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Research Into Dyslexia Reveals Special Gifts and Talents

Research Into Dyslexia Reveals Special Gifts and Talents

When you hear the word “dyslexia,” chances are you think “learning disability.” Most people don’t realize that dyslexia is associated with a special set of perceptual skills – some of which offer distinct advantages. A recent article in the New York Times aims to promote greater awareness of the upside of dyslexia.

Dyslexia is still a very poorly understood disorder, but recent research at MIT shows that typical readers are better at focusing on words in the center of their field of vision. Readers with dyslexia, however, have stronger and more accurate peripheral vision.

The study, spearheaded by Gadi Geiger and Jerome Lettvin, used a mechanical shutter to flash a row of letters before test subjects, with the letters extending from the center of the subject’s field of vision outward. While typical readers were able to identify the letters in the center, those with dyslexia were able to identify the letters at the very edges of the row.

What’s interesting about this study and related research is that these skills seem to be either/or. A person is only good at focusing on one or the other. Being able to focus on the details in the center of a page is an asset in learning to read, but it also means that most people are fairly weak at recognizing broader features and patterns outside of that small area of focus. This fits well with what some dyslexia advocates have been saying for years – that dyslexics are intuitive, big-picture thinkers who are more aware of their surroundings.

Not only is their peripheral vision stronger, it seems that their ability to view an entire scene as a whole, rather than focusing on the details, can help them spot errors faster. In a University of Wisconsin study, people with dyslexia identified “impossible pictures” faster – they were able to spot the unrealistic elements in drawings in the style of M.C. Escher, which rely on optical illusions to create physically impossible scenes.

It even turns out that students with dyslexia have shown a superior ability to understand and process visual information in certain contexts. In one study, dyslexic students were able to see the images in photographs which had been heavily blurred, while non-dyslexic students could not. In some situations, it turns out, dyslexic learners actually have the advantage.

This research represents some substantial steps in the right direction. Better understanding what dyslexia is, and how it works, is crucial to helping struggling readers learn how to overcome their academic handicaps and make the best use of the unique talents.

 

Related Stories:

Can a New Font Help Dyslexics Read? (video)

Can Learning Japanese or Chinese Help Dyslexia?

Dyslexia, Autism and Language Processing

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Photo by: Tiberiu Ana

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38 comments

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5:51PM PDT on Jun 9, 2012

make every trial a lesson! an opportunity!

10:48AM PDT on May 22, 2012

It's a BATTLE for everyone that has any type of disability......so sad, maybe someday......

10:43AM PDT on May 22, 2012

Two thumbs up!

2:56AM PDT on May 12, 2012

interesting

10:17AM PST on Feb 27, 2012

I did my Arts Theraphy Diploma on inner and outer images, so this is very interesting to me.There is also an area in the brain which works on"clues" and combines them to see the image--it seems this is where picture info and meaning are combined. It would be interesting to test in that field as well and see if, and if yes, how the "clues " are processed differently with this way of perception.
additionally it might be interesting to explore possible links with Syesthesia...
Does anyone know if there is a connection to faster reflexes?
I was asked by a dyslexic peson how dyslexia an learning of new languages goes together. he is an english native speaker and learning german.
In my eyes it is essential, that we as a human society which has found names for lots of things focus on the contents and ties of the things that we have named instead of mainly using them to diagnose deficites, it opens interesting fields and possibilities of working together (see the comment by sheilaS.).
thanks for the article!

1:23PM PST on Feb 19, 2012

Cool, thanks.

9:29PM PST on Feb 14, 2012

I am really happy that dyslexia is coming to be better understood and that we are trying to do more to recognize everyone for the unique individuals they are.

5:02AM PST on Feb 14, 2012

We are all unique and have special gifts and talents only over education has controlled our way of thinking, saying and doing.

Our children cannot florish in their natural envioroment that lies within.

Children should be allowed to use their natural abilities to learn what comes natural to them which is to use their hands, feet, or minds. The world needs sayers thinkers and do'ers.

9:56AM PST on Feb 13, 2012

i see it cut off part of my comment;

when I was in grade school, I was sitting at my desk working on class work and the teacher walked up behind me, and I saw him walking up behind me as if he was walking toward me from the front of me. It was an interesting experience.

9:54AM PST on Feb 13, 2012

Elna W
“The left hemisphere is most commonly dominant, right handedness, sequential processing of information and language. The right hemisphere, then, is associated with left handedness, and holistic processing of information, looking at things as a whole, not its parts.”

This may sound strange, but I can actually feel which part of my brain is active the skin on my skull tightens on which ever side I’m using at the time. btw I’m ambidextrous.

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Julie M. Rodriguez Julie M. Rodriguez is an arts, green living, and political writer based in San Mateo, CA. Her work... more
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