Creativity and Dyslexia

What do actor Henry Winkler, Connecticut governor Dan Malloy, paleontologist Jack Horner, and New York student Skye Lucas have in common? Dyslexia and success. In an article for The Wall Street Journal, Melinda Beck argues that many experts believe dyslexia does not influence intelligence and that many dyslexic individuals have thrived by utilizing creative talents, the ability to think differently, and by working harder than their peers.

From the WSJ article: “As many as one in five Americans has some degree of dyslexia, according to Yale research, although only about 5% of children have been formally diagnosed. And it clearly runs in families; six gene variations have been linked to the condition to date. Dyslexia was long thought to be a vision-related problem, but there’s a growing consensus that dyslexics instead have difficulty associating letters with spoken sounds and blending them together fluidly to make words.”

Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives member Sally E. Shaywitz, M.D., explains dyslexia with an example: “Think of the word ‘bat.’ If you are dyslexic, you have to retrieve the B and the A and the T separately each time. It’s exhausting.” Sally and Bennett A. Shaywitz, M.D., (also a DABI member), co-directors of the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity, are often greeted by attendees of their presentations who have realized they probably have dyslexia. On a small scale, the attendees reveal the need for a better understanding and awareness of dyslexia—and the irregularities in word-analyzing regions of the brain that cause it—among the public.

Many experts urge schools to give dyslexic children extra time on tests and grade imaginatively based on individual skills (spelling, creativity, etc.) used in reading and writing. Unfortunately, many schools do not follow that advice, according to a report by the Congressional Dyslexia Caucus. Without encouragement and teaching methods that help dyslexic students compensate for their disability, many of them fall behind their peers, even if they are creative and have high IQs. In 2005, New York Times bestselling author Rick Riordan blogged about his son’s struggle with dyslexia and how it was inspiration for his famous novel, The Lightning Thief.

– Amanda Bastone

2 responses

  1. Interesting article. We know that the connection between dyslexia and creativity isn’t an accident. At Landmark School, students recently won 53 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards — more than any other private school in Massachusetts. This is no coincidence. There is scientific evidence linking dyslexia with innovative and out-of-the-box thinking processes. We also know that the brain is an elastic muscle that can adapt as needed to one’s surroundings and needs.

  2. This is a late response but, congratulations to your school, Susan! I agree and will add that educational strategies, training, programs, and pedagogy that foster creative ways of thinking in students with dyslexia is very important to their success, as is feeling accepted and encouraged by peers, their teachers etc.

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