The unexpected characteristics of individuals who have dyslexia run deep and wide. I’ve noted a list of typically unexpected characteristics that Dr. Sally Shaywitz recognizes as quite common for dyslexic people. Beyond that list from personal experience in working with and living with those with dyslexia, I can tell you that one of the most under-recognized strength is a dyslexic’s ability to show incredible empathy and compassion for others. The depth at which they are able to look at, assess, and recognize someone else’s emotion is stunning.
It is not surprising that a significant number of people working in the service industries, specifically in caregiving services like emergency medicine, public safety, and nonprofit work are dyslexic. They have a unique way of putting themselves in the shoes of those they serve and providing compassionate guidance and care. This outstanding concern for others seems to be representative of their curiosity, incredible imagination, resiliency, and ability to adapt.
These characteristics also go a long way in explaining why individuals with dyslexia are often quite entrepreneurial also. Richard Branson, Walt Disney, Charles Schwab, Steve Jobs, Steven Spielberg, Henry Ford, and Ted Turner are just a handful of highly successful individuals who struggled with language related subjects in school but didn’t let that hold them back at all. They used their strengths, interests, and talents to excel beyond expectation.
Looking at the list of unexpected characteristics below, it is easy to see how individuals with dyslexia are wired for success. Providing opportunities for them to demonstrate these traits, gives others the opportunity to see the true gifts in action. We could all benefit from learning to be more like these individuals!
· Great imagination
· Ability to figure things out; gets the gist of things
· Eager embrace of new ideas
· A good understanding of new concepts
· Surprising maturity
· A larger vocabulary than typical for age group
· Enjoys solving puzzles
· Talent for building models
· Excellent comprehension of stories read or told
· Excellent thinking skills: conceptualization, reasoning, imagination, abstraction
· Learning that is accomplished best through meaning rather than rote memorization
· Ability to get the “big picture”
· A high level of understanding of what is read to him
· The ability to read and to understand at a high level overlearned (or highly practiced) words in a special area of interest; for example, if he or she loves cooking they may be able to read food magazines and cookbooks
· Improvement as an area of interest becomes more specialized and focused—and a miniature vocabulary is developed that allows for reading in that subject area
· A surprisingly sophisticated listening vocabulary
· Excels in areas not dependent on reading, such as math, computers and visual arts, or in more conceptual (versus fact-driven) subjects, including philosophy, biology, social studies, neuroscience and creative writing
· Maintains strengths noted during the school-age years
· Has a high capacity to learn
· Shows noticeable improvement when given additional time on multiple-choice examinations
· Demonstrates excellence when focused on a highly specialized area, such as medicine, law, public policy, finance, architecture or basic science
· Excellent writing skills if the focus is on content, not spelling
· Highly articulate when expressing ideas and feelings
· Exceptional empathy and warmth
· Successful in areas not dependent on rote memory
· A talent for high-level conceptualization and the ability to come up with original insights
· Inclination to think outside of the box and see the big picture
· Noticeably resilient and able to adapt
Compiled list by Sally Shaywitz, Overcoming Dyslexia