Reading and Colored Overlays

Colored Overlays

Colored overlays

For people with Dyslexia, Irlen Syndrome, and other visual impairments causing the text to vibrate or move on the page or screen, colored overlays can help box the words, lines, and paragraphs. These tools promote more efficient reading leading to a higher degree of comprehension. I was first introduced to covered overlays by Brenda Lebendoff in the Adult Basic Education program at Truckee Meadows Community College.

Colored overlays look like tinted transparencies. Each person is unique, so one color will not work for everyone. I prefer the amber color on glossy paper and an aqua overlay on matte paper. Some people especially those with Irlen Syndrome, use the colored overlays as a sheet laid over the text being read, or in the hands-free versions of glasses or contacts may be used as a miracle cure.  I purchased mine at the Parent Teacher Aids store located at the Smithridge Shopping center in Reno, Nevada.

For people like me, these overlays are an excellent tool dramatically reducing the red, watery eyes which lead to headaches and irritability. I must take care to when choosing where I will do my reading. I prefer artificial lighting between 2800 and 3800 Kelvin Light Scale of the full-spectrum lighting chart. Because my eyes do not track at the same speed or binocular evenly, I must use a line marker for continuous flow through the paragraphs. To compensate in situations where reading is necessary and immediate, I close my left eye and only read with the right one. This works temporarily as it wears me out quickly leading to narcoleptic behaviors. If I have had to read a lot without assistive technology throughout the day it not uncommon to find me leaned up against a wall with my eyes open asleep.

Coming Next: Community College vs. Four-year College or University


Productive Studying Techniques

Photo Credit

Study Music

Once I have settled down it is time to study productively.  I like to start of with my favorite study music.  According to Finerminds Team, “Alpha brain waves are present in deep relaxation and usually when the eyes are closed, when you’re slipping into a lovely daydream or during light meditation. Sound between 7.5 and 14Hz aid in “imagination, visualization, memory, learning and concentration.”

With my music playing softly in my headphones, I begin to doodle with both hands, sometimes at the same time, and other times I may only doodle on hand at a time.  I have not noticed a difference in my grades based on using two hands simultaneously verses one at  a time..  I was taught  to doodle with the opposite hand as the  need to concentrate arises.  For me doodling with my right hand allows me concentrate on linear concepts while, doodling with my left opens my right-brain.

Next, I will organize my efforts by chronological due dates.  I prefer using color-coded binder dividers, an beginning each assignment with my name, class, assignment title, and the due date.  I find this helps me stay on task as deadlines approach.  By organizing my thoughts and materials, i am able to plan an implement my study time requirements more quickly.

When I am studying, I find I must encounter the material three times to really get a grasp of the concepts. I read the chapter before going to class for the lecture, read it again after the lecture as I am completing the assignments and read it again as I study for the exam. Many times the material is really tough to understand, so I use the book more as a reference tool as I complete the homework assignments.

I love to use flashcards as study tools!  The act of making a flash card and physical flipping through them stimulates my kinesthetic needs.  The visual aspects of my learning styles are met by looking and studying the characters, words and symbols written on the cards.  I like to read them aloud, which completes my learning system needs.  To save time when I am studying and completing  assignments, I write little notes to myself for exam preparation.  I will also write down or circle any problem I was unable to solve withing a timely manner then I return to it when I can.  I would rather earn full points an the majority of an assignment then to rush through it making avoidable mistakes.

 Coming Next: Reading and Colored Overlays

Getting Ready to Study

When it comes to studying, I have a ritual to calm my body, so I can settle down and open my mind.  I typically begin by doing a load of dishes and stating a load of laundry.  My particular washing machine has a extra rinse feature, which buzzes when it has finished. This provides me  22 and 45 minutes between loads to focus my energy on my studies.  Some days it takes a few loads of laundry, dusting the furniture, petting my cat,  and lot of pacing before I am ready to study.

My brain is more alert and wants to learn from about 9:00 pm to 2:00 am. My study quality has a lot to do with the time of day I choose to study.  For some they are more fresh in the morning, thus are more productive earlier in the day, where as there are other night owls like myself.  Sometimes, I ju8st cannot wind down enough to be a productive  student.  In this case, if I can put off my studying or homework for until the next day, I will set and easily obtainable goal then allow myself time to watch TV or go tinker in the garage.

If I am unable to allow myself time off then I draw a bath of with Eucalyptus and Spearmint Epson Salt.  The aroma makes it easier to breather deeply.  I place a large acrylic board across the facet side of the tub, and proceed with my hands-on-learning assignments.  Any digital learning will simply have to wait until and I am finished.    The smell aroma of the salt coupled with the warmth and support of the bath water helps me to relaxed enough to study.

You Tube

Image from YouTube-Meditation Music

I also love to drown out the worries and distractions around me by listening to meditation music with sound canceling headphone.  I find deep breathing also helps me prepare to study.  For people like me, who experience hyperactivity settling down to watch a movie, make arts and crafts or study is a big task.  The ability to calm myself makes a world of difference in my life everyday.  These skills allow me to blend into public activities with minimal anxiety, and lower my frustrations making me a nicer person to be around.

Coming Next: Productive Studying Techniques

Study Strategies for Memorization

Memorization feels like an insurmountable task, yet with a few a tricks I learned my attitude was the biggest hurdle. Especially in my Adult Basic Education classes, I was taught several skills to make memorization easier by deciding what I needed to remember and focus on those items. My instructors had emphasized particular items during the lecture, or the homework assignments had a few extra questions on certain concepts.

Once I knew what to focus on, and then I would use several strategies to etch the material on my brain, and provide a reliable vehicle to retrieve it when needed. By grouping items and imagining a real situation I was able to recall them more easily. For example, if I were memorizing a shopping list: 1. Bananas, blueberries, and apples-I would eating imaging eating fruit on a platter, 2. Avocados, tomatoes, and lettuce-I see myself tossing a salad, 3. Onions, celery, and garlic-I see myself sauteing them in a pan.

When I need to memorize written information, I like to read it aloud several times then look away and say as much as I can about the material. Index cards used as flash cards allows me to write the information and hold the cards in my hands fulfilling my kinesthetic learning needs. The words and symbols on the card especially when written or drawn with colored pencils spurs my visual learning skills. I can read the material aloud into a recording device then listen to it while driving, sleeping, or exercising to maximize my auditory side.Mnemonics are a fun way to remember things by making a word using the first letter of each item I need to remember. I had a terrible time remembering how to punctuate with conjunctions. I could remember the song from School House Rock “Conjunction Junction what‘s your function? Hooking up words,and phrases, and clauses, and complex sentences.” Our FANBOYS (For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, and So) making up our conjunctions.

Mnemonics are a fun way to remember things by making a word using the first letter of each item I need to remember.  I had a terrible time remembering how to punctuate with conjunctions.  I could remember the song from School House Rock “Conjunction, conjunction what’s your function hooking up words,and  phrases, and clauses, and complex sentences.” Our FANBOYS (For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, and So) making up our conjunctions.

II also like to use music to help make memorization easier. The Beta waves of certain sounds help calm my brain and open the path for knowledge to be stored and retrieved. The Finerminds Team describes Beta waves (14-40Hz) as being associated with normal waking consciousness and a heightened state of alertness, logic, and critical reasoning.” I also makeup songs using mnemonics or simply telling a story about the material then sing it in my head when I need to recall information. I still silently sing the Alphabet Song when filing documents at home or in the workplace. The only effect it has on others is the ease of finding the files Where they are expected to be located.

Coming Next: Getting Ready to Study

Listening While Taking Notes

I am well aware of the time and effort required for people with learning disabilities to take notes. When listening is added to mix it becomes so much harder to decipher what is being said, write a summarized version on a piece of paper then return my attention to the presenter without falling behind.  While is school, I can provide my documentation and be approved for a note taker or to use a recording device, and provide a letter to my instructor giving me permission to use a recoding device or request a student note taker from the class.

At school, requesting these services are simple and usually handled within the first couple of visits. In the workplace it is a whole new situation.  I was far too embarrassed to tell my supervisor, I needed help during on-the-job training exercises. I had to learn quickly how to learn on the fly and what jobs, I felt I could actually do well.  Through the year, and with the assistance of Mitch Glazier and Lee Gelmacher, I learned some quick tips to better survive in the workforce as well as a job training situation.

I begin by sitting in the front of the classroom or training situation to put as many distractions behind me; rather than, dealing with them in peripheral vision or right in front of me.  I begin my notes with the date and purpose; such as, Management 491 6/24/2015.  I try to write anything in my notes that is written on the board or presented digitally. I try to substitute keywords or phrases, and if there is a digital presentation, I list the slide number.  I do my best to recreate diagrams on paper.  If using a recording device, I will periodically write the time and date on the counter making it easier to find when I am struggling with homework or preparing for an exam. I use a star to indicate items I believe may be text or essay questions.  Many times, I will wait for a question asked by another to be answered before asking my instructor or trainer to repeat themselves.

After class or the training session, I go back over my notes and fill-in any areas needing more clarity, and add an example to make it easier to recall the information.  So I do not forget to come back to my notes, sometimes set an alarm on my phone reminding me to re-read the notes before going to bed for the night.  This helps keep everything fresh in my head, for a better chance of remembering.  The greatest thing I do to make note taking easier, is to read the chapter or training materials before the information is presented.

Coming Next: Study Strategies in Memorization

Using Index Cards as a Powerful Learning Tool

I love index cards! They are simple, versatile, come in several sizes, and make amazing book markers.

Personalizing an Index Card


I like to take an index card about the same with as the columns of print; I need to read. For newspaper and magazine articles, a 3” X 5” card placed long side vertically works great, or flip it short-side vertically for a pocketbook. I prefer a 4” X 6” place long side horizontally for bigger books. Depending on the preferred orientation of the index card, I like to draw a line along the top with a highlighter pen using a straightedge. I choose the color and shade based on the background of my reading material. After a lot of trial and error, I found my preferred set. On matte paper, I like a green highlighter, an orange highlighter is preferred on glossy paper, and I prefer a complimentary colored Sharpie® pen on colored paper backgrounds.

Personalized Index Card

Personalized Index Card

To make my personalized index cards, I grab any scrap paper and lay it down under the index card, so I do not draw on the counter. Then I choose my index card size and pen based on my reading material. Next I lay a straightedge along the top with the white space approximately the width of the pen tip. Finally, I follow the straightedge and draw a line the full length of the card. Viola, I now have personalized book maker.  I can now begin using my new index card for reading and studying.

Personalized Index Card in Use

Index Card in Use

I use the index card to hold my page when I am not reading and use it below the line I am reading. This is a necessity for people like me who struggle with reading due to binocular, tracking and the words moving on the page issues. Those pesky words! As I am reading, I write down words I do not know, valuable information, and other things I feel may be on a test or upcoming homework assignment. I make an index card per chapter then use it as a study tool later.

Coming Next: Listening While Taking Notes

Photos taken by Scottie Lockrem


Bic. (2015, June 21). Bright Liner. Retrieved from Bic:

Sharpie. (2015). Chisel Tip Permanent Marker. Retrieved June 21, 2015, from Sharpie:

Wikipedia. (2015, April 17). Index Card. Retrieved June 21, 2015, from Wikipedia:

Note Taking for Different Learning Styles

Note taking is an art form, which is choreographed by everyone individually. What works for me today may not work for another or even myself tomorrow. I used to request a letter from the Disability Resources Center asking the instructor to read a note explain the need for a note taker in this class. As much as I needed help from a volunteer, it was still embarrassing. I would take notes to best of my ability to compare with the notes provided by the note taker to better understand the lecture. Sadly there were always pitfalls when having to depend on another especially if they missed class. With modern technology, I can take notes for myself giving me the independence of doing it on my own coupled with stronger self-confidence.

The Livescribe pen offers me this freedom my recording visually with a camera, and audibly with a microphone everything it hears and sees as I write my notes on the special notebook paper. Please see the online demonstration. This new found freedom is emancipating, yet my note taking skills still needed help. While asking for help, I was directed back to learning styles to find specific the specific skills needed for me individually.

Illinois State University published a set of guidelines called “Note Taking Tips for Different Learning Styles.”  This document eases the magnitude students suffer in the learning process by pointing out auditory, visual and kinesthetic friendly activities catering to students individually.

Coming Next: Using Index Cards as a Powerful Learning Tool

Works Cited

Livescribe. (2007-2015). Smartpens and Learning Disabilites. Retrieved June 19, 2015, from Livescribe:

Note Taking For Differnt Learnig Styles. (2015). Retrieved June 19, 2015, from Illinois State University: