Dyslexia – 8 Basic Abilities

Ronald D. Davis © 1994. Excerpted from Chapter 1 of The Gift of Dyslexia. 
Antwerp Courthouse

Antwerp Courthouse, designed by dyslexic architect Richard Rogers.

Usually when people hear the word dyslexia they think only of reading, writing, spelling, and math problems a child is having in school. Some associate it only with word and letter reversals, some only with slow learners. Almost everyone considers it some form of a learning disability, but the learning disability is only one face of dyslexia.

Once as a guest on a television show, I was asked about the “positive” side of dyslexia. As part of my answer, I listed a dozen or so famous dyslexics. The hostess of the show then commented, “Isn’t it amazing that all those people could be geniuses in spite of having dyslexia.”

She missed the point. Their genius didn’t occur in spite of their dyslexia, but because of it!

Having dyslexia won’t make every dyslexic a genius, but it is good for the self-esteem of all dyslexics to know their minds work in exactly the same way as the minds of great geniuses. It is also important for them to know that having a problem with reading, writing, spelling, or math doesn’t mean they are dumb or stupid. The same mental function that produces a genius can also produce those problems.

 sculpture by dyslexic artist Rebecca Kamen

“Illumination”, sculpture by dyslexic artist Rebecca Kamen

The mental function that causes dyslexia is a gift in the truest sense of the word: a natural ability, a talent. It is something special that enhances the individual.

Dyslexics don’t all develop the same gifts, but they do have certain mental functions in common. Here are the basic abilities all dyslexics share:

  1. They can utilize the brain’s ability to alter and create perceptions (the primary ability).
  2. They are highly aware of the environment.
  3. They are more curious than average.
  4. They think mainly in pictures instead of words.
  5. They are highly intuitive and insightful.
  6. They think and perceive multi-dimensionally (using all the senses).
  7. They can experience thought as reality.
  8. They have vivid imaginations.

These eight basic abilities, if not suppressed, invalidated or destroyed by parents or the educational process, will result in two characteristics: higher than normal intelligence, and extraordinary creative abilities. From these the true gift of dyslexia can emerge — the gift of mastery.

Citation Information
Davis, Ronald Dell. (1994, 2010) “Chapter 1 – The Underlying Talent”, from The Gift of Dyslexia (Perigee, New York)

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  • Carol R.

    Thank you for all the useful information and websites for parents and teachers. My 3rd grade son was identified as a dyslexic about a year ago. He is receiving dyslexia services and accommodations at the public school he attends but continues to struggle tremendously in all subject areas and absolutely hates school. I’m just searching for the best and most efficient way to help him “crack the code” and help him gain some confidence back!

  • Heidi S

    One of my special gifts that I attribute to my dyslexia is the ability to see discrepancies. Typos, misspellings, hidden pictures/words, puzzles, etc. jump out at me without even trying. I can glance at a series of symbols or pictures and notice the one that is missing or different. I have always had an unfair advantage at word puzzles and Where’s Waldo. LOL!

    • Phyllis S

      Thank you for sharing…My 8 year old granddaughter had her first 504 meeting for dyslexia….knowing what areas that you excel in will be the things that we can introduce her to in order to build her confidence since the school district that she lives in has ignored our pleas to have her tested since she was in kindergarten. Every year we have made each teacher aware that her older sibling was diagnosed when she was 8 years old, 13 years ago. Once our youngest granddaughter reached the point of the teacher no longer reading the instructions to her, this is when her grades plummeted from all A’s to failing grades. Then by accident we found out that our request had to be made in writing rather than orally. She has been waking up having nightmares that she will never learn to read and she will be bullied. We need all of the help that we can get and are open to any suggestions as to what to do to help her regain her self-confidence. Thank you so much for sharing with us….God Bless you..

  • The King

    I have been diagnosed with dyslexia at a young age. Practice your abilitys you will unlock the real potential of this gift!! Never doubt your power. A business manager pulled me aside and said you natural abilitys you cannot Teach. I didnt realize his true message until recently.

  • Allison B (age 13)

    I have Dyslexia. I mostly try to think about the positive side of it and not the negative side. I have a special ability besides these 8 abilities. I have a minds eye. I have read The Gift of Dyslexia before… And I was glued to it! I have always wanted to basically see in the back of my head. So it’s kind of like a dream come true! I have had some treatment and I can process and think things way more clearly than before. It also encourages me to know that famous people have dyslexia! Thank you thank you thank you for the God-sent help!!!

  • Thanks for the wonderful work you do, and for including an image of my sculpture (http://www.dyslexia.com/about-dyslexia/dyslexic-talents/dyslexia-8-basic-abilities/)

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