Dyslexia and the Wider World of Creativity and Talent

“The single most important implication of research in dyslexia is not ensuring that we don’t derail the development of a future Leonardo or Edison; it is making sure that we do not miss the potential of any child. Not all children with dyslexia have extraordinary talents, but every one of them has a unique potential that all too often goes unrealized because we don’t know how to tap it.” Maryanne Wolf, Proust and the Squid

The act of reading is a relatively recent phenomenon that was developed over time by humans. Since there are no reading genes or reading center of the brain, humans must learn to read by themselves, training their brain to forge the connections of disparate parts to form the circuitry that allows us to read and write. Reading well can be a sign of intelligence, except when it isn’t, which is often the case for the 5-20 percent of students who have by far the most common form of learning disability, dyslexia.

And yet often, special gifts and talents emerge from dyslexic brains. Whether this happens because of the setup of the dyslexic brain or in spite of it is still an ongoing subject of research. Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Pablo Picasso are all said to have struggled with reading and handwriting. Steven Spielberg has spoken publiclyabout how he wasn’t diagnosed with dyslexia until he was long into adulthood. Richard Branson, founder of the 400-company Virgin Group, said that when he was a child in school, everything on the board looked like “gobbledy-goop” to him. Presidential candidate Ben Carson, who was director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins, is listed, along with nearly 40 other household names, on the “Successful Dyslexics” page on the International Dyslexia Association website.

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