The Dyslexic Advantage

Having spent almost thirty years working with and advocating for individuals with dyslexia, I wondered if the information processing of the dyslexic brain may be an asset for some individuals, if there might be, in the words of autistism researchers Brock and Fernette Eide, a “dyslexic advantage.” As a special education teacher, I can’t help but wonder if cognitive dyslexic strengths run in families.

Approximately fifteen years ago, I was sitting with my extended family at Thanksgiving and shared my concerns that one of my sons was recently diagnosed with dyslexia. My father and brother simultaneously looked at me and said, “I think I am dyslexic, too.” My brother struggled in school, though now he is a very successful engineer. My father, now retired, never graduated from college, but worked as a mechanic in the Air Force and successfully ran his own construction company. These two dyslexic men have patterns of cognitive strengths based on visual-spatial abilities. It made me wonder what this means for the rest of my family.

Facts about Dyslexia

The International Dyslexia Association defines dyslexia as a “specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities.” Dyslexia affects as many as 15% to 20% of the United States population and 9% to 12% worldwide. Dyslexia is inherited and up to 49% of parents with dyslexic children and 40% of siblings also struggle with reading.

Traditionally, research has focused on the negative implications of dyslexia, such as how it results in difficulty in school and low self-esteem. Even the federal definition of dyslexia has negative connotati...


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