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My son’s dyslexic, and I’m glad

By Charles Foster

My son is dyslexic, and I’m glad.
Most people think that I am deranged or callous. But I have two related reasons, both of which seem to me to be good.
The first is that his dyslexia is an inextricable part of him. I can’t say: ‘This is the pathological bit, which I resent’, as one might say of a tumour. Take away his dyslexia, and he wouldn’t be the same person, but able to read and write. He wouldn’t be him. That would be far too high a price for me to pay. And for him to pay? Well, there you run into Parfit’s non-identity problem.

The second is that I can’t bring myself to say that his dyslexia is pathological. To use the old, deeply inaccurate language of brain lateralization, he’s a right brain person. He sees holistically; he’s a big picture person; he intuits; he connects wildly distant and different concepts. There’s a cost, of course. There always is. His left brain doesn’t do as well as mine the boring, nerdish, reductionist, systematic, literal things that our world sees as the essential elements of education. But surely he’s the real intellectual aristocrat, if only we could define ‘intellectual’ in a way that isn’t dictated purely by that self-serving left side1. If you could choose between being literal and being literary (in the sense of living the things at which the more imaginative nerds more or less obscurely hint), would you opt to be literal?
Of course I’m romanticizing dyslexia, and putting a brave face on things for him and for me. There will be great struggles and frustrations. But let’s be clear why that is. It’s because the educational system, and the world of work beyond it, sees everything from its own left-brain perspective. It will try to turn him into a left-brainer, whether he likes it or not, and regardless of the value of the right-brain stuff.
So here’s the relevance of this personal story to an ethics blog. Our values are overwhelmingly, crushingly, conditioned by the presumption that it is good to be regular, systematic, ordered and literal. Anything else is diseased, and the diseased want to be cured, don’t they? So dyslexics are compulsorily treated. They have educational therapy forcibly administered to them against their will for years.
It can be put in yet another pejorative, quasi-legal way. There is systematic discrimination against right-brain dominance, of a sort that would be regarded as outrageous were it directed against skin colour rather than neuronal wiring.
What’s to be done?  So far as the changing of attitudes is concerned, there’s perhaps some value in diatribes, like the one above, using the explosive language of discrimination. Within that type of diatribe is, usually, the ‘giftedness’ idea of Michael Sandel – surely, despite its unfortunately theological flavour, the main ingredient of most coherent objections to discrimination.

But as for us? Well, we’ll hypocritically and shabbily compromise with the zeitgeist, I suppose, which means continuing to torment our son with flashcards and phonemes when he’s actually thinking far bigger thoughts than any we could imagine. We’ll collaborate with the left-brain establishment that demands his acquiescence. But we’ll always wonder what we, and he, have lost.
1. See Iain McGilchrist, The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World (Yale UP, 2009)

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38 Comment on this post

  1. Bravo!!!! I commend you for thinking this way.

    I too am the parent of a dyslexic child. I believe they are the chosen ones to create great things for our world! Why change them, just teach them by using their strenghs!! Bravo!!! You are inspiration to millions of parents in this world.

    Mary Ann Cochran

    1. Agree- Dyslexia is not a disease, not a disorder, and not a disablility. It is a learning difference or learning style that is overlooked by our educators and the legislators who make the majority of the decisions. Dyslexia –and the stigma associated with it – is due to mass ignorance,this must be corrected. Education of the population in general and especially in teachers, pyschologists, physicians and others in the fields of diagnosis, treatment and teaching our children– is not only necessary, but mandatory. We are losing many of our greatest minds, because of our failure to teach them properly. This does not require great deals of money, but proper teaching and increasing general awareness.

  2. my wife and I had a very similar conversation about ADHD (downstream from new AAP recommendations) – ie, is it helpful to view ADHD as a 'disease' or rather, as just reflecting the way certain people can be placed along a spectrum of related capacities (attention, energy, etc). Needless to say, left without intervention, ADHD can interfere with childrens' capacities to do things like sit through lessons in school, etc. But, is it helpful to label ADHD as a disease? If we take away thoughts about it being a 'disease' – we can we still offer interventions that will move children along the spectrum towards increasing this set of capacities. So, this gets into the muck and mess of both the enhancement/therapy stuff – and the problems with our lack of really good definitions of disease (and the tendency of allopathic mindsets to frame things around 'disease things' that need to be driven from the host.)
    At any rate – interesting post and my two-cents, I think your son will benefit from the way you've framed his talents.

  3. "The first is that his dyslexia is an inextricable part of him. I can’t say: ‘This is the pathological bit, which I resent’, as one might say of a tumour. Take away his dyslexia, and he wouldn’t be the same person, but able to read and write. He wouldn’t be him. That would be far too high a price for me to pay."

    So it isn't that your son is dyslexic that makes you love him. Its that you love your son as a whole, flaws and all. Change the flaws, he's a different person. So here comes the tough question: Would that mean you wouldn't love him without his dyslexia? If I were able to change his condition, from dyslexic, to non-dyslexic, and assumedly since there are plenty of people in the world that are right brained and not dyslexic, the other artistic right brained qualities that you love in your child would still be present. So isn't the dyslexia just an accidental quality and irrelevant to whether or not you love your son?

    "But as for us? Well, we’ll hypocritically and shabbily compromise with the zeitgeist, I suppose, which means continuing to torment our son with flashcards and phonemes when he’s actually thinking far bigger thoughts than any we could imagine. We’ll collaborate with the left-brain establishment that demands his acquiescence. But we’ll always wonder what we, and he, have lost."

    But why? If there isn't anything more valuable about being left-brained, then forcing your child to be left-brained would be like forcing your gay child to be straight. If there are intrinsic values to being yourself, or being right brained, then no matter how society pressures us, we should repute that pressure like gays being pressured to be straight.

  4. Wayne: many thanks.

    You say: 'So it isn’t that your son is dyslexic that makes you love him. Its that you love your son as a whole, flaws and all. Change the flaws, he’s a different person. So here comes the tough question: Would that mean you wouldn’t love him without his dyslexia? If I were able to change his condition, from dyslexic, to non-dyslexic, and assumedly since there are plenty of people in the world that are right brained and not dyslexic, the other artistic right brained qualities that you love in your child would still be present. So isn’t the dyslexia just an accidental quality and irrelevant to whether or not you love your son?'

    Of course I would love any son of mine, dyslexia or no dyslexia. Let's call the dyslexic son 'X'. If X didn't have dyslexia, he simply wouldn't be X. X minus dyslexia wouldn't be unlovable, he just wouldn't exist. One can't love a non-existent person.

    You say: 'If there isn’t anything more valuable about being left-brained, then forcing your child to be left-brained would be like forcing your gay child to be straight. If there are intrinsic values to being yourself, or being right brained, then no matter how society pressures us, we should repute that pressure like gays being pressured to be straight.'

    I agree, of course, which I why I wrote this blog. The reason that we'll acquiesce to the left-brainers, I suppose, is because we are weak and pliable people, and because at the moment there's an insufficiently large community of people who think like we do. A radically counter-cultural stand needs numbers if it's to have any chance of success.

  5. So's my husband, and my stepson, and it's no more a handicap than my near-total physics and maths-blindness. We all have to master the basics of issues and tasks that don't come naturally to our brains; I've learned to draw, but my husband draws and paints like an angel; I've learned to sing, but my nephew has perfect pitch. The world in which we live has no room for a lack of conformity, but our uniqueness means that none of us are able fully and perfectly to fit ourselves to the demands of any environment in which we find ourselves. The fact that we live in a society with increasingly less social acceptance of nonconformity, and less social room for the nonconformist, means that we need to change our social norms and tolerances, not our beloveds. And speaking long term, as an archaeologist and biologist, even considering trying to eliminate physical and neurological variation will do us no earthly good as a species.

    1. "The fact that we live in a society with increasingly less social acceptance of nonconformity, and less social room for the nonconformist"

      Do you have any evidence to back up this claim? It seems to me that (in the UK at least) we are becoming much more accepting of different cultures and traits.

  6. Thanks for the reply Charles.

    So if there isn't are reliable counter-culture, don't you have an even stronger obligation to start one, for those dyslexic in the future? If all oppressed groups were to only wait until a sufficient counter-culture arose, then they would always be repressed.

    And I'm not sure if there isn't a strong counter-culture already, since it seems like the emphasis is on the right-brainedness rather than his dyslexia, if so then the art culture or something equivalent would be the counter culture that you're seeking no?

    I should add that I enjoyed the post thoroughly, and its an interesting cause you're taking up here. By the looks of the responses, its a cause that has been without a voice for a while.

  7. Wayne: thank you. I am sure you are right. I would like to think that we can mitigate the damage that the prevailing culture will do.

  8. I agree with everything you say. Both my husband and our son are dyslexic. Both are visual thinkers with a different perspective on things. My husband remembers having phonics forced down his neck as a child and never quite understanding and now we are embarking on the same process with our son. He is clearly bright but phonics are a complete mystery to him. He really enjoys all things mathematical and engineering oriented but I fear we will take away any love of learning. Why is literacy prized so much more in primary education than numeracy and other such skills??

  9. Matt: thank you. I wish very much that I could agree. Yes, there's a mass of anti-discrimination legislation, and stacks of entirely appropriate education designed to foster tolerance. But does it change attitudes? I don't know, but I'd need a lot of convincing. But in any event issues such as sexual orientation, race and obvious physical disability are relatively easy to legislate and educate about. The dyslexia issue isn't: it calls into question the whole way in which humans think. Any legislation which might protect the right of the dyslexic to be herself will, almost by definition, be drafted by left brainers who just don't get it. It's not that people are unkind. Most people try to be helpful. Anti-discrimination training can help people to recognise and be patient with an inability to read or write. What worries me is the form that that kindness and toleration take. The response of the kind left-brainer is: 'Let's put it right'. And it's precisely that that is dangerous. It's rather like well-meaning colonialist missionaries persuading their congregations to wear western clothes and abandon their ancient, fecund wisdom. The members of the congregation actually know far more than the missionaries, but power and convention win the day, as they tend to do. And a great deal is lost – to everyone.

    1. I assume you're right about dyslexia, but perhaps the reason time and energy hasn't been spent legislating and educating about dyslexia is precisely *because* the more obvious discrimination has still been taking place. As this obvious discrimination becomes less and less prevalent, it will be easier for leaders and teachers etc to spend time on understanding more subtle concerns, such as unintentional mistreatment of dyslexics.

      If you look at polls done by Gallup, people in America are now much more supporting of both interracial marriage, and gay rights:

      Now, it's still a concern that there is still a quite sizeable minority that have issues with them (in America at least, I imagine this has something to do with religious fundamentalism, such that people in the UK are probably even more supportive). However, what it does show is that society has the ability to learn and for attitudes to change. I see no reason why the same cannot happen for dyslexia; it's just that (I presume) a good understanding of the neurobiology of dyslexia has only developed in recent years, so society has not yet had time to most effectively learn how to deal with it.

      1. Dr. Sandra Alvarez MD

        Hello Mr. Sharp, there has been good research about the neurobiology of dyslexia for many decades. Much of the research does come from people without letters behind their name–M.D. or PhD etc. I think that this has much more to do with the lack of awareness–and it is global.
        Relating to your comment about discrimination. It is important note that the fact that Dyslexia is a " hidden disability". For example, when you see someone who has a " seeing-eye dog" and and cane–you can tell that they are blind or severally visually impaired.
        There is no visible mark on a person with Dyslexia. Dyslexia also varies a great deal depending on the person. It is extremely prevalent 1:10 and some say even 1:8 in the populaton. The global awareness of Dyslexia is null essentially. I doubt discrimination even plays a role early on–when it is very hard to identify Dyslexics unless you know what to look for.
        Once Dyslexia is diagnosed–because of the major lack of awareness –there probably is discrimination- doctors, teachers, pyschologists and the general populus- have not been taught to look for or guide dyslexics—except for a few " Noisy" individuals whose lives have been touched by Dyslexia.
        You already have a great advocate in the UK, Kate Griggs–she is Dyslexic and has a very informative website She is amazing and is already working with the Government to make changes in the Education System in the UK. I am personally looking to her example to see how I may make or attempt to make similar changes in my state of Florida but hopefully in my country as well. I cannot do it alone, and neither can Kate Griggs.
        Be Well. Sandra Alvarez MD

  10. Sine: thank you. Yes, the contents of the expected tool box of skills is seen as non-negotiable. If I were getting philosophical about it (which on this blog I'm expected to do), I'd say that there is a new Kantian Universal Law, one of whose elements is: 'Thou shall read and write'. Compliance with this Universal Law is regarded as true freedom. Accordingly, if one doesn't comply, there is nothing offensive to the idea of freedom about compelling compliance, just as Kant would have had no problem about outlawing extra-marital sexual intercourse (since such behaviour was contrary to his idea of the Universal Law, and hence could not be free).

    1. "All the same, there is a lot of learning in Summerhill. Perhaps a group of our twelve-year-olds could not compete with a class of equal age in handwriting or spelling or fractions. But in an examination requiring originality, our lot would beat the others hollow."

      Source: Neill, A.S. Summerhill School: A New View of Childhood. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992, p. 10

  11. Hello Dr. Foster,
    I agree with you completely. My son is Dyslexic and I am also glad. There is a large body of work that has been around for several decades now–but has not been given much attention.It seems it is only those whose lives have been touched by dyslexia, understand what it is. Dyslexia has actually been around for over 100 years now. It is a terrible misdiagnosis and the stigma attached to these bright and often extremely gifted children is a tragedy not just to those children and their families but to our entire society.The general public, pretty much is unanimously ignorant–including teachers and physicians. It is those people to whom parents would naturally turn to for help and we are failing them because we have not been taught about Dyslexia- not what it really is,not properly. Unfortunately we are an esoteric group of individuals–but I think that will change with time. There is fascinating and revolutionary research out there.The month of October also happens to be Dyslexia awareness month in the US, and most people know little or nothing about it.
    With your permission, I am going to post a blog I wrote to my friends and members of my family, when I found out my 10 year son had Dyslexia. It has been quite a long and difficult battle, not ony to get a proper diagnosis, but also to find him the proper help. I had no guidance, and had to solve it on my own. I have read everything I could get my hands on.

    The battle for my son did not begin with dyslexia. My son was a late to talk. The diagnosis my son was given was Autism Spectrum Disorder. I am a Pediatrician and a I flatly rejected it. Apart from delays in expressive speech he did not have the other features you expect with Autism. I had also raised my son bilingual. I spoke to him in Spanish and my husband in English. If this had been in another time, he would have been labelled Mentally Retarded or Schizophrenic-but for a long time now,it is Autism that is the most common diagnosis for children whose patterns of development are different.
    My son eventualy become very expressively fluent at around 6 years. He is a loving,empathetic, wonderful, artistic, atheletic and Dyslexic child–in its more commonly known manifestations. He has difficulty with reading and math. I have researched Dyslexia intensively for more than 6 months now. I now know a great deal more. Dyslexia is not a disease, not a disorder and not a disability. The right hemisphere dominance that you describe, means that Dyslexics need a certain type of teaching method- a multisensory method to learn to read and in some cases math as well. Many Dyslexics learn to compensate on their own and never even realize they have Dyslexia. Dyslexia is a gift and a prevalent one. One in ten individuals have it. Those who have family members with Dyslexia are at a higher risk of developing this gift. I will attach my narrative;it is long and personal. I take a lot of license when I write from my heart, please forgive my sentence structure and punctuation.
    I hope my story about my son is somehow helpful . This happens to be Dyslexia Awareness Month. The irony is, that this extremely prevalent Learning Style or Learning Difference is still considered a disability, when it clearly is not. Someday I hope this will be described as a Learning Difference or Learning Style and not a Disease,Disorder or Disability. I hope that the word Dyslexia is burned from the Lexicon.
    Be well, I hope my words are helpful. Sincerely, Sandra Alvarez MD- Wife, mother of 4, troublemaking, clever , fantastic Dyslexic chilren. I am also a Pediatrician, and my son's Dyslexia forced me to learn a great deal, I am now able to help my patients as well. I shared this with my family and friends in hopes that is would be useful for them. I hope it is for you sir as well.

    Dyslexia,Dysgraphia,Dyscalculia & Dyspraxia– Why am I making such a big deal about this? You might want to sit down. It is long.
    by Sandra Alvarez MD on Saturday, September 17, 2011 at 3:22pm

    I believe things happen for a reason. I also believe in God. That being said–the whole, "He works in mysterious ways" thing, I really believe that it is true.
    Personally I am a bit overwhelmed–but in a good way if that is possible. My son has been recently diagnosed with Dyslexia. Of course, I now have read everything I can on the subject.- somewhat Obsessive Compulsive, but as his mother IT IS MY JOB to help him succeed and achieve every success, by giving him the proper foundations.
    I have found most people know little about it. I was not trained in medical school or residency about Dyslexia. Developemental Pediatricians and Pediatric Neurologist — don't specialize in it. Our school system in Florida-with Psychologists and Speech Language Pathologists and Teachers who can observe their students each day— we get a lot of ADHD diagnosed and ADD diagnosed and Autism and PDD diagnosed. We do not get Dyslexia diagnosed. We do not test for that in Florida.Many states do not screen or test for dyslexia and its other forms. We also use verbal tests to evaluate nonverbal children–that makes no sense.
    Dyslexia has a prevalence of 10 % of the population and is inheirited and can range from mild to severe. Many people have it, but have figured out how to get around it by learning differently , others do not.
    I decided to ask a few questions to patients about school despite the reason for the visit. I have seen at least a dozen suspected, diagnosed and suspicious for Dyslexia patients in the past 2 weeks.This is mindboggling to me and it supports the idea that the prevalence is 10 %. Now that I have a basic idea of what to look for — I am seeing it and a lot it.
    If doctors don't know, and teachers don't know–then what are the parents doing when they are told their kids are lazy,inattentive, and disruptive. They are lost.
    WHY AM I SHARING THIS. I feel compelled to do so! In a way, I believe it was meant to be;it is a mission I was meant to complete or at least add something to. Nobody ( or at least it seems that way) is looking at this. The majority of kids with a delay early on, are thrown into a diagnosis of: Autism Spectrum Disorder or Pervasive Developmental Disorder or ADD or ADHD — but many of them have a specific learning disablility , and need to learn using a different method–not to be inappropriately labelled.
    We can't let kids who learn differently fall through the cracks. They know they cannot do what their classmates can do and try to compensate and cover it up, because they think they are stupid. They are told they are lazy and inattentive, even disruptive with behavior issues.
    This is not a disease, it is not a disorder. These kids just use a different part of the brain to read, so need to be taught in a different way – multisensory is the way. Dr. Samuel Orton MD,in the early 1920s discovered how to teach Dyslexics. Many researchers now are using MRI's and have pinpointed that different areas of the brain are used for reading in dyslexics and autistic children.
    Dr, Manuel Casanova MD is doing just that.His research looks at both Autism and Dyslexia and interestingly enough– the cortical cirucuitry that is a part of these overlapping diagnoses–and ofcourse their right hemisphere dominance.

    If only 6 states test for Dyslexia , CA,CO,MA, MI, TX and WY—what is happening else where. Other countries do a better job too, much of what I have read comes from England and Canada.

    These kids tend to be good at, if not extremely gifted in,math, auditory memory– many can remember most what they hear, for a long time and with excellent recall. They are often exceptional at three dimensional problem solving and often music as well. They are also excellent with computers. If they do learn to read, they can often easily learn to speed read and some have photographic memories.
    A 1st grader, who has been my patient for years came in with an infected insect bite, his mother mentioned he was chewing on his pencils and shirts. I asked her if he had reading problems or if anyone in the family had dyslexia. His dad had said he was dyslexic, but she wasn't sure if it was true or not.
    I got a Winnie the Pooh book ; I isolated one line of text by covering up the rest of the page with blank paper on the top and on the bottom. I then asked him to read and said there was no wrong answer, just to try.
    The line read," I want to be the baby-sitter for Roo". He said " I work to be "don't know" don't know and don't know. " He skipped words he didn't know, did better with capitals and very small one syllable words.

    I wrote out a line of numbers.
    12,14,33,27 41, 68, 51,86. He said 14 and 41 were the same as were 68 and 86.
    This was not a formal test,I just used some information from my own son's assessment that I remembered.

    This boy is inattentive in class, and cannot complete his work, and is chewing on pencils and clothing to self soothe his anxiety–in my opinion. His teacher chalked it up to the fact his parents are divorcing and his mother is having a difficult time financially.
    His father is Dyslexic and a Pilot– a field that requires very good if not excellent three dimensional processing, This child demonstrated difficulty in reading and math, he can't complete homework,he feels anxious and told me he cannot do what the other children in his class are doing, not as much and it takes him a long time. He told me his teacher tells him he needs to pay attention. His teacher thinks he needs mediciation to focus. This boy is probably Dyslexic –not lacking in attention.
    If you cannot read and it is difficult to copy from the board because many letters appear similar or move. I for one, would not put that a child on stimulants, if he were to get the accomodations and help he needs to learn, he might not need them. That being said- ADD and Dyslexia do coexist in high percentages. We don't test or screen for Dyslexia in Florida. Private evaluations are expensive and not covered by insurance.
    I didn't ask that many questions. They were not difficult questions. He is in 1st grade, dyslexia can be detected in preK with the right tests. Without early intervention–it becomes increasingly difficult to learn to read. The child's ability to compensate begins to wane as the curriculum gets more intense–in 3rd grade–and onward.
    One study I read stated that if a Dyslexic child did not reach a 3rd grade reading level, there was a 75% chance that they would never read at all. That is terrible, not sure if it completely accurate, depends on the support the child has, their tenacity.
    If you go through your elementary years noticing you cannot do what others do, know you are smart, but feel stupid and are labelled as a problem– how does that child lift them self out of that hole–in 1st grade, 2nd grade etc., these are young kids.
    I am only at the tip of the Iceberg -so to speak, in my learning about this to help my own child. As a result of this– I am in a small way, now, able to point parents in the right direction, and help them have their child diagnosed correctly–Dyslexia not ADD or Autism or PDD. Dyslexic kids are bored in classes, when the standards of their curriculum are lowered, because they cannot complete their homework. They suffer as a result. It is estimated that it takes a Dyslexic person 4-5 times longer to complete things like- copying their lessons from the board. They are often the last done, if they finish at all, and some are punished for not finishing. At the end of all, they are exhausted.
    All these bits of information are right in front of me now and I am trying to make sense of it all and see how I can not only help my kids, but my patients as well –and of course my friends. You can't help though if you don't know what to look for or what to ask.
    If you are not interested in this , you can delete this. I just wanted to share what I have learned–on my own. I am not sure what all those other parents out there are doing. I am not sure how the kids who fall through the cracks of our educational system will do. Will their parents support them where they excell? Will their parents think their children are a lost cause and lazy?
    Will they be a Bruce Jenner/Olympic Gold medalist, an Albert Eiinstein who failed basic math and reading- he was labelled as Mentally Retarded- and yet he could envision in his mind– such brilliant equations, a Winston Churchill –who failed classes and repeated many? Churchill was a skilled if not expert orator–he never needed notes or perhaps he didn't have notes -because he couldn't read them. He relied heavily on his memory. I learned that Churchil could understand and memorize images like maps, diagrams, complex images. I learned that he would memorize the positions of his warships by glancing at the map that was brought to him each evening–during WWII. Churchill must have been as stubborn as hell, and thank God for that. Where would the world be today? There are many others– General George S.Patton–his wife wrote and read for him. Patton was a tactical genius and was the pioneer to decide tanks would be an excellent way to advance in the war. He had to wait for the Government to catch up to his Genius. His ideas were not take up for many months. He also was a superb and versatile athlete. He came in 3rd in the first ever Pentathalon held at the Olympic Games in 1912. It involved pistol shooting, steeplechase horseriding, 100m run, 46 km run and swimming. He placed 3rd. He was on the American Olympic Team twice– but attendend only one due to a boycott of the 2nd games. He started at VMI a military academy, then went to West Point. He failed his first year an perservered and graduated with honors. Many generals including Generals Bradley and Eisnehower who were inferior in rank and experience– succeeded him in politics. When you read the reports of the foreign leaders– General Patton was feared and respected by the Germans, and also respected by the British. He liberated most of what was Nazi occupied Europe and in 48 hours mobilized his 3rd army to the final offensive. He was a tactical and military genius and could barely read and write–but he also had the tenacity that made him feared by all his enemies and loved by his troops. He wanted to kill and be aggresive in war–so that the enemy would fear him, and be less able to fight back due to their fear. His troops fiercely believed in him. His bravado, his military swagger, style of dress, were purposeful to inspire and protect his men. He inisisted that even the Physicians wear helmets for their protection. He used the pyschological element of battle effectively.He was Dyslexic–nothing stopped him ever.There are numerous more popular and current day examples if you don't like history that much. Richard Branson is also Dyslexic. He is a multibillionaire and owns many,many companies. His assistant had to draw him a picture a few years ago to explain to him the difference between gross and net profits.His assistant drew a picture of net–literally with fish–now he gets it. He stated this in an interview you can see online on youtube. He quit school at 15 but was an excellent soccer player.

    What about those who never learn to read, try to hide it—what happens to them. I am not suggesting that everyone in jail is dyslexic. There is a high percentage that cannot read though. What waits for them, and as a consequence of being unable to do what you need to do – to get a job—what happens–crime?
    I don't know–obviously I have thought about this a lot. My son was officially diagnosed 07/20/11. A few days before his 10th birthday. I had my suspicions for 6-9 months. Everytime I brought up the subject the teachers and psychologists etc at my son's school, would point to his good grades and state " we don't test for that". When my son told me he was stupid– I got very, very angry. He is in another school now, and doing really well, it is much more work than he had done in the past, but he can do it. I am helping him get his confidence back.
    Do what you want with this information–I know I will certainly be doing something with it–not sure yet, not sure how. I have to sort it out for my son, and probably the younger three as well—but I can help other people too– that is what I feel compelled to do.
    I am astounded as to why I am the only ( in my local area) Pediatrician or doctor or average person who knows about this–apart from people who have Dyslexia. I am certainly not the most intelligent person in the world. Why don't more people know what Dyslexia is? With the prevalence of Dyslexia being 1 in 10 people, we all know someone who has it, even if they do not know they have it– by compensating, doing the math differently, not as they were taught, but how they could, etc.
    This was really not that hard to figure out after I did a bit of reading. My son really gets the credit–He told me Mama, the letters move on the page. He diagnosed himself- he didn't know it, but he did.
    I think I am a smart person, a good doctor–but do not understand why this is not more well known, not spoken of more. I am wondering WHY so many don't know about this?So many people are affected–10 % of the population–in every country and in every language.
    One documentary I watched was very interesting. The narrator and researcher Thomas G. West- a Dyslexic himself had this to say.I am paraphrasing.– Why are there so many Dyslexics around–in their varying degrees of severity. He proposed that dyslexics problem solving abilities have made them invaluable if not essential to civilization as we know it. All humans naturally learn to speak, writing is a skill that is taught.
    When you educate children to do math or anything in a certain way, -they do it as they were taught. So this " average- non dyslexic" person who follows the rules, learns the way he is supposed to. What does this typical person–do when they encounter a new problem, something they have never dealt with before? They are not used to thinking outside the box. They have always done things the way they were taught;so how do they solve the new problem.
    He proposed that by the virtue of of their persistence, by their unique problem solving abilities– these people are very desired in all fields, especially innnovative ones. They see the world in a different way and decided to never stop trying figure it out.
    Do you think the typical person is like Edison- who tried to develop the ligtht bulb 9,999 times before he got it right? I don't, I think most people would have said, hell, just get the lantern or the candles or whatever.
    I don't know how I would have turned out– if I was failing classes, remediating classes, punished for laziness and inattentiveness, publicly mocked before my classmates. Would I have the tenacity of Winston Churchill? Churchill had a stubborn streak and pretty much told his opponents " to hell with you, I am doing it my way". He did do that. Nobody stopped him. He was an inspiration then and now. To hear the speeches he gave when London was being bombed away–inspiring is not a good enough word to describe his speeches when you hear them.
    Like I said I am just learning about this, much is theoretical, much is true. I am reading all the science I can find- from Psychology, Speech Language Pathology and Genetics-many fields. Studies using MRI's have been very fascinating. MIT published a study about Dyslexics and their ability to distinguish voices.
    In any case, hope this is interesting or useful. Anyone could ask the questions I did, ANYONE. You could change someone's life for the better asking a few questions, pointing them in the right direction.
    If you are interested there are several fascinating documentaries I can recommend. Bruce Jenner did one called Demystifying Dsylexia , you can google it and watch it online. The one I like best is called The Unwrapped of the Gift of Dyslexia–on by Thomas G. West it was filmed a couple of years ago with real people who have it, and they share their experiences and some of the theories and science behind it as well. It was filmed in the UK. Take Care, Be Well- Sandra Alvarez MD

  12. Dr. Sandra Alvarez MD

    Thank you Dr. Foster. I would like to add some information for you and your readers. You do have people advocating for Dyslexia Awareness in the UK. You have one in particular who has already done more than that, she is working with the Government to change the school system in the UK. Her name is Kate Griggs. Her website is It is full of good information. She has the support of a famous and generous Dyslexic Mr. Richard Branson. She has been working with Mr. Gordon Brown since he was Chancellor to change the Education system in the UK–how incredibly wonderful and inspiring is that?! More individuals need to get involved to make it happen in the UK. Even if it is only to talk to a neighbor–anything that will increase awareness.
    I contacted her to get ideas, so that I may do the same with our school system here-but am not sure if I need to start with the local government or schools. I am hoping I will hear from her someday.
    I realize our systems of government are different- but am very impressed with what she has done so far. She and her website–will be a valuable tool for many Dyslexics, their families and their teachers. Thanks again!!

    PS My mother-in law is a British national–from the Midlands–she never wanted to give up her nationality when she married an American. It is nice for my family to be able to visit their cousins in Leicester and Mansfield, and it is nice for them to visit us here in Florida when they need a break and want some sun!! Take Care.

  13. Call me naive (I really am, on the subject of dyslexia), but doesn't the ability to read open up vast worlds, and all sorts of fantastic right-brainy experiences and thought processes? So why think the pressure on your son to learn to read is not in his own interests–a way of helping him become his own best right-brain-ish self?

    As for having to be glad, because of the non-identity problem–that line of thought would force people into being glad about every inherited trait they or their children have. As in–"my kid is blind, and I wouldn't have it any other way." But I would have it another way–just perhaps an impossible way. Why shouldn't I wish the world were such that my child could be his own very self, but without certain deficits?

    Sorry–this is all cranky and unsupportive. I've been reading Jonathan Glover on preferences for disabilities this week (in Choosing Children), and what he says about these being (often, possibly) adaptive preferences rings true for me.

  14. I am not sure if I understood the previous comments, or misread something in Dr. Foster's blog.

    No one is advocating that children not be taught to read. I do not know anyone who has suggested that.
    Dyslexics do need to learn to read, and they can- with the proper instruction. To give them the proper instruction they first must be identified. That is the bigger problem.

    As for being glad– if you look at the many successful Dyslexics in the world–and their innovative abilities– parents of dyslexics should be glad. While their children may struggle in school until they are identified and taught properly,– once they learn to read, they do extremely well in nearly every fields– they are excellent problem solvers and out of the box thinkers.
    Comparing Dyslexia to Blindness–not at all a good comparison. Dyslexia is not a disorder or a disease or a defect. While they struggle in the early yearas until diagnosed ( the discrimination Dr. Foster is refering to), once they are taught properly– they tend to be ( the vast majority) exceptional or extremely gifted. There are successful Dyslexics in all fields.
    The problem again–boils down to a severe and global lack of Awareness of what Dyslexia is and what it isn't.

    It is always a good thing –to be glad that your child is gifted–whether they have Dyslexia or not.

    Regarding Adaptive Processes-
    The prevalence of Dyslexia is 1 in 10 people. So it is very likely–that you know a dyslexic person, probably several. Amongst those people that you know, many of the ones that are Dyslexic may not realize that they are– because they were able to adapt. Not all children with Dyslexia can adapt to a backwards/medieval education system. It is those children who feel the stigma of discrimination–because their teachers have not been taught properly to help them. So what happens to these kids–they fall through the cracks.

  15. Dr Alverez, I think you didn't understand what my comment was responding to in the original post. I won't repeat myself, but just suggest you reread Charles Foster's post and then my comment. I think you'll see that I did not (a) accuse him of saying dyslexic kids shouldn't learn to read, or (b) say dyslexia is analogous to blindness, or (c) say parents of dyslexics don't have plenty to be glad about. It comes as no surprise to me that 1 in 10 people have dyslexia, as I know many people who do–both peers of my kids and students I teach at the college level.

    1. Mrs. Kazez,
      I am apologize for any misunderstandings or misstatements on my part. My intention was certainly not to offend you. I realize that you made none of the above statements, but were responding to Dr. Foster's own comments.

      My comments were in part responding to Dr. Foster's comments and yours–which made it more confusing.

      I do not think that a Dyslexic would lose their abilities if they are taught to read. I do think that much of what is done in the general curriculum to teach all students– does not benefit Dyslexic students and leads to great frustration for the Dyslexic Child– as flash cards will not help a Dyslexic– they need a multisensory method of teaching.

      Again, I apologize for my confusion and my statements that suggested that you 1) you thought dyslexics shouldn't learn to read 2) that dsyslexia and blindness were analagous and 3) that dyslexics should not be glad or proud of their abilities.

      Dyslexic Awareness is something I a very passionate about. In the future I will be more cautious and respond to one post –not try to combine my thoughts on two posts.

      Sincerely, Dr. Sandra Alvarez MD.

  16. Dr. Alvarez, No problem! I think we are just speaking at cross-purposes. I'm bringing up a strictly philosophical question about this post, and you're advocating for children with dyslexia. I certainly think that's a great thing to do!

  17. Jean and Sandra: thank you both very much for your contributions.
    As Sandra pointed out, of course I'm not suggesting that dyslexic children should not be taught to read. If we persist, for shorthand's sake, in using the language of left brain/right brain (language that I disowned, even while deploying it), wholeness consists in a proper synergistic relationship between the hemispheres. But let's remember who is supposed to be the Master, and who the Emissary.
    Re the non-identity problem: the problem is not raised in its classical form by most disability. Blindness? Well, possibly, sometimes, I suppose. But dyslexia, properly understood, raises the problem. It's a mark of our lack of understanding of dyslexia that it would not generally be seen as an identity-defining issue.

  18. My son is dysgraphic and dyscalculaic. I KNOW what you're saying. There was a pop psychology test for right brain/left brain I gave him when he was in about 1st grade. Off the charts right brained.

    Now, listen here. In my travels, I've come across a former teacher who spoke thusly :

    <b>. "Kids seem to come in two basic designs: some are good at school and some are good at creating." </b> Linda Kreger Silverman.

    You might be interested in a post I wrote about her and Bucky Jones, a very talented illustrator, at

    I'm not tooting my own horn, I'm tooting theirs.

    I attempted to be an artist at one time, but not being right-brained enough I did exercises to overcome the "tyranny of the left brain" as described by Betty Edwards in her book "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain". If you want to literally experience what it feels like to be a right brainer…to lose track of time and language…try her exercises.

    I absolutely love the way you feel about your son. I feel the same way. In the beginning I was all neurotic and depressed. Now…"normal" is an effing bore. I much prefer his brilliant brain to any cookie- cutter-test-taker coming out of school today. I just hope he can "see" to find his way, our kids are visionaries. Makes life about 10 times more difficult, but if you make it, you change the world!

  19. Rose: many thanks. Yes: absent the systematic societal persecution of the 'abnormals', no sane person would be normal, as normality is usually defined. And who would opt to sit next to a 'normal' at dinner, if there was the option of an evening with a right-brained visionary instead?

  20. Khalid: great quote from Neill: thank you. He got there decades before almost anyone else dared to breathe such thoughts.

    1. Thanks Charles! In your view, is the current 'education' system, i.e., the UK closer to Neill's or is it 'better' than his or does it still need 'improvement?' Neill's thoughts somewhat resonate Rousseau's theory of education. Any thoughts on this?

  21. Khalid: thank you. It seems to me that we're a million miles from Neill, and moving ever further away.

  22. Dyslexia the Mysterious Gift of Intelligence: A post from my blog

    The key to unlocking the Gift of Dyslexia is to create an environment which enables me or the person with dyslexia the ability to read. Recently, I read "Dyslexics are over represented in board rooms and prison cells", and yet our archaic education system remains. Today, like 'many my life has changed with the "Gift" of Dyslexia.

    If any one has dyslexia they are living in a technical dream come true world which can equip the 10-20% of those who have the Gift of Dyslexia with tools such as Balabolka, Readplease, Xmind (note taking tool) and which will change the landscape of their future outlook. It is my hope nobody has to go through what I went through in high school, grade and middle school, but the word needs to get out to the public.

    Today I read with not boarders or hurdles to the written word at speeds of 340 to 510 words per minute with 90+% comprehension. If I was in the class room without this and other tools I would never had raised my hand nor would I have ever gotten to the point where I would look up a subject as I do today.

    Recently, I finished reading The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression, when I came to the "Dust Bowl", I knew a tiny bit of what the Dust Bowl was but with a few clicks of the mouse I found out the facts. In the US Bookshare and Read:Outloud enable me to have this "virtual book".

    Below is my testimony and my life travels with the gift of dyslexia but I know it would be encouraging to many millions of students and then parents or adults, to know the tools are here and ready to use.

    As a point of insight we (dyslectics) are way ahead of the dawn of the "digital textbook" era, and we have a great chance of being the navigators of how it can change the life of a student and family, if not a nation.

    The journey I have experienced has been similar and can be read at: My Blog where links to the above tools are available at :

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