Dyslexia strategies are ‘failing to harness positives from condition’
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.