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For All Abilities

Feb 24, 2020

For All Abilities – The Podcast Episode Nine - Davis Graham - Dyslexia - Thriving After Failure 


In this episode, I interview Davis Graham, Customer Implementation Coordinator at Qure4u. On the podcast, Davis talks about his life with dyslexia. He describes his struggle through school with vulnerability and honesty. He also discusses how he uses technology to minimize the negative effects of dyslexia on his life. 

To connect with Davis, please follow him  on LinkedIn (Davis Graham) or email him at


Go to our website for information on our software that enables employers to support their employees with ADHD, Dyslexia, Learning Differences and Autism.

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Full Transcription from


Betsy Furler  0:05  

Welcome to for all abilities the podcast. This is your host, Betsy Furler. The aim of this podcast is to highlight the amazing things people with ADHD, dyslexia, learning differences and autism are doing to improve our world. Have a listen to for all abilities, the podcast and please subscribe on whatever podcast app you're listening to us on.


Davis Graham  0:33  



Betsy Furler  0:33  

welcome to for all abilities, the podcast. This is your host, Betsy Furler. I'm so excited for you to be here and hear another guest who has gone through your trials and tribulations with severe dyslexia and has landed on a really successful career. My guest today is Davis Graham. So let's take a listen to my interview with him.


Davis Graham  0:58  

My name is Davis last name is Graham like graham cracker, and I was recently interviewed by Jay bez libretti, who is a writer and contributor for Forbes magazine. So if you want to see the latest article, just type in Google and in Google Davis, Graham comma, Forbes and the article pop up. I work at a medical software company. its eventual venture capital startup is called cure for you with a que and I recently received my masters at Brandeis University in health and medical informatics. I did that. I completed it in 2016. It was an intensive course took it over three years. Prior to that I was in radiology. I started off as a as an administrator and then move Up to the Chief Financial Officer. I was quite the bean counter. We had a 95 employees at the top of the of the size of the company. And we're seeing at the end, we were seeing about 290 patients a day with several different sites. Single physician practice that, yep. Prior to that I was in. Yeah, that was 22 years.


Betsy Furler  2:29  

Yeah. And talk about different brains, my brain would not be able to do that.


Davis Graham  2:35  

So prior to that, I was in Washington DC, where I worked for. For seven years I worked for Rhea child's she's passed away as has her husband. He was the senator of Florida and then also the governor of florida and in the he died, actually while he was in office, and then prior to that was school, and so just kind of get back to the beginning. My father was a pediatrician. My mother was a nurse. We had they had two children, my brother and I, and then my sister, rosemary. And then I have two other sisters, Bonnie and Megan. So my brother was born first and then I was born second, then my sister was born. I was born at Fort Benning, and then moved to Bradenton, Florida, which is where I am now. And we moved over to Saudi Arabia. My dad worked for him cool company, and the frustration of my learning surface over there when I was probably six or seven. And it was pretty dramatic. I knew I felt his frustration and and so when we got back To the stapes. They took me to a psychologist at University of Miami. And that's when I was originally diagnosed with dyslexia now, this is 1967. So it it just came out they put me into a school that was, I call it the One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest school because the new would line up for pills. The pill line was longer than the lunch line, and they blast them out and there's little, there's little cups like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's like and it was just, it was a crazy time at it. So I, I eventually, my parents didn't like the way that was happening. And they also became a little bit more less reactive with my learning techniques, and so was mainstreamed into private school system. And had remedial you know, reading classes and things along those lines, but I never really did well in school. And so whenever you're dyslexic, and you don't have an outlet, in education, you create other outlets and so, you know, the class clown or social shaping. So I was quite the ham, the class clown or the hambone. And But anyways, I worked through there in Miami, and then we moved back to Bradenton and I went to several different schools got kicked out of one for stealing and, and transferred to another one and the headmaster, this the seventh grade, said, Does he have dyslexia and was the first time my parents ran into the fact that some other educator actually knew about dyslexia, and I think went to high school. Got my pilot's license in high school, which was really interesting. And I then went to apply first of all took the LSAT score test scored 650 on the essay t as a total. Some teacher told me it's not true but that she gets 300 points just for signing. But it was pretty low score and then I took on the LSAT untimed and got an 800 and then and that was it. I applied to several universities and


Betsy Furler  6:38  

I want to interrupt you real quick, just to ask about that. Did you were you given the option of taking the sat? Was someone reading it to you or did you read all the questions?


Davis Graham  6:49  

Yes, I did. And that a little bit of the side that that a lot of people don't talk about but the counselor, the guidance counselor who have been Came good friends with later on. He said, I don't know why you're doing this. You're never gonna make it through school.


Betsy Furler  7:08  

Wow, that's terrible. Yeah. Okay. So you went so


Davis Graham  7:15  



Betsy Furler  7:17  

You ended up going on to school even perseverance?


Davis Graham  7:23  

Well, I you know, I'll talk about that. But I got I got my pilot's license I got accepted into three schools, one was Embry riddle, which had a medical engineering with and then I got into University of Montana. And that was in I think, kuleana are up there in and then also got into Westminster. And so, I, I, I, I went with Westminster because it was a liberal arts I didn't want to put myself into the aeronautical engineering, or you know, some side of that that kind of pigeon holed me. So I went with Westminster College and Fulton, Missouri, I met Hank oranger, who's now retired, excellent LD director. And we started out I was introduced to books on tape through Rfb D, which is what it was called back then now it's called reading ally, and or learn Learning Ally. And then and I, for the first time, you know, I started feeling a little bit of the freedom of technology. I had my books


Betsy Furler  8:44  

that you went that long without having any audio books now.


Davis Graham  8:51  

Yeah. I mean, so I'm probably on the edge of discovery on that side. But today You know, is completely different, and I'll get to that. But I do want to state at the beginning that any I had anybody that has a child with dyslexia. Number one, they're living in a technical dream world come true. And, and that our education system is based off for reading and writing, not off of how well a person consumes tech information and is able to express the information they've consumed. So, so anyway, so I was at Westminster. I had a 2.5 I, I cheated a lot in high school, but college, that was my own deal. And one time I cheated. The professor caught me. I told her, you know, I'll never do that again. And I never did.


Betsy Furler  9:53  

And when you think about we're so hard on kids for cheating, but I'm sure you felt like it was your own.


Davis Graham  10:01  

Yeah, it's it's one of the only options and there's a and there's a problem even, even once you stop cheating, there's a pseudo competence, which is a false idea of being competent. And you know it. And I and that's, you know, from watching TV or giving an article to somebody and saying, you got to read this article. It's a great article, and all you read was The headline, you know, in duping and so that that's kind of the foundation that really chips away at the dyslexic and so what I have a son that's dyslexic, and I started having him hook up with Bookshare. And the Voice Dream Reader is what we use. And he he has read every Nancy Drew. He's now into john, the attorney that Gus Oh yeah, I think of it in a minute but It's, I mean, it reads you know, so there's nobody in that has dyslexia and I'm severely dyslexic, I was again diagnosed. Before I went into Brandeis University up in Waltham, to be able to get my accommodations and I am in the I'm supposed to say I'm in the top, I'm in the top 1% reading with, which is not good reading with my eyes. But I'm in the 98 percentile when reading with text to speech with comprehension and the ability to, you know, produce knowledge from it from what I listened


Betsy Furler  11:40  

to. What a difference that makes.


Davis Graham  11:44  

It's huge in in so there's an I read approximately 25 books a year. But anyway, so that's a little bit down rabbit. So I went to Westminster from Westminster. I felt like they were holding me back A 2.5 I transferred to the University of the South at Swanee, Tennessee.


Betsy Furler  12:06  

I kind of grew up there.


My dad got his doctorate. audiences. My dad was an Episcopal minister and yes, worked on his doctorate in summer in the summer. And so for many, many years, every summer, our family, went back to class and then moved back to Houston. And then yeah, I attended there to me, which is the reason I didn't go there because I didn't want to get someplace with my sister.


Davis Graham  12:38  

So that's where my mistakes from is Roy Benton Davis was one of the was was a chemistry professor there that my dad became a mentor for my dad. And so that's where I got my first name. He died in 56.


Betsy Furler  12:56  

That's incredible. What a world. So what am I What a small world suwannee I want to go on with your story now.


Davis Graham  13:03  

So at Swanee, I want to tell you something about any any, any person that has dyslexia has this unbelievable thirst to learn. I mean, we we just taken things, you know, orthogonal thinkers, which means and, you know, we connect multiple sources to one another and, and I want to tell you, I remember we're walking through the DuPont library. And I'm thinking one day, I'd love to read every single book in this in this library, but but you can't. And so, at Swanee, I didn't have the found the the support, tech and technical support like I did at Westminster, where Hank, you know, really arranged for note takers he arranged for test givers. He arranged my books to be read if they weren't on our fbd. And so it was a little bit of a struggle. And I actually, but I, I took tutoring, you know, for this and the, the Spanish teacher was so nice. But the tutor was like, What high school did you go to? How did you ever make it to college? I mean, those are things that that you hear, yeah, that that you keep in the, in the you put that that is the biggest voice and so if you know, the voice of truth by Mark hall with casting crowns, you know, it's, it's you feel this failure, they're constantly will the Voice of Truth is one voice but the voice you hear most of the time is is the false voice and that's one constantly tapping on your shoulder that you're a failure. And, and I remember I i Dr. Clarkson there who was the English teacher, awesome guy. He said Davis He brought me into his office. He said Davis you know this point but this paper is an F he says once you know is not on this paper and then I had a professor there that that taught me that you know you can record your I want you to record your paper for me he was an awesome I think was Dr. Richardson he was religion and he said everybody write down the books and then I don't want to see another pencil raised in this classroom for the rest of the semester and I was like oh my gosh I'm because he can't keep up with notes you don't know words you don't know how to spell words you get lost. I mean it's it's the worst experience you feel like you're you're in an industry that is so technical and you're not given any tools and you're just you are completely lost.


Betsy Furler  15:49  

And I bet then you're all your energy is then going to trying to write it trying to read it. What I did ness and not on your strength


Davis Graham  15:58  

I recorded Every I recorded classes and I would go back and verbatim transcribe what I listened to. Wow. And I'm telling you I put in a lot of time studying it Swanee and it created a a, a study at edik. That wasn't is not efficient, but right but, but I was doing everything I could but but I, I could feel the grade slipping. And this is the first time I ever had to deal with suicide.


It's hard to talk about


Betsy Furler  16:44  

I can imagine I know that. I bet. Thank you for mentioning it because I think my listeners need to know the ramifications of all of this.


Davis Graham  16:57  

I wanted to I wanted to catch up on Studies and so, so I took two weeks off. And the first one the spring break came. So it took two weeks. I took the first week and i i geared it towards studying


and I just knew I was never going to make it up. And I started thinking about hanging myself in the house that my friend loaned me for the spring break. And, and I you know, the other side of it is is a the psychologist who tested me for Brandeis University. She goes, how come you never white? What stops you? And I said, you know, that's a great question. Nobody's ever asked me that question. I said that what stopped me was the love my parents had for me, and acceptance that they had. And I realized that you know what, I wasn't going to go to home to shame. The only same I would have would be at the school. But but


Betsy Furler  18:04  

but parents loved you and right when accepting no matter what, right?


Davis Graham  18:10  

And they said, Davis, you just do your hardest and as long as you've done your hardest, you will never be disappointed. And so I knew it would create more questions then then create solutions. And so, so I, I, I just pushed through and I remember I got in a car with a Rhodes Scholar to get a ride to Westminster, which is where I was headed for spring break, you know for the second week and to for dyslexic to ride in a in a car with a Rhodes Scholar from Swanee to to Jefferson City, Missouri. I went he he didn't want it. He had like some Oldsmobile that he loved. And he kept kind of falling asleep at the wheel


and I was like, Don't You want me to drive?


And it you know, so I got to Jeff. So I went from trying, thinking about taking my life to try to save my life in this Oldsmobile. And I got up to Jeff city in God's providence. His sister lived in Jeff City, Missouri, and his, his sister's husband was a psychologist. And I remember with suicide, what you do is you put a little stone in your pocket natcher out. And so if you ever start feeling the failure, you know, you can drink you can drug you can do all that to numb the pain, but the ultimate is to just take your life. And, and so, and you feel it. It's like waves of emotions. And so, I I remember, Johnny Carson was on and and I got down and here comes the guy the house. We just finished dinner. And he goes, Hey, how did he end up at Westminster? And I said, Well, he goes, Do you know anybody that goes there? And I said, No. And he says, Well, I had and I said, I'm dyslexic. And I had to, I had to find a school that had a learning disability program. And he said, I'm dyslexic. He says, Son, you got a long, hard road to hoe. But you'll make it. Wow. Yeah. I mean,


Betsy Furler  20:28  

God sends the right people exactly at the right time.


Davis Graham  20:32  

Right. And so so I, so I got back to Swanee. I transferred to USF I couldn't, which is University, South Florida. My folks were moving out of the country. I wanted to be closer to my brother Plus, I could feel the shark of failure, you know, circling around me at school. And so I tried to transfer into USF University, South Florida here in Tampa and they said they wrote me a letter and they said, you can't you You that they sent to my parents. And so my parents came home, my mom says we need to talk. And so she sat me down. I remember exactly where we were. She handed me two letters, one from the University of the South. That said, You're academically suspended and he can't come. And she handed me the other letter that said, you can't get in. Because you are. You are your grade point was too low. And so I was like, so I said, Well, I will. I'll, they gave me the opportunity to petition my way and of which I did. And when I and they accepted me, and then a year and a half later, I, I was academically suspended from USF. And they put me in the special services for the handicapped program, which is, you know, like any disability, you are standardized You know and and so it's it melts down the the attention that I think you need and I want to make you make you aware of one point that my mom didn't Hand me those two letters. Actually that came on my when I failed out of academically was suspended from USF. She handed me that letter as well as the Swanee letter. The the letter that I received, I did not know about the failure. So she so what so let me just step back. So when I transferred to USF, they said you need to petition to get in we're not accepting you on the credentials that you that you produced. Would you be willing to if you want to appeal the denial of acceptance, then please do so. And I did. I did. I went and I presented it and auditorily In front of a panel of professors, they let me in, and a year and a half later I failed out and that's when my mom handed me the two the two letters of academic suspension so so I so so now you're in my I'm a lead is I'm a second semester junior and I receive my academic suspension from USF and and I took two years off and I worked for a nightclub organization


and I was pushed up to regional trainer so I was traveling around the country because they did an IPO Initial Public Offering made a lot of cash and but the night club life is is terrible. And, and so I said, You know what, I don't want to do this rest of my life, and I couldn't get a job, you know, at any place that I wanted to. So I thought okay, I'm gonna Go back to school. So I reapplied to USF after my academic suspension was over. So I, so I, I then went to USF I applied, I showed up, the Dean of social behavior services came up to me says, Davis, what are you doing here? And I said, I'm going back to schooling goes, What are you going to major and I said, I'm going to major in psychology and he goes, you should change your major, you're not going to make it unless you can make a be average. And I said, if that's what I need to make, that's what I'm going to make. And so they put me in touch with Chris Martin, who was in charge of sheet of special services for the handicapped, she knew nothing. And then she said, Davis, I don't know anything about dyslexia. You got to tell me everything you can. I did. I took the help. I took note takers, books on tape, read, you know, the the classes, the exams were done outside the classroom, and I graduated with a with a three point I am not a 3.1 not a 3.05 a 3.0. And, and then I graduated with a BA in psychology from USF. Wow. That was that was a long road Long, long route. And I made it and I went to you went to got a job with Rhea child's up in Washington DC I ran the Florida house for seven years. The first thing I did is called our fbd. And I said I want to thank you all so much. And you know, those reception is picking up the phone because I don't know what you're talking. But that's just how I felt. But the first the last 10 minutes of this I want to talk about I want to talk about about technology today. Yeah. So I did the first time I ever found so I told you I was the CFO of Radiology center and they kept giving me contracts, six figure seven figure contracts that I was signing, and I needed to read them and I thought there's got to be something online and so I wrote in text reading software up jumped a program called read please which is still available for Windows but free download. And I was like it's a OCR the contract in and I read them and I would send them back to the manufacturer with footnotes you know as to and I say read them. People say oh, you really were you reading that? I said, Well, actually I was listening to them but I call it consuming the printed word and so yeah, and and I can do it at a high rate contracts I'm right around 650 to 700 words a minute. And and because you're looking for something that's not in there, or something that's in there like a word may you don't want that in a contract, you know, right and right and so so that started my ability to read and then I did a a article for talking books. And Pat Schubert who is actually like 100 blocks by 100 feet from me. She doesn't work there anymore. From the The library she said would you do an article and and I said sure. And she she then said you should become a member of Bookshare and this is 2007 and I'm married. I have my beautiful wife Trish and our we have four kids now. And and I said what's book Sharon? She said it's an online library for or digital library for the print disabled. And then book started company. So I became a member USF they found my that I was looking I needed proof of disability. I talked, picked up the phone of special services. He goes, Oh, I know you Davis. I got your file right here. It's been 20 years by the way. And he says I've got your file, I'll sign them and i sin and I started reading and as I stated earlier, I read about 25 books a year, and Ron Chernow, some of my is one of my favorite authors. Well, I started to tutoring kids how to use this technology with Bookshare. I use Voice Dream Reader, or you can use the TTS on any Apple device across all platforms. And you can read anything today or consume anything today more efficiently than a normal reader.


Betsy Furler  28:17  

Yeah, and so amazing.


Davis Graham  28:19  

Absolutely amazing. And so that then allowed me to when I was offered the, to go to graduate school for masters. I was like, Am I going to walk the talk of these kids that I'm telling they can make it in college? And so I, I, it's scary. And so I, it's, you're reading 350 to 500 pages a week. And so, but I said, Yes, I got re credentialed. So I had to take all the battery of psychology tests and Brenda mcalary who was the psychologist I said, you know, Brittany, the funny thing is, is now that I'm reading with text to speech, so often I don't feel like I have dyslexia and she goes, Oh, that's not it, you have dyslexia. And she said, You are actually on price list you can be. And so it was it was crazy. But I got into Brandeis and Daniel, I never pronounce his name. He was my I'll send it to you. And then Gwynn's Maxwell, were my advocates there, they would get me the information. What I needed was the book, the ESPN number, I would contact the, the, the publisher, I would ask for a book and alternative format, they would send it a paper to me I would send I would fill it out and send that to Gwyn, she would sign it and then send it back to the publisher and I had the book, you know, usually within a week and sometimes within days, and and I would read, I would line up all my readings and I'd put A Voice Dream Reader and I'd read them and then I have time to read extra books, because I read through, you know, so quickly. So I read, you know, the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and blah, blah, blah and, and so I, I got to close to graduation, and I made an 86 on a test and I turned to my wife Trish and I said, sweetie, I don't think I'm gonna make it. And that's how, that's how close failure just follows you around. Your I am being and she goes deaconess. You're making straight A's. And, and I was like,


Betsy Furler  30:36  

yeah, it's actually sad. Like, almost, you know, that. That feeling of


Davis Graham  30:42  

post dyslexic syndrome. So, um, but anyways, I February. I was on I graduated may of 2016. They called me up and they said, Davis, this is Brandeis University. They said you receive you The you've been nominated for one of two academic honors. Yeah, wow. And we want you to lead the 2016 class for the graduate Professional Studies into the commencement ceremony. And it was amazing. It's amazing what we have a technology if I'm reading something, and I don't know where it is, I can click on the word, and I can go to it and see it or hear or read about it. I can make notes in my in my text, and then export those notes that I've made with speech to text out to a Word document and then post it, you know, I I use now you can use voice typing with Google Docs. The V the VC place that I'm at cure for you, you know, I'm reading all the time all the time with with Apple's text to speech, and it's it's we're living in a technical dream. world come true and to hear Dyslexics get on interviews and say I haven't read one book of my whole life is is not doing where we are justice. The education system needs to change. This should be made available for everybody. I'd say, you know, start a third grade level people don't get that will do. You don't want a child that's afraid of the printed word.


Betsy Furler  32:22  

Now that's my that's been one of my missions to I had a previous podcast called your app lady. I love technology and I love apps and I love what it can do for us and I do a lot of consulting in both the education world and lawyers on just I mean, it's so easy now it's these accommodations are so easy, but people have to know that it's out there and the kids have to be allowed to use it and and adults in the workplace. They have to like it's not cheating. It's not what we asked not doing the work. It's actually A different skill and harder some to listen versus to read it yourself. So it's not, it's not giving someone an advantage over the other kids it is or the other employer employees. But the tech we have now it is amazing. I'm so glad that you are benefiting so much from it and are such an advocate for it.


Davis Graham  33:24  

So just worked with MIT match nets on a voluntary basis. First of all, readings only been commonplace for 200 years. So we've based our whole system off of a skill that's one of the toughest skills to teach. And we we, we, the human brain didn't evolve to read when you actually teach somebody to read, you repurpose the part of the brain was made for something completely different. This is john Gabrielli at MIT and, and then you just go on, they say there's no backup plan, but there is a bad A plan we just talked about it. Right? And then Matthew schnepp says our current methods of reading is based on ancient engineering constraints no longer relevant in today's society. It's so true we are we are at a crossroads. Where if if and I would love to introduce I've talked to are sent resumes to Ohio State, any college that's ready to implement this technology into the core curriculum will find you you've read purpose, the YouTube generation, right right to what they are used to how many people listen to your podcast at two times, because you can actually understand up to 600 words a minute.


Betsy Furler  34:48  

Right. And a lot of people do I know that. That's it's becoming, it's becoming common among people who know that it exists, but there I still think there So many people that don't know, they don't know that they have this option and I run into it on a daily basis.


Davis Graham  35:06  

Yeah. Well, it's it you know, to be an advocate for a child with a disability is one thing because you have a purpose and a reason. But to introduce this technology that is, is just innovative thinking for any educational institution, what's good bring it in. I'm an expert in it. I showed you you know, on LinkedIn, you can't read it doesn't allow for the accessibility about you know, when it goes to the about person, I've reached out to LinkedIn and I sent it to the person I never heard good, but but you it doesn't read but I showed you how you can take a picture of it and then Voice Dream Reader as well as Microsoft wouldn't lens you can OCR it into a text rich format. So yeah, anyways,


Betsy Furler  35:51  

so I know people are going to want to keep in touch with you or or get in touch with you. So how can they do that? What's the best way to reach you.


Davis Graham  36:00  

So if you go to the Forbes article, Jay bez labret put in their lifelong or life lifelong, I, my LinkedIn has my phone number right on it. But my, my LinkedIn, My phone number is is 9142120 to nine, nine, and then or you can email me and it's a, it's Davis w gram, all one


Betsy Furler  36:29  

awesome. And I will post a link to that article in the show notes as well as to your LinkedIn and your email.


Davis Graham  36:37  

Any advocacy you can create for me, I would love to come speak to educators. You know, of course for a fee. I would I it's it's a dream come true if we can. And you know, the cool thing is it's language agnostic. I was at a school here and in Korean, I showed the guy on his phone a good turn this Simon turn that on. He goes, Oh, you know, like to see those faces change creates hope in a new a new future for everybody to step out.


Betsy Furler  37:11  

Absolutely. Well, thank you so much for thank you for sharing your story and being on the podcast. I know this is going to help so many people. So thank you so much for for being here with us. Okay,


Davis Graham  37:26  

I will bless you.


Betsy Furler  37:27  

Thank you Same to you. I will talk to you soon. Thanks so much for listening to the for all abilities podcast. This is Betsy Furler, your host and I really appreciate your time listening to the podcast. And please subscribe on any podcast app that you're listening to us on. If you'd like to know more about what we do and our software that helps employers support their employees with ADHD, dyslexia, learning differences and autism. Please go to WWW dot for all abilities. com. You can also Follow us on Instagram. And you can follow me on LinkedIn at Betsy Furler. Have a great day and we will see you soon.