A recent report in the Wall Street Journal discussed the creative minds of dyslexics. This is no surprise to me. Many of the students that I tutor on the Upper West Side of Manhattan have dyslexia. Although they struggle in school to keep up with heavy amounts of reading and are often very disorganized, they all have one thing in common. They all have a “thing” outside of school that is their strength. For some it is musical talent, for others, athleticism, and for others it is artistic, but I would argue for all it is creative. One of my students does not even recognize his talents. As he sits doodling, a strategy I explained to his teachers would actually help him focus, he creates beautiful and ornate creatures. They are complex and original. He laughs at my praise of his drawings. I try to convince him to take his drawing more seriously.
The reason is that for most dyslexic students, school is a struggle and homework is even more of a struggle. Often what they are asked to do in school, skim a report, give feedback on a story, write short answers to a science question, are things that challenge the part of their brains that are not readily available. Reading takes place in the occipital-temporal area farther back in the brain. This allows one to recognize a word instantly. Most dyslexics don’t utilize that part of their brain easily so reading is slower and more difficult. They are putting letters together to form a word, not recognizing it all at once. This is very time consuming and taxing and one reason so many dyslexic children are discouraged in school and exhausted when they get home. Imagine having to use your left arm all day and you were right handed. It is not that you couldn’t and certainly in doing so your left arm would get stronger, but it would be time consuming and very tiring. That is what it is like for a dyslexic student in school.
I always encourage the students who I tutor to find that “thing” that they enjoy, that comes easily to them, that brings them pleasure and in the end some much needed confidence. The more teachers and parents can do this, the more these students will have the stamina and confidence to keep working in school.
If you live in the Manhattan area and would like more information about dyslexia and how to help your child use it to his or her advantage, contact Kathleen Brigham, Director of the Learning Consultants of Manhattan, at (917)328-9501.