Is there a positive side to dyslexia?

To mark Dyslexia Awareness Week 2019, which runs from 7th-13th October, we decided to explore whether there could be any unexpected benefits for those living with it.

Before we start, It’s important to point out that dyslexia is a recognised learning disability, and that it can make life really difficult for those who have it. Did you know that more than ten per cent of the UK population is dyslexic? This means there is a high chance that either you, a family member, a colleague or a friend has the disorder. In light of this, it’s important that we understand the challenges, but also that we also take the time to consider any potential benefits.

The negatives

Dyslexia can make reading, writing and spelling really difficult, putting people at a distinct disadvantage if the right help is not available. It may mean that they read and write slowly, mix up the order of letters in words or write letters the wrong way round. Those with dyslexia may find spelling difficult and might struggle to read or process complex instructions. It can also affect ability when it comes to organisation and planning.

There is no ‘cure’ for dyslexia, but having the disorder certainly doesn’t indicate a lack of intelligence, though sadly some are treated that way. This can cause dyslexic people to struggle at school, in the workplace or even in churches, and many lose confidence as a result. In some cases it affects people’s ability to carry out seemingly simple tasks and can lead to unnecessary failure if it is not managed well, with the right support given.

Sharon Hodgson MP, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Dyslexia and other SpLDs, said: “A significant proportion of the population is dyslexic, more than one in ten. Unfortunately, too many of those people are not having their needs adequately supported, whether at school or later on in life at the workplace. This can have long-term consequences not only on individuals, but on wider society.”

The positives

While the above may sound overwhelming problematic, there are a number of positive – and often uncelebrated – aspects to having dyslexia. It is often associated with creativity, innovation and improved cognitive thinking. Some believe it has helped them achieve success and empowered them, rather than acting as a disability. Famous people with dyslexia include Albert Einstein, Richard Branson, Walt Disney, Tom Cruise, Leonardo da Vinci and Jim Carrey, proving that having the disorder does not indicate a lack of ability. 

Dyslexic people are often able to see the big picture where others struggle to do so, and verbal communication may be improved in place of written communication. Some people with dyslexia also find that they are able to understand, absorb and retain complex information in a way that others can’t. The key is to maximise the strengths while minimising any weaknesses, ensuring that the right support is available as and when it is needed.

Dr Robert Chapman writes in Psychology Today: “Many dyslexic entrepreneurs have described how their divergent thinking has helped them excel in their chosen fields, while others have noted how certain sports may suit their dyslexic cognitive style… While it is vital to recognise the challenges associated with dyslexia, it is nonetheless equally important to recognise it as a natural and valuable aspect of human neurological diversity – one that needs to be supported, accommodated, and valued, rather than being taken as a medical flaw that we would be better off without.”

Mollie King, British Dyslexia Association ambassador and Radio 1 presenter says: “When empowered, dyslexia has so much to offer. It is exciting to see so many schools and organisations up and down the country taking time out during Dyslexia Awareness Week to explore how to empower dyslexia. I hope everyone enjoys their sessions and find it a positive experience for all.”

For more information about Dyslexia Awareness Week 2019 visit bdadyslexia.org.uk.

To access dyslexia-friendly Bible texts including Genesis, Psalms, Mark, Luke, John, Romans and Revelation, visit The Bible Society.