HOW WE LEARN — OVERVIEW

To understand what’s going on with dyslexia, we need to understand a little about how we learn to read. In this post, well look at:

A TALE OF TWO HEMISPHERES

The brain is divided into two halves, called the right and left hemispheres. The two sides of the brain are connected. They share information and work together.  You need both sides to function well.

DIFFERENT STRENGTHS, DIFFERENT JOBS

But the right and left hemispheres of the brain have different strengths. They process information in very different ways.  Think of it this way: the right brain looks at the whole big picture, the left brain works with a limited number of parts. 

Right Brain Jobs

The right brain is where we do our mental processing when we are just beginning to learn how to do a task. It works with huge amounts of information from all the senses. The right brain is slow and takes a lot of energy, but sees the big picture as it explores. For the right brain, anything is possible.

Think of designing an imaginary car. You would probably come up with a mix of what would the car have to have — some sort of engine to make it move, and what would just be really awesome — ejector seats!

Left Brain Jobs

The left brain is where expert processes are stored. It thinks in details, is logical, analytical and fast. To do this, the left brain limits possibilities.

Driving the car involves a lot of automatic rules. When you come to a four way stop, you always let the person to the right of you go first. Why? You are limiting your options so you can focus on watching for other cars and pedestrians.

MAIN BRAIN HEMISPHERE STRENGTHS

Some people are very good at using the skills and strengths of both sides of their brains. Others think more with one side or the other, either being more analytical, or being more intuitive. If you’re like most people, you’ll be strong in some areas and less so in others.

 It’s kinda like building a character in a role-playing game like Dungeons and Dragons. In a role-playing game, each character has different strengths — a twelve in magic. They also have challenges — a three in charisma.

Everybody has a mix of right and left brain strengths and weaknesses. What are your strengths from each side?

Left Hemisphere Strengths –  PartsRight Hemisphere Strengths – Whole
Right handed.Left handed.
Fast processing.Slow processing.
Focused on fine details.Looks at all the information.
Sorts ideas and objects.Identifies relationships,  similarities, likenesses,  and patterns. 
Takes the whole and breaks it up into its parts  – just uses what’s needed for the specific task.Makes connections; sees gist, background or context   as patterns in the whole. Needs the big picture.
Logical steps — builds on everything it knows up to now.Spatial abilities — the ability to understand how objects or ideas fit together. 
Recognizes incoming information and responds to the important stuff with short-cuts called scripts, instead of having to think everything through every time.Can handle independent streams of information from different senses flowing into our brains at the same time — the big picture.
Strings separate moments together in succession to give us a sense of time — important for putting words in the right order.Lets us remember isolated incidents amazingly well, everything happens in the here and now.
Sees precise descriptions.Sees ambiguities or inconsistencies — things that don’t fit together as a whole. This includes metaphors, jokes and inferences.
Understands the grammar of sentences, and the meaning of words and letters.Understands tone of voice, facial expressions, body language   and other social languages.  
Thinks in words.Thinks in pictures.
Limits possibilities to get faster responses.Sees possibilities, notices and explores.
Categorizes and organizes information and compares what is the best way to do things —  is very judgmental.Thinks outside the box, is very intuitive, spontaneous, imaginative and judgment-free — anything is possible.

Just like a roll-playing game, the mix of strengths that you get is as random as a roll of the dice.

References

Eide, Brock, and Fernette Eide. 2011. The Dyslexic Advantage: Unlocking the Hidden Potential of the Dyslexic Brain. New York: Hudson Street Press.

Kounios, John. 2017. Per. Comm. “Re: Insights as Related to Dyslexia,” July 11, 2017.

Kounios, John, and Mark Beeman. 2009. “The Aha! Moment: The Cognitive Neuroscience of Insight.” Current Directions in Psychological Science 18 (4):210–16. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8721.2009.01638.x

Taylor, Jill Bolte. 2008. My Stroke of Insight : A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey. New York: Viking.

Shaywitz, Sally E. 1996. “Dyslexia.” Scientific American, 1996:98-104.

———. 2003. Overcoming Dyslexia: A New and Complete Science-Based Program for Reading Problems at Any Level. 1st ed. New York: Knopf.

UW News. “Dyslexic Children Use Nearly Five Times the Brain Area.” Accessed March 5, 2019. http://www.washington.edu/news/1999/10/04/dyslexic-children-use-nearly-five-times-the-brain-area/.

Wolf, Maryanne. 2007. Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain. 1st ed. New York, N.Y.: Harper.

Published by Amy Law

Amy Law is a science geek. She feels about science the way some people feel about music, or art, or sports – a total and complete emotional connection. She thinks in science. For Amy, there’s nothing better than helping people see the beauty of science as she does. She loves to untangle a complicated subject into its parts, explaining it so that anybody can understand what’s happening. Let her show you her world...

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