When talking about Dyslexia most people are focused on problems with reading, spelling, writing and arithmetic. As a Dyslexic I find this very narrow thinking and not really the point. These are issues that arise from being a right brain dominant thinker. Dyslexics are strong right brain thinkers who are neurologically wired differently from the left brain dominant person. Functional MRI’s over the last twenty years have proven this.
Left brain dominant thinkers who make up the larger part of the western world population think in words and then images. Right brain dominant thinkers start with images and then find their words, hopefully. This is a huge difference. Left brain thinkers look for a path to find where they are going and start at the beginning taking one step at a time until they arrive at a specific location. They are not as concerned with their surroundings and concentrate on staying on the path.
“Righties” and Dyslexics start at the end with the big picture of a subject and immediately start adding to this first picture or begin to create worlds that relate to the first or are inspired by this picture to go in totally different directions. As the “leftie” proceeds down the path, focused on their mission, the rightie is building a world around this path much like the picture above. Their focus is always on the horizon and beyond. For righties the possibilities are endless, enthralling and all consuming. Their eyes glaze over and they are lost in their imagination or what people often refer to as daydreaming, preoccupied, unfocused, lazy, rude, or as my family always said, “in my own little world”. My sister gave me a shirt that says “I may live in my own little world but everyone knows me there”.
The reality is Dyslexics are extremely focused, just elsewhere. This can be an overwhelming problem in life such as the classroom, talking to other people and at work. I am going to talk about this more in other blogs but right now I want to concentrate on this one frustrating aspect of a Dyslexic’s thinking style.
When a left brain dominant person asks or answers a question they are generally fairly straight forward and their answers are based on what they believe the other person wants to hear. They will mentally go down one path and stick to it. This is where the one second versus ten seconds comes in. When a Dyslexic or strong right brain dominant person is asked a question, answering is never simple for them. They need to create images in their minds to understand the question and then they are pondering all the possible answers. Then they need the person asking the question to clarify and to help narrow the potential replies. They also prefer to answer with a story where their answer or point is wrapped up in it somewhere. A simple straight forward response is almost impossible.
This can drive lefties crazy. Righties will make statements like ” do you mean this or that?” and “well, you could do it this way or that way”. Yes/no answers are very difficult without complete understanding of the question so there is less confusion and possible answers for the Dyslexic person.
So when you ask a Dyslexic a question there is no answer given in a second. Dyslexics need time to consider your question and their answer. And then they need to ask questions to make sure they understand your question and finally telling you a story to cozily wrap their answer in. Ten seconds gives them time to ponder.
This becomes very sad for Dyslexics and righties because teachers, parents, other people and fellow workmates can get very impatient and rude about this lag replying and the response of asking questions about the question. Many Dyslexics become momentarily speechless with fear and desperation to give the right answer in a timely manner after years of humiliation when dealing with questions . This delay is often mistaken for stupidity or slow thinking and this can be very demoralizing for a Dyslexic.
If you recognize this trait in someone you know, let them know they can take all the time in the world and to ask their questions. You could also listen closely to the story they weave to explain themselves. The stories are often very creative and illuminating and they will then give you the best answer they can think of or many answers. One way to structure questions is to be specific. My husband, Howie will say to me, “Do you want to go out for Chinese tonight, yes or no”. The “yes” or “no” removes any doubt about what he wants to know and helps me focus on saying yes or no without a story.
If you are the Dyslexic telling the story as an answer, try to understand that you do things differently; you are not wrong or stupid, just different. Your type of thinking has been critical for new innovations, ideas, science, story telling, counseling, artistic endeavors, etc. and is always important.
The two thinking styles, sequential and linear (left-brained) and spatial (right-brained) compliment each other and can provide a complete view and method of action for any task. I have a friend who is very right-brained who works with a leftie. Recently they did a project together, respecting each other’s viewpoint. The result was creative and innovative with the big picture and details provided. Their boss was very happy with the result of their collaboration. You might want to find your opposite style thinker and work towards understanding each other, working together and see what magical project you can come up with pictures and words.
Karey Hope deGraaf
Co-founder of Dyslexia Victoria Online