You’ve guessed it, they were all dyslexic! Many of the world’s most influential people have struggled with the condition and there is certainly a great deal of evidence to show that the dyslexic difference can potentially be an asset.
The British Dyslexia association estimates that dyslexia affects 10 per cent of the population with varying degrees of severity. Dyslexic children are likely to be present in every mainstream classroom.
Dyslexia and other SpLDs are a difference that is not related to the student’s underlying ability or intelligence and it is useful to remember that although we all have common traits, all of us also have a range of strengths and weaknesses which are specific to us.
Neurological research has made us aware of these differences and this understanding has led to the development of the concept of Neurodiversity. In his book ‘the Power of Neurodiversity’ Thomas Armstrong defines neurodiversity as ‘a variation in the human brain regarding sociability, learning, attention, mood and other mental function in a non-pathological way’.(Armstrong, 2010, p8).
Neurodiversity aims to take into account individual strengths and talents and accept that intelligence comes in many different forms and abilities. Learners with specific learning needs should not be dismissed or the added value of what diversity can bring to the classroom ignored. Thomas Armstrong reminds us that there is no standard, normal brain and that ‘diversity among brains is just as wonderfully enriching as biodiversity and the diversity among cultures and races’. (Armstrong, 2010, p3).
Specialist teachers and assessors measure and evaluate an individual’s potential difficulties through formal and informal assessments. This may or may not lead to a diagnosis but will allow the trained practitioner to identify long term learning needs and put together a programme of intervention specific to that individual’s needs. This specific programme should take into account preferred learning style through the use of multisensory techniques and be delivered at a speed allowing the student to process information successfully.
It is no use pretending that dyslexia is not a difficulty. It is also crucial to remember that it has nothing to do with intelligence or ability. In fact, it is quite likely that the dyslexic brain, in its effort to compensate for that difficulty, develops highly valuable and elaborate skills. What is needed is an educational system that is flexible enough to cope with differences and harness those talents.