04 August 2015

Dyslexic Brains are Good Brains Too

dyslexic brains are good brains too

Hi, I'm Simone and I'm dyslexic. Did you know that about me?
Just typing the word, "dyslexic" it came out "dysexlic" the first time I wrote it.
But writing things backwards is not what makes me dyslexic. In fact, that was just a typo that may or may not have anything to do with my dyslexia.
Being dyslexic is very different to what most people think, if they think about it at all. Most people's understanding of dyslexia is typified by this joke (that I thought was really funny when when I first heard it, before I knew I was dyslexic)...

Hey did you hear the one about the dyslexic agnostic insomniac? 
He stayed up all night wondering if Dog really exists.
Yeah. Ha. Ha.

Most people (including teachers) think that dyslexia is struggling with reading, writing and spelling. Full stop.
Unfortunately for people who are dyslexic, they are only touching on a fraction of the issue.
In fact, they are missing the point altogether.

dyslexic brains think in pictures

Most of the information teachers have to work with is based on the experts' reading* of the symptoms of dyslexia - which typically IS difficulty reading and writing and spelling. But not always.

Dyslexia is actually a whole different way of thinking.
Dyslexic brains process information differently from regular brains - we think in pictures, not words.
Our brains are not linear - we don't think along a line. We see a picture and can come at it from any angle.

This has it's advantages in many ways - we can see a picture of something and our clever pictorial brains will figure out how to dissect it and recreate it.
We can visualise things that haven't been created yet; we are imaginative and creative.
But we have a problem with "sequencing". We often don't know where to begin or how to put things in order. So often we are the kings and queens of procrastination. We run late, and forget appointments because we forget to check our diary. Heck, we forget to write things down in the diary in the first place.

Dyslexic brains are creative imaginative and innovative

Being dyslexic is no picnic at school.
It's like trying to fit square pegs in a round hole. It's stressful and overwhelming and exhausting.

But Simoney, I hear you ask. How can you be dyslexic and write so brilliantly and with so few spelling mistakes?
Haha, why thank you! Ha.

I'm dyslexic, but I also have something called "giftedness" which has enabled my brain to find alternative methods of dealing with words. My brain takes the long way round, but it gets there. I don't even notice this happening most of the time.
But sometimes when I am tired or stressed, I hit a wall, a roadblock in my brain.
I literally draw a blank.

Then I find myself scrabbling around for the right word, when I can see the picture of the thing I'm trying to say in my head but the word to describe it is lost.
I say "book" when I mean "kettle". I call my kids by their sister's/aunty's/brothers' names. I literally lose my words.
It's like I've used up my data allowance and my brain's ISP is now working on dial-up speed.

For Dyslexics at school it's like being a square peg in a round hole

Now, it's bad enough for me, but my kids have inherited my "low working memory and slow processing speed". Poor things.
Consequently school has been a nightmare at times, depending on who we've got as a teacher.
I really wish they would educate teachers properly about what dyslexia is, and how it affects kids' learning. It would make such a difference if they understood.

But I guess at least these days dyslexia is on the radar. Teachers may not understand it properly, but at least they know there is such a thing. And if we wave our kids' Ed-Psych reports under their noses and bother them enough they will eventually start to cotton on. Hopefully.

Laughton King - a New Zealand dyslexic PhD and author - likens dyslexic brains to diesel engines, whereas the learning offered through the traditional school education system is like petrol, designed to be put in petrol engines. It's a good analogy. Anybody can tell you that a diesel engine will struggle to run on petrol.

Dyslexic people are gifted in different ways

School changes kids who think and learn in a different way.
Over the last two years I've watched school turn my happy-go-lucky ray-of-sunshine youngest son into a boy who explodes with frustration and gets emotional over the smallest things. He is trying to fit his square peg self into that uncomfortable round hole. We are helping him as much as we can, but it's tough for him. And it's tough to watch.

I would homeschool him - I would - if I thought for one second that I was capable of doing a good job. Of following through, and sticking to a plan. But I know I suck at that stuff. Truly, I do.

Those of you who look at my party posts and think I'm good at organising: bahahahahaha! I'm NOT, just ask my husband.

I am GREAT at coming up with ideas and figuring out how to do stuff. I am creative and innovative. That's my dyslexic picture brain in action. But do you know why I would/could never become a party planner for other people? Because it would kill me.

Dyslexic brains are not good at sequencing and linear processes

I would be such a stress ball from all the organising, communication and sequencing that would be needed that I wouldn't last a month.
The same reason that I would be a terrible homeschooler. And why I've struggled since forever with homework and scheduling and being on time and remembering stuff (if you want a safe person to tell your secrets to, tell me. I'll have forgotten them by tomorrow).

I know my limits. I know my strengths and my weaknesses. As much as I would like to pull my kid out of school and teach him at home, I know it would be the worst thing I could do. Worse than being a square peg in a round hole at school (where we get extra tutoring for him and celebrate his strengths and tell  him all the time that he's smart and has a great brain).

But boy oh boy it's hard to watch your kids struggle. Sin't it? I mean, Isn't it? (see my dyslexic brain wrote Sin't but my giftedness spotted the mistake).

Dyslexic brains are amazing can visualising and imagining the possibilities

One thing I take comfort in, is that my kids have a mum who gets it. They know I understand, I come up against the same brick walls they do, I "get" their struggle.

Last night my daughter sat by me pouring out her heart about her school frustrations and how she worries her teacher doesn't understand how her brain works and why she's slow at learning new concepts (it takes a lot of repetition to transfer new learning into long-term memory, when your working memory capacity is small. "Half the content and double the teaching time" is what was recommended in the Ed Psych report).

She has written a speech arguing that kids should be able to use laptops or ipads at school instead of writing by hand (and she's through to the semi-finals!). This is a topic dear to many a dyslexic parent's heart. Technology makes the playing field more level.

The ability to edit and spell check, means that the dyslexic child's thoughts and ideas can be judged on their merit, without being hobbled by the writing process.
Most parents of non-dyslexic kids would draw back in horror at the idea of using ipads instead of writing in books, but can i get an "amen" from my fellow parents of dyslexics?

Dyslexic brains may work differently but they are awesome in many ways

When I say "dyslexic" I mean the full gamut: dyslexia, dyslcalculia, dysgraphia, dyspraxia. They are all the same picture-brain at work. People with these diagnoses think in pictures with thoughts playing out like movies in our heads...
Depending on how good our long-term memory is and how much help we had to negotiate the world of words and letters will determine how successfully we picture-brain thinkers can get through a linear-brain education system.

We dyslexics rely on our memory. It's tiring taking the long way round all the time. Exhausting. Headaches are common, senses are often in overload and emotions often run high. We are more vulnerable to anxiety and depression (as I know all too well).

But we have these amazing creative picture-brains which can do things that linear-brains can't. We can imagine, we can visualise, we can create.
So many brilliant dyslexic people have contributed amazing things to world including Leonardo DaVinci, Albert Einstein, Henry Ford and Steven Spielberg. (Full list here).

Dyslexic people have great brains - they just work a bit differently.
This is what I keep telling my kids.
Dyslexic brains are good brains too.

Do you have any dyslexics in your family? How do you cope with school? Thoughts/comments anyone? xx 


*For expert information on Dyslexia I recommend LAUGHTON KING's books; he is a dyslexic with a PhD, so his information is from the point of view of an insider, not just someone observing the "symptoms". BEST BOOKS ON DYSLEXIA EVER; get them here

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