Our son has ADHD and dyslexia. Up to 40% of kids with ADHD have this co-existing disorder. In the environment of school, dyslexia is not looked upon as a gift. On the contrary, it creates problems with decoding and comprehension.
Despite the difficulty he has had with academics, I have begun to notice his ability to see the big picture! He can see a plane in the air and determine where it came from and it’s current destination. He can’t understand when his mother gets confused while following directions to a place that should be familiar.
It occurred to me that during one of those confusing times for me, I was experiencing a frustration that he often feels in school when his weaknesses of executive functioning skills are impacted. It is a lonely, frustrating time when you can’t do what you need to do. I imagined that he does not go through this episodically like I had. This is a way of life for him. No wonder our kids lose their self-esteem.
That’s why it’s so exciting to read about two cognitive scientists, Gadi Geiger and Jerome Lettvin from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who have looked at dyslexia and how it may provide strengths for those who have it.
They have found that the brain processes information both centrally and peripherally. Those with dyslexia can process information more adequately peripherally than centrally, which is why they have trouble reading it is thought. So they are able to see the big picture, reinforcing what I have seen in our child! A positive that needs to be reinforced all the time for those kids who struggle with expectations in school! How does that strength translate into the real world? Well, I’m sure that time will allow this to come to realization…But for now, those at the Lab for Visual Learning in Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics say one area may be the ability to assess lots of data and detect patterns. I wonder if this could translate into being a pilot or an air traffic controller?? Both areas are areas of interest for this same child who struggles with reading, focus, and executive functioning…but yet can interpret data, grab the big pic, and always know where he is!
It’s never easy to be outside of the norm. We all feel bad when people can do the things that we can’t do well. Especially when you are a child or teen and peer opinion matters.
Yes, our kids need to manage the dyslexia. But along the way, knowing that it can provide a gift that others don’t have is truly positive and inspiring.