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Volume 2 • #4 • December 2002


When Christopher Reeve was thrown from a horse, breaking his back and leaving him paralyzed from the neck down, nobody that I know of termed the accident a “gift”. On the other hand, when he displayed superhuman strength and perseverance to make gains that no doctor ever thought possible, the mindset and mental strength that enabled him to do this certainly was a gift.

When someone can “make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear,” or “make lemonade when life has dealt him a lemon,” we do not consider the sow’s ear or the lemon gifts. But the ability to make the best of a bad situation certainly is a gift.

Why, then, do you hear people talk about the “gift of dyslexia”? Partly because of a misunderstanding of what dyslexia is and what causes it. The claim is made that dyslectic people are intuitive and highly creative, which is not necessarily true at all. It is also claimed that reversing letters and the like are the result of distorted perceptions. But this is not true, either. Dyslectic people see the same things that everybody else does. There is nothing wrong with their eyeballs or ears. The reason they reverse letters in words is because they are processing the words with the right hemisphere which does not associate a sound with a letter and therefore doesn’t care about letter order. There are no “positive talents that give rise to dyslexia” as one person has claimed. Dyslexia occurs when a person is born with a faulty corpus callosum and a wiring pattern that causes him to use the right hemisphere rather than the left for reading. The truth is that it has nothing whatever to do with talent or native intelligence.

The right hemisphere is responsible for artistic talent, spatial sense, intuition and emotions. When you gum it up with an attempt to resolve letters into the sounds of words, you only use up its neural space with clutter. My own experience has been that if you get the verbal processing out of the right, you free it up to do its own job better. This value of isolating a certain kind of processing to the proper hemisphere has been validated in a most interesting book by Betty Edwards called “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.” As an art teacher, she does exactly the reverse of what we do with Reading from Scratch. She minimizes all verbal activity that she can when a student is drawing. No one is allowed to talk, and she does things like having the student copy something upside down so he can’t verbalize what he is copying but must just duplicate the shapes and colors he sees. She gets results that can only be described as spectacular .

There are two kinds of gifts after all: the ones we give to each other at Christmas and the talents and mental power that are sometimes vouchsafed us which enable us to exceed normal expectations. Dyslexia is no gift, but the ability to neutralize it and increase normal functioning of both sides of the brain certainly is.

That is the gift that Reading from Scratch wishes it could give to everyone burdened with this nuisance. Happy holidays!

Teaching Tip:

Haven’t got one. Nobody is trying to teach much over the holidays anyhow. I will get organized and cook up something for January.



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