Imagine yourself at the back of a classroom on your first day of school. The scene painted before you is full of colors, faces and imagery dancing in tides of letters on the wall and voices from the hall. It seems so magical, mystical even, the way the walls come together to meet the floor, splaying out into a colored array of children’s costume cloaks and pencils squared by rectangular sheets of white paper. The picture is beautiful. You can almost hear the music coming out of the bricks, aware of how many times the carpenter placed hands to the wall in order to construct such a meeting space. Then the teacher writes three letters next to one another on the black board and speaks the word they supposedly make. The artistic scene crumbles from around your eyes as the teacher calls your name and asks you to read the next three letters written, for they hold no meaning and no charm. Could this be your child? Is dyslexia really a form of creative genius?
Research says about 17% of the population has what is termed as “dyslexia.” What does that mean? I always thought that meant reversing the letters in a word, but this condition is really so much more. Evidence seems to point to a certain element of awareness possessed by those with supposed dyslexia that other kids do not have. It is a more spatial, big picture sort of consciousness, with more difficulty focusing on the smaller details, such as the direction a letter faces and the sound of a simple connecting word such as ‘the’ or ‘in’.
Many childhood diagnosis such as ADD, ADHD, Dyslexia and Autism are largely described in comparison to the behavior and skill set of what is termed the “normal child,” and one who attends public school. The unfortunate reality with these often unusually bright children who approach learning in a unique way, is that the school system as we know it in the United States, is not equipped to handle them or teach them. On the contrary, we have a system that functions according to a regulated, structured routine that offers very little room for creativity, experimentation and curiosity.
Kids are placed, at a very young age, into an assembly-line type educational system which demands they all learn in the same manner, block by block, linearly and logically. The problem is, not all kids take in information the same way. Those who are diagnosed with dyslexia, for example, are big picture kids. They tend to see a larger image from which they learn through experimentation and experience. These kids might do better with building projects, art and drawing which take into account their spatial orientation and larger vision. These kids tend to overlook details for the wider perspective and are therefore more inclined to be artists, painters, architects and designers.
Are our school systems fit to support a creative mind? No. True, there are other alternatives which parents who can afford to pay for private education might opt for such as Waldorf and Monessori school. However, if you are on a budget and don’t possess the extra funds with which to send your kid to these more creative venues, you are stuck sending them into a system which does not support them and their way of learning. You are forced to make choices that do not seem to compliment your creative child and even threaten to stifle their nature, making them conform to standards which do not enhance their innate abilities, but, rather, suppress them.
It was thought that Albert Einstein was dyslexic as was, potentially, Thomas Edison and other brilliant leaders and actors of today like Tom Cruise and Whoopi Goldberg. Who are we to label these creative kids as if they suffered an illness? Instead, what if we could identify, in some sort of entrance exam, the way in which these children learn best, find out their interests and cater learning to them? Some alternative locally and privately run schools such as the Village Free School in Portland, Oregon ask the children to design their own curriculum, which the teachers help support and design with the kids for greater interest, cooperation and development.
Children today seem to be more aware, less apt to conform and more creative than we were when we were their age. The public school system in the United States is highly antiquated, asking children to sit for long periods of time while not changing their body position, even when they are not interested in the task at hand. My kid comes home distraught after first grade because he does not want to sit in “criss-cross-applesauce,” a seated position his teacher requires of all the kids even when they are uncomfortable. I’m not saying learning a new body position is not potentially helpful, but come on. This is just one example of how schools teach conformity and not creativity. What’s wrong with finding a body position that suits you? What is happening to the individual?
Something must change. Is Dyslexia really a form of creative genius? It’s difficult to judge by today’s public school standards, but easier to conclude by observing the kids.
There are several organizations and websites that have identified the positive side of something like dyslexia and ADD, noting the highly creative nature of the kids who seem to exhibit the symptoms of said “conditions.” Some of these qualities include: vivid imagination, curiosity, thinks in pictures, easily and quickly masters new ideas and concepts, loves complexity, reasoning skills are above average, concentration is heightened, sees patterns easily, loves to daydream, persistence, just to name a few.
If you suspect your child has dyslexia, there are early detection tests that can be performed. In this way the kids can be placed in an environment that better supports their learning style. However, as a nation, we need to upgrade our school systems so as to include all types of learners and stop trying to educate our kids in a cookie-cutter manner. They are individuals, after-all. One day they will grow up and hopefully realize the amazing genius they are either despite, or thanks to, the school system which helped model them.
Could dyslexia really be a form of creative genius? Are we neglecting the individuals in favor of a group-mind consciousness in school today? Is there a better way? I believe the answer to these three questions is a resounding “yes” – what do you think?
Written by: Stasia Bliss