95-Year-Old Teacher has Revolutionary Take on Dyslexia

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This new book is filled with specific exercises plus enhancements to help students coping with dyslexia, use what they already know.

Against the Norm: 95-Year-Old Teacher has Revolutionary Take on Dyslexia

Collin Corkum’s radical ideas about the most common reading disorder of our time may ruffle the feathers of some in the teaching establishment. But at age 95, Corkum, himself diagnosed as dyslexic and the author of the book Dyslexia Breakthrough, says he’s too old to care. He only wants to get the word out about why dyslexia happens and the straightforward solution that worked for him 55 years ago and for hundreds of individuals he’s taught since then.

He is convinced that no one is born dyslexic, and he cites the fact that people don’t have any problems related to dyslexia before they are taught to read. He also points out that the International Dyslexia Association has been studying the phenomenon for more than 100 years – and the number of dyslexics over that time span has only increased.

In short, Corkum, a resident of Tustin, California, believes that conventional venues have clearly made little progress in combatting the problem, and that dyslexia is not a physical or permanent disability, but the result of faulty techniques in teaching young and new readers. He considers himself living proof that dyslexia is actually easy to correct once you understand its root cause.

A determined and disciplined boy in spite of very slow reading skills, as a youth, Corkum made it to 11th grade before dropping out of high school. However, he continued efforts to improve himself. More than a decade later, he passed a high school equivalency test and was accepted into medical school at the encouragement of a doctor friend in Canada, where Corkum grew up.

But as the school’s reading assignments grew heavier, Corkum’s eyes, which had been taught to process only four letters at a time, became so fatigued that “words were like fish swimming around,” he recalls.

“After I dropped out of 5th year medical school because my eyes simply couldn’t take the strain of reading, I was at sea. I had nowhere to go,” Corkum says. “Then, when I was about 40, I met reading specialist David Brown at McGill University in Canada. He examined me and said I had no problem with my eyes or with my brain. He said I had been taught to be dyslexic. He also said he could teach me how to correct it in two weeks – and he DID.”

Once Corkum embraced the mechanics of managing how his eye processed groups of letters, he became a speed-reader, and even taught efficient reading techniques in Israel. He decided to become a teacher, earned a master’s degree at Claremont Graduate School, and went on to earn a Ph.D. in behavioral science from La Jolla University.

After 17 years of teaching special education students in Orange County, plus seven years teaching inmates in Orange County jails so they could get their GEDs, Corkum became even more passionate about helping to enlighten people about dyslexia, although Corkum doesn’t like the term.

“The word ‘dyslexia’ is used around the world and awareness campaigns have been everywhere, yet the condition is so misunderstood that we have more ‘dyslexics’ now than ever,” he says. “Too many students are not taught how to read properly. Thirty to 50 percent don’t finish high school, so this is really an alarming issue. What I’m trying to show people with my book is that there is another way, that people can take this into their own hands, take control of dyslexia, and correct it.”

With his book Dyslexia Breakthrough, which he wrote with the help of his wife Dr. Jerri Gerard-Corkum, a Spanish teacher and language specialist, he hopes to do his part to show people that in fact, dyslexia is a temporary condition that will disappear in individuals who re-learn how to use their eyes to process the written word. The book is filled with specific exercises plus enhancements to help students use what they already know.

“There are two openings in the membrane at the back of our eye that allow information into the brain. When you’re starting to read, you use the small opening because the teacher will give you one letter, and later, two, and later, three, and this opening is really only wide enough to process four letters,” he says. “Many people get into the habit of trying to put everything into that small opening.”

When reading topics advance to much larger words, the person who has not learned to process words in the larger opening, which Corkum says is about four times bigger, will take a long word and break it down into increments of four letters.

“It results in slow reading, poor comprehension, and bad spelling. So you get kids saying that they don’t like to read and that it makes them tired,” he says. “In my work as a teacher, I was able to help students who’d started out reading only 200 words per minute, reach the speed of 800 words per minute and more important, read with better comprehension. This book can do the same thing for anyone who uses its techniques.”

Dyslexia Breakthrough is available at http://www.dyslexiabreakthroughthebook.com. You can read more about the Corkums and the book in the July 27, 2011 Orange County Register story, “Dyslexic, 95, and Author of New Book.”

http://www.ocregister.com/articles/collin-309850-dyslexia-says.html

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Collin Corkum
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