like you don't. This is part of your health. This is part of what you need to do. We've had to do that with my daughter because she's a chocolate freak. Leanne , you know, she, she will go nuts. She'll say, “I can't control myself.”
Leanne: She'll say, “I can't stop eatin’!”
Sue Blyth-Hall: Oh, you can cut this out. But Turmeric and Bromeliad is brilliant for that. We had like a rule with my my son that he would only get to have candy or chocolate after a meal.
Calla: Yes, right.
Sue Blyth-Hall: Never by itself. Protein first. It brings the spiking down.
Calla: In your book when you said that you put a stop, because they do, they reward kids with candy all the time at school for getting a problem right or whatever. And I like I think I threw my fist up in the air in solidarity because I've gone in there too. And I'm like, “Stop giving my kids Skittles!”. Like, this is not helping anything! I totally, totally respect that. But you do you have to go in because they do “teach” kids that way. Using sugar as reward and it's such a disservice.
Sue Blyth-Hall: Absolutely.
Calla:I’ll get off my soapbox now.
Sue Blyth-Hall: No, no. It's my same soapbox. There's a wonderful book called Simplicity Parenting by a gentleman called Kim Jon Payne, and he says, we’ve created a society of reward junkies, like the kids won't do anything unless there is a reward. And our philosophy, if you like, is they've got to do it for them.
Sue Blyth-Hall: One of the wonderful things about these programs is when we're doing an interview assessment with the children. We hear their struggles, we hear that the challenges, the big thing is, do you want to do something about it? Is there something you want to be better at? And they have to say yes, for them, right? Not because they're going to get a bike at the end of it or something like that, right? It's so important because their sense of satisfaction and their achieved sense of achievement is the greatest reward they could ever have.
Calla: Confidence building.
Sue Blyth-Hall: Yes, absolutely.
Leanne: You were talking about Ron Davis, and his book, The Gift of Dyslexia. Can you talk a little more on those gifts and what they can bring to people's lives?
Sue Blyth-Hall: Well, Ron Davis himself discovered this way of thinking as he was a portrait sculptor. So obviously, one of his gifts is that he's able to, to sculpt a portrait Well, what do you call them? Just people's heads?
Calla: A bust?
Sue Blyth-Hall: Yeah, a bust, and so that would be an obvious gift. I think, in the world of sport, you will find that to be able to send your perception that ahead of you, gives you a little bit of information slightly quicker than somebody who can't. So mountain bikers do it, skiers do it, racing car drivers do it. They just get a little bit of information ahead of the game. This whole thing about playing soccer or hockey, one of my kids after he done his program, he said that he let his mind's eye go loose when he was you know, skating down the rink to get to the goal net, but when he wanted to shoot, then he popped it down in the parking spot because it needed to be accurate.
Leanne: That's so crazy. So cool, like a superpower.
Sue Blyth-Hall: Exactly. We have a superpower. I'd like like I mentioned with tradespeople, electricians just sort of have a sense of where the currents going and carpenters know if things are just going to fit. Strategists play out moves in their heads. Entrepreneurs, they see business opportunities, you know, slightly differently from everybody else. I mean, talk about thinking outside the box, right? We don't even know the box exists. So it's, it's just being able to see things from different angles. Like I say, Event Planners, Florists, Hairdressers, there's so many occupations and professions that I honestly think he would have to have this way of thinking to be any good at it. But obviously people who are good at it and don't know, consciously that they're doing it.
Leanne: They wouldn’t’ know differently.
Sue Blyth-Hall: Well, exactly. Because nobody asks us how we think and how we learn.
Leanne: And why is the school system laid out that way? Was it just a bunch of people who think the same way that came up with the curriculum, and that's what it's been for the last 50 plus years?
Sue Blyth-Hall: Sir Ken Robinson is the most was the most amazing University professor. He was from Liverpool. He's hilarious. And he's made some fantastic YouTubes. And he explains that over 500 years ago, the school system was designed to get people into the factories and the forces, and therefore it was linear and sequential. We sit in rows, we have a bell that goes off when it's time for school. It was all about discipline. And it was made by the people who are very good at the linear and sequential and they're usually the sound thinkers. Right. And we were the hunter gatherers, too busy climbing trees, don't worry about it.
Calla: Out there making things happen
Sue Blyth-Hall: In that format a long, long, long, long time ago. And, you know, I'm please understand this if there are any teachers listening, it's not the teachers, this is not the teachers, it is purely the system, right. And nowadays, they seem to have more leeway in what they teach, like the curriculum is a little bit more flexible, but the way it's taught, has hardly changed. And, you know, when they use overheads and slides and sets, it is still 2d, even art is very often 2d. And we've got rid of all the beautiful things like dance and play. When I say to the kids, you know, did they do any school plays? No, you know, a lot of the 3D elements are missing the hands on, you know, the cooking and the… If you can introduce more of that hands on learning. I mean, these kids, you know, talk about talent, they can put IKEA furniture together without the instructions, just like that.
Leanne: Oh, yeah, definitely, even with instructions, I cannot get one of those things together.
Sue Blyth-Hall: No, it's it's unfortunate. I mean, a part of what we're doing is obviously to try and introduce this into the system. But the tricky part is, when you have a system that's been around for so long, right, and the people who are good in that system as children, that they're the A students, they very often drift back into that system, right? And become teachers. And as far as they're concerned, there was nothing wrong with it. Right? It's very strange and I'm not going to say it's not right or wrong. I'm just gonna say it works, or it doesn't work. It works. It does not work for us.
Calla: Right. And for 1/3 of the population for it not to work for is such a disservice. That was part of the reason I was telling Leanne about this, I was holding up your book and like shouting, “She has pages of solutions!” and I love that you said this is what you can do. And I love that you ended it on, it's not that hard, or you know, isn't that easy, or something like that. Every educator, every school needs to read this book. I was telling Leann that you need to be on every board of every school district, I'm just sending it out there. Because this is such a unique perspective. And I think definitely my own education journey would have been totally different. I wouldn't have been so scared, I would have had a lot more opportunities to sink into what I love to do a lot earlier on. I definitely as a parent, now learning the things that I'm learning, like you said, it's not the teachers, there are some really great ones. There's some really not great ones. But it really is the system in which they're allowed to do their job that stifles them. And if it can be done in an affordable way, and and quickly, and and just done. I mean, why wouldn't we jump on this? And I guess my question is, why hasn't there been more progress towards this? I think that there definitely has, but why not on a larger scale?
Sue Blyth-Hall: But why why why not? Is the is the ultimate question. Officially, it's 10 to 15% of the population have dyslexia, right. But I will guarantee that they are the only the ones who've been tested. Right? Yes, that wasn't tested. And it wasn't a behavior problem, right? I'm not, I'm not going to be in that 10 or 15%. But I will guarantee that it's much nearer 30%. The affordable part of it is a To me, its hands, it's like 101, I can't believe we don't do it. Because when you think of the consequences of this system, it's fine if you have a wonderful loving family, and they'll do anything they can to help you. But there are so many people who don't. And a 75% of all the people in our jails have a so called Learning Challenge, right? Because they drop out of school, they get into trouble, they find ways of coping and belonging somewhere that is not always a very good idea. So I mean, look at the money that you could save, even in that. And when you have people helping in school, he is the teacher's assistant. If they didn't have these learning challenges, they could be helping the kids who really really wanted the one on one, you know, the kids, autism and cerebral palsy and all that type of thing. It would be amazing. Nobody's gonna lose a job over it. That's for sure.
Calla: Yeah, yeah, exactly.It might reinvigorate the teaching passion a little bit, I think it definitely would.
Sue Blyth-Hall: Yeah. Now, when it's taught when we tried to get into the ivory tower, and we start shaking the ivory tower it, it on holds like crazy. And we are light on science, what they call scientific proof, right? In actual fact, there's no scientific proof for what they do, believe it or not, there's plenty of empirical evidence, we have empirical evidence, we just don't have as much of it because we haven't been around for 500 years. Okay. So that's that part. But what is very cool, just now, I'm having quite a few students come to me from the Industry Trades Association. So you know, when people appear not to be very good at academic life, then they're often put in the trades, right? Which is fine, because they're probably better in the trades. But these days, they exams that they have to take are ridiculously academic. I've worked with six adults now who are trying to pass their Red Seal. And you will not believe the textbooks that they have to plow through. Which is very weird in my bit, because it's just not who they are, in the old days used to be able to learn hands on pretty much or mostly hands on and a little bit of schooling. But now it's its unbelievably academic. The people that I'm working with are beginning to understand that this is not such a good idea. So maybe we'll get in that way. Maybe it'll sort of creep into, you know, what do you call them?
Calla: Technical Colleges?
Sue Blyth-Hall: Exactly. Going back to my schooling, believe it or not, I did English, French and German in A level. I mean, it was the most ridiculous choice in the whole wide world. I love language, strangely, I really do. But I thought they were going to tell us about language in A Level, you know, in England, you do lower level. And then you'd have to specialize with three high levels. And, and so I said, Oh, this is going to be fun. I'm gonna learn, obviously, the speaking and the writing part. But they're going to tell me about language. But no, they did. They made me read books and plays and poems. And when I left school, it was like, all the wires came out. And I thought, I'm never reading another book as long as I live. And that's not okay. That's just not. I could have done so much better academically, if you like. If I had gone to University, and maybe people would listen to me a little bit more if I did have a degree. But I do have one story to tell you. Are we okay for time?
Calla: Yes, please.
Sue Blyth-Hall: It's in the book. But this was just so wonderful. The university near us, there was a wonderful lady who was part of the neuroscience group. And she decided to have this film about dyslexia, shown during a conference and all the people who came to the conference, were amazing neuroscientists, and psychologists. I mean, everybody in the room had degrees, we know beyond belief. And I didn't like the film, because it was one of those head patting films where they, they say, Oh, I'm so sorry. You can't read but we'll find something you're good at. Right. And I found that believably condescending. . So I said to her, please, can you put me on the panel?
Calla: What I love about you sue so much, you're so rebellious. I don't think people realize it. I love it.
Leanne: It's very unexpected.
Sue Blyth-Hall: No, I'm super British. But no, it's just about. It's just about justice. Honestly. I didn't like this film. I said to her, please put me on a panel. And she said, Oh, and in fairness to her, she said, Yeah, go ahead. So I'm sitting with the people who made the film and then next to me is this professor who I know is very well respected in the world of learning challenges. And then there's me and they all say these nice things about the film and then it's my turn. I said, “I just found this film very difficult to to watch because I may have dyslexia but I'm certainly not learning disabled.” So at that point, the whole room erupted in applause. I didn't expect that these people were teachers, professors, psychologists, they all they applauded so much, that the lady who was running the conference said “Say some more!” says more planning, I'm saying anymore.
Calla: I had my line I delivered it. That’s it.
Sue Blyth-Hall: That was the event that gave me the confidence to write the book. I thought to myself, I did not say anything deep or profound. Totally academic journals. I mean, I just said what they all knew. Right? Otherwise they wouldn't have applauded. So if they all know it, why aren't they doing something about it? And the guy next to me said, “Well said”, and I though you've got all the credentials, you could be doing something about it.
Leanne:It doesn't make sense. I'm not sure if it was in your TED talk or on your website, but the term neuro-diversity, and I just thought that was perfect. It's a different way of learning. It's not a disability by any means. I think the fact that we label, especially these kids, with these terms, it can follow them their whole lives and take them on a trajectory that never needed to be taken in the first place.
Sue Blyth-Hall: Excellent. 100%. It's true. Very, very true.
Leanne: I do have one question. You mentioned the Davis method earlier. If there were teachers who were curious about, you know, getting certified or is it a certification? Or how does that work?
Sue Blyth-Hall: Yeah, it's just a two day workshop. These days, we're able to do it online as well.
Calla: It’s so accessible. There are no excuses.
Sue Blyth-Hall: I know. And no, no excuses.The website that you would need would be www.davislearn.com. And they would have all the fitness this this strategy. The main website is, is just www.dyslexia.com.
Calla: And parents who are curious and have questions can go to those websites, too. And there's information for them as well, correct?
Sue Blyth-Hall: Absolutely. And mine is firstname.lastname@example.org. Email, if you want.
Calla: I want to talk really quick about this moment you had on the stage where you got the applause. What was it like when you found out you're going to give your TEDX?
Leanne: The biggest eye roll I’ve ever seen!
Sue Blyth-Hall: Oh, I tell you, if you guys ever want to do a TEDx, you should do it, but be prepared. It was one of my bucket list items. I really wanted to give a TED talk because I'm used to giving talks to Pro-D, you know, sessions in schools and school districts and that type of thing. And you're meeting a lot of people, but you give a TED talk, you're going to be able to give your message to a lot of people, right?
Sue Blyth-Hall: Yeah. And they're very well respected. And so it was very exciting. So I thought, okay, I'll go and reply. And I was so surprised. The process was unbelievable. You had to write your talk, you had to present it. In writing, first of all, then you got whittled down to 24, then you had to present it, where you could read it on zoom, and then you got whittled down to 12. And then you're in this whole machine, and the the training, the coaching was absolutely fantastic. We had a core message coach, and a beginning and an end coach and a humor coach, and you name it, we had it, and we had events that we could prepare. We could practice and present our high torque self resume as well. And we had to memorize the whole thing.
Leanne: I was wondering if you really did memorize all of it, all of it.
Sue Blyth-Hall: And oh, it was a nightmare. That belongs to that world, right? I don't know. It's, everything I know. It's everything I wrote, Can you believe that? You wouldn't remember it? But yes,
Calla: I do believe that.
Leanne: I fully believe that.
Sue Blyth-Hall:This is one just very interesting thing, which is I learned about myself, I tend to be more of a feeling person than a visual person when I'm down this end. There was one sentence I could never remember I always left it out and it was quite a big, it needed to be there. And I noticed that my hands were doing this or that or that or that that'll something. If I got my hands working. The words came. It wasn't the words that made my hands work. It was my hands that make The words work.
I never thought of that. And I wonder if that's how actors get it, because there's quite a few actors who are dyslexic. Right? And maybe their movements bring in their words. I don't know. But that was a complete aha moment for me and talk about nerves. You can prepare all lay like I've been when you've got this this talk in your head, you wake up talking, right? I could almost do it backwards. But when you stand on that red carpet, and you know that the minute you open your mouth, you can't stop. It is terrifying. absolutely terrifying.
Leanne:And you get one take?
Sue Blyth-Hall: Oh, well, yes. And no, I didn't know this. But we had a wonderful film editor. And he had quite a few cameras from quite a few angles. And so I fluffed up four times. I messed up four times, but you'd never know it because he changed the angle.
Leanne : It looks flawless.
Sue Blyth-Hall:Yeah, I know. Clever, eh?
Leanne: Well done on that editor.
Calla: Plaster that everywhere.
Sue Blyth-Hall: The sad part was we didn't have an audience. Because, COVID. And the people who were there had masks. And so that was actually the hardest part in some ways, because I can feed off your energy. As soon as you nod your head, then I'm good. We didn't have that. So that was a bit tough.
Calla: But you did it. And you did it so successfully. Congratulations. You did great.
Sue Blyth-Hall: Thank you.
Calla: So glad it led you here today. I really truly am. I will be in touch long after this. For sure. I I could talk to you on and on and on. So thank you so much for your gifts. And both as someone with an internal dialogue and internal movie, you surpassed my expectations. So thank you.
Sue Blyth-Hall: Thank you so very much for this opportunity, because I've heard so much about your podcasts and