by Olive Hickmott and Andrew Bendefy

What people say

Can reducing dyslexia really be this easy?

Meet KT

KT, aged 17, had been diagnosed as dyslexic at around 12 years old. I dislike labels, so I asked her what she would she like to be able to do better.

Typical comments from her school reports listed weak comprehension skills, poor short-term memory and difficulty with spelling. She had to read sentences four or five times before she understood their meaning or had any chance of remembering what she read.

KT had previously tried the DAT and the ‘Toe by Toe’ repetitive techniques. DAT appeared to improve her balance, but neither method had been very helpful for reading, understanding and recall. (In exams, KT had been supported by a scribe and a reader for difficult words.)

KT’s dream was to become a primary school teacher, but she was painfully close to losing that dream as nobody, in her teacher’s words, ‘would want a teacher for their child who spelled so poorly’.

We discussed her artistic abilities. She could draw an object in front of her and had produced some vibrant modern art, but found drawing or painting anything from memory, such as a field of cows, quite impossible. KT had progressed reasonably well in mathematics. Mental arithmetic, however, was a complete ‘no go’ area. She was studying English at advanced level.

Her balance improved when she was taught not to look at her feet, but to look up. Similarly, when driving, one needs to look at the road ahead, rather than at the bonnet. In addition, her habit of looking at her feet meant that KT was more likely to be ‘in her feelings’ – no doubt running an internal dialogue about how poor her balance was and how difficult it was to walk.

After just two hours’ practice, KT had mastered visual spelling. She could spell words such as dinosaur, dyslexic and gorgeous both forwards and in reverse order. She learnt how to visualise stories so that she would be able to remember them, successfully complete a comprehension exercise, learn lists of shopping and so on. And should she wish to paint scenes from memory, KT would also be able to draw on her visual memory. She also realised that she could write without looking down at the paper – an invaluable skill when you have notes or homework to copy down from a blackboard.

Whenever KT successfully visualised a word she laughed out loud and the entire session was tremendous fun. She is now looking forward with far more confidence to a career as a teacher or special needs co-ordinator, and she has experienced for herself some of the many benefits of mastering the visualisation skills explained here.

With a grin from ear to ear, KT declared: ‘This is so easy, no longer the hard work it used to be for me’.

Meet John

What would it be like to see words backwards?

One guy we worked with, John, visualised on the inside of his forehead. When asked to check out how convenient this was, he replied ‘not very!’

I asked John if we could move his words onto the wall in front of where we were seated. At once he was able to do this but, in amazement, he looked at me and uttered, ‘the letters are backwards’; we had a brief discussion about moving them, but they didn’t want to shift.

I carried on talking about something else. When I asked him later what order the letters were in, they had magically turned the right way round. What an amazing organ our brain is!

Since this time, he has progressed to learning lots of words through Visual spelling and his whole level of work has improved. Now, the only time his letters go backwards is when he is confronted by a new word he has never seen before. This is a little signal to him not to guess but to learn it.

I cannot imagine how confusing it must have been to see all the letters backwards. It doesn’t seem at all surprising that he had stopped using his mind’s eye when he was a lot younger. It was all too jumbled, too confusing.


These are some of the things that have been said to us:

  • I can now see every word that is being said and I can spell them too.
  • What I love about this is that it works; it’s nothing like the way I have been taught before.
  • This is so easy, isn’t it cheating?
  • The best thing is that I now understand why I couldn’t spell before; I no longer believe I am just stupid