For over a century, dyslexia has been viewed as a learning disability or a developmental disorder. Yet, according to researchers at the University of Cambridge, people with dyslexia are, in fact, better suited to explore the unknown and see the bigger picture as their brains have adapted to a changing environment. This advantage has contributed to the success of the human species and should be considered a difference, not a deficiency.

For survival, we needed to learn skills, be creative, and find new solutions through discovery. Because our brain has limited capacity, the only way to get better was by specializing in different strategies, explains Dr. Helen Taylor and Dr. Martin Vestergaard. While some individuals focused more on using learned information, others focused more on exploration and invention.

Research has shown that dyslexic people are less efficient at procedural learning than their non-dyslexic peers, which has positive and negative consequences for both types. Our brain may organise its neurones depending on whether it is global "big picture" thinking or local "detail-oriented" thinking. For example, learning to read or play the piano are abilities dependent upon procedural memory. Once learned, such skills can be processed automatically and faster. However, once they become automatic, our brain is essentially utilising the same information again and again.

"We all possess difficulties in areas that are other people's strengths. It's just unfortunate that in the case of people with dyslexia, their difficulties are continually highlighted, in part due to the nature of education and in part due to the importance of reading/writing in our culture," say the researchers. People with dyslexia have more long-range connections, but fewer local connections. "It is important to emphasise people with dyslexia do still face a lot of difficulties, but the difficulties exist because of the environment and an emphasis on rote learning and reading and writing," explains Taylor.

You can indeed become a great surgeon or mathematician even if you don't know how to write your name. But it might not be easy to get the opportunity to do so through the current school system and because of common misconceptions about dyslexia.

Picture: Long Room of the Old Library, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland (Wikipedia)