The Benefits of Dyslexia

Dyslexia is usually seen as a disability – a problem. Two authors, Brock and Fernette Eide, challenge this assumption and instead argue that dyslexia is an alternative way that the brain is wired, and can bring many unexpected and unappreciated advantages. They have written a book called “The Dyslexic Advantage: Unlocking the hidden potential of the dyslexic brain”.

Brock talks about these hidden strengths, saying:

“We outline four major strength profiles in the book, and fundamentally each of these profiles reflects a different but related way in which dyslexic brains are especially good at putting together big pictures, or seeing larger context, or imagining how processes will play out over time.

Some dyslexic individuals are especially good at spatial reasoning. Putting together three-dimensional spatial perspectives is easy for them. They may work in design, 3-D art, architecture, be engineers, builders, inventors, organic chemists or be exceptionally good at bagging your groceries.

Interconnected reasoning is another kind of strength. These connections can be relationships of likeness — analogies for example — or causal relationships, or the ability to shift perspective and view an object or event from multiple perspectives, or the ability to see the “gist” or big-picture context surrounding an event or idea. Many dyslexics work in highly interdisciplinary fields or fields that require combining perspectives and techniques gained from different disciplines or backgrounds. Or they’re multiple specialists, or their work history is unusually varied. Often these individuals draw the comment that they can see connections that other people haven’t seen before.

Most dyslexics tend to remember facts as experiences, examples or stories, rather than abstractions. We call this pattern narrative reasoning, which we consider the third strength. These kids have a very strong ability to learn from experience. It’s very common for their families to describe these kids as the family elephant. They’ll be the go-to person when someone wants to remember who gave what to sister for her birthday two years ago. They might be the family historian, but they can’t remember the times tables or which direction the three goes. These individuals excel in fields where telling and understanding stories are important, like sales, counseling, trial law or even teaching. In addition, a large number of professional writers are dyslexic.

The fourth ability we outline is the ability to reason well in dynamic settings when the facts are incomplete or changing. People strong in this area often work in the business field, in financial markets or in scientific fields that reconstruct past events, like geologists or paleontologists. These people are comfortable working with processes that are constantly changing, and in making predictions.”

It’s interesting to see how a different perspective on what can be considered a disability can change our thinking about that condition.

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5 thoughts on “The Benefits of Dyslexia

  1. Fascinating – and very encouraging for so many dyslexic people who think they’re useless at writing, when in fact they have extra skills to make their writing even more valuable.

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    1. Indeed – it’s yet another example of where we should be focusing on the skills people do have rather than those they don’t. Often the additional skills can outweigh the others.

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  2. I think this will be a book I will have to read. Diagnosed as a dyslexic as a young adult I found it gave me reasons for perceived failure at school and an understanding of coping strategies. However, short-term memory and inability to express self still impact on writing and organisation.

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  3. Many people don’t have their dyslexia diagnosed until adulthood – and sometimes it’s a relief to have an explanation for past experiences. I think schools are getting better at picking up dyslexia now, but I wonder if it is still seen as a “problem” rather than as a different way of seeing things.

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  4. My brother is dyslexic and has struggled with words since a child but what many people do not realise is that these kids are often very good with numbers. They just can’t spell to well. I do wish schools would look at the positives and offer more tailored help rather than seeing them as problem / disruptive children if they get frustrated!

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