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See Inside September / October 2011

MIND Reviews Books: September/October 2011

Brainy Benefits: The Dyslexic Advantage: Unlocking the Hidden Potential of the Dyslexic Brain
by Brock L. and Fernette F. Eide .
Hudson Street Press, 2011 (($25.95))

Perhaps the most challenging part of being dyslexic is the misconception that it makes people unintelligent or slow. In response, Brock and Fernette Eide have delivered a compelling call to action in their new book The Dyslexic Advantage: it is time to stop classifying dyslexia as a learning disability and start appreciating that different brain-wiring patterns allow people to process information in unique ways. When it comes to learning, they argue, there is no good or bad, right or wrong, only a difference in style, which should be fostered rather than corrected.

Although people with dyslexia may struggle with the fine-processing skills of reading and writing, often unintentionally interchanging letters and words, they can excel at “big picture” thinking. People with dyslexia frequently prefer thinking in narrative form, a proclivity that makes them natural storytellers, and they tend to have exceptional spatial navigation skills, visualizing 3-D structures with ease.

The Eides present functional MRI studies to illustrate what is different about the dyslexic brain. For instance, imaging shows that when people with dyslexia read, the right side of their brain dominates, which might help them absorb bigger themes in a text. They also exhibit deficits, however, in parts of the left hemisphere associated with reading and writing and understanding symbols. The nondyslexic brain splits the task more evenly between hemispheres.

The authors interweave case studies from their own psychological practice with current research on dyslexia. They also highlight a few of the world's dyslexic elite, such as acclaimed novelist Anne Rice and entrepreneur Richard Branson, both of whom struggled with traditional schooling before using their unique skills to thrive. Although it would be easy to assume that Rice and Branson flourished because they triumphed over their disability, the Eides contend that they succeeded because of their condition. Being dyslexic allowed them to break from conventional ways of thinking to dream of fantastic new worlds and create alternative solutions to vexing problems.

Despite offering a fresh perspective on dyslexia, the Eides agree with traditional psychologists on the need to intervene at an early age. But unlike their contemporaries, the authors are looking not to fix perceived weaknesses but rather to foster the individual strengths each child displays.
Brian Mossop

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