M-strengthsWe’ve often expressed our view that the true core features associated with dyslexic minds are their strengths. In other words, the reading, spelling, and other academic challenges that people usually think of as the essence of dyslexia are really “side effects” of having a mind that’s wired to be good at other things.


Identifying Dyslexic Minds By Their Strengths

If that’s true, then it shutterstock_228314326should be possible to identify people who are likely to have “dyslexic reading and spelling challenges” by screening for people who show the characteristic strengths associated with dyslexic processing. In other words, we ought to be able to spot the same group of “dyslexic people” by screening for “dyslexia-associated strengths” as we do for “dyslexia-associated challenges”.

Over the past week we’ve started the process of better characterizing dyslexic strengths by distributing the M-Strengths survey that now has almost 1000 participants. (THANK YOU!!!!) And even though this is only one of the 4 MIND-Strengths we’ll be testing for, we can already begin to give you an idea of how “strengths-based identification” will work.

Who Took The M-Strengths Survey?

In our survey, we began with a group that had a much higher number of dyslexic participants than there are in the general public. This isn’t surprising, since we’re a dyslexia organization. But we also had an almost equally large number of non-dyslexic parents and teachers who took the survey. This graph shows how the dyslexic/nondyslexic groups split out:


We won’t go into detail, but the “probably dyslexic” group tested just like the “definitely dyslexic” group, so we’ll cluster both of those together for our “dyslexic” number. [The “possibly dyslexic” group scored in between the non-dyslexic and dyslexic groups, so we won’t be mentioning them further.] So as you can see, we began with 47% dyslexic test-takers, and 39% non-dyslexic ones.

Identifying Dyslexic Minds By Spatial Reasoning Ability

Now, let’s take the whole group and eliminate those who didn’t answer “Strongly Agree” or “Agree” to Question 2, which reads:

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

After making this screen for spatial strengths, the remaining group looks like this:


As you can see, our group has gone from 47% to 75% dyslexic, and from 40% down to 15% non-dyslexic. [Although the numbers aren’t shown here, we’ve still kept 72% of our dyslexic group, but only 16% of our non-dyslexic participants.] So by applying a screening question based entirely on strength, we’ve really enriched our remaining group for dyslexic people.

Identifying Dyslexic Minds By Nonverbal Reasoning Ability

Now let’s do this one more time, but instead of using one of the questions that asks about an obvious talent for dealing with spatial objects, let’s use of the questions that asks about mental imagery. We’ll use question 9, which asks:

“When I think through a problem, my thinking is more non-verbal (visual images, other sensory images, movements, etc.) than verbal (words).”

When we apply this as a second filter, our group looks like this:


Our remaining group has now increased to over 80% dyslexic, and less than 10% non-dyslexic, and we haven’t so far used a question that has anything to do with reading or spelling! Further, we’ve still kept 64% of our dyslexic respondents, and only 9% of non-dyslexics.

Hopefully this will begin to give you an idea of the potential power of this strength identification process as we move ahead with the process of further identifying dyslexia-associated strengths. Clearly these surveys will allow us to help individuals better identify their own strengths. That’s incredibly important, and we’ll be able to provide specific information along these lines very quickly.

Remember What’s The Core 

But this shutterstock_133625591process should also help us reframe way we think about what really best characterizes this group of people, and how we understand what’s important about having such minds. Remember: we can classify things in all sorts of ways, but we should make sure that our classifications are really getting at the most important features. For example, we can do a pretty good initial screen for pro basketball centers by looking for “People who can’t fit in subcompact cars”. But we shouldn’t get so hung up on the implications for travel that we forget the benefits of being tall.