Client wins global invention award

From walking on water after the course in 2014, my client Andrew Babakian is now walking on Cloud 9, after winning a global award on Feb 3, 2017,  for his tech invention, earning his company a huge and lucrative deal – and being told by his professors at UNI that they are now going to be learning from him, not the other way round.

He credits our program for putting him on his track – that may be so, but it is Andrew who brought forth the creative genius that had always been a part of him. He got the confidence to apply himself and know that he has got way more gifts than challenges.

So very proud of you, Andrew!

Defiance and how to handle it

a very good response, although in my line of work, there is another aspect to what is often called ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder) – and it may be the fact that there is so much discomfort and frustration already going on with learning difficulties, bullying at school and the anxiety that is caused as a result.

These children know deep down that they are not stupid, but cannot show it; their school grades are below their abilities and well meaning teachers and parents often try to pressure them to do things they find too hard, setting them up to reinforce their feelings as failures.

So playing up by being defiant gives them a sense of power back – and it seems even worth the price of getting into trouble.

But how to best help them? Playing the disciplinarian certainly won’t work, but neither will it do to become the ‘doormat’ for bad behaviour.

I have had a lovely client that said exactly that to me (or rather screamed): ‘You are not the boss of me!’ – and I had to fully agree with him. I was not the parent and the reason this child was so upset, was that he had felt ‘set-up’ to come and see me. There was a bribe involved (a puppy, he got before he came) that was continuously used as a pawn in the attempt to keep him somewhere he didn’t want to be. He had not been motivated to do a program, his challenges at school hadn’t reached a point where he was looking for a way out and taking responsibility to change his way of learning to study in a way that suits him.

In that case, I really should have sent the child home and wait for a time when he was ready to be in control himself. The reason we continued was the parent’s assurance that they don’t want to encourage rude behaviour by giving in to their child’s demands. Considering all the challenges and little daily bribes by his grandmother, the program was a success – at least in the short term.

I have found from another experience that a better way would have been to ask a child – no matter what age – if there is anything they would like to change or make easier. And if there is, would they like help. If so, would they accept the help from me? They need to be crucial in the decision making – and then need to be held accountable to that decision. Motivation and responsibility are crucial elements in change – and the change we are seeking is a life-altering experience. No alternative bribes are necessary.


I have found that dysgraphia often goes hand in hand with dyslexia, but not always. Dyslexia seems to always get the attention rather than the learning-to-write difficulty or disorder.

As their sense of orientation is out of alignment, there is a great difficulty to:

-write consistently in the same direction or in a straight line

-write more than the bare minimum

-string the ideas together in a logical and sequential order

-poor spelling, grammar, spacing etc.

All these symptoms and more are not a reflection of the student’s intelligence, but definitely affect their confidence.

This OT blog gives some ideas, but not sufficient to correct dyspraxia, which would first of all require the orientation to be addressed, so the child (or dysgraphic individual) perceives the information from the correct perspective:

My son will finally get his ‘formal assessment for Dyslexia’

I have received a lovely letter from a friend in Austria, who was very happy to report that her son will be formally assessed for Dyslexia by the County Psychiatrist, in the hope that the school will recognize a positive diagnosis as a reason to support him in his literacy.
“Just realized that your son’s formal assessment will be taking place very soon. I wish him and you all the best and hope it’s going to be a positive experience, leading to an empowering result.
I also hope you won’t be disappointed, because most of the time, when a client has a formal assessment – either here or in Austria, it ends with recommendations that are the opposite to what we do. Trying not to be negative, I still have to give you some of the scenarios I have witnessed: ‘oh, he is dyslexic – no wonder, he is not passing his final exam and achieving his diploma. He might as well stop trying now, as he never will’ (that was an adult who had failed his medical exam – but after the program had passed, but had been very upset by the ‘formal diagnosis’). or: ‘Ah, he is dyslexic. That means he finds it very hard to learn to read, as he misses phonemic awareness/auditory processing skills… We have to fill these gaps by drilling phonics again and again. Eventually they get it.’ – as you know that is not just unnecessary, but painful and humiliating – and is often the reason for more problems than solutions. I often see kids after these procedures – and they can read, but usually have no idea what they are reading, hate reading or are totally disillusioned and lacking confidence.
What I have recently found was that some of my former students need to come back to me to re-visit their tools and get back on track. Often symbol mastery (the trigger words) has not been done or not in a proper way, tools get forgotten – and with it the effect of the first wonderful week.  Even an hour of fine-tuning tools or re-doing them makes a huge difference. There is so much going on during their one-on-one week with a facilitator, that some things are simply lost or the child has zoomed out. I do these follow-up sessions for free and I think you should ask your facilitator for a follow-up session.
Even my own son, who actually did a 4 day-‘Gift of Dyslexia’ workshop ten years after his initial Davis Correction Program, had so many ‘aha-moments’, things he simply had not understood or remembered, when he was 9 years old. It was for me an amazing experience and reminder to encourage my clients to do the same.”

Completing the ‘Homework’ after a Program

After finishing a Davis Dyslexia Correction Program, students are given a book with remaining ‘trigger words’ (words that don’t have pictures, or cause confusion) to master, together with reading- and ball-exercises. There are just over 200 trigger words in the English language (schools often call them sight words). They are the ones that are easy to read (to, from, so, if, by), make up over 70 % of your reading material, but, if not mastered, cause confusion, lack of understanding and comprehension of the text.

Some parents believe that these aren’t so important, as their children use them in everyday conversation and they are used in the appropriate context. So they either skip them or just check if their child reads them and uses them in a sentence.

Now there are children, who have trouble following conversations, miss part of what their teachers ask, are much slower in their response and sometimes their answers aren’t related to the questions. However, they are bright and talented, creative individuals – and it is amazing how the speed of their responses increases, if all trigger words  have been finished in a proper way.

I have just read a post by a fellow facilitator who had exactly the same experience and thought I share it with you:

“The question I asked him when he came in for a review after finishing all the trigger words was, “Do you notice anything that is different now that you have clayed all your word?” He said immediately, “No, nothing.”
I just kept quiet, not responding to this in any way. After about a minute (that felt like an hour) he suddenly sat up straight, looked me in the eye and said, “That’s not true actually. Now, when the teacher asks a question I understand it immediately. If I know the answer, I raise my hand right away, and if I am called up I know what and how to answer and my answer is correct. Before, by the time I had even figured out what the question was, someone else had already answered it.”

That actually raises another interesting point, which I’d like to have your input to? Why do so many children present with ODD – Oppositional Defiant Disorder? It’s almost an automatic response to first disagree with absolutely everything and you have to always phrase everything in opposition to the outcome you are looking for.

Meet my Dyslexic Son Keanu

Meet my wonderful dyslexic son, Keanu

That’s the phone msg I got: ‘Hi mum. It’s Keanu here. Keanu Hoi, your son’. My son is dyslexic and my reason for working with dyslexics. I think the words CONFUSION – COURAGE and CREATIVITY sum him up very well.

He was always as different as his name, which he chose himself as soon as he could talk, dropping his first name “Marcus” in favour of his middle name “Keanu”. When he was young and different, we just thought he is rather confused, to put it mildly.

He’d always had a hard time remembering names; he’d mix up his shoes, putting the right shoe on his left foot and the left one on his right foot. Of course the labels of his clothes were always showing and he’d get quite upset if we’d ask him to put on his T-Shirts in a normal fashion – as normal was never a word he took to.

One morning I remember him opening the door, looking out thoughtfully and then turning back to us, with a sad expression and a sigh, telling us the reason for his dismay: “I hope God isn’t dead.” …and by the way, we didn’t have a dog, that could have created a confusion.

When asked what he wanted to be one day – his first answer was a ‘chairmaker’. ‘A what?’ I asked him. A chairmaker, because they make a lot of money. After more quizzing we found out that he had heard of Bill Gates, the CHAIRMAN of Microsoft.

When we cleared up that misunderstanding, he wanted to become a CANADIAN. A Canadian? It turned out that he wanted to be a COMEDIAN and thought that sounded just like it.

We used to speak German to our older children to raise them bilingually, but it soon became apparent, that Keanu had trouble understanding both English and German – so for his benefit, everybody spoke only English from then on.

So by the time Keanu went to school, his confusion and challenges multiplied – and it was not really a surprise that he was a part of the troubled ‘Banana Group’, when it came to his English lessons. Apparently it helps children to put them into fruit groups instead of labelling them with letters or numbers. Needless to say, the banana group came after the oranges, apples and grapes.

Luckily there was no potato group, or he would have been a part of that. So struggling Keanu, together with all the other troubled ‘banana’ kids in the class never got any good grades – until one day, when we were invited to Assembly as our Year 1 child Keanu was about to receive his first ever award. Imagine our surprise when the award was for the best improvement in ESL – English as a Second Language. Obviously the school had not been aware that he only spoke and understood English.

In a way I cannot blame the school. Recently I found one of his essays and I can just imagine what must have gone through his poor teacher’s mind, when she read ‘he raped her into a blanket’ (which obviously should have been wrapped into a blanket) and hoped she has a ‘genital night’ (which I am sure was meant to be a gentle one).

So much CONFUSION from such an early age either crushes a young person – or leads to great COURAGE. Correcting his dyslexia may have also contributed to it, but Keanu’s CONFIDENCE and COURAGE grew with each year.

When he came home from school with a big poster that read ‘Life is a daring adventure – or nothing!’ we kind of knew what we are in for.

I remember during his last year at Primary School they asked for someone to represent the school in tennis – against all public primary schools in the North Shore. To my horror, Keanu was the only volunteer and I gave him a really hard time about it. He had never had a single tennis lesson at that time and had only played a couple of times for fun when we went camping! I dropped him off at the Northbridge Tennis Club and immediately left to go shopping, trying to avoid the big embarrassment. When I came back, thinking, he’d be ready to be picked up since round one, he was in the SEMI-FINAL! One boy who came off the court, looking very professionally with his three rackets and all geared up, was crying. Watching Keanu play, I soon realized why. They were not used to getting back his ridiculous lolly-pop shots, which got them out of rhythm and they returned them in anger well beyond the lines. Keanu on the other hand was having fun, smiling kindly at them and flopping every ball back at them. He was not at all upset of losing at the Semi-finals and he had taught me a lesson too.

He was always good in Soccer and played it all during High School too. Sometimes he even volunteered to train in his younger brother’s team when they were short of players for their evening training. Their coach is a friend of ours and told me this story of Keanu just recently. After running around for 30 min, Keanu collapsed.

The coach asked him if he’s ok. He just gasped – “Ramadan”. We hadn’t been aware that he had been fasting all day in solidarity with his Muslim school friend.

To everyone’s astonishment, Keanu finished High School on a high note and not realizing that his Extension English paper would get published, he never thought we’d read his play, where two old people called Barbara and Josef were giving the hero of the play a hard time. Barbara was called an ‘oxygen thief’ and ordered off the stage! Keanu explained that he just couldn’t think of another name than his parents’?!?

I decided to believe him, knowing his memory for names and that he seems to really like us – even though not always getting us:

One day he looked at my extensive library and I was rather pleased that he took some interest in reading and hopefully one of my inspirational books. Yet, he just went ‘Find Peace Now’, ‘Embraces by the Light’, ‘Quest for Life’…and said, “Mum, if people didn’t know you, they’d think you are the most depressed person on the planet”.

I am not a rebel when it comes to authorities and follow rules. I always tried to instil that in my children too – so I explained to Keanu when he wasn’t 18 yet, that he is not allowed to even carry alcohol in his bag, let alone be caught drinking it. He of course knew all of that and he had already carried beers in his bag like all his older friends – and the police had asked him to open his bag. ‘Did you get fined?’ I asked him. ‘No, of course not. The police asked me politely if they could look into my bag and I politely told them not to. I know my rights, mum. They didn’t have a search warrant!’

Now Keanu is following his dreams, attending film school (AFTRS) in Sydney and living in Newtown with his girlfriend. Every now and then he tells me a story from his life that he finds rather ‘normal’, like the ‘slab shot’ story:

Keanu told me that he took the ‘noble slab shot to a new level’. Ignorant me asked what a ‘slab shot’ was. Well, apparently at parties you get some cheap shot of wine after a gentle slab as a welcome to a party. Keanu had reinvented this, by asking the guest first if they wanted a red- or a white wine. If they chose red, they had to tell him what they wanted to add to their lives, but if they chose white, they needed to rid themselves of a problem. After listening for as long as it took to the issue at hand, he’d hit them really hard, then gave them a hug and the wine and they felt absolutely amazing. Only problem was that after about 5 people he’d feel rather depressed, having taken all these issues on board himself.

So maybe this new level of creativity will make him a Canadian – oh, Comedian, one day. Sometimes I feel like calling him and say, “Hi Keanu, it’s your mum here. Barbara Hoi, the depressed oxygen thief.”…but instead I just tell him the truth: “I am so proud of you and love you”.

Math Problems

Now that I have finally finished writing my book on Maths and one on Times Tables, I cannot wait to have the graphic designer finish the 7- and 8-times tables. She is currently sick and of course once someone started it, the same style of drawings have to be continued.

I have never found a dyslexic learner who didn’t master Maths quite quickly and easily, once they saw the logic and reason – in a visual way. Often the very wordy explanations don’t help, (e.g. MULTIPLICATIONS: the process of combining matrices, vectors, or other quantities under specific rules to obtain their product) and sometimes two-dimensional abstract formulas or additions like the one in the humour picture just need another way of presenting.

I’ll keep you updated and will be posting parts of the book here.


An OT speaks out…so true

I have found this article very inspiring. Victoria argues that it is us, the parents, who need to change. I don’t think that children are getting worse every year, as some teachers proclaim, but that they are different – and therefore need a different approach too. With a school system that hasn’t changed much in centuries and parents who are busier and more permissive than ever, it’s not surprising that we have created a generation that won’t mold to our expectations and rules any more. 

Ever since I have thought about the need for a new school system – especially one that is suited for visual learners – I have met parents and teachers who are very encouraging and supportive of this idea.

Here’s the article:


“I am an occupational therapist with 10 years of experience working with children, parents, and teachers. I completely agree with this teacher’s message that our children getting worse and worse in many aspects. I hear the same consistent message from every teacher I meet. Clearly, throughout my ten years as an Occupational Therapist, I have seen and continue to see a decline in kids’ social, emotional, academic functioning, as well as a sharp increase in learning disabilities and other diagnoses.

Today’s children come to school emotionally unavailable for learning and there are many factors in our modern lifestyle that contribute to this. As we know, the brain is malleable. Through environment we can make the brain “stronger” or make it “weaker”. I truly believe that with all our greatest intentions, we unfortunately remold our children’s brains in the wrong direction. Here is why…

1. Technology

“Free babysitting service… the payment is waiting for you just around the corner”.  We pay with our kids’ nervous system, with their attention, and ability for delayed gratification. Compared to virtual reality, everyday life is boring. When kids come to the classroom, they are exposed to human voices and adequate visual stimulation as opposed to being bombarded with graphic explosions and special effects that they are used to seeing on the screens. After hours of virtual reality, processing information in a classroom becomes increasingly challenging for our kids because their brains are getting used to the high levels of stimulation that video games provide. The inability to process lower levels of stimulation leaves kids vulnerable to academic challenges. Technology also disconnects us emotionally from our children and our families. Parental emotional availability is the main nutrient for child’s brain. Unfortunately, we are gradually depriving our children from that nutrient.

2. Kids get everything they want the moment they want

“I am Hungry!!” “In a sec I will stop at drive thru” “I am Thirsty!” “Here is a vending machine”. “I am bored!” “Use my phone!”   The ability to delay gratification is one of the key factors for future success. We have all the greatest intention in mind to make our children happy, but unfortunately, we make them happy at the moment but miserable in a long term.  To be able to delay gratification means to be able to function under stress. Our children are gradually becoming less equipped to deal with even minor stressors which eventually become huge obstacles to their success in life.
The inability to delay gratification is often seen in classrooms, malls, restaurants, and toy stores the moment the child hears “No” because parents have taught their“child’s brain” to get what it wants right away

3. Kids rule the world

“My son doesn’t like vegetables” “She doesn’t like going to bed early” “He doesn’t like to eat breakfast” “She doesn’t like toys, but she is very good at her IPAD” “He doesn’t want to get dressed on his own” “She is too lazy to eat on her own”. This is what I hear from parents all the time. Since when do children dictate to us how to parent them? If we leave it all up to them , all they are going to do is eat macaroni and cheese, bagel with cream cheese, watch TV, play on their tablets, and never go to bed. What good are we doing them by giving them what they WANT when we know that it is not GOOD for them? Without proper nutrition and a good night’s sleep, our kids come to school irritable, anxious, and inattentive.  In addition, we send them the wrong message.  They learn they can do what they want and not do what they don’t want. The concept of “need to do’ is absent. Unfortunately, in order to achieve our goals in our lives, we have to do what’s necessary which may not always be what we want to do.  For example, if a child wants to be an A student, he needs to study hard. If he wants to be a successful soccer player, he needs to practice every day. Our children know very well what they want but have very hard time to do what is necessary to achieve that goal. This results in unattainable goals and leaves the kids disappointed.

4. Endless Fun

We created an artificial fun world for our children. There are no dull moments. The moment it becomes quiet, we run to entertain them again because otherwise we feel that we are not doing our parenting duty. We live in two separate worlds. They have their “fun “world and we have our “work” world. Why aren’t children helping us in the kitchen or with laundry? Why don’t they tidy up their toys? This is basic monotonous work that trains the brain to be workable and function under “boredom” which is the same “muscle” that is required to be eventually teachable at school.  When they come to school and it is time for printing, their answer is “I can’t. It is too hard. Too boring” Why? Because the workable “muscle” is not getting trained through endless fun. It gets trained through work.

5. Limited social interaction

We are all busy, so we give our kids digital gadgets and make them “busy” too. Kids used to play outside, where in unstructured natural environments, they learned and practiced their social skills.  Unfortunately, technology replaced the outdoor time.  Also, technology made the parents less available to socially interact with their kids. Obviously, our kids fall behind…the babysitting gadget is not equipped for social skill development. Most successful people are the ones who have great social skills. This is the priority!

The brain is just like a muscle that is trainable and re-trainable. If you want your child to be able to bike, you teach him biking skills. If you want your child to be able to wait, you need to teach him patience.  If you want your child to be able to socialize, you need to teach him social skills. The same applies to all the other skills. There is no difference!!

You can make a difference though in your child’s life by training your child’s brain so that your child will successfully function on social, emotional, and academic levels. Here is how:

1. Limit technology, and instead re-connect with your kids emotionally

  • Surprise them with flowers, share a smile, tickle them, put a love note in backpack or under their pillow, surprise them by taking them out for lunch on a school day, dance together, crawl together, have pillow fights
  • Have family dinners,  board game nights, go biking, go to outdoor walks with flashlight in the evening

2. Train delay gratification

  • Make them wait!!! It is ok to have “I am bored “ time – this is the first step to creativity
  • Gradually increase the waiting time between “I want” and “I get”
  • Avoid technology use in cars and restaurants, and instead teach them waiting while talking and playing games
  • Limit constant snacking

3. Don’t be afraid to set the limits. Kids need limits to grow happy and healthy!!

  • Make a schedule for meal times, sleep times, technology time
  • Think of what is GOOD for them- not what they WANT/DON’T WANT. They are going to thank you for that later on in life. Parenting is a hard job. You need to be creative to make them do what is good for them because most of the time that is the exact opposite of what they want
  • Kids need breakfast and nutritious food. They need to spend time outdoor and go to bed at consistent time in order to come to school available for learning the next day!
  • Convert things that they don’t like doing/trying into fun, emotionally stimulating games

4. Teach your child to do monotonous work from early years as it is the foundation for future “workability”

  • Folding laundry, tidying up toys, hanging clothes, unpacking groceries, setting the table, making lunch, unpacking their lunch box, making their bed
  • Be creative. Initially make it stimulating and fun so that their brain associates it with something positive.

5. Teach social skills

  •  Teach them turn taking, sharing, losing/winning, compromising, complimenting others ,using “please and thank you”

From my experience as an occupational therapist, children change the moment parents change their perspective on parenting.  Help your kids succeed in life by training and strengthening their brain sooner than later!!!”

Victoria Prooday