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Correct Dyslexia reading distortions with NLP

April 30th, 2013 by Tony Barlow

NLP swish  dyslexiaI discovered this method to correct Dyslexia reading distortions during the past 12 years of work with struggling students and it is published here for the first time.

I am not claiming to have ‘found a cure for dyslexia’. This article deals only with reading distortions and I’m sure there are people out there with genuine neurological deficiencies that there may be no easy solutions for.

This is my personal experience with students who have been diagnosed with Dyslexia or mild dyslexia. According to my results using NLP either these students were misdiagnosed or Dyslexia is not what we thought it was.


This article will introduce you to an NLP technique called a swish pattern. Although a swish pattern can be used in any representational system (Auditory, Kinesthetic, etc.) we are going to be talking here about a visual swish pattern and how to use a visual swish to correct Dyslexia type reading distortions.
Related article: Dyslexia Solutions with NLP.

When human beings learn a mental skill such as: doing a mental math calculation, learning the spelling of a word or reading. At first these are quite slow conscious processes. After a while these mental processes become automated. We don’t have to consciously think about the task any more ‘It just happens’. Our brain starts to do it on auto pilot or unconsciously. Neurologically we have built up strong neural pathways.

This is wonderful if it’s an effective mental process or behavior. But if our automatic behavior or response is not working for us it’s not a good thing.

The NLP Swish pattern is designed to quickly install a new automatic response, a new neurological re wiring if you like, in this case to correct Dyslexia type issues with reading.


See Dyslexia Solutions with NLP to find out what a reading distortion is, but in brief it’s when the student reports that words are moving on the page. Here is step one in order to correct Dyslexia type reading distortions.

Reading distortions that I have identified come in 2 categories.

1) As a response to confusion. The reader only has a distortion when a word is not recognized or the meaning is not understood is an example of this and only that word distorts or mixes.

2) The entire text or paragraph moves or distorts in some way.

Some students will stop on a word just because they don’t recognize the word or for some other reason, then obviously the solution is different.
If the student tells you that the words are moving, mixing, jumping, vanishing, appearing on top of each other, then this may be a distortion / hallucination.

You need to ask the student what’s happening when they get stuck on a word or start struggling as they may not volunteer the information.
Don’t suggest things like “Is the word moving?” younger children may answer “yes” just because you asked a question.

Ask questions like “Whats happening now?”, or “Is anything happening to the words?” or “Can you see the words well?”.
The solution to the above is essentially the same, I just wanted to distinguish between a standard reading difficulty and an actual distortion.


Step two in order to correct Dyslexia distortions goes like this: The reading distortion will be triggered by a specific stimulus, more often that not it’s a word that the student does not recognize. Or it could be a certain size or type of text. Find the exact moment the distortion occurs.

-Is it as soon as they look at the page?

-Only on certain words?

-Only when text gets smaller or lines closer together?

So find out when the automatic response occurs in other words what triggers it. If you can find the trigger you can change the response using the NLP Swish pattern.

This may take a bit more time with younger children so keep asking and have them read a few different texts until you find the pattern.


Here is the basics of the method I use to correct Dyslexia style reading hallucinations, you will require some experience with NLP to be able to use this technique.

Stage 1) Visualize the moment before a distortion occurs. Have the student close their eyes and visualize the moment before a distortion occurs. For example if the distortion occurs only on words they don’t recognize. Have them imagine that they are reading and are just about to come up to a word that they don’t know.
Stage 2) Visualize in another location a perfectly still image of the page of text word or paragraph: Have them visualize another image off to one side or out in the distance of a perfectly still page of text.
Stage 3) Swish the two images: Just before the word / words start to move or distort. Quickly bring in (Swish in) the still image. So that the still image replaces the first image. Do this very quickly. Then have the student clear their mind and start again.
This is like telling the brain. When you start to do this (distortion). Do THIS instead. (Make it still)
*Make sure the student clears their mind before starting each swish or you might reinforce the problem. To clear their mind just have them think of something else for a moment.


(Correct Dyslexia with NLP)

This will vary from person to person but you will need to reinforce the new neural pathway that has been created and keep testing until you get a result.

I suggest the following:

-Repeat the swish pattern 10 times * Clearing thoughts between each swish

-Test: Have them read something and ask them “How is it now, are the words still yet?”

-If not yet then do another 10 swishes (MAKE SURE THEY ARE DOING THE SWISH CORRECTLY) keep asking them “How are you doing the swish?, describe it to me?, where is the picture coming from?, are you clearing your mind between each one?” Etc.

-Repeat the swish 10 more times (this only takes 1 or 2 seconds per time) The swish should happen in about the same amount of time it takes you to say “Swish”.

I realize that it may take a little bit of NLP experience to achieve this result successfully but hopefully this article will give you enough information to help yourself or your student with this issue.

Things that are not included in this article are the language patterns that I use to constantly reinforce the students belief that this is possible.

I would build up their belief in the process before starting and one or two other elements would be there depending on my level of rapport with the student.

Some people will tell you that you cannot correct Dyslexia type reading distortions and that you just have to cope with it.

This may be true in some cases where there is genuine neurological deficiency, but in the vast majority of students who are diagnosed with mild Dyslexia or Dyslexia this method can turn their school lives around and I urge you to give it a full try.

Don’t just dismiss it because it goes against what you have heard the ‘experts’ tell you.

*Note: The problem can sometimes be an eye convergence issue, if this is the case, ALL words will mix together and not just some of them.

If you need more help please contact me and I will respond to all requests and questions.

I pride myself in responding to all emails and communications as the main purpose of this website is to inform as many people as possible what I have discovered using NLP and to help as many students as possible.


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Thank you for reading this article, I really appreciate you coming to my site, I hope you are enjoying and benefiting from the information here. This site is designed to be the ultimate free resource for students / parents of struggling students.

Recommended book on NLP related to this article: ( Correct Dyslexia Dubai / Solutions with NLP.) Robert Dilts Phd. Co Developer of NLP. Dynamic Learning.

Please leave a comment below because I’d love to hear what you think!
Thanks again, and good luck! 

8 Responses to “Correct Dyslexia reading distortions with NLP”

January 31, 2017 at 2:31 pm, Kathleen said:

Thank you for this article. I am learning NLP and coaching. I will be trying this on my son tonight.


September 06, 2017 at 3:28 am, Greg said:

> How did it go Kathleen?


September 06, 2017 at 3:30 am, Greg said:

Hi Tony.

I’m trying to help my son.

There’s a pattern in spelling for Dyslexic, Audio Processing Disorder, and deaf kids, where they’re unable to match letters to underlying sounds.

If deaf kids are taught to verbalise, they reconnect some of the phonological rules to their letters, and the class of spelling errors shifts to phonological mistakes.

So it’s interesting that my full hearing son makes mistakes like a deaf person.

As such, I’m trying to create a better underlying phonological representation that will help him process verbal and written comments better. Learning the most elementary phonemes and working up (must start at the most basic) is what I’m doing.

I’ve been trying to come up with some NLP strategies or improvements (beyond good learning states etc). Interested in any ideas 🙂


September 06, 2017 at 6:39 am, Tony Barlow said:

Hi Greg, thanks for your message.
I have no experience working with the deaf. The below is addressed to your full hearing son. Not sure of his age but from your comments I’m going to assume he is 7+ and has already been exposed the the alphabet and knows the basic sounds of letters.

NLP has exposed the Phonics theory as a flawed system that just makes things more difficult for students who try to follow the rules.
NLP has no theories and just looks at what people who are successful at a task actually do (Especially inside there thinking process) and then teach that to others.
There are still many schools, tutoring centers, teachers, educational psychologists who were exposed to / trained in only the phonics way of doing things and still believe in it. Many teachers and schools do not.

So I think if you switch your goal from teaching phonemes, phonics rules, matching letters to sounds etc. to teaching your son what excellent spellers, and readers actually do you will save a ton of time and heartache.

Put the phonics theory aside for a moment and look inside your own mind for the answer to a couple of questions. I would like you to notice what exactly you picture in your mind and what you say to yourself inside your head. Ok here we go.
-Think of the words for the first 2 numbers. How do you know how to spell the words for 1 and 2 ? How did you know its ‘one’ and ‘two’ certainly not from phonics rules or it may come out ‘wun’ and ‘tu’.
As all good spellers do, you remember what these words look like, in other words you have recorded them as ‘mental pictures’ and its connected in your mind to the sound of the whole word.
Good spellers are not matching letters to sounds. 50% or more of words in English don’t look like they sound. So this is a fruitless goal.
-Try the following. Every word that you know how to spell, I guarantee you, you remember what it LOOKS LIKE, you have a recorded mental picture of it. Think of any word you know how to spell, caught, happy, probably, dyslexia etc. You have a mental picture of them all.
-Now try to spell one and two by sounding them out and figuring out what letters go there based on phonics rules, its an impossible task because there are so many combinations, and yet we still teach this to kids. Caught and Court same sound, totally different letters. Another example.
There are 14 different letter combinations for the sound ‘or’ such as aw in fawn, ‘ore’ in shore etc 14!

50% or more of the English language doesn’t look like it sounds, so anyone trying to spell from the sound of the word will make many mistakes because you are setting yourself up to do an impossible task. Again this is not what good spellers do !

Please please move away from the phonics system and teach your son to learn spellings by picturing words in his mind. There are articles and videos on my site you can look at. Or just google the NLP spelling strategy, Robert Dilts NLPU Spelling strategy, Richard Bandler spelling strategy.

Could you be more specific on this. Does your son have difficulty processing verbal commands / written commands please give examples.

Yes this is important, but difficult to get if you are teaching something like phonics. Its like turning a bicycle upside down so its impossible to ride and then trying to put someone in a good mood / state while they are trying to learn it.

Other comments:
(So it’s interesting that my full hearing son makes mistakes like a deaf person) Everyone who follows the phonics system will make mistakes as it does not work.
(There’s a pattern in spelling for Dyslexic, Audio Processing Disorder, and deaf kids, where they’re unable to match letters to underlying sounds.) No need to match letters to underlying sounds, learn whole words as mental pictures connected to the sound of the word.

I hope I have convinced you to move away from a phonics based approach. It’s very difficult to explain this in written words. And the above is based on not knowing any details about your son, such as age and what if any learning difficulties, auditory difficulties he has.
I’d be more than happy to demonstrate to you on Skype (At no charge). If you would like to set up a Skype chat just let me know. Best times for me are 10am to 12 Dubai time.
Hope to talk to you soon,


January 25, 2018 at 9:01 pm, Karen said:

Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!
I homeschool my son and last year we discovered he is dyslexic. I have done endless research and have met so many dead ends looking for alternative methods because Orton-Gillingham and phonics seem to have a monopoly on teaching dyslexics to read. It’s infuriating.
We tried the past 4 months to do phonics based reading lessons and he is fed up! And I don’t blame him.
Thank you for explaining in the comments above why phonics does not work and how we’re doing such a disservice to our children.
I just this week finally found information that led me to NLP and learning to read and you better believe we are leaving phonics behind!
Thank you again, and if you have any other resources, books, videos. lessons for beginner readers using NLP please let me know. I will be scouring your website!


January 27, 2018 at 7:47 am, Tony Barlow said:

Hi Karen, Thank you for your message, I have 3 posts related to reading but looking through now I realize that they are mostly complaints about the current approach being used. I’ll put up more of a ‘guide for beginner readers’ based on how I teach students.


September 27, 2018 at 8:23 am, Rita Conroy said:

Have you any experience or knowledge of how to improve the attention and ability to keep on task of a dyspraxic child. My son has been recently diagnosed with dyspraxia and dyspraphia by an OT. I am happy that we have a diagnosis and the OT has given us activities and exercises to strengthen his vestibular and propioceptive systems. Is there any way that NLP can help. Please advise.


September 27, 2018 at 9:51 am, Tony Barlow said:

NLP is the study of subjective experience ie the persons thinking process. So with NLP you could look at your sons thinking process when he is trying to focus or complete any task and make improvements.
Attention: When you look inside the mind / thinking process of a person who is not able to hold there attention on task. What is actually happening is that their mind is drifting onto other thoughts. Example: You are trying to calculate in your mind 9+7, so you might ‘say to yourself’ “nine plus 7” and at the same time visualize the numbers in front of you and then do something with the image to get the answer such as see ‘1’ pop out of the 7 = 16.
If you ‘attention’ is good you will ONLY be visualizing the numbers and possibly talking yourself through the sum.
If your ‘attention’ is drifting, either the numbers will disappear or move around, or some other thoughts will pop in to your mind.
Once you know whats going on inside his mind when doing a task (Which is the beauty of NLP) you can make him aware of what exactly it means to focus or concentrate. It means controlling your internal thoughts onto only the task you are doing.
Just telling someone to concentrate or focus is far to vague. With NLP you can show them exactly what it means to focus or concentrate.
In addition to the how to part, especially for younger children, the more fun and interesting you can make the task for them, the easier it will be to focus and stay on task, because its fun !
This can be done in a number of ways, from the way a teacher or yourself presents the task to them in a more fun and interesting way. OR, you teach the student how to make it fun inside his own mind. By visualizing in colour, more dramatic sounds, feelings etc.
So I would say that you should carry on with the advise and exercises from the OT. And also look at your sons thinking process using an NLP practitioner who specialises in learning and see if you can make improvements there too.


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