Dyslexia is often viewed negatively - by your teachers at school, by yourselves and your children. But why do we do this, when we know of many successful people who are dyslexic? There seems to be something of an anomaly going on here. This article looks at why this has happened and why it is better to view dyslexia positively.
In my opinion, the key reason that dyslexia is viewed negatively starts with the assessment process itself. Your child has to be struggling with their academic skills to kick off the process. This has always struck me as odd because we can certainly identify some children who are going to need proper intervention to help them succeed with reading and writing from an early age. We really don't need to let them struggle until the age of 7 first.
Then the specialist teacher or educational psychologist is assessing their areas of difficulty and looking at the deficits they have in reading, spelling and writing. The process can be pretty demoralising for a student who is already well aware of their short comings. Even the language used - 'deficits' and 'weakness' is pretty negative.
The formal definitions of dyslexia are also negative. The International Dyslexia Association talks about ' poor spelling', a 'deficit in phonological component of language' ( lack of awareness of sounds) and 'secondary consequences'. The definition is littered with the word 'problem' and 'difficulties'. The British Dyslexia Association talks about dyslexia as being 'lifelong in its effects' and that it can be 'mitigated by specific interventions'. Nothing very positive here either!
There is a growing movement , though, called 'Positive Psychology' which is leading on to 'Positive Dyslexia'. Positive psychology is about focussing on strengths and building the best life you can. This concept was introduced in 1998 by Martin Seligman, the then President of the American Psychological Association. He wanted to change the focus of psychology from problems to exploring positive aspects.
Positive Dyslexia really follows on from this idea of Positive Psychology and is a concept I first came across at a conference where Professor Roderick Nicolson was presenting his ideas on this. It struck me how much better it would be to help our dyslexic students identify their own strengths so that they could apply these in their learning, rather than making them feel like they are just a set of weaknesses and difficulties. This is not to dismiss the fact that your dyslexic child struggles with aspects of schooling. I know that they do. But if they understand their strengths and understand how to use these to help with those difficulties, then this will surely lead to a more positive experience for them overall.
If we are going to look at weaknesses, then looking at strengths is just the other side of the coin. But it is a much more empowering side of the coin. You are moving your child away from helplessness to being in charge of their own development. They have the strengths to do this, it is a case of identifying their own particular strengths and then learning how to channel them. Once you know what your child's strengths are and how they learn best, you can use this to help them with their reading, spelling and writing.
One of the early neuroscientists, Norman Geschwind, noted that dyslexic individuals 'have superior talents in other areas' showing that dyslexia is as much a matter of perception as anything else. If art was more highly prized at school ( as it is in society), who would then be deemed as having the weaknesses? Would it still be those we class as dyslexic?
Once your child understands what they are good at, they will be able to choose an appropriate career. Many of the strengths that dyslexic people have are in high demand - think actors, graphic designers, marketing gurus, entrepreneurs and all other industries who appreciate divergent thinkers. Many dyslexic people can see things differently, make different connections to others and it is these skills which help us move forward as a society. Where would we be without Einstein? People, like Richard Branson, who set up 'disrupter' companies move us away from the status quo and are often those who 'think outside the box'. If your child is like this, then you should be celebrating this fact.
Technology will help your child once they leave school. The areas of weakness which seem so difficult to deal with now will be almost eradicated once in the workplace. I know of dyslexic adults who make good use of text to speech software to check their emails before they are sent out and to read long documents to them.
One of these is a talented engineer and another is a university professor. Both of these individuals identified their strengths ( the ability to think in 3D for the engineer and being able to identify bones for the professor) and then use technology to help them with the skills that are not so easy for them. Technology will become ever more common place and so your child will definitely benefit from this.
Would you like your child to understand their dyslexia more and identify their own strengths and how they learn best? Our 6 week programme ' Smashing Dyslexia' aims to do just this. The start date for this programme is the 28th October 2017. You can find out more about it here or by contacting me.
I have written 3 other blogs around this subject which you might also like to read by clicking on the titles: