Dyslexia – a disability or a unique learning ability?

In a highly personal article written for the Sunday Times, Richard Branson calls for a rethink on how we support dyslexic children in our education system.  Branson recalls his experience of being dyslexic and “dropping out” at 16 with a profound sense of being failed by a rigid, box-ticking education system that he believes treats dyslexia as a disability.

‘Out in the real world, my dyslexia became my massive advantage,’ he wrote. ‘It helped me to think creatively and laterally, and see solutions where others saw problems. Richard Branson
Out in the real world, my dyslexia became my massive advantage,It helped me to think creatively and laterally, and see solutions where others saw problems.
Richard Branson

Branson – the billionaire entrepreneur –  points out that Albert Einstein, Henry Ford and Steve Jobs are all thought to have been dyslexic, leading to his view that dyslexia in its nature is actually a sign of intelligence, not at all a disadvantage.

Dyslexia needs you to be hard working. It takes longer for a dyslexic person to process information, so you work harder at doing this – three times harder they say.  Dyslexia can make you highly creative because you use  different ways of expressing yourself, often in a more visual way.

Dyslexic people can often see many view points, which certainly helps the creative endeavour.  Dyslexics can be visionary.

In my experience many people do not understand what dyslexia is, as it seems to affect people in different ways – or to different degrees.  A common view is that being dyslexic is all about poor writing skills or being a slow reader, which some believe is an indication of being less intelligent.

If you are dyslexic you can still harness your qualities by working out strategies to overcome the obstacles of expressing yourself in the written form or navigating yourself through the muddle of a mind that can sometimes feel weighed down or disorganised.

The real danger is losing your self-esteem or having a severe lack of confidence from a young age because you don’t hit the benchmarks in a one-size-fits-all education system .   This can stay with people all their lives, holding them back from being who they really are.  It’s never too late to turn it all around though, that’s what I have learnt.

An anxious parent (trying to find a “special” secondary school for their child) said to me their child wasn’t “very academic”: this was a child who is recognised by their school as having “learning difficulties”.  This, for me, just shouts out loudly that the current education system is making people feel they either fit in or they don’t.

Not all schools fail to help those with a unique learning ability.  My secondary school didn’t hold me back – as an  undiagnosed  dyslexic.  Doing A-levels  at college is another story and I suffered under that exam system.

Should those who don’t measure up in the education system not concern themselves at all about these measures?  Instead dyslexic children have a unique ability that could, if recognised in the right way, just open up a world of possibility, promise and achievement.

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