Even though the science world has learned SO much about dyslexia and it doesn’t carry quite the stigma that it once did, I think there’s still a tendency for much of society to automatically connect dyslexia to someone who sees things backwards, is a slow learner, or maybe not quite as intelligent.
To give you a little step up on perspective, I just wanted to share some examples where I was actually predicting dyslexia in people who I have not met and of whom I know zero about their reading and spelling skills. It actually started quite a few years ago when Steve Jobs died. I remember thinking in my head, “Gosh, he was so creative, and he had all these great ideas and inventions.” I love a lot of the Apple devices, but I was just impressed by the innovative way of thinking that Steve Jobs so often used. I thought to myself, “It’s kind of weird, but I wonder if he had dyslexia.” And I didn’t think anymore of it at the time. I didn’t look into it. I didn’t do anything. It was just a thought in my head, wondering if Steve Jobs had dyslexia.
Not too long after that, I saw a television commercial for some new vacuum. It was a Dyson vacuum, and this time I had the same thought that I had with Steve Jobs except this time my kids were in the room with me. I wondered out loud to them. I said, “Dyson. Hmmm… There’s so many cool Dyson hand driers, and vacuums, and cool little inventions that I wonder if Dyson… (I didn’t know his first name at the time) “I wonder if this Dyson guy has dyslexia.” Now, I knew nothing about his reading or spelling, same with Steve Jobs. I had no idea. I hadn’t heard about his reading and spelling skills. My wondering was based only on his strengths and his creativity. This time I did actually decide to look. So I did some Googling on the computer and found out at that time that yes, both Steve Jobs and James Dyson (now I know his first name), both have dyslexia!
Right in that same timeframe, soon after, there was an article in our local newspaper about a Sturgis businessman who had just passed away. Now, the article talked about all the different contributions that this person had made to the community, and all the different businesses he tried. People would say, “Hey, you wanna try this business?” and he’d be like, “Yeah, let’s try it!” According to his friends and family, he was a go-getter and very successful entrepreneur. In the article that was talking about this gentlemen’s life, it said, “His friends called him a creative genius.” Fresh in my mind was James Dyson and Steve Jobs, and I was really, really curious about this businessman. I waited a little over a month or so, and then I called and talked to his wife. Although he probably was never labeled as dyslexic, because a lot of schools did not know or use the word dyslexia, his wife said that, “Yes, he did have dyslexic tendencies.” That’s what she called them at the time. It’s been a long time since I made my predictions about Steve Jobs, James Dyson, and the local businessman, but I haven’t ever forgotten what that showed me; one way to look for dyslexia is to look for the strengths. If you look for things that are out of the ordinary in an innovative or good creative way, or you meet someone who is a fantastic speaker, ask yourself, or ask them, how their reading and spelling was when they were in school. That is what actually happened to me today. I was on my way to tutor a student, and I drove by a neighbor who had a very interesting but awesome idea as a roof for a little mini shed that he had made. He had built this little shed, and then the roof of the shed was actually a pick-up topper.
I looked at it and thought, “Wow, that’s a great way to keep the weather out, and it’s got its own little windows.” So there’s windows along each of the edges of this shed roof. And it’s so interesting! On the way back from my student, I stopped at this guy’s house. I gave him a little bit of background on me, and I said, “Here’s the story. I know that sometimes when I see great engineering-type minds that there’s a good possibility that the person has dyslexia.” And I said, “You may not have heard that word before.” I told him a little bit about dyslexia and then asked him about his reading and spelling skills. And he said that he actually quit school when he was nine years old to work on his family’s dairy farm, but he also said that spelling was very difficult for him and English was his worst subject. He was very good at taking things apart and fixing them. He also loved to fix cars and build things. I’m not going to make the conclusion that my neighbor has dyslexia, but I am going to say, “Hmm, kinda interesting!”
I saw on Facebook a picture of someone who had created an incredible birthday cake. Somebody who worked for John Deere had created a birthday cake for someone. I don’t know this person, but in my mind I’m thinking only a person with dyslexia could make a creation this awesome! You can do that too! Start looking around. If you see great, great creations or innovative thinking, or great people skills, you might have found another way of looking for dyslexia.