Dyslexia may have been humanity’s superpower

(ORDO NEWS) — Dyslexia is usually treated as a severe neurological disorder, but it is associated with beneficial traits that may have been the key to a person’s success in a changing environment.

An article in Frontiers in Psychology notes that the World Federation of Neurology defines developing dyslexia as “a disorder in children who, despite normal classroom experience, fail to acquire language skills in reading, writing, and spelling commensurate with their intellectual abilities.” It is almost always considered as a neurobiological disorder.

For forty years, however, some psychologists have challenged this view. While there is no doubt that the presence of developmental dyslexia complicates some important things, the neurologist Norman Geschwind provided evidence in the 1980s that people diagnosed with developmental dyslexia tend to rank highly in skills useful in the arts, architecture, and engineering.

For example, Greta Thunberg calls autism her “superpower.” Perhaps it’s time to rethink dyslexia so that it also becomes mainstream?

Dr. Helen Taylor of the University of Cambridge and Dr. Martin Westergaard suggest that developing dyslexia may be so common that it benefited our ancestors.

“A deficit-focused view of dyslexia doesn’t tell the whole story,” Taylor said in a statement.

Taylor and Westergaard believe that the impact of developing dyslexia on reading is secondary to something deeper, which they call a cognitive search strategy that favors exploration over efficient use of resources.

For a hunter-gatherer tribe, the ability to make efficient use of available food resources is obviously key. However, overuse of local resources can be a trap. Such a group would be unlikely to expand its range, physically or metaphorically, and would be in trouble when a drought-like disaster struck.

Back then, every tribe needed an explorer, which made the connection between developing dyslexia and exploratory search strategies very important.

According to augmented cognition theory, if there were too many people with dyslexia in the population, they might not use well-known food sources, but a few hereditary people with dyslexia improved the perspectives of those around them.

In other words, neurobiological diversity has been humanity’s true superpower, especially during times of change such as climate instability.

This is not just a historical fact. The heritability of developing dyslexia is at least 60 percent.

“Striking a balance between seeking new opportunities and taking advantage of particular choices is key to adaptation and survival and is at the heart of many of the decisions we make in everyday life,” Taylor said.

Not all of the traits that served our ancestors well in the Paleolithic era are so useful today. The fact that one technology, reading, which creates problems for people with a particular search strategy, has recently taken over the world has changed the rules of the game.

However, Taylor and Westergaard believe that developing dyslexia could have more room if our institutions were less rigid.

“Schools, academic institutions and workplaces are not designed to make the most of research learning.

But we urgently need to start developing this mindset to enable humanity to continue to adapt and address key challenges,” Taylor said.

Interestingly, dyslexia is much more common than other forms of neurodiversity that have recently begun to be reassessed. From 5 to 20 percent of the population suffers from dyslexia to one degree or another – higher than, for example, autism.


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