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Resilience in Dyslexic Students: A Great Trait, But No Way to Live

Written By Geoff Nixon . February 15, 2013

Is Dyslexia Really a Gift?

For dyslexic students, the tasks that most of us take for granted are a daily struggle. Activities as simple as reading and listening can be excruciating. For example, while non-dyslexic students can easily read the instructions at the head of a test and dive right into their assessment, dyslexics must work hard to fight their own brain’s interpretation of that text so that they too can proceed with the exam.

For many dyslexic students, success in school and in life is contingent upon learning to cope with the stresses of their disability. Successful dyslexics are therefore said to develop a natural resilience that allows them to process text and ideas quickly by not “getting down” about their struggles.

However, this resilience, while helpful, is no way to live. Indeed, in the very act of being resilient every day, dyslexics contraindicate the process itself, not helping themselves so much as learning to cope.

Dyslexia Builds Resilience

Once thought of as a personality trait, the ability to be resilient in the face of adversity is now seen as a process that all humans are capable of undergoing. Resilience as psychologists and educators now understand it is merely the capacity of an individual to withstand stress and tragedy, coming out stronger in the end.

Resilience is a process that all people go through in one way or another throughout their lives; as we grow from children into functioning adults, all people must learn to cope with the adversity they will face (This Emotional Life, 2011).

However, the very nature of resilience is that it is a process reserved for the most stressful, the most traumatic times in our lives. Far from a daily operation, resilience in its purest form is meant to help us through the hurdles of despair that pull us away from our normal existence. Therefore, the need for dyslexic students to exhibit resilience every day is, by its very nature, placing stress on a process meant to relieve it.

Dyslexia Stimulates Creativity

While there is not direct correlation with being more creative, dyslexia may develop creative skills out of necessity. Here’s how:
  1. Enhanced problem-solving skills: Dyslexic individuals learn to use creative thinking and alternative strategies to work around reading and writing difficulties. This is a skill which can be transferable to other areas of life.

  2. Visual thinking: Some people with dyslexia have a strong aptitude for visual thinking and spatial reasoning. They may excel in areas like art, design, or architecture, leveraging their ability to think in pictures and create innovative solutions.

  3. Adaptability: Dyslexic individuals often face numerous challenges in educational settings, which can lead to the development of adaptability and resilience. These traits can be valuable in creative endeavors where persistence and the ability to adapt to changing circumstances are important.

  4. Out-of-the-box thinking: Dyslexia can encourage unconventional thinking patterns and a willingness to explore alternative approaches to problem-solving. This mindset can foster creativity in various domains, as creativity often involves breaking away from traditional thought patterns.

  5. Empathy and emotional intelligence: Dyslexic individuals may develop strong interpersonal skills, as they often require additional support and understanding from others. These social and emotional skills can enhance their ability to connect with people and create emotionally resonant art, writing, or other forms of expression.

Not all individuals with dyslexia will automatically become more creative. But there is enough there to help build this idea that dyslexia is a gift.

Of course, this creativity comes with lots of difficulties – exhaustion learning what others do comfortably, humiliation in not being able to respond to a teacher fast enough or when reading out loud. The symptoms of dyslexia are many, and most of them cause discomfort.

Interventions to Help Dyslexics Function, Rather than Cope

And so, despite these dyslexia gifts – resilience and creativity – your child is better off without dyslexia.

The goal of beating dyslexia is to circumvent the need for resilience or coping mechanisms each day. While dyslexics must be resilient in the process of recognizing and overcoming his or her disability, it is not a process that must be employed every single day.

Students, whether dyslexic, autistic, or cognitively impaired in some other way, need to have the ability to function with their disabilities, rather than around them. That is, while the ability to be resilient in the face of stress is admirable and important for each individual to master, resilience should be a strategy used for traumatic times in life, not everyday existence.


This Emotional Life. (2011). What is resilience? Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/thisemotionallife/topic/resilience/what-resilience.

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