A Disability or a Gift – Dyslexia

John was creative and hard-working college student. His was majoring in computer engineering which is where he found his gift at coding. His interests spanned outside the classroom to rock climbing and other outdoor adventures. This well-rounded creative genius faced one daunting obstacle, the vast amounts of reading associated with demanding, tech-heavy majors. John visualized text differently than others, a situation he saw not as a disability but as another challenge to face.

Dyslexia is associated with difficulties in learning to read, having problems spelling words and some slowness in processing symbolic information. It is a source of anxiety and frustration for many whose learning is based heavily on acquiring knowledge through reading. Neuroscientists have found that the left hemisphere of your brain is the home of our language processing. The right hemisphere is known to be the home of our creativity. Recent research has tied problem-solving and creative thought processes used by engineers and scientists to this right hemisphere. Most adults will have a larger left hemisphere compared to the right. Researchers have found that dyslexic’s possess a larger right hemisphere, providing fertile ground for creativity and problem solving.

Some of our greatest leaders in industry and the arts were known to be dyslexic. John Lennon and Cher shared the gift of the musician. Each day we experience the creative genius of two other dyslexics, Steven Spielberg who brought us E.T. and Saving Private Ryan and Walt Disney who brought us on so many animated journeys starting with Mickey Mouse and then created Disney World theme parks to enjoy them in person. Great artists in history struggled with this disorder including Pablo Picasso and Leonardo Da Vinci leading up to present day Andy Warhol and Ansel Adams. Notables in American history with dyslexia include George Washington, Ben Franklin, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, and Henry Ford.

A disability is often described as a limitation. What is not discussed is the gift that is associated with it. A recent study found that over 35 percent of successful entrepreneurs were diagnosed with dyslexia. The study found they quickly developed perseverance and tenacity to overcome this reading challenge. We now also know that they had a gift of a larger right hemisphere of their brain, providing them with creative tools to see the world a bit differently, allowing them to solve problems in a unique way others could not.

Many employers classify those with dyslexia as possessing a disability. They should be viewing it as a gift. The grade point average of a student challenged with dyslexia is not an accurate measure of their gifts of persistence, tenacity, and creativity. If we use history as our teacher, these individuals are the hidden gems that see the world through a different lens and will bring unique and creative answers to the problems we will face in the future.


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