Thomas West states:

Some have estimated that more than 50% of computer graphics artists are dyslexic. Brains that seem ill adapted to one technological context can be superlatively well adapted to a very different technological context. The child who has struggled most with conventional academic skills may be perfectly adapted to lead the way with these new and powerful computer visualisation technologies.

 The Curriculum for Excellence gives permission for teachers to celebrate and develop those attributes that have traditionally been accorded less value. Our new (or perhaps re-awakened) perspective tells us that insight and innovation are more even important than book knowledge. Technological change is re-defining the kinds of things that need to be learned and the ways in which we can express our knowledge and understanding.

Many learners with dyslexia are creative and enterprising, while they often fail in school-based clerical and memorisation skills. It is amazing to observe those dyslexics who excel at very high-level maths but who still have not mastered the ‘basics’. Sophisticated mathematical thinking contrasted with poor computation is akin to mature facility with oral language and poor spelling and punctuation. The Tortoise Mind cannot always compete with the Hare Brain, despite deep and thoughtful understanding. 

Sometimes the very terminology of different subjects defeats those with processing difficulties; even when their imagination and vocabulary is wide ranging and rich and even when they know the stuff. I wish I had kept the picture one student produced in a maths exam when asked to ‘show his working’. He painstakingly drew himself seated at a desk, head in one hand, and pencil in the other.

Some brains seem designed to do the high-level work while the elementary is stubbornly problematic. CfE encourages educators to acknowledge the differences in learning and cognitive styles and to celebrate the various approaches to learning adopted by our students.

One of the most important and distinctive characteristics shared by many learners with dyslexia (within great diversity) – when it comes to details they falter. They are not so good at remembering exactly what the teacher said or the exact argument used by this author or that. They may be a bit vague about the numbers cited or the lists of names given. However, sometimes, perhaps often, they can be very good at listening carefully and drinking in the whole situation in all its complexity – and slowly working toward seeing a much larger integration of many divers elements.

We are re-thinking what we are trying to do in education and what our unspoken and unexamined assumptions are. We are using the newest technologies to prepare our students for the realities of the modern world – and in so doing tap into talents that have rarely been noticed or developed before. We are moving beyond fixing problems and discovering where unconventional learners thrive.