The Davis Theory of Dyslexia
The Davis theory came out of this early trial-and-error approach, as a way to explain why the Davis methods work. Rather than starting with a theory and using that as a basis to devise a method, Ron Davis worked backward from the solution. A better understanding of the theory eliminated the need for trial-and-error, and would allow the development of additional tools and techniques.
Davis theory can be summed up as follows:
Dyslexics are primarily picture-thinkers: they generally think through mental or sensory imagery, rather than using words, sentences, or internal dialogue (self-talk) in their minds. Because this method of thinking is subliminal – faster than the person can be aware of – most dyslexics are not aware that this is what they’re doing.
Because dyslexics think in pictures or imagery, they tend to use global logic and reasoning strategies, looking at the ‘big picture’ to understand the world around them. They tend to be very good at strategizing, creative endeavors, hands-on activities, and solving real-world objective problems, but tend to be poor with word-based sequential, linear, step-by-step reasoning. When you look at a picture of a dog, you do not move your mind from tail to haunches to legs to shoulders to head to ears to nose to figure out you have a dog. You see all parts at once and conclude ‘dog’. If most or all of your thinking is in pictures, you would become accustomed to figuring things out by looking at the whole object or situation at once.
Thinking primarily with images, dyslexics also tend to develop very strong imaginations and to use a picture or feeling based reasoning process to solve problems rather than a verbal one. If they are at first confused (or intrigued), they will mentally turn an object around to look at it from different viewpoints or angles. From this thought process, they develop many unique abilities and talents.
This ability can also be the foundation for a problem. When disoriented, the individual will perceive their own thinking as reality. Most people experience a state of disorientation when looking at an optical illusion, or when exposed to misleading sensory stimuli, such as that created by virtual reality amusement rides. But dyslexics become disoriented on a day-to-day basis; it is their natural mental response to any confusing sensory information – as well as to creative problem-solving.
Dyslexics tend to have difficulty with unreal and symbolic objects, such as letters and numerals. In their effort to comprehend symbols as they would an automobile engine or an engineering diagram, they can become disoriented. This leads to the familiar symptoms of substitutions, omissions, reversals or transpositions in reading or writing letters and words. Disorientation is not limited to visual input; many dyslexics commonly mishear or garble words or the sequence of words in sentences. Their sense of time can seem distorted and their motor coordination can appear delayed or clumsy.
The repeated mistakes that result from misperceptions due to disorientation inevitably lead to emotional reactions, frustration and loss of self-esteem. In an effort to solve this dilemma, each dyslexic will begin to develop a set of coping mechanisms and compulsive behaviors to get around these problems. Ron Davis calls them “old solutions.” Rote memorization, the alphabet song, getting Mom to do the homework, acting out, illegible handwriting to cover up poor spelling, skillful deception, avoidance of any task related to school or reading, are some examples. These can begin to develop as early as ages six or seven. An adult dyslexic will have an entire repertoire of such behaviors. Now we have the full range of symptoms, characteristics and behaviors commonly associated with dyslexia.
The most significant aspect of the Davis Theory in resolving dyslexia is the observation that when an auditory symbol – a word – lacks a mental picture and meaning for the dyslexic, disorientation and mistakes are the result. When we show a dyslexic how to turn off the disorientations at the moment they occur, and then help find and master the stimuli that triggered the disorientation, the reading, writing and spelling problems start to disappear. So do the “old solutions.”
How is the Davis method different from other approaches?
Ron Davis believes that dyslexia is a result of an inherent mental gift or talent. People who develop dyslexia think in pictures, rather than words; they are imaginative and creative; and they try to solve problems by looking at the whole picture, rather than working step-by-step. Davis Dyslexia Correction relies on using the mental talents that dyslexic people share to overcome the learning problems. To do this, students must follow a different approach to learning. When dyslexic students recognize their mental talents, they develop a renewed sense of self-esteem and confidence. When they start to employ study methods which capitalize on their talents, progress is very rapid.
Some of the ways that Davis Dyslexia Correction differs from other programs are:
1. The Davis method does not rely on instruction based on phonics.
Since dyslexic students think in pictures, they have difficulty thinking with the sounds of words, so it is hard for them to try to read by breaking words down into component sounds. Rather than trying to force students to use a method that is inherently difficult for them, Davis methods teach a visual and meaning-based approach that is much easier for dyslexic people to learn and use. This in turn leads to much more rapid progress than with traditional instruction, and most students become fluent and capable readers using the Davis strategies.
2. The Davis method does not employ repetition or drill.
Dyslexic students have a hard time remembering things that they do not fully understand. Repetition and drill are a waste of time for them, and only increases their frustration because they will not retain information unless they understand where it fits into the “big picture”.
The Davis method does not rely on physical devices such as colored overlays or large print books.
Dyslexia is a developmental learning problem, and is not a result of problems with vision or hearing. While some physical devices may seem to make reading or writing easier, the use of such devices does not help the dyslexic student to function normally.
3. The Davis method does not rely on medications or herbal treatments.
It is important for dyslexic students to take control of their own learning. Since dyslexia is not a disease or a psychiatric ailment, medications are not appropriate, and will only hinder the student’s learning abilities.