Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Dyslexic Mind / Dyslexic Advantage Social Network

We've just launched a new social network called Dyslexic Advantage at http://www.dyslexicadvantage.com. We recognized a tremendous need for a community that approaches dyslexia from the big picture - recognizing as much (if not more) of the strengths associated with dyslexia as its frustrations and learning obstacles. Dyslexia also changes dramatically through the life span - and needs of an 8 year old are different from a 16 year old, are different from a college student, and an adult at the peak of their career. Dyslexia also runs in families - and there are issues and that affect siblings, spouses, and the whole household dynamic - and we really found little discussion of that aspect of the dyslexic experience. Our site also has videos, podcasts, journals, and discussion forum.

For today's post, we thought we'd talk about the work of Dr. Matt Schneps, Director of the Lab for Visual Learning at the Harvard Center for Astrophysics. Dr. Schneps has become interested in the question of why so many dyslexics are in the field of astrophysics. In fact, he has an NSF grant to study the question and may still be looking for participants here.

One hypothesis is that dyslexics show advantages in visual peripheral processing that allows them to excel at spatial learning and anomaly detection - skills that may be well suited to main domains including astrophysics and scientific image analysis in general.

From an LVL Powerpoint Presentation:





So what makes it harder to focus in on individual words (individual word reading is often very weak) and the center part of words - may make it easier to see the outer edges. This fits with what we see in most dyslexic kids (and adults) and also with Karolyi's work finding that dyslexics excel at global visual processing and the detection of impossible figures.

"It's as if people with dyslexia tend to use a wide-angle lens to take in the world, while others tend to use a telephoto," explains Matthew H. Schneps, the lead author of the study. “It’s not that the close-up lens always makes better photos than the wide-angle. It’s that each is best at revealing different kinds of detail. Schneps adds, "We may be short-changing students who have reading difficulties...These students may have strengths for visual learning that we could be building on.” Such strengths are likely to be of particular significance for fields like science and mathematics, where visual representations are key to instruction…and to discovery.

CFA Harvard press release pdf
Wide and diffuse perceptual modes in dyslexia - auditory and visual
Eide Neurolearning Blog: Diffuse Attention Correlates with Higher Levels of Creative Achievement

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