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Embrace Dyslexia

Walking Up Hill: My Experiences as an International School Student with a Learning Difficulty
John Gallagher
Tufts University, Boston, USA

John Gallagher is an Irish citizen who was born in Hong Kong but grew up in Singapore, where he attended an international school. He is dyslexic and dyspraxic. Currently, John is a second year student at Tufts University, Boston, USA, where he is planning on majoring in History and English.

“Learning how to spell is not an insignificant portion of everyone’s early education and hence there are myriad ways of teaching spelling. One particularly cruel method my teachers conceived to teach this dark art was the ‘Have a Go Book’.”


“Amazing Shortcomings, Amazing Strengths”: Beginning to Understand the Hidden Talents of Dyslexics
Thomas G. West
Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study,
George Mason University, USA

Thomas G. West is the author of In the Mind's Eye: Creative Visual Thinkers, Gifted Dyslexics and the Rise of Visual Technologies (Prometheus Books), selected as one of the “best of the best” for the year by the American Library Association (one of only 13 books in their broad psychology, psychiatry and neuroscience category).

In recent years, developmental dyslexia is coming to be seen, remarkably, as a significant advantage in an increasing number of fields -- often linked to substantial success in design innovation, entrepreneurial business and scientific discovery. As hard as it is for many to believe, it is becoming more and more clear that some dyslexics are capable of envisioning possibilities, seeing patterns and making discoveries that are missed by even the smartest non-dyslexics.

“To succeed with such extremely mixed abilities, as these individuals often do, one needs to have a deep reservoir of confidence and fortitude to carry on in spite of the judgments of others that you are, in fact, really slow and lazy and stupid.”

“Left Behind at the Beginning of the Race: The Paradoxes of Dyslexia”
Thomas G. West
Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study,
George Mason University, USA

The field of dyslexia is full of puzzles and paradoxes. One of the greatest of these is that sometimes – perhaps one can say many times – the student who appears most dumb in the early years of schooling can be among the most capable and successful later on in the world of work – especially when the work is creative and innovative – involving the ability to ponder, think deeply, envision possibilities and to see patterns that others do not see.

“As one highly successful dyslexic pointed out, it is not hard for a dyslexic to think “out of the box” because, as he says, “they have never been in the box.”

What Factors are Important to Ensure that Students with Dyslexia have a Positive Learning Experience?
Sean Hewes
Undergraduate Student, Teaching and Technology, University of Newcastle, Australia
* International Baccalaureate Extended Essay in Psychology - submitted for Assessment May 2011

This research review investigates the factors that are important to ensure that students with dyslexia have a positive learning experience. Dyslexia is a learning disability that makes it very difficult for children to read, write and/or spell. Dyslexia is life‐long, but the difficulties caused by dyslexia can be overcome with successful specialist teaching and the use of compensatory strategies (DAS, 2011). This research review has shown that dyslexic students can have positive and negative learning experiences. Some of the factors that promote a positive learning experience are effective support by teachers in the education system, appropriate learning accommodations, professional support from an Educational Psychologist providing a diagnosis and recommendations of strategies for learning, specialist teaching to assist in areas of weakness, parents and peers support to ensure that the dyslexic student feels good about themselves. This research review investigated Psychological studies and research into dyslexic self‐esteem, academic self‐concept, and depression as well as teaching methods, teacher training and learning strategies. A metaphor study was used to investigate how dyslexic students thought about their learning difficulties. Other texts and professional books on the subject of dyslexia, study strategies, counselling dyslexics and learning strategies were also reviewed. It was determined that when positive factors such as multisensory learning strategies, teaching support and teacher recognition and understanding of dyslexia, technology assistance in the form of computers, laptops, software and touch typing, and emotional support from parents and peers were the best way a student with dyslexia could be supported to ensure a positive learning experience. When these factors were not in place research showed that this could lead to low self‐esteem, inferior and poor views of themselves which could lead to depression, increased frustration and anxiety and where social support was not present this could lead to bullying and rejection by peers.

Positive Dyslexia: Working to our Strengths!?
Professor Rod Nicolson and Sara Agahi
The University of Sheffield
Department of Psychology

Professor Tim Miles, the great British dyslexia pioneer, always highlighted the enigma of dyslexia, in that individuals with dyslexia tend to show a ‘spiky’ skill profile, with great strengths in some skills despite critical difficulties in others.

The global dyslexia community has made great strides over the last decades in terms of identifying individuals with dyslexia; removing barriers to their achievement; and providing support for their reading difficulties. The British Dyslexia Association (BDA) has of course played a leading role and has an outstanding track record with the ‘Dyslexia Friendly Schools’ initiative.

“We are convinced that individuals with dyslexia can provide the cutting edge for organisations in many respects—from acting as ‘pit canary’ for identifying system weaknesses right through to being the creative talent that transforms the organisations systems or products.”

The Role of Positive Emotions in Learning
Dr Thomas W. T. Sim
Executive Director - DAS Academy

Emotion is said to be the on/off switch for learning in the brain (Vail, 1994). Research has showed that positive emotions (such as academic enjoyment, pride, etc) predicted high achievement at end of semester exams whereas negative emotions (such as boredom, hopelessness, etc…) predicted low achievement on the same outcome measures (Pekrun, Goetz, Titz, & Perry, 2002). Thus, positive emotions may play a facilitating role in learning. “...a student who experiences more positive emotions should have better outcomes in school and is also better able to cope with negative events that happen as compared to a student who experiences more negative emotions.”