What is Dyslexia?

A Gift

Understanding Dyslexia

Dyslexia is not the result of a genetic flaw or nerve damage.  It is not caused by a malformation of the brain, inner ear, or eyes.  Dyslexia is a product of thought and a special way of reacting to confusion.  It is not limited to reversals of letters and words --- a common misconception. Dyslexics are not all the same, but they do share certain traits:

  • They can utilize the brain's ability to alter and create perceptions (the primary ability)

  • They are highly aware of their environment

  • They are curious about how things work

  • They think mainly in pictures instead of words

  • They are highly intuitive and insightful

  • They think and perceive multi-dimensionally (using all the senses)

  • They have vivid imaginations


From Reading Research Council brochure
© 1997 Reading Research Council
Reprinted with Permission


Picture Thinking (non-verbal conceptualization) vs. Word Thinking (verbal conceptualization)


Word Thinking:

  • Thoughts are in words

  • Linear in time -- two dimensional

  • Speed of thought - 5 words per second

  • Sequential reasoning

  • Acquires reading and writing skills easily

  • Strengths lie in language based skills


Picture Thinking:

  • Thoughts are in images containing multiple senses

  • Evolutionary --- three dimensional or multi-dimensional

  • Speed of thought = 24-32 pictures per second (subliminal)

  • Intuitive reaspmomg

  • Reading and writing skills are difficult

  • Strengths lie in visual spatial skills


There are advantages and disadvantages to both types of thinking.  Most individuals specialize in one or the other. For those who think primarily in pictures, they need to learn in a way that matches their picture thinking style.  During the period when the learning disability of dyslexia is formed, between the ages of three and thirteen, the potential dyslexic must be primarily a nonverbal thinker--- a person who thinks in pictures.  The problem is that many of the little words we think are easy for children to learn, produce the biggest problems of all!  These little words or non-picture words for example:  a, an, the, were, is, on, by, etc., stop the fast paced picture thinking process for the nonverbal learner while reading.  This produces an interruption in the movie that is played in the individual's head which causes frustration and a low tolerance for confusion.  At this point, the dyslexic is no longer seeing what is actually written on the page, but what he/she thinks is on the page.  These mistakes are some of the primary symptoms of dyslexia.