Over the years, the existence of dyslexia has given us much confusion, several bad jokes, and at least one typeface. What we have not been getting is a compelling reason to prevent ourselves, patronizing as we often are, from looking down on those who suffer from it. Yet they have advantages over the rest of us:
Dyslexic brains are organized in a way that maximizes strength in making big picture connections at the expense of weaknesses in processing fine details.
It’s a huge mistake to regard a dyslexic child as if his or her brain is trying to follow the same pathway of development as all the other kids but is simply doing a bad job of it. In reality, the brains of kids with dyslexic processing styles are actually developing in a very different way. They establish a different pattern of connections and circuitry, creating a different kind of problem-solving apparatus. The difference is global, not just in certain areas of the brain.
As Steve Jobs might have said in a non-necessarily-unrelated context: “Think different.”
Most dyslexics tend to remember facts as experiences, examples or stories, rather than abstractions… 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.
This assumes, of course, that we don’t allow them to get trapped on the short bus on the way to those fields. There are times when I wonder if that’s too much to assume.
(Via I Speak of Dreams.)