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Dyslexia - Disability or Gift?


Dyslexia - Disability or Gift?

By Meg Fortune Mc Donnell

Word ThinkersWhat do Albert Einstein, Picasso and Walt Disney have in common? Loads of talent, for sure. But you might be surprised to learn that their talents had something of a common source: they are all dyslexics. Most of us think of dyslexia as a disadvantage, rather than an advantage--but a new insight into dyslexia is changing that understanding. David Rosen, a Northern California dyslexia specialist, says those “because they think mainly in pictures rather than words, dyslexics are highly imaginative, inventive, and show signs of real genius in their chosen fields. They think in a multi-dimensional way.”  Rosen goes on to contend, “Most people might think that these well-known geniuses were successful despite dyslexia, but I believe that they were successful because of the gift of visual –spatial thinking that allows dyslexics to explore ideas and concepts in multi-dimensional ways.”  

Dyslexia is a product of a particular way of thinking, and a unique way of reacting to the confusion created by not being able to decipher through visual means, things like letter, numbers, punctuation and sight words.

Conventional teaching methods, geared to the way the brain works in the majority of people, just don’t work for dyslexics, who are visual learners, often leaving them feeling frustrated and stupid. 

Picture ThinkersDyslexics can function at full capacity if they are taught to read, write, and speak by using methods that draw on their unique strengths. As actor Orlando Bloom, yet another famous dyslexic, has said, “Dyslexia is not due to lack of intelligence, it’s a lack of access.” One 14 year old high school student Rosen worked with said, “I am speaking so much more clearly and what I say makes more sense to other people. My mom even understands me .The other day I wrote an essay for school. When I read it, I could not believe that it was me who wrote it!” 

He recently worked with a 16 year old girl who said in the initial assessment, “I am so frustrated! I love to tell stories and write about things going on in my head and imagination … can you help me do this?” For Rosen, this is the epitome of the frustration dyslexic experience. “There is enormous potential creativity, originality and even genius in dyslexics. But, they experience great frustration in not being able to incarnate that creative impulse in their lives.

“The full effects of dyslexia are just not very well understood,” Rosen points out. “When I assess school children, for example, I have the parents sit in. Often, the kids will tell me things about what happens when they try to read. They say things like, ‘The words are fuzzy and blurry.” Or they see letters turned around and flipped; or insert words that are not there; they get really disoriented and confused. The parents are just amazed. They didn’t understand the full extent of what was going on.” 

Dyslexia carries with it a great deal of shame to the dyslexic’s self-confidence. “Last year, I worked with a 65 year old woman who was running a successful business. She came to see me because she was struggling with her communications with both her employees and her clients. Several days into the program, she burst into tears, pouring out the incredible frustration and complication she felt about her life-long struggle with dyslexia. That’s an example of how helping people correct their dyslexia makes a huge difference in their lives,” says Rosen. 


David Rosen is a dyslexia specialist working out of Sonoma & Marin County. He will be offering a Free Information Seminar, “Is It Dyslexia?” at The Glaser Center in Santa Rosa, Saturday, May 16th. For more information call (707) 928-4054.

Meg Fortune McDonnell is a local Northern California nonfiction writer and editor. Her specialties include education, developmental theories, and child rearing.)