Dys­lexia strategies are ‘fail­ing to har­ness pos­i­tives from con­di­tion’

Yorkshire Post - - EDUCATION ON MONDAY - SARAH FREE­MAN NEWS COR­RE­SPON­DENT ■ Email: yp.news­desk@jpi­me­dia.co.uk ■ Twit­ter: @york­shire­post

CUR­RENT STRATEGIES for deal­ing with dyslexic stu­dents in schools and uni­ver­si­ties are fail­ing to har­ness the pos­i­tive as­pects of the con­di­tion, ex­perts have claimed.

While most peo­ple as­so­ciate dys­lexia with dif­fi­cul­ties with spell­ing and read­ing, re­search shows that it is of­ten also linked to cre­ativ­ity and good prob­lem­solv­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills.

How­ever, ac­cord­ing to Pro­fes­sor Nigel Lock­ett, who was di­ag­nosed with the con­di­tion in his late teens, neg­a­tive per­cep­tions, along with a ten­dency to want to man­age and re­duce the symp­toms, has re­sulted in a wealth of un­tapped tal­ent in the class­room.

The for­mer pro­fes­sor of en­ter­prise at the Univer­sity of Leeds said: “Peo­ple with dys­lexia think in a slightly dif­fer­ent way to peo­ple who don’t have it. We can hold lots of in­for­ma­tion in our heads, we are able to see pat­terns in large amounts of data and we are re­ally good and look­ing at a sit­u­a­tion and see­ing it from an al­ter­na­tive viewpoint.

“In to­day’s world, those are re­ally use­ful skills to have. How­ever, they are too of­ten ig­nored, par­tic­u­larly in schools where the cur­ricu­lum is fo­cused on fine, crit­i­cal think­ing rather than big pic­ture think­ing.

“When I de­scribe dys­lexia as a ‘su­per­power’ I am be­ing slightly tongue-in-cheek, but there is some foun­da­tion to it. One in 10 peo­ple have it and if we con­tinue to see it as a prob­lem which needs solv­ing, then we will miss out on nur­tur­ing some of our bright­est and best cre­ative tal­ent.”

Prof Lock­ett, who now works at the Univer­sity of Strath­clyde, em­barked on a drive to re­think how dys­lexia is ap­proached as it is still a taboo sub­ject for many.

He added: “I started a blog called the Dyslexic Pro­fes­sor. I wanted to ‘come out’ as hav­ing the con­di­tion, but I was sur­prised by the amount of peo­ple who have since told me they are dyslexic too.

“These are suc­cess­ful peo­ple, work­ing in law, fi­nance and academia, but they don’t want any­one else to know be­cause it is still re­garded as a black mark against your name. Even those who are high achiev­ers in their field fear that as soon as you openly say you have dys­lexia, you will be seen as less able.”

Prof Lock­ett re­cently spoke at the Univer­sity of York as part of Dis­abil­ity His­tory Month and the char­ity Made By Dys­lexia is also back­ing his cam­paign to in­crease aware­ness of the ad­van­tages the con­di­tion can bring. Cit­ing the likes of en­tre­pre­neur Richard Branson and For­mula One driver Lewis Hamil­ton, the char­ity in­sists that suc­cess of­ten comes as a re­sult of dys­lexia not in spite of it.

Its founder and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, Kate Griggs, said: “Four out of five dyslex­ics at­tribute the way they think to their suc­cess. In fact, it has cre­ated some of the world’s great­est in­ven­tions, brands and art.

“How­ever, it can be a frus­trat­ing and ex­haust­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for chil­dren and par­ents, when teach­ers and schools have lim­ited knowl­edge of dyslexic abil­i­ties.

“Dys­lexia screen­ers and as­sess­ments should be ac­ces­si­ble and read­ily avail­able to all, but once a child has been di­ag­nosed, schools need a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing and recog­ni­tion of dyslexic think­ing skills and strengths.

“If dyslexic in­di­vid­u­als be­come frus­trated and lose con­fi­dence early on in life, it can lead to longterm im­pacts when ap­ply­ing to univer­sity and later in em­ploy­ment.”

Peo­ple with dys­lexia think in a slightly dif­fer­ent way.

Pro­fes­sor Nigel Lock­ett, of the Univer­sity of Strath­clyde.

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