Saturday, August 18, 2007

Dyslexia and ADD HD are Assets Not Disabilities.

Do you know the difference between Euclidian and Non-Euclidian Geometry?  In the past, we believed in the absolute truth of Euclidian Geometry.  In Euclidian Geometry, you have straight lines that go on infinitely forever perfectly strait.  Those that believe in Euclidian Geometry, have great power in the small confines of a room or a building.  Carpenters and Engineers are proponents and experts in Euclidian Geometry.  But Euclidian Geometry does not work in the real word of Particle Theory, Light, Gravitation Forces or Planetary Movement.  Nothing in the real world is absolutely straight.  And once we step outside of our small room, we realize we live in a non Euclidian World.
Although we live in a non-Euclidian world, we are still in the process of evolving out of our shadowy past a Euclidian World.  We know and accept the world is not flat.  In education, we use to believe that the only way to educate was to line up desks in straight lines and force-feed the rote memorization of facts.  Those that could not sit up at attention, read up to speed, or regurgitate the facts were labeled disabled.
We are learning that not everybody learns best by sitting with their hands folded at attention in desks lined up in rows.  Some people need to fidget, to rock back and forth, to pace, and to move.  There is nothing wrong with that.  Just because some people feel the need to move (ADD/HD) more than others do, this is not a disability, it is just a different characteristic, like skin color, hair color or eye color.  I still find it very difficult to sit still.  I have a need to get up to move, to fidget, and to pace.  I do not do well in offices.  I like to be outside,  I have learned to focus my over abundance of energy now and I use it for my own purposes.  I am not just bouncing off walls and rules as I did in my youth.  My father helped me to focus.  
I think Dyslexia is not so much a mysterious problem with words as it is a more generic problem of grasping the concept of an absolute.  A less biased unemotional manifestation of the characteristic would be an inability to distinguish your right hand from your left.  That is an enormous concept with an overwhelming influence on everyday life.  My mom bought me a watch and put it on the left hand so I could tell the difference.  But then I could never remember which hand I put it on.  When you overlay that inability to “words”, it is hard to tell a “b” from a “d”.  And reading becomes a struggle to remember rather than the near instinctual reaction of a speed reader. 
Statisticians always like to relate dyslexia to criminals.  Criminals have a much higher rate of Dyslexia than law-abiding citizens do.  If you again overlay the concept of an absolute to being able to tell right from wrong it again becomes clear.  Teaching right and wrong, there is no substitute for good parenting.  I am just thankful everyday that I had a Father that would sit with me, a bottomless resource of patience.  He taught with love and patience and I learned.
Now if you take the inability to grasp an absolute in another direction you come up with what I see as it’s intrinsic value, it becomes an asset.  Leonardo DaVinci has been called dyslectic.  Einstein has been called dyslectic.  Mark Twain has been called dyslectic.  Thomas Edison has been called dyslectic.  Picasso has been called dyslectic.  All of these individuals have stepped outside the confinement of the box, the absolute, if you will.  Our society, our education system has a vested interest of self-preservation.  Our society our educational system wants to keep us in the box.  But to be creative you have to be able to reject the “absolute” of society’s, of the school’s accepted thinking to break new ground and discover new ideas that are not presently accepted.  A larger than normal percentage of truly creative people are diagnosed as dyslectic.
For me my inability to grasp an absolute has forced me to be a more thorough thinker.  I cannot, I repeat, I cannot, regurgitate facts.  I have to be able to prove something to myself in my own mind before I can grasp it well enough to attempt to repeat it.  To this day, I have to imagine myself throwing a baseball to be able to distinguish my left hand from my right hand.  In my early years at school this was a real disability, it slowed me down.  But I as matured, I found it to be an asset and it has help me to excel in the real non-Euclidian world.  When we got to the point where we had to truly think to solve problems in school, I was good at it.  My fellows students that not been forced to “think” all along had trouble with the more complex problems of our world.  They just wanted the list of answers to memorize.  In college, they gravitated to business and the soft sciences to keep it simple.
The written word is not an endangered species by any means.  But we are exploring other tools for communication.  We are using multi-media both within a school environment as an instructional tool and our kids are learning to use it as a tool for individual expression.  My 6th grade son made a “Power Point” presentation last year.  In the “New Information Age”, we are learning that we can electronically save, remember, and regurgitate facts much better with silica (computers) than we can with grey matter (brainpower).     
What we have to do is to free our society and our schools of these old out of date absolutes.  We have to abandon the Euclidian Geometry of our past.  We have to allow for individuality and learning in individual ways.  We have to value thinking outside the norm, the absolute.  We have to teach our kids how to focus their over abundant mental and physical energy into positive avenues not stifle it with drugs.  My father taught me with love and patience.  We need to see Dyslexia and ADD/HD as the assets they true should be.

Time is of the essence.

David G. Jeep
314-277-5904/ fax 314-272-1223