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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.

Defining 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.

Using Cognitive Interventions to Help Dyslexics Function, Rather than Cope

The goal of cognitive intervention in dyslexic education 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.