LEARNING DIFFERENTLY

            You’ve gotten through the hard stuff. Now it is time to talk about what really sets dyslexics apart — your amazing ability to see the world differently. You don’t believe me? Read on.

  • Dyslexia is not the end of the world
  • Dyslexics think differently
    • Right brain thinking allows dyslexics to see the world in a new way
  • The other side of dyslexia is a set of awesome abilities.

            So now that you have an understanding of your dyslexia, it’s time to put your learning differences to work for you.

DYSLEXIA IS NOT THE END OF THE WORLD, IT IS THE BEGINNING OF THE ADVENTURE

            Dyslexic brains don’t want to shift from the big-picture right brain to the details-oriented left. Staying in the right hemisphere can cause problems for you when you read or do other jobs that need to be automatic.  

            But new research shows that the crossed-wires, fuzzy-processing, right-brain-use of dyslexics contributes to your thinking in unique, creative ways. That ability is very powerful,  and produces its own incredible talents.

DYSLEXICS THINK DIFFERENTLY FROM OTHER PEOPLE…

AND THAT’S A GOOD THING

            So what’s so great about how dyslexics think?

RIGHT BRAIN THINKERS

            You, as a dyslexic, don’t shift to the left side of your brain for reading. Instead, you use your right hemisphere more than non-dyslexics. 

            That means the right side of your brain gets more exercise. The right hemisphere is the “go-to” portion when you think about things. This is why dyslexics are big picture thinkers — you do most of your thinking in the big picture right side of your brain.   

            In fact, one of the few differences in dyslexic brains compared to those of fluent readers’ is that the right side of a fluent reader’s brain is slightly smaller than a dyslexic’s. 

“Studies show that individuals with dyslexia process information in a different area of the brain than do non-dyslexics.

Many people who are dyslexic are of average to above average intelligence.”

International Dyslexia Association http://www.interdys.org/FAQWhatIs.htm

LEFT BRAIN THINKER: HOW I THINK VERSUS HOW MY KIDS THINK

            I am a very linear thinker — I go from A to B to C without ever wandering off course. My kids are dyslexic. We have different ways of seeing the same problem.

            Consider the sentence: “There were bats in the old house, but they flew away.”

Two possible meanings of the word “bat” come up in my brain.

            When I read this sentence, I might pause to sort out if the writer meant a flying mammal or a stick for sports. But I’d go to my left hemisphere mental filing cabinet, where everything is stored logically, and based on context, I’d know pretty fast which meaning the author meant.

Bats

            Mammals

Live in abandoned buildings

Fly      

Wooden Sticks

May be left in abandoned buildings

Are swung and sometimes thrown

And I’d make a decision on which definition worked better. I wouldn’t spend any more time on the thought because I’d want to get on with the story I was reading.

The context of the sentence tells me which meaning of the word “bat” is appropriate.

But this is what might pop into my kids minds:

Everything that might possibly be associated with bats. And then associations with the associations.

            My way of reading lets me quickly understand the content and be fluent — I get sucked into whatever I’m reading. But my kids have a lot more interesting ideas flash through their heads.

            Neither way is better, just useful at different times. If you’re trying to read a story, getting sucked into a book makes it come alive. But if you’re trying to figure out why bats are getting a fatal disease, thinking of everything around the word “bat” may give you some great new connections.

“…I am interested less in the [dinosaur] bones per se than in what they reveal about large-scale trends.”

— Dr. John “Jack” Horner, paleontologist, MacArthur “genius” Fellowship recipient.

TAKE A NEGATIVE AND TURN IT INTO A POSITIVE

            Being fluent in something means that you have learned the script for it. Dyslexics, on the other hand, have a hard time remembering a lot of scripts.

            But dyslexics can turn this seeming-negative into a positive. Because you often have a hard time turning lots of little steps into scripts, you have to think about what you are doing each time you do it. And each time you do a step, you can ask yourself “Isn’t there a better way to do this?”  You think about what you are doing. Sometimes you come up with a better answer.

Doing it the hard way

I was working on the computer one day, using drop-down menus to individually copy and paste a lot of files from one place to the other. It was taking forever. My son wandered over and asked me “Why don’t you use Control-A to select them all at once, then drag them over?”

Past experience told me that I could get the job done by using my long series of scripts. I never stopped to ask myself if there wasn’t a better way to copy files — my scripts locked the knowledge up in only one way to do it. My dyslexic son saw many possibilities, including an easier one.

References

Armstrong, Thomas. 2003. “Coming to Grips with the Musculature of Words.” In The Multiple Intelligences of Reading and Writing: Making the Words Come Alive.
Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development. http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/102280/chapters/Coming-to-Grips-with-the-Musculature-of-Words.aspx.

Beilock, Sian. 2010. Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal about Getting It Right When You Have To. 1st Free Press hardcover ed. New York: Free Press.

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

Grandin, Temple, and Catherine Johnson. 2005. Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior. New York: Scribner.

Horner, John R. “Jack,” and Celeste Horner. 2004. “Jack Horner: An Intellectual Autobiography.” The Montana Professor, Spring 2004. http://mtprof.msun.edu/Spr2004/horner.html.

The International Dyslexia Association. “Promoting Literacy through Research, Education and Advocacy.” The International Dyslexia Association, November 12, 2001. http://www.interdys.org/FAQWhatIs.htm.

Nicolson, Rod, and Angela Fawcett. 2008. Dyslexia, Learning, and the Brain. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.

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

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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