Painting Bigger, Brighter Pictures with Books about Dyslexia

Composition with hardcover booksGiven that the theme of this year’s Dyslexia Awareness Week was Positive About Dyslexia, I thought now was a really good time to highlight one of the ways in which this can be achieved. I know it’s an old, well-known saying, but knowledge really is power and I don’t think this is truer than in the case of an often misunderstood condition like dyslexia.

I was oblivious to the memory issues some people with dyslexia have before I started volunteering with Dyslexia Scotland, because that’s not an aspect of dyslexia the media really talks about. The only reason I got informed about all the lesser known bits of dyslexia was because the charity is really good about giving people as big and clear a picture as they possibly can.  But you can’t paint pictures without paint or brushes – or, more accurately, you can’t be informed without the information existing – and being accessible – in the first place.  That’s why I think the Resource Centre that Dyslexia Scotland has is really important.  Sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know.  Or the right place to look.  Given that it’s likely we picked up some new members as a result of DAW some of you may not even have known that we have it.  So let’s go over the basics.

First off, conscious of the fact that different people have different needs and associations with people who have dyslexia and that people will be at various stages in their lives, we have a diverse range of resources in the hope that everyone with an interest in dyslexia can find something to suit their needs. For ease of use, the resources are split into sections e.g. “Information for Teachers” or “Further Education and the Workplace.”  Mindful of the fact that not everyone can get to our office in Stirling, there’s a master booklet detailing what we have, an electronic catalogue of resources and a troubleshooting sheet on how the process of borrowing and the catalogue works, all of which are accessible to our members online.  Should you wish to be loaned something, you have the option to collect it yourself or have it posted to you.  Oh, and provided you’re a member of Dyslexia Scotland, it’s completely free!

The hope is that by using it, people are, for a variety of reasons, able to become more positive about dyslexia. Of course, the information people seek differs from person to person, and therefore their objectives and outcomes will vary.  It could be people just want to be more knowledgeable about the condition, need new strategies for themselves, their children or their students or the want dyslexia friendly fiction.  The Resource Centre encompasses all of those things and more, and is growing all the time – the master booklet is always being updated, in the hope that we can help arm more and more people with information and be positive about dyslexia as a result.

You can find out more about the Resource Centre here.

Gemma Bryant, Resource Centre Volunteer

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E-learning course: ‘How to Succeed at Work and Home as a Dyslexic Adult’

The British Dyslexia Association offers an eLearning course that aims to help dyslexic adults succeed at work and home. It’s based on research which you can find out about at http://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk/news/item/page/2/name/research-into-issues-for-adults-with-dyslexia-specific-learning-difficulties

I did the course recently. In this blog post I’d like to share:

  1. What the course does;
  2. How the course is dyslexia-friendly; and
  3. Further information.

 

  1. What the course does

 

The course identifies 10 traits that make dyslexic adults successful:

  • Determination
  • Self-esteem
  • Passion
  • Finding the right niche for you
  • Problem solving
  • Creativity
  • Sociable with good verbal skills
  • Empathy
  • Effective, fluent use of coping strategies
  • Help from family and mentors
  • It explains these traits, and tells you how you can gain or develop them.

2. How the course is dyslexia-friendly

  • Interactive, concrete and multi-sensory
  • The course mainly comprises written material but it features some visual content, case studies of real people, and activities such as questionnaires.
  • It signposts to resources e.g. videos, websites.
  • There is a course discussion forum (which you can opt out of if you wish). When I did the course there were 3 other participants doing it at the same time.

 

  •  Accessible
  • The course is in electronic print so you can use a text reader to listen to the text.
  • The background is pastel yellow. The titles are in navy font and the rest of the text is in grey font. The font is non-serif (i.e. without tails on the letters). The only way you can change the design is to copy and paste the text into a Word document.

 

  •  Clearly structured
  • The course is structured into 10 chapters, one on each trait. Each chapter is broken up into a series of pages. The pages vary in length from one short screen to several screens long. When you open each chapter there is a list of the pages on the right hand side, so you can see at a glance what the chapter contains.
  • On the home page of the course, there is a list of all the chapters with a box next to each. You can tick the boxes as you complete the chapters to keep track of what you’ve done.

 

  •  Flexible
  • You can do the chapters in any order. You can choose which chapters you do. You can redo chapters.
  • You have access to the course for 6 months. There is no restriction on how often or when you access it during that 6-month period.

 

  • Companion book
  • If you wish to consolidate or overlearn any of the course content, there is a companion book which has very similar content. The book is ‘Self Fulfilment with Dyslexia – a blueprint for Success’ by Margaret Malpas, who also wrote the course.

 

 

 

3. Further information about the course

  1. Is it assessed? No.
  2. Does it lead to a certificate or qualification? No.
  3. Does it cost? Not if you are retired or unemployed. For everyone else, it costs £12.99.
  4. How long will it take to do? I don’t know how long it will take you. It took me around 50 hours. This was partly because I copied and pasted the text into a Word document so I could mark it up with my responses. That involved a lot of reformatting.
  5. Where can I find out more? http://www.bdaelearning.org.uk/course/info.php?id=86

 

 

By an anonymous adult member of Dyslexia Scotland

Blue Ribbon Yarn Bombing

Yarn Bombing has been seen in many public places in recent years. I have been inspired by these activities and Ellie’s Blue Ribbons for Dyslexia Awareness Week (6-11 Nov in Scotland) and the photograph below shows the result. I decided to yarn bomb some of the educational and organisational equipment which can cause problems for people with dyslexia.

To my fellow ‘Made By Dyslexia‘ individuals, I say never forget that your unique neurodiverse thinking can overcome the difficulties that dyslexia causes.

To everyone who is curious about diversity and how each person’s unique talents can be used to create a better world, I would encourage you to check out the wonderful resources offered by Dyslexia Scotland.

I hope Ellie’s (and my own) blue ribbons will be worn proudly by everyone and anyone. And when people see them they will be reminded to focus on each person’s talents and not their shortcomings. May they also be a reminder that equality in some situations can be anything but fair. Situations where each individual’s strengths come together and where a few reasonable adjustments are in place to level the playing field, could create magic and wonderful things.

Doreen Kelly, Dyslexia Scotland Member and Volunteer

Blue_ribbons_yarn

Tips on finding your way about

Map reading? Forget it! I have to find my way around a city by other means. When I planned a recent trip to London, I was able to find my destination and arrive there on time. There were some strategies that helped me. So I’d like to tell you about them here. I hope you might be able to use them to travel with confidence and success.

  1. I found out which bus to take, using the local travel website

I knew my journey in London would start from King’s Cross train station. I wanted to use the bus (rather than the underground) to reach my destination because you can see where you’re going from a bus, especially the upper deck.

So I needed to find out which bus route to take, and how often it ran. For that, I used the Transport for London website, which I found extremely dyslexia-friendly. Here’s the route diagram I used: https://tfl.gov.uk/bus/route/91.

To find the times you click on an arrowhead, like this > Arrowhead

And you can access the timetable from there. I was amazed at how easy I found it to read the times and timetable.

2. I located the bus stop, using a video and Google maps

Next, I had to work out where my stop was. I saw from the route diagram that it was called R. I needed to see a photo of the stop, rather than a map of it. So I googled ‘number 91 bus route + video’ and found a video of the bus route. It has a catchy soundtrack which made me feel positive about my journey!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S8lrNfUyWBk.

The video let me work out where the bus stop was, in relation to the station.

Then I used Google maps in earth view to go for a virtual walk, from the train station to the bus stop. It was quite tricky to navigate but after some perseverance I managed to see my stop. That meant I knew exactly where it was and how to reach it.

3. I found out where to get off the bus, using a landmark / Google images

The stop I needed to get off at was the terminus of the route. It should have been easy. But I still managed to get off a stop early, and I know from using buses regularly that this is a common mistake people make. So I knew I’d need a landmark. I found one on Google maps (the National Gallery). Then I looked it up on Google images so I could recognise it when I saw it. I used it to find the right road for the walk to my final destination.

Final tips

  1. You can’t pay your fare with coins or bank notes on London buses. You have to pay by contactless technology; or by Oyster Card (the travel pass for public transport in London). If you plan to pay by contactless check your bank card has the contactless icon on it.
  2. To complement any verbal instructions you are given, ask your contact for an aerial photo of the whole building with an arrow pointing to the exact entrance you’ve to use.
  3. Plan in plenty of extra time to your journey in case of delays or mistakes
  4. Ask someone for help to plan your journey if you need it. Be specific in what you ask for help with.
  5. Ask for help on your journey if you need it. If I tell someone I’m dyslexic before I ask them for help, they are more understanding and patient.

By an anonymous adult member of Dyslexia Scotland

Cutting-Edge Technology from 3500BC

papyrus_featherYou probably don’t remember learning to speak. It happens too early. Most of us are chattering away before we’re out of nappies. But you may have painful memories of learning to read: the anxiety of spelling tests, word lists, and red pen.

That’s because speaking comes naturally to us, and reading doesn’t. Human beings have always talked. Our brains seem to be ‘hard-wired’ to pick up language. Put a normal baby in an environment where people talk to it, and within a couple of years it will have started to speak itself.

But put a normal person in an environment where there’s writing, and they’re unlikely to learn to read without being taught. That’s one reason why we spend such a large part of our childhood in school. Reading and writing isn’t usually something you just pick up.

Writing first developed in Mesopotamia in the fourth millennium BC. It started with pictograms, mostly used on receipts for purchases of beer. (There’s your fun fact of the day.) But then the city of Uruk developed symbols that represented sounds rather than things, so you could write down anything you could say. The Phoenicians developed this into a proper alphabet, and their trading network spread the cutting-edge technology.

However, for most of history, writing was reserved for experts like scribes and priests. Sometimes rich people and merchants would be able to read and write too, but it wasn’t until relatively recently that the ‘three Rs’ were considered essential for everyone.

So what has all this got to do with dyslexia? By the end of the twentieth century, the developed world finally achieved near-universal literacy – so dyslexia suddenly became visible. Even though ‘dyslexia’ describes a whole spectrum of challenges, reading and writing are the most obvious ones. In fact, dyslexia is only a significant problem if you live in a society where everyone is expected to read and write. Literacy has its drawbacks!

It might be tempting for dyslexics to wish we had been born in a pre-literate age, when we would have been just like everybody else, but that would be a huge loss. Literacy reduces inequality and enables social mobility. It provides huge opportunities for communication and co-operation around the world, without having to go through privileged mediators like priests and scribes. Reading fiction increases the skill of empathy. Some scientists even think that learning to read is necessary for analytical thought; being literate allows you to organise your thoughts and make connections between them, even when you’re not actually writing them down.

With the invention and growth of the internet, we’re currently living through a technological change almost as huge as the invention of writing. But it wouldn’t have been possible without writing. Even computer code is a form of writing, after all.

The written word can sometimes feel like the enemy to dyslexics, but writing is the thing that makes our whole modern world possible. That includes technology, like text-to-speech, that is making life easier for people with severe dyslexia. For better or worse (at least until the next dark age) our modern lives are founded on literacy.

Karen Murdarasi, guest blogger

About Me

 

Dyslexia: a journey of discovery

In May 2015, I attended an adult network meeting in Glasgow. The topic for discussion was ‘living with a dyslexic – a partner’s perspective’.   Hearing the discussion was really enlightening – I really started to understand my husband better. I’d suspected for some time that my husband and stepson were dyslexic, but at that time none of us knew for sure. I was already on a journey to discover more about some of the difficulties that I’d faced over the years and was assessed as dyspraxic in June 2015.

Fast forward to spring 2016 and my stepson had been screened at school and confirmed to be dyslexic. As a result of this, my husband decided to go for an assessment too, and the results confirmed his suspicions.

In my current role, I’ve learned a great deal about the journeys that people go through when they discover that they are dyslexic later in life. There is a need to reframe the difficulties that the person has faced in school, college/university, work and life in general; away from ‘why don’t I get this as quickly as other people?’ to ‘ah, that’s why I struggled with that!’.

If you have an understanding partner to talk these difficulties through with, it can help them to understand why you do those things that drive them round the bend. Even after 12 years together, we’ve learned new things about why we do what we do – especially around life admin. In previous years, I never really understood why the confident man I knew, felt anxious about booking a train journey while we were on holiday in Italy and why he had many piles of unopened mail! Now I understand that dyslexia was the reason. Trying to decipher timetables and communicate well enough to buy a ticket is hard enough, without trying to do this in another language too; opening a letter might mean reading complicated instructions, processing that information, then trying to find the right way to respond (and procrastinating a fair bit along the way – but that’s a whole other blog!).

We do wind each other up regularly – Me: ‘Why did you do/not do that?’ Husband: ‘Come on, don’t you know I’m dyslexic?! Or vice versa. We have a laugh about our foibles and the tension dissolves. I know I’m lucky, I have a neurodiverse mind and so does my husband – we can understand and empathise now about why we each do those things that drives the other one round the bend. We have grown as a couple, as we have learned more about how dyslexia and dyspraxia impacts on our daily and family life.

I know that not everyone has such understanding partners and if you are in that situation, please know that you are not alone. Come along to one of our adult network meetings. There is a real mixture of people, between those who learned that they were dyslexic while at school, but never really understood much about how dyslexia impacted on their daily lives; those who found out only when they went to college or university and thrived when they finally got the support that they needed; to those who found out much later in their lives and are still on a journey to learn more about themselves. All of them have stories to tell and strategies that have worked for them – come along and hear all about them. And if you feel like it, tell your own dyslexia story.

To learn more about the Dyslexia Scotland Adult Network meetings, visit our website here.

Helen, Volunteers Manager

 

 

Dyslexia Scotland Adult Network

This blog post tells you 10 things about the Dyslexia Scotland Adult Network, and 10 ways I benefit from it.

10 things about the Adult Network

1. What is the Adult Network?

A network of 3 support groups for dyslexic people in Scotland aged 18 and over. The groups meet in Stirling, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

2. Who coordinates the groups?

  • Stirling and Glasgow: a Dyslexia Scotland volunteer.
  • Edinburgh: a Dyslexia Scotland staff member.

3. When and how often do the groups meet?

  • Stirling: Saturdays 11am – 4.15pm, 4 times a year.
  • Glasgow: Monday evenings 6:30 – 8:30pm, 10 times a year.
  • Edinburgh: Wednesday evenings and Saturday afternoons, 4 times a year.

4. Are meetings confidential?

Yes. Network members are asked to value everyone’s right to privacy by not disclosing personal details of others outwith the meetings.

5. Who facilitates meetings?

The network coordinator, guest speakers, or Network members.

6. How many people attend meetings?

Usually between 10 and 20.

7. What happens at meetings?

Presentations, workshop activities, group discussion, informal chat and drop-ins.

8. What are the learning aims of the Network?

  • Learn about dyslexia
  • Improve your self-confidence
  • Develop belief in your potential to learn more
  • Share dyslexia experiences with others
  • Evaluate your own dyslexia experiences
  • Change your attitude to dyslexia to focus on your own strengths
  • Build on positive dyslexia strategies and transfer these to new situations

9. Do meetings cost?

No. Dyslexia Scotland has funding to cover the cost of room hire.

10. Do all 3 groups ever meet up?

Yes, there was a meeting in June in Stirling for all 3 groups. Another all-network meeting is being planned for June 2018.

10 ways I benefit from the Adult Network

  • I enjoy it! It always makes me feel positive and uplifted.
  • It gives me a safe space to articulate and share experiences with people who have had similar experiences.
  • I learn things that help me self-manage my dyslexia. (To me, the term ‘self-management’ means doing everything I can to manage my dyslexia.)
  • It gives me a fuller understanding of dyslexia and other Specific Learning Difficulties. This lets me see where I fit in the context of the adult dyslexia community.  It also helps me understand and support my dyslexic adult peers better.  And it means I am better informed for talking to others about dyslexia.
  • It makes me feel stronger and more confident in my ability to cope as a dyslexic adult.
  • I can attend without signing up publicly because the communications are distributed by blind-copied mailing list.
  • It makes me feel normal because everyone else in the room is a dyslexic adult.
  • It lets me help other dyslexic adults by sharing tips and my experience. This gives me confidence.
  • It’s good to talk to other dyslexic adults because they make adjustments without me having to ask. For example, if I forget what I was going to say, they help me remember and understand if I don’t manage to.
  • It makes me feel hopeful and confident about dyslexic adults’ ability to support themselves and each other.

Final word

The Dyslexia Scotland Adult Network provides a unique form of support for dyslexic adults in Scotland. It has let me grow personally and professionally in ways that nothing else has.  I warmly recommend it to dyslexic adults as a chance to learn, feel part of a group, and help others.

More information and upcoming meeting dates

Please visit https://www.dyslexiascotland.org.uk/our-adult-networks.

By an anonymous adult member of Dyslexia Scotland.

Thinking about Dyslexia

We live in more ‘dyslexia aware’ times.   We must be grateful for this, but not complacent.   Only when every child’s learning needs are assessed and the appropriate teaching strategies for each child are identified and in place can we say that the rights of the dyslexic child have been recognised.

Part of the increase in dyslexia awareness has been due to the number of dyslexic adults who have ‘come out’ about their dyslexia.   The impact of dyslexics in the public eye who talk about their dyslexia must not be underestimated.   Susan Hampshire’s book Susan’s Story: an autobiographical account of my struggle with words was trailblazing.   (The cover, and the cover page of the book, had each ‘S’ inverted, like it would have been in Susan’s handwriting.)   Also significant was the Kara Tointon TV documentary Don’t Call Me Stupid.   Both Susan Hampshire and Kara Tointon discussed the humiliation they felt during their schooldays, their yearning to be able to read ‘just like everyone else’, and in detail how as adult actresses they tackled reading their scripts and learning their lines.   Charley Boorman used press interest in his and Ewan MacGregor’s epic motorcycle journey from London to New York, via Europe and Asia, to talk about his dyslexia.   And it’s always good to listen to Henry Winkler, ‘The Fonz’, when he mentions his dyslexia and we learn of his work supporting and encouraging young dyslexics.

Moreover, in a blog published by Dyslexia Scotland, I shall not forget the profile maintained and the huge amount of work done for dyslexics by our President, Sir Jackie Stewart.

But, I have to say that I’m always slightly uncomfortable when the names of Sir Winston Churchill and Albert Einstein are mentioned in lists of ‘famous dyslexics’.   Both certainly had difficult times at school, and although it is known that Einstein was slow in learning to speak and learning to read, neither Einstein nor Churchill had, or could have had, today’s assessments for dyslexia.   These lists of ‘dyslexics from history’ must always be suspect, but I have to say that being dyslexic, every so often I hear something or read something about someone that makes me think, ‘Hmmmm.   Was he, or she, dyslexic?’   Two examples come to mind.   The comedian Tony Hancock used to confuse ‘left’ and ‘right’.   His producer Eddie Joffe once said, “When he got out of a lift he’d inevitably go the wrong way, even if he’d been in the lift umpteen times before.   An almost infallible method of finding one’s way in an unfamiliar place was to take the opposite direction to the one chosen by Tony.”   Then, just like Susan Hampshire and Kara Tointon, Hancock had terrible difficulty learning his lines.   Could he have been dyslexic?

A few weeks ago, after watching the documentary programmes about George Armstrong Custer and the Battle of the Little Big Horn on BBC Alba, I delved into some biographies of the man.   Custer, it turns out, was not the perfect student at his military academy; far from it.   He fooled about a lot and struggled to graduate, often just scraping a pass in his examinations.   His writing was strewn with errors, he mixed his metaphors and confused singular and plural.   After he was married, and had to write reports and articles, he always asked his wife Libbie to read them before he sent them off.   I do wonder whether George Armstrong Custer was dyslexic…

Vin Arthey, Guest blogger

How I let my dyslexia stand in the way of my author dream – until now!

Being dyslexic, I wasn’t able to write down all the stories I had in my head so, when I was a child, I’d act them out, play them out with my Barbie’s, or draw them as cartoons.

When I was 12 years old I started writing my first ‘book’. It was a story idea that I could see turn into a book, akin to the kind I was reading at 12, about being a confused girl on the verge of becoming a confused teenager. I still have the handwritten pages, done in a fat, colouring-in pen, as that was the most comfortable for my hand to use, and it’s so riddled with spelling mistakes, it’s hard for me to make out now.

I gave that story up for another idea at 13, where I started using a typewriter. I gave up on that idea at 14 for another one, which I typed on the old DOS system on the computer. Every year, I’d mature a bit more and so would my ideas and I’d start on a new one.

In 2009, being between jobs, I managed to write my first finished ‘book’, a children’s fantasy story. (On a technicality, a story is not a book until published, and you’re only a writer until published when you can then call yourself an author).

In 2015 I wrote my second fully finished story, an adult fiction called ‘Do You Believe in Second Chances?’ about relationships and how love can change over time.

I tried to get them published the old-fashioned way, by getting an agent, who would then approach a publisher, as that’s how it’s primarily done in the UK. However, I didn’t have much luck, and I must admit, I was quick to give up and move on to the next project.

People kept asking why I didn’t self-publish, on Amazon for instance, as an e-book. It was an idea – but a terrifying idea! I wasn’t earning a lot of money, as I was still studying, and couldn’t afford someone to design a cover for me, but more importantly, I couldn’t afford someone to spellcheck my story. I couldn’t very well publish a book, and expect people to pay for it, and then have it riddled with mistakes, now could I?

Then in May, Kindle was running a competition for an unpublished story over 50,000 words. I pulled ‘Do You Believe in Second Chances?’ back out and started editing and proofreading it as best as I could.

With only a few days to go, I read all the Terms and Conditions for the competition and came to realise you had to publish the book on Kindle to enter! That meant, setting up as self-employed, get a cover done, and put your book out there for sale, publicly!

I took the jump, and on the 19th of May 2017, I pressed ‘submit’ and my book went live! I was now officially a published author! After so many years of dreaming, wishing and hoping, I had made my author dream a reality.

The book will still have spelling mistakes throughout it and formatting problems as I’m such a novice, but I did it. Instead of hoping someone else would make my dreams come true, I went for it and did it myself.

Do you have a dream that you feel your dyslexia is preventing you from achieving? Tell us about your experiences, and what barriers you feel are in the way for you achieving this dream.  Or, if you have an example of removing these barriers to make your dreams come true, we want to hear about it by commenting below.

Guest blogger
Terese Smith

The Power of Purple

On the morning of my recent exam I received a text from my mum saying, “Remember to take your purple glasses!” That wasn’t because she hoped I would wow the examiners with my unusual fashion sense; the colour of my glasses reduces the effects of the visual stress associated with my dyslexia. In natural light, they don’t make much of a difference to me, but in artificial light they help me to read faster. In exams, it’s important to read fast, and let’s face it, they’re usually held in rooms with terrible lighting.

Different colours work for different people, and they don’t work for everyone. My purple lenses were prescribed for me at a specialist optician, but you can also experiment with different coloured paper, or computer screen backgrounds. You can even get transparent coloured plastic sheets to place over your computer or papers.

Colours are only one of the resources that can help. When I was a teenager I also got extra time in exams, because I couldn’t write as quickly as my peers. (Not so that anyone could read it, anyway.) These days I don’t really need that anymore, and I don’t have that many exams fortunately. But if your or your child has been diagnosed with dyslexia you can ask the school about extra time for exams, or being allowed to use a computer instead of handwriting.

Of course, life isn’t just about exams. In everyday life there are little things you can do to it easier for yourself if you’re on the dyslexia spectrum. As well as different colours, different fonts can make things better or worse. Studies have shown that fonts without serifs are easier for dyslexics to read. (Serifs are the little decorative lines at the ends of strokes.) Putting text in italics, on the other hand, make reading much harder.

Some of the best fonts for dyslexics are Helvetica, Verdana and Courier, which are available in most word processing programs. You can write your own documents in these fonts. If someone sends you anything in a Word file (.doc or.docx) you can also change the font to whatever you prefer – and maybe add a background colour, too.

So that’s reading – what about writing? Text-to-speech technology is much more widely available than it was. By downloading some software, you can dictate to your computer instead of writing on it. And with smartphones it’s even easier. Most have built-in apps that let you compose and send text messages, or search the web, without typing a word: OK Google, how do you spell ‘convenient’?

(You can find out more about assistive technology in this recent post.)

You can also set reminders on your phone, of course. That’s useful if you tend to forget important appointments, or even just to get the mince out of the freezer. And there are techniques that can improve your memory, things like memory palaces and using vivid images to ‘fix’ memories. There isn’t room to go into those techniques here, but anyone, dyslexic or not, can learn to use the brain they’ve got more effectively. And as a final backup, you can always get your mum to text you a reminder 😉

What are your top tips for handling dyslexic life? Let me know in the comments below.

Guest blogger, Karen Murdarasi

Purple glasses_KM