As we’ve mentioned, May is MIND-Strengths month at Dyslexic Advantage. This month we’ll be asking you to help us make a “giant leap” for the dyslexic community by taking DA’s four MIND-Strengths surveys. By participating you’ll help us complete these self-assessments for dyslexia-associated strengths, so can be used by individuals with dyslexia to better understand their strengths and find personal success and well-being.
Each weekday this month we’ll also discuss on our blog important topics relating to dyslexic MIND-Strengths. Today we’ll start with a short introduction to MIND-Strengths, so those people who’ve come into the Dyslexic Advantage community recently can understand what they are.
How The MIND-Strengths Concept Was Born
The concept of MIND-Strengths grew out observations we made in our clinical practice working with hundreds of dyslexic individuals and families. We’ve often described how we realized over time that dyslexic individuals and families didn’t just share one kind of pattern. They shared two. The first pattern was the set of challenges with reading, spelling, and other skills that have always been seen as the core features of dyslexia. But the second pattern was a common set of strengths. It was through the process of trying to understand and characterize these strengths that the MIND-Strengths concept was born.
We began our process of trying to characterize specific strength patterns by sorting through our observations of things dyslexic people seemed to do particularly well that we made during testing and discussions with our clinic families. This sorting process seemed to point to certain kinds of talent clusters. But we wondered whether these clusters were the product of the kinds of people we were seeing, or the ways we were testing them, rather than evidence of true dyslexia-associated talents.
Scientific Support For The MIND-Strengths
To answer these questions we examined the scientific literature on dyslexia, looking for evidence that might support or refute the validity of our observations of strengths. In performing this examination we used an approach similar to that adopted by Howard Gardner when he developed his theory of multiple intelligences.
We looked at three kinds or “levels” of research data: research on brain structure; research
on brain cognition or functional processing; and research on areas where dyslexic people found success in education or the workplace. We believed that if we found evidence consistent with our clinical observations at two or even three of these levels, we would have strong support for the hypothesis our observed talent clusters were real.
The Four MIND-Strengths
In our book The Dyslexic Advantage (2011) we described the results of this investigation, and the four patterns of dyslexia-associated strengths it revealed. With a little tweaking, we used the acronym MIND-Strengths to describe these strength patterns, which are:
- M-Strength for Material Reasoning, which is primarily reasoning about the position, form, and movement of objects 3D space
- I-Strengths for Interconnected Reasoning, which is primarily the ability to spot, understand, and reason about connections and relationships (e.g., analogies, metaphors, systems, patterns)
- N-Strengths for Narrative Reasoning, which is primarily the ability to reason using fragments of memory formed from past personal experience (i.e., using cases, examples, and simulations rather than abstract reasoning from priciples)
- D-Strengths for Dynamic Reasoning, which is the ability to accurately predict using patterns derived through experience the future or the unwitnessed past
During the rest of the month, we’ll describe each of these patterns in more detail, and we’ll also ask you to take the self-assessment surveys dealing with each.
Key Takeaways About MIND-Strengths
- First, we believe the MIND-strengths are the real “point” or core of dyslexia. In other words, we believe at least one-sixth of the population is dyslexic because of the benefits this type of mind confers. In other words, the dyslexic mind is not a disorder but a desirable alternative, and our primary goal should not be to fix dyslexic minds, but to understand them, nurture them, and benefit from the things they do so well. Of course there are trade-offs for reading, rote memory, etc., in having this type of mind, but if we take the right steps we can minimize the downsides and maximize the upsides.
- Second, we believe that it is by understanding, building, and using these natural strengths of the dyslexic mind that dyslexic people have the greatest chance of flourishing in school and the workplace. It’s by understanding how to strengthen what we do best that all of us flourish, and these strengths are “hot zones” of success for dyslexic individuals. By better understanding and knowing how to develop and use them, we believe dyslexic people will have a much greater chance of achieving the kind of life success and personal fulfillment we’re all looking for.
- Third, most dyslexic individuals do not show all of these strengths, but some do, and most show at least one or two, so by understanding these strengths almost all dyslexic people can gain insight into routes to success.
- Fourth, non-dyslexic people can also show strengths like the MIND-strengths, though we believe that the cognitive mechanisms by which they achieve similar outcomes will in many cases be different. But the point of the MIND-strengths isn’t so much their difference from other kinds of strengths, as the fact that they are areas of special opportunity for dyslexic people.
By understanding, building, and using the strengths that each individual with dyslexia has, and matching these potentials with their interests, passions, and personal goals, we believe the opportunities for success in life and personal well-being will