Dyslexia is hardly a superpower – in fact it’s a ‘specific learning difficulty’. But this ‘difficulty’ seems to have a strange way of making people better at some things. Dyslexia often co-exists with high levels of:
- interpersonal skills
- perseverance and determination.
Look at Pablo Picasso, who never amounted to much in school but came up with a bold new artistic vision. Or Richard Branson, whose business acumen more than overcame his academic difficulties. These are only two names on a long list of dyslexic high achievers.
It’s not that being gifted causes dyslexia, of course. Nor is it proof of a genetic connection between dyslexia and creativity, the way blonde hair and blue eyes often go together. It could be that having a brain that’s wired differently gives you different abilities. Or it could be that struggling with everyday tasks like reading, writing and coordination simply pushes dyslexics to compensate. We use skills that aren’t hampered by our unusual brain wiring to make up for the ones that are. That sounds like a good thing – and it is. But unfortunately it can cause problems of its own, because dyslexia’s real superpower is invisibility.
I wasn’t diagnosed with dyslexia until I was in my teens. It probably didn’t help that I’m hardly a ‘classic case’; I was (and am) a voracious reader. My spelling may have been, let’s say, idiosyncratic, but my writing was fine for my age. Everything was fine for my age, in fact, and that was the problem. Unless a child is failing in something, their difficulties may not be picked up. It’s easy to see ‘careless’ or ‘rushed’ work by a child who is doing fine when it’s actually painstaking work by a child who is struggling to keep up. That label of ‘careless’ was the bane of my school life until a teacher who was trained in dyslexia finally saw the mismatch between my spoken ability and my written work.
After that I got extra time in exams and natty purple glasses to stop lines jumping around. I was also taught techniques to help me overcome my poor memory and spelling. They were so effective that I am now an excellent proofreader, and people are impressed by how well I remember names! But if I hadn’t been diagnosed, perhaps I would simply believe that I was ‘careless’, always letting myself down.
Some people believe that dyslexia is a ‘gift’. I’m not sure that I agree with them. I had a friend at Scotland’s top university who could not write without a voice-operated computer. That didn’t seem like a gift. My younger sister can never fully enjoy a book because reading is such hard work. To me, who inhales books, that doesn’t look like a gift. When I break another glass, or have to stare at a road sign to figure out which way it’s pointing, that doesn’t feel like a gift. But when I can effortlessly make connections that most people miss, or ‘see’ the past behind present-day places, that does feel like a gift. And perhaps I wouldn’t have these abilities without my dyslexic wiring. Dyslexia may not be a gift, but it comes bearing gifts.
Karen Murdarasi, guest blogger
You can see more blogs from Karen here: www.kcmurdarasi.com