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The Gift of Dyslexia Page 1 of 11 9/24/2009

The Gift of Dyslexia! Dyslexia as seen through eyes of the New Sciences

Below is an overview of dyslexia as seen through the eyes of evolutionary biology and the new sciences (genetics and neuroscience). To give you an idea of how many of the greatest minds the world has ever seen have been dyslexic minds, following this article is a list of some of the very famous thought leaders with the Gift of Dyslexia.

When viewed though the eyes of the new sciences, our paradigm begins to shift from seeing dyslexia as a disorder to be feared; to seeing dyslexia as an evolutionary gift to be embraced. This paradigm shift allows us to see why those with dyslexia such as Albert Einstein, Erin Brockovich, Walt Disney, Winston Churchill and Charles Schwab are, and have been, such special and important people to the successful social, technical, artistic, business and scientific development of our human species.

Later in this paper, we will examine why it is so destructive to allow a dyslexic to see themselves as damaged or incomplete. The very categorization of dyslexia as a “disorder” (instead of a gift) can lock both a child and an adult into lifelong negative and damaging behavioral patterns. This negative view can also inhibit a dyslexic (possibly forever) from accessing the rich gifts their unique genes actually offer to them and the world.

The Biological View of Dyslexia

Let’s examine why dyslexic genes are so critically important to our species. I’m going to get a little scientific here, but this will give us a better understanding why dyslexics are so vital to the

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First, it is important to understand that evolution does not make mistakes which then persist over many generations. Dyslexia has been recognized for hundreds of years (although until recently, it did not have a specific name) and dyslexic genes have undoubtedly been around since man first appeared on earth. We believe this to be true because the genes for dyslexia have a strong tendency to be inherited and exhibited in the phenotype (meaning the way our genes cause us to interact with the world).

How do we know dyslexic genes have a strong tendency to be inherited? Because, depending on the source, it is estimated that an incredible 5 to 15 percent1 of the world population have the gift of dyslexia! To put this number into better context, consider that 7 to 10 percent of the world population has genes for left‐ handedness.2 So as you can see, dyslexic genes are not so rare at all.

In biological terms, we call such genes, like the ones for dyslexia, which persist over time and are widespread across the species, hardy. With their dominance and persistence, dyslexic genes exhibit all the qualities of hardiness.3

To make a long genetic story very, very short; this means that through the process of Natural Selection, nature has decided that the genes which code for dyslexia (like the DCDC2 gene) are vital to the survival of our species. They are here to stay. There is no way 5‐15% of the population could carry and pass on these hardy genes if they did not favorably support the continued existence of the species as a whole.4

How Dyslexic Genes Support Species Success So the question is; how exactly do these dyslexic genes support the survival of our species?

Before we answer that question, it is important to recognize that each of the 6 billion human brains on the face of our earth act as a powerful intelligence resource; the entire species draws

The Gift of Dyslexia Page 3 of 11 9/24/2009 upon this intelligence reserve in order to better adapt to our world. In a way, each of us is a part of what can be called the “global brain.” Each individual brain contributes in its own unique way to the successful survival of the species as a whole. The global brain can be looked at as a team with each team member adding a drop of intelligence fuel which in turn helps the total species achieve such wonderful things; like putting a man on the moon, finding a cure for AIDS, developing alternative energy sources and perhaps one of the best examples, creating the worldwide web/internet.

Dyslexics as Super Achievers

Compared to the general population, dyslexic genes build brains which have unique gifts the rest of us don’t have. Research shows, when compared to the general population, dyslexics are highly intuitive and creative, extremely curious, possess a higher overall intelligence and are able to “think outside the box” more effectively than the rest of us.

Indeed, the dyslexic brain does process information differently from the rest of us. This ability allows them to see the world and the answers to its problems from angles the rest of us can’t possibly see. It is this very aptitude of looking at the world from a different angle that allows them to become so important to the success of our species and its ultimate survival. In fact, in business organizations, it may make sense for every team to have at least one dyslexic to keep the rest of the team from running off the cliff with the rest of the lemmings.

Great Dyslexics

Some of us may not know it, but many of the thought leaders of our modern age in different fields from physics and music to fashion and law, have been dyslexic. Individuals like Leonardo da Vinci, Sir Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Erin Brockovich, John F. Kennedy, Nelson Rockefeller, Walt Disney, Edgar Allen Poe, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Winston Churchill, William Hewlett (co‐founder, Hewlett‐Packard), George Patton,

Andy Warhol, Cher, Quentin Tarantino, Tommy Hilfiger, Fred Astaire, Jay Leno, Ted Turner, Henry Ford, Charles Schwab, Richard Branson and the list goes on and on. Even three of the most famous founding fathers of the United States, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson are reported to have been dyslexic. In turn, this means that the basis for what we today call democracy in our world was greatly shaped by dyslexic minds!

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Just think for a moment about what our world might have been like without the gifts these dyslexics added to our modern world!

So if you are dyslexic, you are set up to become one of the geniuses of our age and a thought leader! Why? Because of your genes, you possess a unique brain plan which allows you to see the world and the answers to its problems from unique perspectives.

The Problem: Two Mismatches

Within today’s institution of education, the dyslexic individual has to deal with two distinct and frustrating mismatches; the traditional educational system itself and those who run it.

The System

The wonderful gift of dyslexia is often seen as a disorder because the dyslexic brain plan does not fit our traditional educational systems. Our present day training and educational systems primarily stimulate the left temporal lobe (located over your left ear) where linguistic and finite (detail) math is processed. In contrast, the dyslexic brain processes information primarily in the visual cortex (located in the back of your head).

This creates a mismatch between the educational system and the dyslexic’s brain. In addition, because the dyslexic’s brain plan processes information so differently from the way our traditional educational system is delivering it, the dyslexic often feels like a square peg being jammed into a round hole.


The other frustrating mismatch occurs between the dyslexic and those who run our educational systems. It is estimated that 93% of all teachers and school administrators are temporal lobe, dominant‐linguistic processors while virtually 100% of dyslexics are not!5

Often, because of this mismatch of brain plans, educators misjudge and categorize dyslexics as lazy, disinterested, uninvolved, troublemakers, etc. When in fact, what is really happening is that this fundamental brain mismatch is creating a situation where neither side can effectively understand the other.

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Much like the mismatch John Gray wrote about in his famous book, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. (Men and women do indeed have different brain plans which, in turn, cause a lot of miscommunication between the sexes).

When examined from this double mismatch context, it’s easy to see how “The System” and its managers could perceive dyslexia not as a gift, but as a disorder. It is my firm belief that the more we understand the biological underpinnings of dyslexia, the faster we will be able to develop learning systems that support the dyslexic way of learning.

Because many of the traditional therapists who treat dyslexia are also linguistic‐dominant, this mismatch often extends into the therapy setting. This therapy mismatch also helps perpetrate and extend the idea that dyslexia is a dysfunction.

Other Brain Differences

While for simplicity’s sake in this paper, we mainly focus on the mismatch between the linguistic‐dominance of the system/administrators and the visual‐dominance represented by the dyslexic brain, recent research shows that there are even more brain structure differences between the two groups.

It has now been found that the thalamus of the dyslexic brain has a different shape from the average brain. The thalamus is a "processing‐station" located at the center of the brain, a major stop for information transmitted from our sensory organs (touch, taste, sound, etc.) to the higher‐level processing cerebral cortex.

Another brain structure difference is brain hemisphere symmetry. The human brain has two hemispheres and recent studies show the brains of dyslexics are much more symmetrical than the average brain. The difference in the thalamus and symmetry of the dyslexic brain forces it to process information much differently than other brains. This difference also exacerbates the mismatch between the traditional educational system and the dyslexic brain; further adding to the stress on the dyslexic learner.6

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Danger: Stress and the Dyslexic Brain

So what happens when dyslexics are forced to learn in environments which do not fit their brain plan; managed by people whose own neurological makeup is very different from those they are attempting to teach? The answer is stress and lots of it!

Imagine waking up each and every day and having to go into a world where you felt you did not fit in and where those in authority saw you as “damaged?” Welcome to a day in the world of a dyslexic. Each day a dyslexic sits in the traditional school system, he or she feels a lot like you might feel sitting in a classroom with someone running their fingernails down the blackboard … all day long! Over time, the double mismatch problem makes the classroom a very hostile place to the visual‐ dominant dyslexic brain; which in turn causes a dramatic, profound and extended biological stress response in the dyslexic learner. This is not good.

Why? Let me explain a little about stress and its effect on the brain.

When you are in a stressful situation, like a bad relationship, being unhappy with your job or having dyslexia and sitting in a traditional classroom for hours on end, the adrenal glands respond. Under stress, the top of the adrenal gland emits a hormone called cortisol. Research shows that this cortisol‐ hormone‐stress response was not designed to be flooding our bodies and minds for extended periods of time. This critical response is only designed to be switched on for short periods. What happens when the cortisol response floods our bodies and minds hour after hour after hour, day after day, week after week? As the list below illustrates, the effects are not good.

The Effects of Stress/Cortisol on the Brain • Cortisol atrophies and withers neural connections.

• Extended high levels of cortisol inhibit the creation of new brain cells.

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• Cortisol negatively affects specialized neurons called glial cells; inhibiting them from transporting nutrients, cleaning up neuron waste and making the insulation that surrounds and protects neural wiring.

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