A friend at church was catching me up on her grown sons. As she talked about the incredible mechanical abilities of one of her sons, who can completely take apart car and motorcycle engines and easily reconstruct them, I thought, “He must be dyslexic.”
Certainly not every person with strong mechanical abilities is dyslexic, but there is something really special about the dyslexic thinking style that fosters talents that require visual spatial thinking.
Our dyslexic learners are often big picture, conceptual thinkers who see the world differently. They can see how things fit together without ever looking at a set of instructions. They see creative solutions that others often don’t think of. They can mentally get a birds eye view of what’s happening on the field, allowing them to predict the path of players and puck or ball in sports. Because of this particular thinking style, we find that many actors, artists, entrepreneurs, and sports stars are also dyslexic.
Perhaps this is also why our dyslexic students experience such tremendous frustration with their reading, writing, and spelling difficulties. It tends to be our dyslexic students who put up the greatest resistance to dealing with print. They have such strong abilities in some areas, yet those abilities do not seem to serve them well in school, causing their self-esteem to take a severe beating.
We have been working with dyslexia for over 30 years and these students are still teaching me what they experience when they look at the page, as well as the creative ways they have come up with to either avoid reading altogether or cope with and hide their reading challenges.
Most students who struggle with reading, including those with dyslexia, have difficulty processing the individual sounds in words. They may be good at guessing at whole words, but struggle to think about the number, order, and identity of sounds within words. They tend to add, omit, or change sounds in words when reading and spelling.
Visually, it may be difficult for the dyslexic learner to look at the page. If they have a strong visual-spatial thinking style, which many do, they may see the letters 3-dimensionally or mentally look at the letters and words from all different angles. This can make it seem like letters and words are raised, moving, pulsating, mirror image, or backwards. Students tell me that the words may look like “blobs” if they try to focus on them for too long.
In spite of all the brain research to the contrary, most people still believe that if you’re dyslexic, you just have to learn to live with it and find ways around –that it cannot be corrected or changed.
What we know from working with thousands of children and adults with dyslexia and other learning challenges over the years, is that the underlying auditory and visual processing skills needed for easy, efficient reading and spelling can be developed. When the brain is processing the sounds in words, and able to perceive the letters and words on the page without disorientation, reading and spelling can be completely remediated.
I find dyslexic learners to be some of the most engaging, clever, and intelligent of students. It is such fun to see them blossom and excel when their mental energy is no longer being diverted towards avoidance, hiding, or getting around their reading challenges.
I periodically run into parents of past students. I love hearing what’s happened to those students once their learning challenges were corrected. The moms of two formerly dyslexic former students said that their sons were, respectively, “a voracious reader” and a “perpetual student.” Both young men now have two Masters degrees and are successful adults.
Do you or your child struggle with speaking, reading, learning, or attention? These challenges can be changed. While there are no simple, overnight solutions, most learning and attention challenges can be dramatically improved or completely corrected through developing the weak underlying skills and remediating the affected academic areas.
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“Helping smart but struggling students dramatically improve or completely correct their learning and attention challenges by developing the underlying learning skills that are not supporting the learner well enough.”
We serve children and adults with diagnosed or undiagnosed learning and attention challenges including learning disabilities, dyslexia, ADHD, auditory processing disorders, and autism spectrum disorders.
Jill Stowell, M.S.
Author: At Wit’s End A Parent’s Guide to Ending the Struggle Tears, and Turmoil of Learning Disabilities
Founder and Executive Director – Stowell Learning Centers