Connected, creative, constructive and unconventional
Have you ever wondered what a world without dyslexia would look like? Well I wouldn't be writing this article on my PC, for a start. My coffee wouldn’t be resting on my Ikea table, no perfumed candle would be fragrancing the room, my iPhone wouldn’t keep buzzing and my I wouldn’t be enjoying the virtuoso performances of the bad boy of classical music on my iPod.
Confused? It’s simple: Bill Gates, Ingvar Kamprad, Jo Malone, Steve Jobs and Nigel Kennedy all have dyslexia. All hugely successful people, who have had a major impact on our daily lives – and they’re not alone. The list of famous dyslexics on the British Dyslexia Association website just goes on and on!
But why is that? Could it be that dyslexia actually played a positive role for these people? I asked a few less-well known people with dyslexia about their experiences, and I was fascinated by their responses.
“My thinking isn’t constrained by the normal linkages of convention.”
Fair enough. Is there a reason why a violin virtuoso has to wear a formal black suit, if he can create a more sensational performance looking like a “chic dustman”, as Nigel Kennedy was described after the last night of the Proms?
“Not being distracted by detail, I am able to focus on the big picture.”
Henry Franks is a designer who used his dyslexia to help him reimagine a number of everyday objects – mugs, hangers, pen holders and coasters. His creations won him the New Designer of the Year award 2013.
“The way my brain works, I am able to focus on a desired outcome and to imagine new, unconventional solutions to solving a problem.”
In 1973, Ingvar Kamprad wanted a new hard-wearing and low-priced settee – so he adopted a low-cost raw material from another industry, in this case denim, to create the IKEA TAJT, a multifunctional seat/recliner.
The benefit to the world at large of having people who can imagine creative constructions and see unconventional connections is clear – but does dyslexia always feel like a benefit to the individual?
Sadly not. Unfortunately, the common response of people with dyslexia is that they lose confidence in their own uniqueabilities when these conflict with the need to learn to read, write and spell, to follow directions sequentially, to tell the time and to appear in the right place at the right time with the right equipment. Children who receive unsympathetic handling by teachers and parents at an early stage can go on to develop lack of confidence, academic and social isolation, a need for constant reassurance and even a reputation for disruption caused by their constant questioning and difficulty in retaining oral instructions.
So children with dyslexia are capable of convention-busting creativity, but because their strengths don’t always align with what we've come to see as desirable and appropriate childhood behaviour, there’s a risk of them not achieving their potential. Our challenge, as parents and educators, is to make sure this doesn't happen – that dyslexia becomes synonymous with achievement, not frustration. How? Check out this article from our blog back in February for some great advice!