Alternative Wiring

Alternative Wiring
Josh Clark, Head of School

This post was first published June 2, 2017.

During my family’s transition to Atlanta, we have learned a few things:

  • Unused kitchen gadgets, broken souvenirs, and outdated clothing will remain just that, even after wrapping them in paper, packing them in a box, and hauling them across the country.
  • It is impossible to be on time in Atlanta. You can be early, you can be late, but you cannot be on time.
  • You know you’re “home” when you can get to Costco without your GPS.

Moving is a humbling experience.

It can also be a rejuvenating one, though. On a personal level, my family has come closer together as we learn to navigate a new city, new schools, and new friendships.

Professionally, The Schenck School has deepened my belief in the power of the dyslexic brain. From solving complex math equations, to segmenting words into syllables, to creating beautiful artwork, our classrooms and hallways are a reminder that great minds think differently.

In their book The Dyslexic Advantage, Drs. Fernette and Brock Eide argue for a new interpretation of dyslexia. They understand dyslexia not as an impairment, but an alternative wiring of the brain which brings extreme challenges but also opportunities. They understand dyslexia not as a condition, disease, or syndrome, but a wonderful example of humanity’s diversity and adaptability. In the book, their detailed explanations of brain science are paired with examples of tremendous achievement, from the man who invented the compact disc to novelist Anne Rice.

I recently gave a talk entitled “Understanding Dyslexia,” in which I highlighted research by the Drs. Eide in which they surveyed individuals who were “Definitely Dyslexic” and “Definitely Not Dyslexic.” For a series of questions, participants selected a response on a spectrum of “Strongly Agree” to “Strongly Disagree.” When presented with the statement “Reading aloud is hard for me,” over 60% of dyslexic participants agreed, while 94% of non-dyslexics strongly disagreed. Similar results were found for “Learning multiplication facts was hard for me” and “I often have difficulty remembering names.”

This trend continued throughout the survey, with disproportionate responses on either end of the range. What did change, though, was the nature of the questions.

  • “I have always been good at building things ” – 72% of dyslexics agree, while 52% non-dyslexic thinkers disagree
  • “I am better at understanding the big picture than thinking about details” – 84% dyslexics agree, while 73% of non-dyslexic only somewhat agree or disagree

Dyslexia creates enormous difficulties when dyslexics are asked to learn to read, write, and spell. In our print-saturated world, these difficulties can impede academic growth and confidence. However, when given the appropriate tools to navigate their own neurological pathways, those same differences can be opportunities for dyslexic individuals.

We all become consumed by the day to day. Our perspectives and understandings become about the now and not the larger picture we are working towards. Sometimes it helps to get up and move.