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The Gift of Dyslexia: Chapter One


Cover, The Gift of Dyslexia

The Gift of Dyslexia: Why Some of the Smartest People Can't Read and How They Can Learn.

By Ronald D. Davis with Eldon M.Braun.
(Perigee Books, Revised and Expanded Edition, 2010)

Summary | Preface | First Chapter

Chapter One:

Usually when people hear the word dyslexia they think only of reading, writing, spelling, and math problems a child is having in school. Some associate it only with word and letter reversals, some only with slow learners. Almost everyone considers it some form of a learning disability, but the learning disability is only one face of dyslexia.

Once as a guest on a television show, I was asked about the "positive" side of dyslexia. As part of my answer, I listed a dozen or so famous dyslexics. The hostess of the show then commented, "Isn't it amazing that all those people could be geniuses in spite of having dyslexia."

She missed the point. Their genius didn't occur in spite of their dyslexia, but because of it!

Having dyslexia won't make every dyslexic a genius, but it is good for the self-esteem of all dyslexics to know their minds work in exactly the same way as the minds of great geniuses. It is also important for them to know that having a problem with reading, writing, spelling, or math doesn't mean they are dumb or stupid. The same mental function that produces a genius can also produce those problems.

The mental function that causes dyslexia is a gift in the truest sense of the word: a natural ability, a talent. It is something special that enhances the individual.

Dyslexics don't all develop the same gifts, but they do have certain mental functions in common. Here are the basic abilities all dyslexics share:

  1. They can utilize the brain's ability to alter and create perceptions (the primary ability).
  2. They are highly aware of the environment.
  3. They are more curious than average.
  4. They think mainly in pictures instead of words.
  5. They are highly intuitive and insightful.
  6. They think and perceive multi-dimensionally (using all the senses).
  7. They can experience thought as reality.
  8. They have vivid imaginations.

These eight basic abilities, if not suppressed, invalidated or destroyed by parents or the educational process, will result in two characteristics: higher than normal intelligence, and extraordinary creative abilities. From these the true gift of dyslexia can emerge -- the gift of mastery.

The gift of mastery develops in many ways and in many areas. For Albert Einstein it was physics; for Walt Disney, it was art; for Greg Louganis, it was athletic prowess.

A Paradigm Shift

To change our perspective of dyslexia from disability to gift, we must start with a clear, accurate understanding of what dyslexia really is, and what causes it. Doing this will bring out the positive as well as the negative aspects of the situation and allow us to see how dyslexia develops. Then the idea of correcting it won't seem far-fetched. Going a step beyond correcting the problem, we can also recognize and explore this condition as the gift it truly is.

Before a dyslexic person can fully realize and appreciate the positive side of dyslexia, the negative side should be addressed. That doesn't mean the positive side will not surface until the problems are solved. The gift is always there, even if it isn't recognized for what it is. In fact, many adult dyslexics use the positive side of dyslexia in their life work without realizing it. They just think they have a knack for doing something, without realizing their special talent comes from the same mental functions that prevent them from being able to read, write or spell very well.

The most common disabilities of dyslexia occur in reading, writing, spelling, or math; but there are many others. Each case of dyslexia is different, because dyslexia is an unintentionally self-created condition. No two dyslexics have created it exactly the same.

In order to understand the gift of dyslexia, we need to view the learning disability known as dyslexia from a different angle.

Dyslexia is the result of a perceptual talent. In some situations, the talent becomes a liability. The individual doesn't realize this is happening because use of the talent has become compulsive. It began very early in life and by now seems as natural as breathing.