Changing perceptions of dyslexia #Madebydyslexia

#madebydylexia
Jody shared with me news of Richard Branson’s new charity Made by Dyslexia

Sir Richard Branson launched a new charity, Made by Dyslexia, at the world’s first “dyslexic sperm bank” this week, a concept created and produced by Y&R London. Made by Dyslexia is a global charity led by successful and famous dyslexics, and its purpose is to help the world properly understand and support dyslexia.

Absolutely!

Made by Dyslexia will campaign to change perceptions, so that dyslexia is seen as a different way of thinking rather than as a disadvantage. Working with experts and successful dyslexics, it will develop campaigns, tools and tests to explain dyslexic thinking. Many of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs, artists, and tech professionals are dyslexic, including Sir Richard Branson, demonstrating that dyslexic people can achieve great things when they focus on their strengths and get the right support in school.

Indeed… Recent reading of the dyslexic advantage further confirmed to me what I already knew. Dyslexia in the right environment can be a huge advantage.

The “sperm bank”, while not accepting actual donors, was chosen as a theme and setting for the launch because some sperm banks have not let dyslexics donate until very recently, and have even described dyslexia as a “neurological disease”, highlighting how far peoples’ understanding of dyslexia still needs to change. One in ten people are dyslexic, accounting for more than 6.5 million people in the United Kingdom, so this is a major issue.

Yes that sperm bank which was deeply depressing news and I already wrote about.

So great to poke fun at the stupidity of that sperm bank story.

Dyslexics thriving in the workplace

Reading the Dyslexic Advantage
Quite a few people have said good things to me since I posted about reading the dyslexic advantage. On Saturday I finished the whole book and although there are so many great sections the last one had so much to talk/blog about

The last section which is all about work, and so very fitting…

For individuals with dyslexia, good-fitting jobs have several common features. First, they engage strengths and avoid weaknesses. As we’ve discussed, many individuals with dyslexia excel in big-picture reasoning, or the ability to see the overall features, “contours,” or implications of objects or ideas. The occupation or position in which they best display this ability depends upon which MIND strengths they possess, but as a general rule, jobs that fit individuals with dyslexia well stress problem solving, troubleshooting, fixing things, coming up with new ideas, thinking about what’s missing or not being addressed, or telling stories (e.g., sales, counseling, coaching, advertising, entrepreneurship).
[…]
In contrast, individuals with dyslexia often struggle with fine-detail processing, mastering routine procedures to the point of automaticity, or rote memory. As a result, they often find that jobs that stress repetition, efficiency, consistency, attention to details, use of procedures, application of fixed rules, or routine processing tasks (especially clerical tasks that involve the manipulation and use of written symbols) are a poor fit.

I can’t tell you the cognitive pain of repetition, I find it super uncomfortable and far prefer the new and unknown. My mind wonders and before long I’m innovating my way out of doing the task as is. Better way to spend my cognitive surplus?

After choosing a job that seems to be a good fit, individuals with dyslexia should work hard to optimize that job environment by being proactive in pursuing opportunities, self-advocating with supervisors and co-workers, building partnerships, pursuing leadership opportunities, and using technologies to maximize their productivity.
Many individuals with dyslexia are especially good at spotting opportunities that others have missed and then aggressively and proactively taking advantage of those opportunities. Professor Julie Logan cited this ability as one of the most common characteristics she’s observed in the dyslexic entrepreneurs she’s studied.
We’ve also observed this ability in many of the individuals with dyslexia we’ve interviewed—and not just in business. Astrophysicist Matt Schneps told us, “One thing I’m very proud of is that I’m very good at taking advantage of opportunities. If I see something I think is useful for me, I think about how I can make the most of it and take advantage of that.” Because of this ability (and strong self-advocacy skills like those we’ll discuss later), Matt has been able to enjoy four entirely different careers over the past thirty years, all with the same employer.

Making and taking those opportunities is a big thing, which I’m certainly hard-wired for. Most people take and give out business cards as a brush off but I take them seriously. I do like to meet or follow up, see if theres a chance for collaboration. I’m also generally interested in the person and if I can connect them with someone else I might know.

A second key feature of jobs that fit individuals with dyslexia well is that they engage interests. While everyone works better on tasks they find interesting and enjoyable, individuals with dyslexia are often especially dependent upon interest to produce their best efforts. In contrast, when tasks fail to engage their interest, they often struggle to perform well and remain focused. This is largely because many of the rote or automatic skills needed to perform routine tasks require more focused attention for individuals with dyslexia. This need for heightened attention can be difficult to sustain unless there are things about the job that are especially interesting. When work heightens interest and mood, dyslexics typically respond with greater creativity and performance.

Absolutely, like most people I assume but I guess I actively find my mind drifting away to more interesting things. Focus is difficult when not in my wider area of interest. I mean I’m curious about lots of things, so its really got to be something poor/bad for me.

A third key feature of jobs that fit individuals with dyslexia well is that they focus on results rather than on methods. Many of our interviewees mentioned that they often perform tasks in unconventional ways—frequently of their own devising. For example, more than half told us that they solved math problems differently from how they were taught by using unconventional methods that made more sense to them.

This is something I’ve known for a long while, I can’t help but find alternative ways to do things. This is why if you tell me a task without the bigger context/picture I find it frustrating as hell. I’m always thinking about the final impact not the individual steps to get there. Those are just details to me. Reminds me of Do you have humility, a sense of craft and can you hustle?

Jobs that allow flexibility can open the door to success for dyslexics. It’s often while devising new methods for routine tasks that dyslexics come up with innovative approaches that save time, effort, and expense and improve outcomes for everyone.
[…]
There is evidence that this kind of flexibility is often more easily found in positions very near the top or the bottom of the structures of large organizations but in shorter supply in the middle. Professor Julie Logan has found that although many large corporations have CEOs with dyslexia, fewer than 1 percent of middle managers in such firms are dyslexic.

Now this is very interesting detail… Be interesting to look into the stats for the BBC via the BBC’s Neurodiversity project.

Some large companies, like his former employer Intel, manage to maintain their flexible attitudes despite their size. Douglas Merrill also told us that supporting this diversity in thinking styles was one of his primary goals as chief information officer at Google. Douglas worked hard to give employees the greatest possible flexibility in choosing the work habits and technologies that allowed them to be their most productive. When a company shows this kind of flexibility, it’s likely to be a good fit for individuals with dyslexia. Of course, there’s no employer that can provide more flexibility than oneself, which is one reason why so many dyslexics start their own businesses.

And theres a long long list of successful dyslexic entrepreneurs. Interestingly the guardian piece pretty much says the same thing as I read in the dyslexic advantage.

Its a great book, I do wish it was more dyslexic friendly to read but the content is certainly incredible.

Reading the dyslexic advantage at last

The Dyslexic Advantage
At long last I started reading or rather listening to The dyslexic advantage. I’m totally blown away by what I’ve been reading. I mean I knew most of this but the science behind it and how it can be a super power; has literally shocked and moved me. I have written about my own dyslexic a few times including in everyday life, in the media and my thoughts about how it may affects relationships.

From the very start the book sets its agenda, to look at dyslexia strengths and less about its weaknesses…

Most books on dyslexia focus on problems with reading and spelling. While these problems are extremely important, they’re not the only—or even the most important—things that individuals with dyslexia find critical for their growth, learning, and success.
As experts in neuroscience and learning disabilities, we’ve worked with hundreds of individuals with dyslexia and their families. In the process we’ve found that individuals with dyslexia often share a broad range of important cognitive features. Some of these features are learning or processing challenges—like difficulties with reading and spelling, rote math, working memory, or visual and auditory function. But others are important strengths, abilities, and talents; gifts we call the dyslexic advantage. While these features differ somewhat from person to person, they also form recognizable patterns—just as the different musical works of Mozart are distinguishable yet recognizably the work of the same composer.

Theres many paragraphs but I wanted to share some of the key ones I’ve read so far. The whole book focuses on M.I.N.D strengths, which are the 4 key strengths dyslexics share or in parts.

I personally have a strong amount of all 4. They are not saying its only dyslexics which have them but much more likely and much more strongly. Think of them like the Big 5 personality traits rather than Myers-Briggs types.

  • M-Strength for Material Reasoning, which is primarily reasoning about the position, form, and movement of objects 3D space
  • I-Strengths for Interconnected Reasoning, which is primarily the ability to spot, understand, and reason about connections and relationships (e.g., analogies, metaphors, systems, patterns)
  • N-Strengths for Narrative Reasoning, which is primarily the ability to reason using fragments of memory formed from past personal experience (i.e., using cases, examples, and simulations rather than abstract reasoning from principles)
  • D-Strengths for Dynamic Reasoning, which is the ability to accurately predict using patterns derived through experience the future or the unwitnessed past

The I, N & D Strengths are very much a key part of me (M too, but maybe a little less so). I always seen the world in one massively connected ecosystem. Everything is connected and its hard trying to explain to others how it all meshes together.

Patterns are observed and seem to stick in my mind. They seem to exist as a narrative or at least are stronger as narrative. This is extremely useful when finding my way places again unfolds as a narrative rather than a map or directions.

For dyslexic brains, excellent function typically means traits like the ability to see the gist or essence of things or to spot the larger context behind a given situation or idea; multidimensionality of perspective; the ability to see new, unusual, or distant connections; inferential reasoning and ambiguity detection; the ability to recombine things in novel ways and a general inventiveness; and greater mindfulness and intentionality during tasks that others take for granted.
Nondyslexic brains often excel at applying rules and procedures in an expert and efficient manner. Dyslexic brains often excel at finding “best fits” or at ad hoc problem solving.

I hadn’t really thought about it this way but makes so much sense. Maybe this is why Art just makes sense for me. Its also clear a gist, conversation, sentence or just a word can spring tons of connected thoughts. For example the idea of “local evil” which was a title for a event had my mind cycling for weeks.

The cluetrain manifesto is another example, from the 95 rules I could almost tell the thesis as a complete narrative without reading any of them. My favourite being #7 Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy.

The power of Interconnected reasoning lies in its ability to link all of an individual’s knowledge, ideas, and mental approaches into an integrated conceptual matrix. This integrated matrix is incredibly powerful because it allows objects of thought to be approached from many different angles, levels, and perspectives, so they can be seen in new ways, related to other phenomena, and understood in a larger context. The three core skills, or I-strengths, that help form this conceptual matrix are the abilities to detect relationships between different objects of thought, the ability to shift perspectives or approaches, and the ability to reason using a global or top-down perspective.

Can’t tell you how useful this is, its sometimes hard when explaining to others different angles or the bigger picture. Maybe this is why the end of interstellar just made such sense and I actually use it in a few presentations.

Variations not versions
While talking about D-strengths and the incredible power of insight, this point was made.

“Given a problem and an hour to solve it, we typically spend the first three minutes intuiting the answer, then spend the other fifty-seven backtracking . . . to check our results through data collection and deductive logic.” According to Sarah, this intuitive approach “functions in leaps rather than by neatly ratcheting intervals” and is “less lineal than iterative or circular.”
This intuitive approach—used very heavily by individuals with dyslexia who excel in Dynamic and Narrative reasoning—can be very powerful, but it does present a problem: when viewed from the outside it can look an awful lot like goofing off.

Absolutely… Its always painful to backtrack and explain the leaps in thinking. I know its a important part of the scientific process but it doesn’t stop it being not the way our minds are wired.

To be honest, I felt like its not just the education system which is trying to kick this out of us but also society. Partly if you look at the systems which surround us and who is writing them.

One day at work she was standing by her office window staring serenely out at the mountains while trying to let her mind “ease itself around a problem.” Her CFO walked by her door, looked in, and saw one of “his people” staring out the window, so he snapped at her to get back to work. Sarah calmly replied, “You work in your way, I’ll work in mine. Now stop interrupting me.” Sarah later wrote of this episode, “What this CFO didn’t know was that staring into space is precisely how we work. It is our capacity to throw our brains into neutral and let connections assemble . . . that makes it possible for us to see connections that others can’t. We relax into the work.”

I can’t tell you the disbelieve some people have around me working in the northern quarter. The different buzzy environment completely changes the way I think, like staring out the window or being less focused.

This need for patient reflection can also create enormous problems at school, where time for reflection is in critically short supply. Try convincing a teacher that staring out the window is how you work best or that “getting busy” means you’ll get less done. Yet this passive and reflective approach really is a valid problem-solving method, and there’s plenty of scientific evidence to support its validity and effectiveness. In the research literature, this method of problem solving is referred to as insight.

Absolutely… Says it all! Always said hours does not equal effort. I’m personally more effective late at night, when I’m in a more relaxed state and have room/space to think wider and larger. There was a period when I found it hard to sleep because my mind just buzzed away.

Although insight-based problem solving is very powerful, because much of its connection-making process takes place outside the person’s conscious awareness, it can often seem second-rate, mystical, shoddy, or even slightly disreputable. But there’s an observable neurological mechanism underlying insight that’s been well worked out over the last decade by researchers.

Yes insight is always seen as hooky, non-scientific or a joke. There is a large section debunking insight as this but its well worth a blog post on its own. But I think this is a fitting end to insight discussion.

…As teachers, parents, co-workers, and bosses, we need to be watchful for individuals who frequently reach the right results through insight, and when we find them we need to treat their different reasoning style with the seriousness it deserves. Not all staring out the window is productive reasoning, but quite a lot is; and it’s important to understand that some people—including many of the most creative—really do need to “relax into their work.”

I haven’t even finished the Dyslexic advantage but I’m already raving about the book. Its clarified many things and given much more fuel for the things I kind of knew was true but found hard to explain. Gaining deductive logic or insight about my insight (ha!)

This is the kind of book with some tweaking could be a very powerful book for young dyslexic children growing up. Its a little inaccessible but the audio book is great and having both really works.