A Tale of Two Kids: A Trip Inside a Dyslexic Child’s Brain

It was the best of times. Typical Tammy sits in her kindergarten class. Today, she is shown the letter ‘Mm” and told its sound. She and the rest of the class practices the new letter and its sound several times. Subconsciously, Tammy goes to her mental file cabinet, places the new information in a folder, and slips it back in a nice compact drawer within her brain. The next day at school the teacher asks if Tammy remembers what sound ‘Mm’ makes. Once again, she subconsciously goes to her mental file cabinet, retrieves the sound, and shares it with her teacher. She accomplishes this task almost instantly. Her teacher smiles as she congratulates Tammy.

It was the worst of times. Sitting on the opposite side of the room, dyslexic Donnie listens to the same lesson. He repeats the sound with the other children and completes the same drill. Subconsciously, Donnie takes the information he has been given and places it in a folder, but when he looks for a place to store it there is no mental file cabinet. As he searches for a place to put his new file, he finds a pile of other files. These files are filled with wonderful thoughts, ideas and information. In his distraction, he drops the new file in the pile with all the others. The next day in class he is asked if he remembers what sound ‘Mm’ makes. Subsequently, he looks around in his mind but he can’t remember where he put the file. The teacher sighs to herself, makes a mental note, and moves on to the next student.

A major difference between Tammy and Donnie is that Tammy, who is not dyslexic, has a neat mental system located in one fairly small area of the brain that makes recalling information quick and easy. Donnie, on the other hand, has no file system to organize mental information. Anything Donnie learns is stored randomly in his entire brain. The downside is he has a harder time finding where information is hanging out in there. The upside is he has so much more storage space. It is simply disorganized.

What a fantastic thing to have access to your entire brain. Just ask Thomas Edison or Albert Einstein! However, for a child who hasn’t journeyed through his mind enough to know where it has stored various types of information, it is extremely frustrating and demoralizing. A child learning with dyslexia needs excessive review of information that engages as many of her senses as possible. She also needs constant reassurance that she is smart and that hard work will eventually prove just how smart she is.

In our tale, with perseverance and patience, Donnie’s worst of times will be behind him because he will learn to maximize the power of dyslexia. With the help of parents and teachers he will configure his file retrieval system for maximum recall and enjoy the best of times in life-long learning.

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