Seven dyslexic superpowers
“With reading difficulties can come other cognitive strengths.” So says Matthew H. Schneps, a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and astrophysicist – and he should know because he’s also dyslexic.
With so much focus on reading and writing at school, it’s easy to feel that being dyslexic is a hindrance rather than an asset. In fact, many dyslexics have been found to have seven key skills that give them the edge in many careers.
- Seeing the bigger picture
Dyslexics often see a situation holistically – they CAN see the woods for the trees – and this enables them to focus on what is important, without getting lost in the detail.
- Recognising complex patterns in images
People with dyslexia are excellent at identifying and remembering complex images. They are able to connect separate components to create complex systems and to identify similarities that others may not see. Dyslexics can also simultaneously process multiple thoughts. These are helpful tools for careers in science and maths. Interestingly, many astrophysicists are dyslexic!
“I recognized that I had dyslexia and then I realized I had this gift for imaging. I live in a world of patterns and images, and I see things that no one else sees. Because of dyslexia, I can see these patterns.”
Beryl Benacerraf, radiologist.
- Spatial awareness
Enhanced spatial awareness – the ability to manipulate 3D shapes in your mind – is often associated with dyslexia. This is an incredible skill to have and is particularly useful for careers in architecture, fashion design, graphic design, engineering, art, mathematics, physics, computer programming, surgery and dentistry.
“I performed poorly at school – when I attended, that is – and was perceived as stupid because of my dyslexia. I still have trouble reading. I have to concentrate very hard at going left to right, left to right, otherwise my eye just wanders to the bottom of the page.”
Tommy Hilfiger, fashion designer
- Thinking in pictures
Research has shown that people with dyslexia tend to think in pictures rather than words and are highly skilled at remembering pictures they have seen.
Auguste Rodin, the famous French sculptor, was unable to read until he was 14, but he could go to a museum, look a painting and paint it from memory at home.
The link between dyslexia and creativity has long been held. In fact, 84% of dyslexics have above average imaginative skills. This talent is useful in careers such as acting, art, business, invention, composing, writing, design…. The list is endless! Many famous artists and inventors were dyslexic. Two examples shine through:
Pablo Picasso was described as “having difficulties differentiating the orientation of letters”.
Leonardo Da Vinci was an inventor, painter and sculptor with an incredible imagination. His spelling was described as “erratic and strange” and he wrote in mirror writing!
- Thinking outside the box – problem-solving
Dyslexics are fast problem solvers and can think laterally, providing unorthodox methods for solving problems. This skill often provides leaps of insight. This enables excellent troubleshooting. Dyslexia is frequently associated with having a natural curiosity to discover or understand new things. These skills are helpful in almost every career – from big business to research science!
“This is an intuitive approach to problem-solving that can seem like daydreaming. Staring out of the window is how they work, letting their brain slide into neutral and ease itself around a problem to let connections assemble.”
“I have no special talents, I am only passionately curious”
A third of American entrepreneurs have dyslexia! Put together, the superpowers that we have listed above tick all the boxes for a successful entrepreneur: strategic thinking, creativity and problem-solving – a winning combination. Dyslexics also tend to be excellent verbal communicators, which is an essential skill when running your own business.
“If anyone ever puts you down for having dyslexia, don’t believe them. Being dyslexic can actually be a big advantage, and it has certainly helped me. Don’t let it hold you back – use it in your favour.”
Sir Richard Branson, Virgin.com
Before we start to wish that we all had dyslexia, it does of course, present many challenges and difficulties. And it’s important that we recognise those challenges. For example, although the effects are varied, dyslexic children read so slowly that it would take them up around six months to read the same number of words that other children might read in a day. That said, this doesn’t mean that people with dyslexia are necessarily at a disadvantage, as Matthew H. Schneps reminds us:
“Whatever the mechanism, one thing is clear: dyslexia is associated with differences in visual abilities, and these differences can be an advantage in many circumstances, such as those that occur in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.”