Strengths Of Dyslexia
Did you know that approximately 1 in 6 students (in the United States) is dyslexic? That’s equal to 20% of the population! Dyslexia is one of the most common neuro-cognitive disorders in the world and is characterized by weak phonological processing, word recognition and spelling. Those with dyslexia tend to have typical and above average IQ but may fall behind at school due to learning difficulties in reading, time awareness, rote learning, and writing in a grammatically correct manner. Therefore, it takes a lot of time and energy for them to keep up with the rest of the class. This can become mentally exhausting as the amount of effort put in doesn’t reflect the end result.
It’s important to take away the shame associated with dyslexia and embrace a person’s strengths as a key goal to build-up their self-esteem so that they can reach their potential. Many dyslexics are not “broken” and as mentioned above, are often highly intelligent but are wired differently. When accepting that dyslexia is just a part of who they are, the perspective shifts to reveal valued traits and strengths, such as:
- Exceptionally creative thinkers
- Great problem-solving skills
- High empathy for others
- Ability to see the bigger picture
- Very observant
- MIND strengths:
There are numerous famous faces who are dyslexic with many in creative industries (music, film, fashion, TV and radio, literature, computer science and the performing arts). Some of those include, Steven Spielberg (director), Jennifer Anniston (actress), Jamie Oliver (chef), Sir Richard Branson (entrepreneur) and Walt Disney (founder of Disney). A common strength seen in dyslexics is their very creative mindset!
Great problem-solving skills
They are great problem-solvers who excel at seeing multiple perspectives and making cross-linking connections between the things they notice. They have a “do it-build it-fix it-make it” approach and may discover connections that others have missed. Historically, these types of skills were highly valued and it’s only recently in the past century that the majority of people have been expected to be literate especially now that we live in a heavily texted world.
High empathy for others
A study at Yale University observed that a person with dyslexia tends to show more empathy and warmth towards others. They are able to “read the situation” and have a sense of understanding of what is happening for other people in that environment. It’s not clear if this heightened empathy is a result of their brains being wired differently, or because they feel they are defined by their differences so have more empathy to others’ dilemmas.
Ability to see the bigger picture
A key strength for people with dyslexia is that they can see the bigger picture. This ability enables them to focus on what is important, without getting lost in every little detail. They see how things connect to form complex systems, and to identify similarities among multiple things. This skill is seen as an asset in many occupations. For example, architects, designers, inventors, scientists, engineers, and actors.
People with dyslexia excel at finding the odd one out from enormous quantities of visual data. While many people with dyslexia struggle with reading or writing, they are often extremely skilled at deciphering facts from patterns or events.
Dr. Brock Eide and Dr. Fernette Eide co-authored the ground-breaking book, The Dyslexic Advantage, in which they wrote about 4 key areas of strength that people with dyslexia possess. These became known as MIND strengths. Although a person may not have all of these strengths, they may have a combination:
– Material reasoning
The ability to form and manipulate 3D images (shape, size, motion, position) to create a constant mental movie of connected images in their mind. When taking on tasks, they perform them in a sequential linear fashion such as reading, spelling, writing and math.
– Interconnected reasoning
The ability to form strong connections between things, see relationships, patterns, and view ideas or objects from different perspectives. They are good at using multiple perspectives when problem solving and excel at inferencing and interdisciplinary tasks.
– Narrative reasoning
The ability to be a great storyteller, those with narrative strengths tend to think in stories and illustrations to remember and understand concepts. They enjoy history and historical fiction and do well in creative writing (when using a scribe or speech-to-text software). They are able to test ideas by creating imaginary scenarios in their mind.
– Dynamic reasoning
The ability to see real world patterns clearly in their mind and can reconstruct, create, simulate, and use this information to predict or mentally preview future outcomes with great accuracy. In class, they may be scolded for not showing their written workings since all their mental reasoning is done in their head.
For a person with dyslexia, the learning journey can be frustrating to begin with, however, there are numerous special needs education programs (Orton-Gillingham approach) and resources available that can support them. One of the most important things to remember is identifying and building their strengths. They may struggle in the early grades but with plenty of guidance, encouragement, and the right approach, they can grow-up to be gifted story tellers, inventors, entrepreneurs, actors and so on.
Take a look at our helpful infographic to better understand this behaviour, you can download it here.
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