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The Dyslexic Advantage


According to research by the Science Enterprise Centre based at the Cass Business School entrepreneurs are five times more likely to suffer from dyslexia. Being dyslexic myself I decided to read “The Dyslexic Advantage: Unlocking the Hidden Potential of the Dyslexic Brain” by Brock Eide & Fernette Eide to find out more.

Dyslexics (5-17% of the population) have four differences from their “normal” counterparts that makes living in a non-dyslexic world a challenge:

  1. Poor phonological processing causes reading and spelling challenges;
  2. Working Memory overload;
  3. Difficulty in procedural learning; and
  4. Unusually broad spacing of neuron clusters in brain’s cortex.

The procedural learning I can definitely attest to – ask me to go a put the washing machine on to a certain program, set the temperature, spin speed, amount of powder & fabric conditioner and I’ll get one of them wrong.

All four stem from the different brain anatomy. The larger cluster spacing leads to high density and longer inter-connections which in turn means problem solving requiring multiple perspectives or recognition of unusual relationships  works well but when it’s fine detail that is required I’m challenged (thank goodness for the spell checker).

The authors split the differences into four key areas with a handy acronym: MIND!

M: Material Reasoning: A 3-D Advantage

“M-strengths are abilities that help us reason about the physical or material world – that is, about the shape, size, motion, position or orientation in space of physical objects, and the ways those objects interact.”

On the positive side, just by looking at it, I was able to tell the man installing an air conditioning unit in my office that it would foul the door if he installed it where he was intending. He told me I was wrong. He proceeded. It fouled the door. On the bad news side I have problems with symbol reversals – both horizontal (b/d) and vertical (b/p) and sometimes difficulty translating my thoughts into words (that’s why I sometimes pause when asked a question).

I: Interconnected Reasoning: A big picture view

“Dyslexics have exceptional abilities to spot connections between different objects, concepts or points of view from multiple perspectives.”

This allows me to “simplifies the complex” as I state on the front page of my website – that is take lots of input and come up with an approach, perspective or viewpoint to explain something. The challenge – I often make unusual substitutions of words which sound similar, have similar concepts or structural similarity. For example: “Don’t eat that – it will spoil your dinner.” I meant “lunch”.

N:Narrative Reasoning: The story teller

“Narrative reasoning is the ability to construct a connected series of ‘mental scenes’ from fragments of past personal experience.”

Many famous authors use this ability to write naturally rich and engaging work “where past personal experiences can be used to solve problems, explain, persuade, negotiate, counsel or in some way form or shape the perspectives of oneself of others”. Something I find myself doing to illustrate points on when mentoring and running workshops. Sadly this comes at the expense of apparently poor short term memory (the washing machine again!).

D: Dynamic Reasoning: The Power of Prediction

“Dynamic reasoning is the ability to accurately predict past or future states using episodic simulation where components are variable, completely unknown or ambiguous.”

For example, when trying to solve a complex maths problem, I’ll estimate the answer than then work back to towards the problem improving the estimate for error sources. This can also lead to insights and eureka moments. I remember a eureka moment when solving a maths problem at school – I solved an exam question in five steps and it felt perfect and obvious. Very satisfying. I looked at my working five years later and found each step hard explain (another issue for dyslexics is it can take longer to transfer processes from short term to long term memory).

So are you dyslexic? Can you think of someone who is? Or do you wish you were? Does this ring true to you?


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