Writing is so difficult for people with dyslexia, it’s a reasonable question to ask whether certain types of writing might come more naturally than others.
AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL AND PERSONA WRITING
As highlighted in Philip Schultz’s example and in his book Comforts of the Abyss, writing with a strong narrative voice, whether it’s your own voice and experiences or someone else’s, is a style of writing that comes naturally to many dyslexic people. It might be because of strong personal and emotional memories and personal responses to learning about the lives of others; it may be that the feelings and imaginings are difficult to get down on paper, but once they are there, the words may become alive to any reader fortunate to read them.
Formal education may emphasize expositional and descriptive (factual or impersonal) writing over personal and creative writing. Sometimes students can find their way around such limitations by writing imaginative stories based on facts (for instance an imaginary conversation between two different famous people) and not only satisfy the demands of their classes and teachers, but also write in a style that is more natural to how they think.
It’s like Douglas Merrill told us (Google’s first CEO and also dyslexic) that for his graduate thesis defense when he was asked to explain the different theories of cognitive development, he explained the theories by describing the stories of two children – one evaluated through the lens of Erik Erikson, and the other through the lens of Jean Piaget. This way of imagining actually requires deeper understanding than repeating back memorized definitions – but it may not be valued as such, especially if those evaluating favor impersonal or rote memory.
STARTING WITHOUT WORDS
As strange as it may seem, starting without words may be another way of creating stories that comes naturally. What that could mean is starting with a sensory experience (travel, listening to music, drawing) or looking at a picture or focusing on some other sense (smelling, touch, eating) may be a way to jumpstart writing when other verbal prompts fall flat.
Sometimes having students review a movie or video game may be a way to stimulate writing. Free them up to use their own voice, humor, and personality, and they could get hooked. In the video below are ideas to help get students writing music lyrics.
Some people need to dictate their opinions and ideas before getting information down on page. They can use an app like Otter.ai (it comes with free minutes of transcription).
Others might draw pictures or doodle notes to think through their ideas. Realize that the best written ideas may take time. Raise the ideas or topics on one day then plan for a brainstorming step on another. Allow time for ideas and feelings to incubate – if that’s what the students need.
MYSTERY, ACTION, PEOPLE DRAMAS, AND TIME TRAVEL
Finally, again building on dyslexic MIND strengths, some writers really love writing specific genres – like mystery, action, human interest stories, or stories involving time travel – like science fiction or historical fiction. Being able to see people’s interactions and events from multiple perspectives can lend themselves to excellent writing in these types. Active people may also naturally enjoy reading and writing action thrillers – imagining themselves in compelling scenes and situations and figuring out how to survive. There are many famous dyslexic screenplay writers and excellence in action, dialogue, and imaginative scenarios may fuel their work.
What a GREAT article!! THANKS & I wish we knew this when our daughter (Dyslexic/AD/HD & presently, a CHRGE NURSE/ONCOLOGY @ one of the biggest hospital here (Madison, WI.) was in school!
Her success came after she had EIGHT YEARS OF EXCELLENT TUTORING & 12 YEARS OF S/L THERAPY (all mostly paid by us, her parents) but NO.HELP.IN.SCHOOL.EVER!! (despite my/our NUMEROUS attempts to get her an IEP/Section 504 Accomodations!!!) It was also the result of the AMAZING HELP she received from UW-OSHKOSH (WI.) PROJECT SUCCESS, TO DATE the ONLY UW school which assists students with L/LD in WI.!!! THAX, FERNETTE & BROCK EIDE FOR ALL YOU DO/DID & UNDOUBTEDLY WILL CONTINUE TO DO!!!
Nira Scherz-Busch & William (Bill) Busch