As well as the challenges outlined by Mary Colley there are unique strengths and talents associated with individual neurodifferences, and there are overlaps between these different conditions, both in terms of their strengths and challenges.
If we consider dyslexia, it is often thought of as a difficulty with spelling, reading and writing. However, difficulties with spelling, for example, are actually a symptom of dyslexia and so adults and children can be affected in different ways and to different degrees. Around 10% of clients have no issue with spelling and some have been told they are not dyslexic as their spelling is fine. Dyslexia is more complex than this.
To assess and diagnose dyslexia we need to look at an individual’s cognitive profile. This looks at how they process different information, their working memory, processing speed, verbal and nonverbal reasoning, as well as, their attainment or literacy levels in areas including spelling, reading and writing. What we then see is a ‘spiky profile’ of strengths, relating to verbal and nonverbal reasoning, as well as comparative weaknesses with working memory and processing speed. This neurodiverse profile presents opportunity for the dyslexic brain to develop a unique set of skills and cognitive abilities which neurotypical brains are not ‘wired’ for.
Specifics of dyslexia
Another key ‘feature’ of dyslexia is difficulty with phonological processing, typically in contrast with well-developed verbal and nonverbal abilities. This relates to the sounds that letters make and dyslexic learners find it more difficult than their other abilities would predict to manipulate, isolate, remember and break down sounds. This is because of the unique way their brains are ‘hard wired’ and this is what impacts on speed of reading, reading comprehension, written skills and spelling.
Dyslexic brains are programmed for accessing more areas across the right hemisphere of the brain, while the left hemisphere of the brain deals with language. This creates a unique structure of neural pathways and connections in the right hemisphere of the brain which assists with ‘big picture’ holistic thinking, creative and novel problem solving, ‘horizon scanning’, spotting patterns and making connections which others might not see, visual thinking, spatial and perceptual organisation.