Wired for the phenomenal

Dyslexia as alternative processor

<Full text>

In a recent interview with Wired magazine Brock Eide, co-author of The Dyslexia Advantage: Unlocking the Hidden Potential of the Dyslexia Brain, signed off with one of the most genuinely explosive dyslexia-orientated statements I have ever come across: Asked whether, were he able, he would choose to be dyslexic, he is unapologetically assertive. ‘Absolutely! It’s a phenomenal kind of wiring.’

This is no throwaway remark. Not for him the unnecessarily incendiary debate vis-à-vis as to whether or not dyslexia exists. Dyslexia exists. It affects at least one in ten of us. However, what is especially interesting about the Eides’ thesis, and one that reflects much of what Ron Davis intimates in The Gift of Dyslexia, is that they turn its defining characteristics into a mere aspect or element of the condition: ‘One of the biggest misconceptions is that dyslexic brains differ only in the ways they process printed symbols, when in reality they show an alternative pattern of processing that affects the way they process information across the board.’

Rather than define dyslexia, say the Eides, as unexpected reading and writing difficulties in a child of otherwise average or above intelligence, why not understand the dyslexic brain as an alternative way of manipulating everything – rather than just the printed symbol? The emphasis that we place on reading and writing, at such an early age, skewers, they argue, our understanding of how dyslexics process the world. And in narrowing our focus so we do our dyslexic children a grave disservice. We have given them a learning disorder – at age 7. They are, by definition, now somehow disabled.

Better, then, that we understand the dyslexic brain in its totality, that we incorporate in the learning experiences of young dyslexics everything that is specifically wonderful about how they process the world. Such wonderfulness, as understood by the Eides, comes in four key areas or ‘patterns’ of reasoning capacity: three dimensional spatial conceptualisation; inter-connected thinking; narrative comprehension and application; and dynamic reasoning. Herein, say the Eides, lies the route to our future engineers, architects, teachers, novelists, geologists, trial lawyers, financiers, paleontologists and so on and so forth.

For any parents of a dyslexic child, this isn’t news. What is, though, is the effect the Eides’ thinking has on the sacred cow that is the printed symbol. Early difficulties as exhibited by the dyslexic child are exacerbated by the undue significance we place on early reading and writing. It is important, yes, but not, as the Eides might say, as important as we like to think. Rather, take the long, wide view. The dyslexic brain is a remarkable brain. It is intelligent. It is different. It will accommodate its specific difficulties. Meanwhile, label to celebrate. Do this and we reappropriate what it is to be dyslexic; that is, to be wired for the potential for living a truly phenomenal life.