Dyslexia, a gift I hear many of you exclaiming – is this a joke!
Well.. actually no. For sure school can be extremely challenging for majority of children with dyslexia. Their neurodiversity restricting their ability to truly access the school curriculum, often resulting in unrealized potential and emotional scaring – all very serious stuff, not to mention hugely upsetting, emotionally draining and all-consuming for students and parents alike.
However once learning strategies and tweaks to lesson delivery are in place, dyslexia can be “mastered”. As students mature, they learn to find their own unique workarounds, helping with the learning process.
I for one, an undiagnosed dyslexic, often confuse my d’s and b’s. I have therefore developed a little strategy I like to call “Grounding Words”. These are my, when in doubt “go to” words. For example, I know bed begins with a “b” and dog with a “d”. If I’m unsure which to use, I visualize my grounding words – reassuring myself that I am using the correct letter.
I wonder how many of us use the mnemonic Never Eat Shredded Wheat to remember the North, East, South and West? I personally can’t recall a time when I’ve not muttered Never East Shredded Wheat when working out directions. East and West remain a constant struggle.
To the general populous, it may seem rather hard to fathom, that bright, sparky and intelligent people regularly fail to remember the difference between 2 letters, struggle with grammar, punctuation, reading, constant forgetfulness and always being late!
Any yes, to some extent perhaps it is a little odd, but dyslexic brains are indeed wired differently, as reflected by its recognized status as a “disability”.
Non impaired learners use three areas of the brain for speech and language processing, whilst a dyslexic brain uses just the one; “articulation”. This single “articulation” area is forced to take on the roles of the missing “more complex word analysis” and “word form integration” areas, hence challenges with literacy.
However, all is not lost, whilst dyslexics may struggle with the easy stuff, we are monumentally amazing at the more complex.
Our brains allow us to naturally flourish in so many other ways. We have a native genius, innately allowing us to excel in problem solving, big picture thinking and creativity.
Dyslexics can easily and naturally spot mistakes; irregular numbers, missing full stops or shapes within reams of data, making for great code breakers. In fact, according to reports approximately 50% of all NASA employees are dyslexic, employed for their amazing problem- solving prowess and ability to see things differently.
Interestingly I have recently heard that MI5 are actively recruiting dyslexics, now if true, this is a game changer.
You see a dyslexics world, is a visual world. Our thoughts and memories are created and retrieved via images and pictures, hence the need for multisensory learning at school. If we can touch it, feel it and see it – we’ll have more chance of remembering it. This natural ability to visualize provides us with a direct and tangible advantage for creativity.
A high percentage of architects are dyslexic. Think of the cutting-edge designs of The Gherkin, Millennium Dome and Pompidou Centre in Paris – their dyslexic architects pushing the boundaries.
Steve Jobs of Apple fame, transformed the tech industry, taught us the importance of brand awareness and absolutely dared to think differently. His dyslexia allowed him to visualize three dimensionally – who would have thought that mobile phone packaging would become a “sensory experience”.
The key is neurodiversity. Whilst the weird wiring can negatively impact traditional learning, on the flip side it does create a vast array of amazing opportunities.
Unable to rely on traditional learning methods, dyslexics form strategies that play to their strengths. 40% of self-made millionaires are dyslexic – which is impressive considering, according to the British Dyslexia Association, just 10% of the UK population are affected.
If you consider this for a moment, the principle qualities required by entrepreneurs are merely natural behaviours for dyslexics.
American investment giant Charles Schwab acknowledged early on that his dyslexia would restrict him in certain activities, so he surrounded myself with a team of experts, allowing Charles to focus on being innovative. This A-Team is attributed to his phenomenal success.
The late Ingvar Kamprad, founder of Ikea was dyslexic. His building block approach to furniture was unique. The Ikea product naming convention; MALM Bed Frame, MALM Mattress, MALM Wardrobe and product numbering system; 3 digits.3 digits.2 digits are very simple and structured, a requirement of his dyslexia.
A young Dav Pilkey, who suffered with ADHD and dyslexia, was sent out of class daily to sit in the hall, due to his disruptive behaviour. Dav spent his hallway time drawing and making up stories. In year 3, Dav created a superhero called Captain Underpants. His teacher ripped up his drawings and told him he couldn’t spend the rest of his life making silly books. Fortunately, Dav was not a very good listener.
Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants series has sold over 80 million copies in 28 languages. DreamWorks Animation has it commissioned for a film and is also a TV series on Netflix.
And the list goes on… where would we be today without Thomas Edison’s lightbulb or Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group. So many talented, capable and influential people with dyslexia, how can these instinctive qualities not be a gift?
Julie is founding member of Juunipa Tutors and a mother of twin dyslexic boys. Juunipa Tutors provide hand-selected pupil matched private tutors for all key stages and attainment levels across a diverse subject portfolio. In addition, they have a specialist team of SEN tutors for SpLD students, offer bespoke children’s touch-typing courses and home schooling. Further information can be found at: www.juunipatutors.co.uk or firstname.lastname@example.org