Updated: Nov 23, 2022
It’s tempting to think your dyslexic child’s current challenges will always be weaknesses.
But the research indicates something else.
At DyslexicAdvantage.org researchers report how many dyslexic adults say that somewhere in their 20s they suddenly became ‘smarter and smarter’
The things that seemed so impossible when they were younger just become much easier.
Sign up to the newsletter so I can remind you when I interview Fernette Eide, CEO of The Dyslexic Advantage next month on the Wonderfully Wired podcast.
I love the image Fernette uses:
“Dyslexic kids are in the process of trying to build an elaborate, ambitious, futuristic building, and it's going to take longer to build such a foundation”.
This is what the Eides’ research shows:
Developmental spurts occur around 12 and 13 years of age where the dyslexic child suddenly undergoes a working memory expansion.
Developmental spurts happen again around 25, 26, 27 where things really ‘all come together’ .
In this month’s episode of Wonderfully Wired, Dean Bragonier said something similar. Dean wasn’t only talking about unlocking a dyslexic brain but also developing the character of someone with dyslexia.
“For me it wasn't a smooth trajectory by any stretch of the imagination, it was riddled with bouts of bullying and self-doubt and ridicule, and all of the experiences that unfortunately exist for students with dyslexia today.
It took a unique combination of setbacks that were manageable enough to cultivate resilience and my attitude of wanting to prove people wrong.
It’s that wonderful analogy of an oyster creating a pearl, right? It's a very aggravating process but if we are able to get to the other side, I think that there's a pretty amazing person that can emerge from that experience”
It occurred to me in conversation with these experts that two things are true at the same time:
Our kids need grit and determination while their dyslexic strengths take time to grow.
The time it takes to grow dyslexic strengths can result in grit and determination.
So this is what I say to my son:
“Hang on tight buddy! The things you find so hard (that others find so frustratingly easy) won’t be hard forever!
And then I get to say something even more fun:
“One day you will find easy what others find impossible.”
In February I’ll talk to dyslexic researcher and patron Thomas West who has spent more than three decades studying and reading the stories of successful dyslexic minds.
“I have learned that for some people, the easy things in primary school can be quite hard—while the hard things in graduate school and in advanced work situations can be quite easy.”
There are two assets that will result in success when we know we are playing a long game:
Three amazing dyslexic strengths that take time to form
One surprising benefit of finding school hard
Three amazing Dyslexic strengths that take time to form
A knack for making connections
Dyslexic brains are good at spotting connections between different objects, ideas, or points of view. They think of similarities and imagine many possible meanings.
This ability is rich and elaborate.
It doesn’t see the most obvious solution, it sees unusual and varied solutions.
It draws on a bank of experiences that can be endlessly linked and connected - but building such a bank takes TIME!
A knack for creating stories
Dyslexic brains figure things out by imagining scenes playing out in their mind rather than sifting through lists of unrelated data. Instead of answering questions with facts and definitions, they may tell stories and give examples.
Again we see a strength that needs life experience to grow and develop.
The elaborate ideas of a dyslexic brain don’t go naturally to the most likely answer but instead, think in a direction the question might lead, and what one could find down that rabbit hole.
I don’t need to tell you how this causes a struggle when tests ask for definitions, memorized lists and maths facts!
But what experts are finding is that the dyslexic brain gets better and better with age and time and in real life situations, or further education where novel answers are more valued.
A knack for solving puzzles
Dyslexic brains have a further gift of combining their knack to create a story and their knack to make connections to something called dynamic reasoning: An ability to see a solution others could not see.
This is valuable for intelligently solving a puzzle about the future; or solving a past puzzle even when some of the key pieces of the puzzle are missing.
Thomas West explains that this knack is used in
“creating new knowledge or developing the broad and deep understanding so badly needed for modern, real-world challenges.”
It is this strength that we need for envisioning and designing a new future! It’s not just impressive, it’s critical!
But, you guessed it, it takes time to develop!
One surprising benefit of finding school hard
What if HARD is not always bad?
What if the advantage of being dyslexic is not only the innate strengths of the profile but also the “setbacks, that were manageable enough to cultivate resilience.”
Setbacks mean GRIT and GRIT, researchers are finding over and over, is even more
critical for success than talent.
What we as parents can do in the long struggle to late blooming:
I’m convinced that our greatest role is believing in our kids before there is evidence to support our faith. As the people who know them best and love them most, our faith carries more weight than we think.
We must inform ourselves with the evidential research and the many inspiring stories of dyslexic people who have found their niche later in life and succeeded despite rocky starts at school.
My job as Judah’s mom is to remind him when he looks at his peers building a hut or a garden shed, or a family home and laments why some have already finished, that the fact that he is still wrestling with foundations is A GOOD THING. Extraordinary buildings take time to build.