In preparation for our upcoming interview, I am reading The Dyslexic Advantage by Brock and Fernette Eide. The Eides point out that while boys and girls described as Dyslexic experience the well documented challenges with spelling, reading, and rote math, these same boys and girls often go on to show fantastic strengths in other areas, particularly art, engineering, and design. Their point is that Dyslexia is not something you merely suffer with, but an orientation that, like most orientations, has certain strengths and weaknesses and that we should be focusing on the strengths, not the weaknesses. I was heartened to read this. When my youngest son, who was diagnosed on the Autism spectrum, first began receiving professional attention, I noticed that all discussions of him centered on what he could not do. I understood this inclination. The professionals were trying to help him, and if you want to help someone the temptation is to find what they can’t do and help them do it.
But when he was quite young he showed an almost savant like ability to play the drums. When you have a child on the spectrum, you will spend a lot of time in meetings with specialists where these specialists will show you test results and tell you how your child is not normal. These specialists are well intentioned. They want you to understand how much work is to be done. But it’s depressing. Who would want their life laid out in test results?
At one such meeting I brought up the drumming. He’s a fantastic drummer, I said. He drums better than a boy twice his age—three times his age. What about that? The specialists looked at me with strained patience. Drumming had nothing to do with his language delay, with his outbursts, with his social skills. The drumming sounded nice, but it was not relevant.
It reminds me a bit of stories certain commercial writers have told me about their experiences in MFA programs. The MFA programs tend to be literature-centric, and these poor future romance, suspense, or science fiction writers struggle to fit their peg into the hole of literature.
It’s pointless. It’s pointless for us to strengthen ourselves by wringing our hands over what we call our weaknesses. Our strengths, which is another word for our interests, our love, our reason that we’re on this planet, are there to guide us toward some fully expanded version of ourselves, and what we call our weaknesses are no different than the millions of roads we cannot follow as we chase that path we love.
If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual and group conferencing.
You can find Bill at: williamkenower.com