Another Beautiful Time of Year
"Pharisee" - Stan Rogers/Good Neighbors

Dyslexia and Creativity

So You Want to Start Blogging, But You're Shy... has an interesting archived post on dyslexia and creativity.  This part, in particular, struck a chord with me:

I was talking to a friend the other day, when it hit me what it was most like. In grad school, you're around people with something like a highly coherent crystaline structure, so they can build spires straight up into the sky, specializing in a discipline to the -nth degree, like Mount Everest, starting way up high, and poking up even higher, a sharp, jagged snaggle tooth.

But me, my brain is nowhere coherent enough to build those kind of structures. I'm too busy going around the block to get to the house next door, while my classmates were like, "Come on over here, through the gate, we're having a party!" I'm like, "I'm coming! I'll get there pretty soon!"

So I do what I've always done. I try to cram Thomas Jefferson's big-ass generalist polymath brain inside my pathetic head, try to read everything in the world that seems to pertain, and what I'm doing is starting from sea level, see? But I'm building Mount McKinley, Denali, this massively fat, wide marshmallow sitting on the horizon all socked in with clouds, piled with huge snowfields year round. I kept piling it higher and deeper until it is truly piled high and deep (that's what a Ph.D stands for, you know) all the way almost as high as those beautifully pure snaggle tooth Everests.

Now, I can do linear thought, but I don't always generally want to (which is part of why the list of blog categories to the right keeps growing.  Write a blog on only one subject?!).  I love following subjects down side trails and forgotten corridors, and, in graduate school, I felt like I was always pushing at the boundaries.  I didn't see the edges of the disciplines the way others did.  I really didn't see them at all.  I got used to professors rolling their eyes.  My favorites were the ones who didn't.

I also liked the part about how the wrestling with dyslexia encourages, or even creates, creativity:

What I mean to say is that it is the WRESTLING that creates the creativity, not the dyslexic parts of the brain. It's like blind people aren't necessarily born with acute hearing skills. Their blindness forces them to develop sophisticating hearing skills.

So I believe that being forced to repeatedly go around the block to get to the house next door shocks your brain out of all those overworn neural paths everybody else uses ad nauseum. You gotta develop different ways to get to the same spot. You learn to compensate, to visualize, to route around the areas that don't work so well (like remembering your own phone number, with all the numbers in the right order, sometimes it's just better to keep it written down on a piece of paper).

So it is great that people get help and learn to do more than just pump gas, like the guy said above. But the process of learning has to involve the wrestling with the dyslexia, because I think that juices up parts of the brain that sometimes are a tad too dormant in folks who are sometimes too comfortable being good little cogs in the wheels of this world. People who "settle" for less. Dyslexics don't have the luxury of settling, so they're often driven, but god knows where they're driving.

When I was teaching, I had two favorite kinds of students to work with: gifted and talented or honors students, and learning disabled students. I was often the MOST frustrated with the folks in the middle, the ones who were often unmotivated seat-fillers.

Sometimes I even tried to pair up the GT kids with the LD kids, because it ended up being a more rewarding experience for both, compared to the alternative of having to deal with their apathetic and conventional classmates, the ones that grade inflation forces us now to give all A's and B's. Given that, the GT and LD students are outside the limited realm of how grade scales are conceived. They actually think and produce things and question things. They're on their own roads and they're going to town, even if it's all uphill.

And, of course, I had to look into a blog with a title like that!


Chris Boese

Thanks for the good words about my long post on dyslexia. I'm glad it hits a chord with people, cuz when I was in grad school (doing like you did, pushing on edges and wandering off too much) I felt like I was the only one doing those things.

And I just made up that analogy about the mountains and going around the block to the house next door. It is how I experience learning, but it is nice to know others can relate to it too.

Thank you,

Arlene Wilson

GOod food for thought! I have a LD kid and a GT kid-- and I see the connection in terms of both seeing the world differently and interacting with it in their own unique ways!

Sue Patterson

I know this was a long time ago, but I just stumbled across it. I love it. Thanks!

M Light

You're welcome!

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