Dyslexia, Special Skills, Literacy and How the World Goes Round

I am a writer. I can’t help it. Communicating via the written word is hard-wired into my psyche. I’m also a “serious,” regular reader. Anne Fadiman, with her life of letters and essays on reading/books, is my real-life literary hero. I quote children’s books like most people quote song lyrics. Until recently, couldn’t fathom living in a world where reading and writing (a/k/a literacy) wasn’t a central component of school, work, life.

That recently came first in November, and again in February, when both The Girl and Number Three were found to be dyslexic, plunging me into a whole new world where reading to learn involves a completely different set of skills than my right-brained self was used to. Like many others who found themselves in this position, I immediately reached out to an online community, joining a few Facebook groups for parents of dyslexic children, and subscribing to /r/dyslexia.

As a reader, writer, and intuitive thinker, I find it difficult to absorb and integrate this new information into my world view. It’s classic cognitive dissonance. But, along with my identity as a writer and reader, I also identify strongly as a learner. Learning about my children’s dyslexia is a new subject to explore, and to learn about. Ben Foss and the Dyslexia Buddy Network are helping me out, although it’s taken me almost three months to even partially process what I’ve learned.

In a way, learning this about my children has made me stronger. And maybe a little bit more flexible. It certainly has recalibrated my level of annoyance or frustration when my 3rd grader asks me to spell paint.

But, interestingly enough, although I see a lot of talk about the need for students today to develop complex, strategic thinking and creative solutions, I don’t see education systems really willing to embrace an alternative path to develop those complex, strategic thinking and solving skills. The ones that kind of come naturally to students with dyslexia, but not so easily to right-brained thinkers like myself. In modern education, we continue to focus on acquisition of literacy skills (or learning to read) until about 4th grade, when we start focusing on reading to learn. That’s a problem when one’s brain can’t process the written word in that way.

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