This week we’re discussing M-Strengths, or reasoning about the position, form, and movement of objects 3D space. M-Strengths are one of the four categories of MIND-Strengths, or abilities associated with dyslexic processing, that we discuss in our book, The Dyslexic Advantage.

Past Evidence For High 3D Spatial Ability In Dyslexia

Historically, many imM-strengthsportant dyslexia researchers, beginning with Samuel Orton and on down through Norman Geschwind to contemporary researchers like Maryanne Wolf, have noted that many of the dyslexic people they’ve worked with show very strong spatial abilities. In 1991 Thomas G. West (who’s on the board of Dyslexic Advantage) published his important book In the Mind’s Eye, in which he explored a number of case studies of dyslexic people with extraordinary visual and spatial strengths, and speculated with great insight on the connections between their spatial gifts and their dyslexic processing.

Yet despite the great number of anecdotes and observations, most research on dyslexia has continued to focus on challenges rather than strengths . In our dyslexia book we reviewed much of the published research suggesting that people with dyslexia really do excel in 3D spatial reasoning. It basically comes down to these types:

  • Several studies have shown that dyslexic individuals are significantly faster than non-dyslexics at discriminating “impossible” and “possible” figures—that is, telling which 2D shape-drawings represent objects that could actually be constructed in 3D, and which do not
  • Two studies have shown dyslexic individuals (in one study, dyslexic males) were better in recreating virtual environments, and one of the study also showed several other advantages, like identifying shapes in ambiguous figures, reproducing complex figures, reproducing designs using colored blocks, and navigating through a virtual maze
  • Several studies have shown a significantly higher incidence of dyslexic students in training programs in high-spatial fields, like design, art, photography, and engineering (typically a 2.5 to 3 fold increase in incidence over population norms)

New Evidence For High 3D Spatial Reasoning In Dyslexia

shutterstock_135457043Despite the relatively small number of published studies looking for evidence of spatial strengths in dyslexic individuals, the M-Strengths survey conducted over the last week in the Dyslexic Advantage community strongly supports the contention that as a group, dyslexic people really do show strong 3D spatial abilities.

While it will take weeks to fully analyze all the data, it’s very clear from even a brief look that as a group individuals with dyslexia relate much more strongly to descriptions of 3D spatial abilities than do non-dyslexic individuals. In fact:

  • the average score for dyslexic individuals taking the test was above the 80th percentile for the population as a whole
  • at least 2/3 of dyslexic individuals scored above the 80th percentile for the population as a whole
  • more than 85% of dyslexic individuals scored above the mean for the population

The following graph is an example of how differently dyslexic and non-dyslexic groups responded to many of the survey questions about spatial reasoning. It shows different responses of the “definitely dyslexic” and “definitely not dyslexic” groups to the statement:

When I form 3D images in my mind, I can manipulate them at will, and view them from all angles.

The responses of the dyslexic group are on the left, and the non-dyslexics are on the right.

Notice how they are almost mirror image opposites. This is a clear example of a strength trait (mental spatial manipulation) that correlates highly with the “disability” of dyslexia.

Tomorrow we’ll show you how using two of the abilities we asked about on the survey, spatial manipulation and non-verbal thinking style, we can create an amazingly accurate screen for dyslexic reading and spelling challenges, which strongly supports the notion that M-Strengths and reading and spelling challenges really are two sides of the same coin.

We also want to remind you that M-Strengths are only one of the four MIND-Strengths patterns we’ll be surveying this month, so we’ll encourage you all to participate in the studies as we release them. You can receive a survey automatically if you register here.