fbpx

By Christine Clark

There has been much speculation and discussion about the idea that people with dyslexia seem to have particular strengths in areas of the brain responsible for perceptual reasoning or visual spatial tasks. Visual spatial tasks or visuospatial processing refers to strengths in tasks that are based on the ability to work with pictures not words.

Strengths in visual spatial tasks in the everyday world translates to the ability to understand maps, make origami, figure out puzzles, assemble things, read graphs of data, build complex structures with Legos, make model airplanes, excel at woodworking, draw, direct a school play, make creative videos, work with engines, plumbing, etc. These abilities may translate into career areas, such as engineering, architecture, art, music, mathematics, drafting, graphic design, computer programming, movie producing/directing, becoming an entrepreneur, or physics — astrophysics in particular. (1)

What’s even more intriguing is that new scientific results are suggesting that we may be closer to explaining this idea with support from a body of empirical work. As Dr. Ken Pugh, Director of Research Laboratories, New Haven, CT puts it, “there seems to be a cognitive and neurobiological basis for the notion that some aspects of visuospatial processing appear to be an advantage in children with dyslexia.” (2)

Dr. Catya von Károlyi, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, found some intriguing evidence that people with dyslexia process information from the visual periphery quicker than people who are not dyslexic. This refers to a person’s ability to process visual information outside of the center of the gaze where s/he is looking.

The work of Gadi Geiger and Jerome Lettvin at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology supports this idea. They briefly flashed a row of letters extending from the center of a person’s field of vision to its outside edges. Typical readers identified the letters in the middle row with more accuracy, however; people with dyslexia excelled when asked to identify letters in the row’s outer reaches. (2)

Geiger and Lettvin’s findings are fascinating. They assert that the brain separately processes information that streams from the central and peripheral (outer limits) of the visual field. They go on to discuss that these strengths trade off. A person adept at focusing on details located in the center of the visual field (which they believe is the key to reading) are likely to be less proficient at recognizing features and patterns in the broad regions of the periphery. Even more interesting, is their idea that the opposite is also true. People with dyslexia, who have strengths in processing visual information in the outer regions, can rapidly take in a scene as a whole or absorb what researchers call the visual gist. (2)

Dr. von Károlyi and others went on to support their ideas through the study of “impossible figures” like those sketched by the artist M.C. Escher. Escher sketches extremely complex drawings that are full of intricate details. They are called impossible figures because upon close examination, he draws scenes that cannot happen according to the laws of physics (water running upwards), etc. If a person focuses on just one element of these complicated drawings s/he will be led to believe that the picture represents a plausible physical arrangement when in fact; a larger (big picture) view at once reveals that Escher’s staircases really lead nowhere and the water in his fountains is flowing up rather than down. (View M.C. Escher’s Waterfall or Relativity.)

Dr. von Károlyi gave people simplified pictures that depicted things that are physically impossible. They were asked to determine if the scenario was possible or impossible. Interestingly enough, people with dyslexia identified pictures as impossible or possible in an average of 2.26 seconds, while viewers who were not dyslexic tended to take a third longer. “The compelling implication of this finding,” wrote Dr. Von Károlyi and her co-authors in the journal, Brain and Language, “is that dyslexia should not be characterized only by deficit, but also by talent.” (3)

Some people with dyslexia also demonstrate attributes such as an insatiable curiosity about areas of interest, a strong desire to experiment with novel ideas, and unshakable tenacity. These are characteristics that define the greatest thinkers and inventors of our time; many of whom were dyslexic.

Many people with dyslexia demonstrate a tremendous ability to think beyond conventional thought, which leads them to consider things in a prodigious, innovative manner. Couple that with the possibility of strengths in visual spatial tasks, and you have individuals with extremely unique creative abilities.

Take Pablo Picasso for example – Picasso, a true genius and dyslexic, is known as one of the greatest and most influential artists of the 20th century for his work that defied any previous traditional art form. In 1907, Picasso created a painting unlike he or anyone else had ever painted in which his subjects possessed sharp geometric features from multiple, simultaneous viewpoints, creating a collage-like effect that seemed to defy physics.

Picasso’s work led to the movement of the modern art-form called Cubism. Picasso’s work would seem to be an example of a person with exceptional visuospatial abilities. He created art from a visual-spatial perspective that was inconceivable before he conceived it. (4)

There is no question that Picasso was a genius as were many others with dyslexia, however; science is just now scratching the surface on the exact nature of the advantages of being dyslexic.

As Dr. Pugh explains, “Until we have a richer scientific foundation, caution is needed to know whether these strengths are a consequence of less reading experience and if they translate into a significant real world benefit.” However, the findings of Dr. Pugh’s study lend empirical support to the hypothesis that people with dyslexia could possibly have certain types of visuospatial processing strengths. (2)

This empirical data certainly adds more interest to a topic that is already thought provoking. The author of The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell, devoted an entire chapter in his new book, David and Goliath (2013), to dyslexia as an example of a “desirable difficulty.” The idea being that society needs the people who rise up from difficulties with powerful compensatory capabilities. (6)

The discussion about dyslexia and its possible strengths will no doubt continue. It is an exciting time in our history where empirical data can be collected and shared through technology, such as fMRIs. Whether the remarkable strengths and contributions to our world from people with dyslexia has its origin in the neurology of the brain or is a result of one’s ability to overcome difficulties is still under discussion. Either way, the facts remain: many of our world’s greatest thinkers have been dyslexic. These are people who revolutionized our world in remarkably positive ways.

 


(1) Gifted and Dyslexic: Identifying and Instructing the Twice Exceptional Student, http://www.interdys.org/ewebeditpro5/upload/GiftedAndDyslexicFebruary2013(1).pdf

(2) The International Dyslexia Association, Dyslexia and Visuospatial Processing Strengths: New Research Sheds Light, Carolyn D. Cowen, http://www.interdys.org/DyslexiaAndVisuospatialProcessing.htm

(3) New York Times Sunday Review, The Upside of Dyslexia, Annie Murphy Paul, 2/4/12, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/05/opinion/sunday/the-upside-of-dyslexia.html?_r=0

(4) Famous People with the Gift of Dyslexia, http://www.dyslexia.com/famous.htm

(5) Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Martyr Patricio Clito Ruíz y Picasso. (2014). The Biography.com website. Retrieved 11:17, Oct 19, 2014, from http://www.biography.com/people/pablo-picasso-9440021

(6) Gladwell, M. (2013). David and Goliath: Underdogs, misfits, and the art of battling giants. New York: Little, Brown and Company.

0 Comments

Leave a Comment

©2018 Commonwealth Learning Center. All rights reserved. Privacy Policy
Web Design by Jackrabbit

NONDISCRIMINATION POLICY: Commonwealth Learning Center admits students of any race, color, national origin, sex, disability, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, and age to its programs and does not discriminate in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, or other school-administered policies. The following person has been designated to handle inquiries regarding the nondiscrimination policy: Stephanie Smith, 220 Reservoir Street, Needham, MA 02494; (781) 444-5582.

Privacy Policy

Stratford Foundation, Inc. d/b/a Commonwealth Learning Center, Professional Training Institute, & Commonwealth Learning Online Institute

 Website Privacy Statement and Terms of Use Disclaimer

Revised: 11/15/2011

Scope
The Stratford Foundation Inc (Stratford) privacy statement applies to Stratford’s primary domain names commlearn.com, commlearntraining.com, commlearnonline.com and all its sub domains. Each of these separate domains are referred to, collectively, as the Stratford Foundation Website. The Stratford Foundation Inc strives to protect user’s privacy to the fullest extent allowed by law.

Data Collection and Usage
The Stratford Foundation Inc will not disclose personally identifiable information we collect from you to third parties without your permission except to the extent necessary including:

– To fulfill your requests for services.
– To protect ourselves from liability, or
– To respond to legal process or comply with law.

The Stratford Foundation Inc collects data from users to help fulfill the mission of the Foundation. The majority of information collected by Stratford is voluntarily provided by the user in connection with the completion of online forms or by the user’s web browser to facilitate communication with the Stratford Foundation Website. Collected information is not sold, loaned or shared with outside entities except where required by law or to fulfill the mission of the Foundation.

Secure Transactions
All transactions through the Stratford Foundation Website involving personal and financial information are processed through PayPal. Please go to the PayPal Privacy Policy for more information. When making online payments, credit card and bank information is not stored on Stratford’s systems.

Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)
To comply with COPPA, children under the age of 13 should not submit any information to the Stratford Foundation Website without parental consent.

Disclaimers and Limitations of Liability
The views and opinions expressed on the Stratford Foundation Website do not necessarily state or reflect those of the Stratford Foundation.  The information and content on this website is provided “as is” with no warranty of any kind, either express or implied, including but not limited to, the implied warranties and merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, and non-infringement.

Content which appears on the Stratford Foundation Website has been compiled from a variety of sources and is subject to change without notice. Although the Stratford Foundation tries to ensure the integrity and the accuracy of website content, it makes no guarantees about correctness or accuracy. The Stratford Foundation makes no representation or warranty whatsoever regarding the completeness, quality, non-infringement, accessibility, or adequacy of the contents of the Stratford Foundation Website, or the suitability, functionality, or operation of this website, its contents, or its use with any other equipment or software. By using this Website, users assume the risk that the information contained on this website may be inaccurate, incomplete, or offensive. Additionally, the possibility exists that unauthorized additions, deletions, and/or alterations could be made by third parties to the Stratford Foundation Website materials. The Stratford Foundation is not responsible for such unauthorized alterations which may occur.

The Stratford Foundation cannot guarantee the privacy of any data while in transit to or from the Stratford Foundation Website. Users of wireless Internet access are at greater risk of personal information being revealed and the use of wireless technologies to access or submit personal information to the Stratford Foundation Website is discouraged.

Under no circumstances, including but not limited to, negligence, shall the Stratford Foundation be liable for any direct, indirect, incidental, special, punitive or consequential damages that may result from the use or inability to use the Stratford Foundation Website, including without limitation the use of, or reliance on, information available on the Stratford Foundation Website, interruptions, errors, defects, mistakes, omissions, deletions of files, delays in operation or transmission, non-delivery of information, disclosure of communications, or any other failure of performance. 

Notwithstanding the above, you acknowledge that Stratford Foundation Inc does not prescreen content, but that the Stratford Foundation and its designees shall have the right (but not the obligation) in their sole discretion to refuse or remove any content that is available via this web site. Without limiting the foregoing, the Stratford Foundation and its designees shall have the right to remove any content that violates the policies of the Stratford Foundation or is otherwise determined to be objectionable by the Stratford Foundation in its sole discretion.

Copyright
All textual, graphical and other content appearing on the Stratford Foundation Website are property of the Stratford Foundation Inc. Copyright © 2011 Stratford Foundation Inc

220 Reservoir Street, Suite 6, Needham, MA 02494-3133, USA. All Rights Reserved.

You may view, copy, print and use content contained on the Stratford Foundation website solely for your own personal use, provided that:

– The content available from this Website is used for informational and non-commercial purposes only.
– No text, graphics or other content available from this Web Site is modified in any way.
– No graphics available from this Web Site are used, copied or distributed separate from accompanying text.
– Nothing contained herein shall be construed as conferring by implication, estoppels or otherwise any license or other grant of right to use any copyright, trademark or other intellectual property of the Stratford Foundation or any third party, except as expressly provided herein.

Disclaimer of Contract
All information provided on the Stratford Foundation Website is provided solely for informational purposes, and does not constitute a legal contract between the Stratford Foundation and any other person or entity, unless such a contract has been otherwise specified. 

Indemnity Release
Users of the Stratford Foundation Website release and waive any and all claims and/or liability against the Stratford Foundation arising from or in connection with the use of the Stratford Foundation website. User also agrees to defend, indemnify and hold harmless the Stratford Foundation and any of its employees from and against any and all claims or liability, including costs and attorneys fees, arising from, or in connection with, the use of the Stratford Foundation Website, or failure to abide by applicable law.

Governing Laws and Jurisdiction
These disclaimers and terms of use shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of the state of Massachusetts, United States of America. Disputes arising hereunder shall be exclusively subject to the jurisdiction of the federal courts of the United States of America and/or the state courts of Massachusetts, and jurisdiction therefore shall rest solely in the state of Massachusetts, United States of America.

Cookies
Cookies are text files stored on your computer by a website containing information about you to facilitate further communications with the website. Cookies are used to assist with the technical operation of the Stratford Foundation website. If the user chooses to disallow cookies, certain portions of the Stratford Foundation Website may become unavailable to the user.

External Links
The Stratford Foundation Inc is not responsible for website content, security, or protection of personal information on links found on the Stratford Foundation Website to outside agencies or entities.

Email
The Stratford Foundation Inc is not responsible for the privacy of any email messages. Users are advised that most email sent over the Internet is insecure and that, as a result, users should assume that email communications are not private.

Log Files
The Stratford Foundation website tracks generic network information to monitor trends in traffic and for security purposes. Information tracked includes but is not limited to:

– Your Internet protocol address.
– The kind of browser or computer you use.
– Number of links you click within the site.
– State or country from which you accessed the site.
– Date and time of your visit.
– Name of your internet service provider.
– Web page you linked to our site from.
– Pages you viewed on the site.

This information is generally tracked and monitored by most web sites, including the Stratford Foundation Website, and is not directly linked back to any user’s personal information.

Contacting Us
If you have questions regarding our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service, its implementation, failure to adhere to this Privacy Policy and Terms of Service and/or our general practices, please contact us at [email protected] or send your comments to:

            Stratford Foundation, Inc.
            ATTN: Website Privacy Policy
            220 Reservoir Street, Suite 6
            Needham, MA 02494-3133

Logo Header Menu