The Icelandic dyslexia initiative

Axel Gudmundsson's lecture about the Gift of Dyslexia in Iceland 2003

Amazing interest in the Davis methods in Iceland

Axel's initial talk in Feb. 2003 had a surprise audience of 700 instead of the 30-40 anticipated. A couple of hundred people had to be turned away because the location was overcrowded. The total number of people trying to attend amounts to 0,3% of the Icelandic population. Another way to put this into context, is to realise that when Sir David Attenborough gave an open lecture before christmas 2003 to promote his bestseller book in Iceland, he had the same attendance. Here Axel describes what subsequently happened.

Dyslexia survey results in a 20 year waiting list

At the talk we conducted a survey in order to see what the audience wanted and the results were overwhelming: The survey showed that about 90 people out of the 170 which got a copy of the survey (we didn’t expect this size audience) confirmed that they wanted a correction programme ASAP. This is 50% and if we presume that the survey reflected the whole group of 900 people that tried to attend, I was faced with a waiting list of over 400 people. Considering that I was the only trained Davis facilitator in the whole of Scandinavia, coupled with the fact that I actually lived in London and didn’t intend to work much in my native Iceland, - and my annual capacity of clients is limited to around 25 - I was faced with a 20 year waiting list.

Dyslexia treatment resources put in place

I realised that I had to put in place resources to deal with this demand, so I got the parents of another successful client in Iceland to start a company with me - Lesblind.com - to manage the Icelandic project. 
I had already set up a website which now is called www.lesblind.com, which immediately became the biggest and most popular learning difficulty website in Iceland, and this allowed me to make things happen fast: 
  • I organised an immediate translation and publishing of the book “The Gift of Dyslexia” which we published within 6 months - on Ron Davis’ birthday, August 8. 
  • To celebrate the launch of the book in Icelandic we arranged a talk by Ron Davis in Iceland with an audience of 650 people.
  • We donated the book free of charge to every single primary school in Iceland.
  • We produced what was then a globally uniqe video to supplement the book when used in DIY dyslexia correction.
  • We sent out an SOS to the global Davis Facilitator community and over the first year we shipped in foreign facilitators from all over the world - some from as far as Australia - in order to offer some relief to the immediate need. In the first year of operation we provided correction programmes to about 100 Icelandic dyslexics by foreign facilitators with a very satisfying success rate, despite the programmes being provided in the client's  second language.   
  • With the support of Davis Dyslexia Associatoin International we started training of 22 Icelandic Davis facilitators to offer dyslexia correction in Iceland. They have now all qualified and most of them are busy within the education system as well as working independently.
  • We set up a centre - Lesblind.com - where Icelandic and foreign Davis facilitators worked together under one roof. This company has now been taken over by some of the Icelandic facilitators and offers nationwide Davis correction.
  • By the end of June 2005 we had trained 150 primary school teachers, coming from 25% of Icelandic primary schools. This included a primary school with over 600 pupils, where all 52 members of staff (teaching and administration) went through Davis training.
  • We piloted a successful “Festival of Dyslexia” in co-operation with The University of Iceland. This was a talk by Ron Davis coupled with the premiere of the Icelandic video "The Gift of Dyslexia" as well as an art exhibition with participation from a selection of the leading artists in Iceland – gifted with dyslexia of course. Gifted dyslexics in a variety of disciplines celebrated their successes; Iceland´s most prolific and Academy Award nominated film director, showed a short film about the burning of one of the Icelandic sagas, musicians, graffiti artists, illustrators, textile artists - and even an olympic athlete - demonstrated their success.
  • We initiated pilot schemes where trade unions subsidise dyslexia correction programmes for their members as well as their children. 
  • We initiated a successful workshop called “Back into Education” where unemployed dyslexics are corrected and offered a self esteem workshop, as well as receiving basic computer training in order to prepare them for the resuming adult education. This is organised in co-operation with Iceland´s largest adult education centre, a consortium of Iceland´s trade unions, and sponsored by a government grant. This means that members in the participating unions can join for free, and has proven a resounding success. 
  • After this success in Iceland, Axel set up Gifted Dyslexic in order to  focus his efforts on London with the dream of creating a similar success in the UK, and eventually globally.

An informal survey of Davis programmes in Iceland

After having completed his training as a Davis Dyslexia Facilitator in 2002, Axel Gudmundsson (the founder of Gifted Dyslexic) introduced the Davis methods in his native Iceland. 
By 2004 over two hundred Icelandic people had been corrected and an informal survey showed some very satisfying results. Every single one of the clients that participated in the survey felt the programme delivered as promised, and they would not hesitate recommending the Davis programme to others. This is particularly interesting due to the fact that a large number of the programmes delivered in the first two year were provided by a foreign facilitator, working either in the client´s second language or even with an interpreter.

Here is a summary of the Icelandic survey:

Before the Davis programme:
  • 88% had a previous dyslexia diagnosis.
  • 75% had tried other treatments before.
After The Davis Programme:
  • 100% experienced a positive change from Davis.
  • 100% found Davis living up to expectations.
  • 100% were pleased with their decision to do Davis.
  • 100% would recommend Davis to a third party.
  • 80% reached all their stated goals - the remaining 20% had not yet completed the follow-up work at home.
These findings are consistent with Ron Davis’ initial survey amongst his first 110 clients in America, where the results showed 97% success rate of the programme back in 1982. Teachers in Iceland have also embraced the Davis methods with open arms. Only three years after the introduction in 2003, teachers from 25% of all primary schools have done the DLS training and started using the Davis Learning Strategies in their classrooms as an early intervention programme.
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