Could the non-dyslexic condition be likened to a drop of rain that falls on a wide low valley? However far from the centre it may land, the gentle pull of gravity will attract it towards the middle.
The dyslexic condition by contrast could be seen as a drop of rain that falls on a high ridge of land. Despite the natural psychological tendency for people to want to conform to the ways of society, and however average the starting point, dyslexics find themselves pushed, as if by some strange gravity, away from the middle, towards conspicuous achievement to one side or hopeless failure on the other.
It has been said that people can be divided into two types: those who divide people into two types and those who don’t. A joke that pokes fun at any such simple division. Life can’t be so simple.
And yet, consider these two statistics:
1) The proportion of the prison population in the UK who are dyslexic is far higher than the proportion of the general population who are dyslexic. In other words, something is making it more likely for dyslexics to end up in prison than non-dyslexics.
2) The proportion of entrepreneurial business leaders who are dyslexic is far higher than the proportion of dyslexics in the general population. In other words, something is making it more likely for dyslexics to become successful entrepreneurs.
What condition could predispose people to two such opposite outcomes? A condition that makes it hard for the individual to function in the same way as the bulk of society.
The experience of being dyslexic in a non-dyslexic world is like being constantly out of step. You can see everyone else is marching in time. You desperately want to do the same. But it takes such effort that you quickly fall out of step again.
You have two options:
1) Give up.
2) Try to find a solution.
Finding a solution is something that no one can teach you. Most people are not even aware that there is anything to be taught. If you’re not marching in step you must be lazy, careless or just bad.
The PE teacher shouts to the class. Everyone put your right foot forward and your left foot back. The dyslexic kid gets it wrong. Again. Hasn’t he been listening? Are you lazy? Careless? Obstructive? Are you deaf? The child is concentrating hard, trying to figure out a method for remembering the names to these two sides. The teacher couldn’t teach a method, even if he recognised the problem. The teacher doesn’t have a method to remember left from right. He doesn’t need one.
Nor do any of the others in the class.
The life of a dyslexic is full of such challenges. Finding answers to problems that aren’t problems to anyone else. Learning to battle, to try harder, to mistrust the way things have always been done, to always look beyond the obvious, to find a new path that no one else has seen.
Or to not find a path. That is the other possibility. To accept the labels that the PE teacher shouts. Daydreaming, careless, obstructive or just plane bad. After all, these labels do offer an explanation. Which is easier to say: “I didn’t do my homework because it was too difficult”, or “I didn’t do my homework coz I just didn’t, coz I’m the bad boy of the class”?
Take a bright child into nursery at age 4. Give him tasks he can’t do five days a week. Every day tell him he’s daydreaming or being obstructive. Tell him he’s bad. How many years will he hold out before figuring it’s easier to be what the teacher thinks he is? How many years could you hold out?
There is a psychological experiment in which two groups of people are given three anagrams to solve. Group ‘A’ have an easy one to solve first and a harder one to solve second. Group ‘B’ have two impossible anagrams. For the third anagram, both groups are given the same. It is moderately difficult. Almost all of group ‘A’ manage to solve it. The first two puzzles taught them to expect success. Almost none of group ‘B’ manage to do it. They have been taught to expect failure.
If such patterns can be set up in adults in a few minutes, what will be the effect of 12 years in the school system?