Reframing dyslexia through the lens of giftedness

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David C. Hall suggests educators should reconsider how to unlock the potential of students with dyslexia.

According to a statistic by the Dyslexia Center of Utah, one in every five people is diagnosed with dyslexia, although figures do vary significantly, often between 4-10%.

Formed from the root word: Lexia, which means words and the prefix dys, which means difficulty, dyslexia is characterised generally as a learning disability that involves challenges with words and the way they are perceived. This difficulty is specifically experienced in writing, reading, (inferences & comprehension), and spelling.

Although dyslexia is referred to as a learning disability, children who are dyslexic are still expected to learn academically and perform well, just like their peers. This poses a great challenge for them, since our academic system is heavily reliant on words. For this reason, many are often drawn to more vocational subjects like Physical Education, technology-related subjects, and other subjects that foster creativity. These subjects provide them with a more practical and hands-on approach or style of learning rather than a multitude of words.

As an educator with dyslexic students, the right question to ask at this point would be what can you do to help your student manage this ability and still become the best they can be?

First, you must reframe how you perceive them. See your dyslexic students through the lens of giftedness. 

Being gifted is defined as ‘having exceptional talent or natural ability.’ It is the ability or skill to do something well. Many dyslexic children have been shown to have extraordinary skills and exceptional minds. Therefore, as an educator, one of the best things you must do is to see them as gifted students and encourage them to develop a self-concept of giftedness. This is because, by seeing themselves as gifted rather than ‘disabled’, they will be more able to develop their special skill – creativity.

Creativity is simply the ability to use imagination to create something new. It is the ability to use our mental capacity to develop a mental picture of ideas. Therefore, it would be right to say that highly creative people predominantly think in pictures and not words, and this perfectly defines many dyslexics! Dyslexics are often highly creative people, who are great innovators and potential entrepreneurs. With their creative minds, they easily generate ideas using mental pictures while their innovative capability puts those pictured ideas into a process that yields tangible results. 

Often, the mechanisms for identifying neurodiverse children (including dyslexic children) are inadequate. Therefore, these children are often left with the possibility of being excluded from the learning process and run the risk of becoming NEET (Not in Education, Employment, or Training), if they exhibit behavioural changes due to their learning disposition.

To minimise these school exclusions, I recommend to every educator; 7 principles and strategies designed to diminish challenging behaviour and boost the attainments of SEND children significantly.

How do you support your students in developing their picture of success?
As an educator, your role is to support your students by helping them to see their potential through their mind’s eye. Doing this empowers them to build a picture of success through their mind’s eye so they can see themselves achieving the impossible.

A perfect example is Creola Katherine Johnson, an American mathematician who worked for NASA in the 1960s. She worked tirelessly on calculations of orbital mechanics in the belief that a spacecraft could land on the moon. On 20 July 1969, what she first saw in her mind became a reality when Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the moon. His success can be attributed to her picture and belief that what she could see with her mind’s eye was possible.

How do you connect with your students?
Dyslexic children typically have a challenging time within the traditional educational system. To Inspire students’ greatness, educators need to connect with them by understanding their stories, interests, concerns, and future aspirations. It is impossible to get the best out of your students if you are unable to connect with them. 

How do you cultivate your students’ greatness?
Just as the potter’s hand cultivates fine pottery from the invisible image (potential), educators who can be likened to the potter’s hand connect with their students to cultivate their potential. Therefore, educators and practitioners should learn to support their students to see and believe that they have all it takes to be great. 

Have you ever wondered how some educators make teaching SEND children look trouble-free and effortless? They speak about their students with vigour, and passion, and seldom complain about behavioural challenges, pedagogical ideas, or frustration. When they speak about their students, they are energised, excited, and happy with a deep sense of belief that their students will succeed. 

Daily teaching practices are a reflection or forecast of what is to come. This means that success is predictable. Evaluating your daily teaching habits and routines will enable you to refine your teaching practice to ensure students’ progress. 

How do you collaborate with your student’s parents or other professionals?
According to research by Nancy E. Hill and Stracy A. Craft, increased parental collaboration between parents and school not only improves children’s academic performance but also positively influences their cognitive development and socialisation. This is evidenced in the positive behaviour and increased intrinsic motivation found among students whose educators collaborate with their parents. They tend to develop better relationships with their educators and other students when compared to their peers. Moreover, being the focus of a positive partnership improves a child’s self-concept and instils a belief that they have the skills they need to succeed academically.

How can you ensure your students are supported with learning in more creative methodologies?
Since dyslexic children are often creative learners, they need a creative learning strategy to flourish through their creativity and attain academic excellence. This strategy will help them bridge the academic gap of underachievement and reach their full potential, since they’ll become propelled in their ‘learning flow’, as learning becomes autonomous for them. Instead of misbehaving or underachieving  due to frustration, they become more engaged in their learning process, leading to significant improvement in their attainments. 

What is greatness? Greatness is the state of being in the flow of your gifts and talents. Greatness requires mastery of your gifts and talents to serve others with excellence and passion.

Educators have a duty and responsibility to provide the environment for their students to discover their passion. Education is the tool they need. The word education comes from two Latin words: educere, meaning ‘to lead out’ or bring out, and educare, meaning to mould or shape student talents and help them to identify early a path that aligns with them.

No diamond was ever created in its polished form. Its beauty is incrementally brought out by the diamond miner and the jeweller who knows how to polish and cut it to reveal the beauty within. Your students must be similarly worked on to bring out their greatness, which must be developed and refined through lifelong learning.

How do you provide an environment where students believe in their potential to be great?
Ancient literature states: ‘as a man thinks in his heart, so is he.’ A belief is what we think and accept to be true; a mindset is a set of beliefs. What are your beliefs about success? More importantly, what are your student’s beliefs about success? These beliefs will determine their experiences in the world because the world we live in reflects our inner world.

The word ‘empower’ implies the ability to reach one’s full potential while ‘potential’ is the capacity to develop or become something that will lead to success. Therefore, when we talk about an empowered mindset, we refer to a mindset that is conducive to success.

Without an empowered mindset, a student is at risk of underachievement. The biggest hurdle any student needs to overcome is not their behaviour or even other grades. The biggest hurdle they need to overcome is how they see themselves and their potential.  

In conclusion, as an educator, you must strive to teach your students that they can achieve anything if only they dare to believe it as this is the biggest impact you will ever have on them.

David C. Hall
Author: David C. Hall

David C. Hall
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David C. Hall is a best-selling author, motivational speaker, and multi-award-winning learning consultant. He founded Potential Unlocked in 2017.

Website: https://davidchall.co.uk/ Facebook: @DavidC.Hall1 LinkedIn: @davidchall1

1 COMMENT

  1. Thank you David.
    A well written article, with passion and right ingredients for children and parents alike to cultivate self belief to reach for excellence. Instilling greatness in children with SEN

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