“The Upsides of Dyslexia”

The upsides of dyslexia? That might be a new view and hopefully a helpful one.

If you help your child in dealing with dyslexia, this article may be of interest to you?

“The upsides of dyslexia.

February 23, 2015

by Mihal Greener

Published in: http://www.essentialkids.com.au/

The signs may all be there: A child who avoids reading, writes letters backwards, has trouble remembering times tables or gets frustrated when sounding out words, but a diagnosis of dyslexia can still leave parents and children reeling.

These difficulties in reading, writing (or both) can come across as only obstacles. However, research recently published in Scientific American identifies the upsides for children who have dyslexia.

Researchers have observed that dyslexic minds have a pronounced strength in seeing the big picture, both figuratively and literally. In a Swedish study, children with dyslexia were more accurate in recognising whether they had previously seen an image than their non-dyslexic peers, while American researchers concluded that dyslexic individuals are more adept at seeing ‘hidden’ images in pictures. Dyslexia has also been linked with increased levels of creativity and is a trait shared amongst many entrepreneurs.

These findings can offer a boost of confidence for children with dyslexia, who are often all too aware of their shortcomings. Understanding more about the differences in the way dyslexic brains are wired also empowers children to draw upon their strengths at school while providing teachers with strategies to bring out the best in dyslexic students.

This new understanding comes as no surprise to husband and wife team Dr Fernette Eide and Dr Brock Eide, co-authors of The Dyslexic advantage: Unlocking the hidden potential of the dyslexic brain, whose research led them to identify four major strengths of dyslexic brains. Dr Fernette Eide believes that the perception of dyslexia as a learning disorder is skewed. Instead, “dyslexia should be approached as a different pattern of processing that can bring tremendous strengths, in addition to the well-known challenges,” she says.

Spurred by an eight-year-old who wanted to know more about what he could do because of his dyslexia, not more of what he couldn’t, Drs Eide established the non-profit community Dyslexic Advantage in 2012, geared towards increasing the confidence of people with dyslexia by helping people understand the strengths of a dyslexic mind. The Dyslexic Advantage community has over 11,000 members globally, including in Australia.

One of the more evident strengths found amongst people with dyslexia is good narrative reasoning, according to Drs Eide, meaning they are able to remember facts as stories, rather than abstract ideas. Dyslexic children are able to learn from experiences and have a great memory for things that have occurred, despite not being able to remember their times tables. This strength in personal memory can be used by teachers, encouraging dyslexic children to turn facts into stories to help them memorise information, and can also translate into careers where telling and understanding stories are important, like counseling or sales. Indeed, many children with dyslexia go on to successful careers as writers.

Drs Eide have also observed a talent cluster in dyslexic children’s spatial reasoning abilities, that is seeing an object from different perspectives and where it fits in to the bigger picture. This strength at visualisation can mean a preference for playing with Rubik’s Cubes and Lego as children, and success in the fields of art, design, engineering, architecture or construction as adults. In fact, Dr Fernette Eide observes that while dyslexia occurs in 10-15% of the population, within engineering schools it is as high as 25%, and “it’s a lost opportunity if these strengths are not being used before university schooling.”

Another advantage Drs. Eide observed amongst the dyslexic children in their clinic was strength in dynamic reasoning, producing the ability to logically work through a chain of events that may unfold. This strength means than children can imagine complex role-plays, theorise the plot of the next Star Wars film or predict what will happen next in a science experiment. This strength also means that a more conceptual approach to learning, rather than facts and memorising, will bring out their best at school.

Bringing out their best is important not just for the academic outcomes it delivers, but because the obstacles children with dyslexia face often impact on their self-esteem. Highlighting the strengths of a dyslexic mind allows children to not only feel more confident, but also to better understand how their mind works and be able to draw upon these abilities inside the classroom and beyond.

Too often the focus is on fixing what’s wrong, rather than nurturing what’s right, suggest Drs Eide. This is especially pronounced in the early years of schooling where so many rote skills are acquired. This learning by repetition, whether in spelling or maths, involves precisely the skills that dyslexic children tend to find difficult, and if their strengths in other areas are not given attention at the same time, their confidence suffers.

Dr Fernette Eide has observed in her practice that being made aware of the strengths of a dyslexic mind totally changes the child’s attitude to their dyslexia. Otherwise, “you’re practicing so much at what you’re the weakest at, that you feel you’re not good at anything,” says Dr Eide. Children don’t yet have the ability to cope with ambiguities, Dr Eide explains, “when you’re young and it looks like you’re striking out in academics, it’s very easy for things to look black and white – to conclude ‘I’m bad’, and that’s what we want to change.”

As Matthew Schneps, an astrophysicist with dyslexia, writes in Scientific American, “our conceptions of ‘advantage’ and ‘disadvantage’ have meaning only in the context of the task that needs to be performed.” This big picture, beyond the classroom, may be difficult for children with dyslexia to see clearly, so it’s up to parents and teachers to keep reminding them of it.