Dyslexia: a positive advantage, even for writers

Did you know that many famous writers are/were dyslexic, including Agatha Christie, F Scott Fitzgerald and George Bernard Shaw? If you’re dyslexic and need (or want) to write, this article by Jane Hatton – founder of Evenbreak, the highly successful job board for people with disabilities – will truly lift your spirits.

Dyslexia is usually seen as a disability – a problem. Two authors, Brock and Fernette Eide, challenge this assumption and instead argue that dyslexia is an alternative way that the brain is wired, and can bring many unexpected and unappreciated advantages. They have written a book called “The Dyslexic Advantage: Unlocking the hidden potential of the dyslexic brain”.

Brock talks about these hidden strengths, saying:

“We outline four major strength profiles in the book, and fundamentally each of these profiles reflects a different but related way in which dyslexic brains are especially good at putting together big pictures, or seeing larger context, or imagining how processes will play out over time.

Some dyslexic individuals are especially good at spatial reasoning. Putting together three-dimensional spatial perspectives is easy for them. They may work in design, 3-D art, architecture, be engineers, builders, inventors, organic chemists or be exceptionally good at bagging your groceries.

Interconnected reasoning is another kind of strength. These connections can be relationships of likeness — analogies for example — or causal relationships, or the ability to shift perspective and view an object or event from multiple perspectives, or the ability to see the “gist” or big-picture context surrounding an event or idea. Many dyslexics work in highly interdisciplinary fields or fields that require combining perspectives and techniques gained from different disciplines or backgrounds. Or they’re multiple specialists, or their work history is unusually varied. Often these individuals draw the comment that they can see connections that other people haven’t seen before.

Most dyslexics tend to remember facts as experiences, examples or stories, rather than abstractions. We call this pattern narrative reasoning, which we consider the third strength. These kids have a very strong ability to learn from experience. It’s very common for their families to describe these kids as the family elephant. They’ll be the go-to person when someone wants to remember who gave what to sister for her birthday two years ago. They might be the family historian, but they can’t remember the times tables or which direction the three goes. These individuals excel in fields where telling and understanding stories are important, like sales, counseling, trial law or even teaching. In addition, a large number of professional writers are dyslexic.

The fourth ability we outline is the ability to reason well in dynamic settings when the facts are incomplete or changing. People strong in this area often work in the business field, in financial markets or in scientific fields that reconstruct past events, like geologists or paleontologists. These people are comfortable working with processes that are constantly changing, and in making predictions.”

It’s interesting to see how a different perspective on what can be considered a disability can change our thinking about that condition.

Jane Hatton Founder of Evenbreak

Jane Hatton
Founder of Evenbreak

This article first appeared on the Evenbreak website. Evenbreak is a not-for-profit social enterprise, formed to help inclusive employers attract more talented disabled people; to help disabled jobseekers find work with employers who will value their skills; and to promote the business benefits of employing disabled people.

To advertise jobs on Evenbreak go here – http://www.evenbreak.co.uk/employers/
To find jobs on Evenbreak go here – http://www.evenbreak.co.uk/jobs/
To make a donation to Evenbreak go here – https://localgiving.com/charity/evenbreak

While you’re here, don’t forget to stop by my Bookshop…books and eBooks to help you write better – and to give to friends and family – from just $2.50

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  1. Hi Suzan,
    It’s always good to see folks writing and educating others on what some of us have struggled with for most of our lives. And yeah there are plenty advantages to having a “disability” like Dyslexia (did I spell that right?). I could tell you stories.

    Anyway, Thanks.

    • Hi Dale – yes, you’re right about advantages of some disabilities. Recently there was a story in the press here in the UK about a company in Germany, I think it was, who deliberately employ autistic people because of their incredible accuracy and dedication to perfect work in areas like data entry, etc. It’s good to see some silver linings in those clouds, isn’t it?

  2. I find it’s barely a disadvantage at all any more. Predictive text helps cover the problems writing, along with spell checkers and ever-improving grammar checkers, too. Even for specialist and jargon-intensive areas such as pharmacology there is often help in the firm of specialist apps!

    The only real problem lies in reading ‘heavy’ text. Even then, if it’s well written it’s okay. Of course, if it’s obfuscatary bullshit then I can’t read it… But I wouldn’t read it even if I could!

    It makes dyslexia a kind if built in bullshit detector! 😉

    • Very true, Simon. And I can feel a guest post coming on (from you, geddit?) … “Why dyslexia is your built-in bullshit detector” … how about it? xx

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