I didn’t find out I was Dyslexic/Dyspraxic until the age of 35. Yes, I’ve bored everyone I’ve met with this fact.
However, I’m going to use this fact to bust some myths about the strengths and weaknesses that people who are “visual thinkers” (as against “linear/verbal thinkers”) have by nature.
Our education system is not kind to visual thinkers. Rather than using all four means of learning, our education system focuses on just the one, excluding all other types of learners.
Are you someone who learns by doing things? Isn’t this the most natural way to learn, rather than to memorize yards of text, regurgitate it onto an exam paper, before you even start trying to do what you are learning about?
I learned to ride a bike, swim, drive a car, ski, skate, sell an ad, use Photoshop…I could go on….by trial and error. More error than trial. I also used to get lost a lot as a child.
Here’s a list of things I’ve become good at through encouragement, watching others and practising that, had I been found to be Dyslexic at school I probably would have given up on:
1. I’m good at reading maps. As a youngster, I got lost so often, prompting search parties in the woods, that I learned to compensate for a lack of sense of direction. However, I have a weakness when it comes to following a map to somewhere I have never been for the first time, or taking directions from someone else to somewhere I have never been. My strength lies in a very retentive visual memory, so once I have been somewhere, I can find it again, even 30 years later, like an elephant. I can read a map so long as it is the right way up to start with.
2. Catching and hitting a ball. While practising rounders, tennis and other ball sports at school, I became good at them. However, when I went to a new school during the winter term and got out of practice, I wasn’t so good at rounders any more. Years later, I tried playing in Kenwood Park and couldn’t hit the ball at all. This showed practice helped me focus and then my game grew with confidence, but when there was a doubt, lack of confidence eroded any ability.
3. Playing pool. As well as a misspent youth, this opportunity for hustling was increased by playing on a larger-than-pub-pool table in my youth with smaller pockets, which made the pub pool table seem easier. This skill is in limbo with my new, flatter, coloured glasses, which I need to practice with to get used to again. On failing with new glasses, lack of confidence made my game pretty shaky.
4. Maths and numerical memory. As a youngster, I could remember 5 digit phone numbers by writing them down. I still remember plenty of phone numbers from my childhood. Now, my Dad will give me a mobile or 8 digit number to remember, saying I’m good at remembering, and I will recall it for long enough for the number to be dialled. At school, maths was my strong subject and I confounded smartly dressed business students at college by getting top marks when learning Calculus for the first time.
5.Languages. I learned various phrases from friends at college, of different nationalities, and can remember those phrases 2o-25 years later. I was good at French at primary school, but when grammar came in at Grenoble University, not knowing I was Dyslexic, and after 2 years at a different secondary school where the French Curriculum had not been so disturbed by classroom antics, I was not so hot at French.
My next blog compares the two thinking styles and provides some further reading references.