The Hidden Advantages of Dyslexia
Career Development From Muhammad Ali to Albert Einstein, people with dyslexia continue to make groundbreaking achievements in every field. Why is there still a stigma?
With cutting-edge research supporting the existence of distinctive strengths and abilities associated with dyslexia, people of all ages are speaking out about their unique talent sets, and workplaces and institutions are beginning to listen. It is no accident that many of the pioneers of science, medicine, technology, art and architecture are known to be dyslexic.
Among dyslexic adults, there seem to be what we've called “MIND” strengths—an acronym that stands for exceptional talents in material, interconnected, narrative and dynamic reasoning. It's these abilities that have likely led to higher numbers of dyslexics thriving in fields such as design, architecture, engineering and entrepreneurship.
Before the positive side of dyslexia was recognized, there was little incentive for adults with dyslexia to identify with being dyslexic, and it can still be problematic to disclose because of widespread ignorance and unintended bias about what being dyslexic can mean. Thankfully, that is changing.
Dyslexic Advantage conferences have brought together accomplished adult dyslexics such as MacArthur Genius Fellows Jack Horner and Mimi Koehl, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Phililp Schultz, AIDS pioneer Don Francis, venture capitalists Scott Sandell and David Hornik and tech entrepreneurs Douglas Merrill and Barrett Lyon. These are just a few examples of people who have succeeded by understanding their different skill sets.
There have never been more opportunities for young people with dyslexia to discover their talents. The fist thing we should teach is that dyslexia is not something you outgrow. Dyslexia is a learning difference that has strengths as well as challenges.
If traditional education is a problem for some students, we need to help them discover their work-arounds and learning preferences so that they can start on an even footing or even ahead of other students. It’s also important to fight the stigma of dyslexia by encouraging students to think they’re capable of anything, despite their differences. We need to teach them to tune out the negative and find the positive. It's hard enough doing what you have to do. Dyslexics shouldn’t put up with people who sap their energy and weigh them down. Working together, we can build a more dyslexia-positive community.