Dyslexia: The Strengths We See Every Day at Sterne

When we think of students with dyslexia, we tend to think of the challenges that they face. However, there are many unique strengths and creative ways of thinking outside the box that we witness every single day here at Sterne. 

A great book that details these strengths is The Dyslexic Advantage: Unlocking the Hidden Potential of the Dyslexic Brain by Brock and Fernette Eide. Using brain science as well as expertise in neurology and learning disorders, Brock and Fernette (Eide) explain how individuals with dyslexia exhibit strengths in four areas: material reasoning, interconnected reasoning, narrative reasoning and dynamic reasoning (MIND-strengths). 

Material reasoning is the primary reasoning about the position, form and movement of objects in 3D space. Individuals with strong material reasoning tend to work as architects or engineers. Our maker, crafts and pedal power classes are the hub for students with strong material reasoning. In these classes, our students get to work with this strength to build and design bikes, work with robotics, and hammer, drill, and saw to create elaborate woodworking projects. 

Interconnected reasoning is the ability to spot, understand and reason about connections and relationships. People with this strength can easily see analogies, metaphors, systems and patterns. Many scientists and designers have strong interconnected reasoning. Kerry Hogin, our high school art teacher, shared this example of strong interconnected reasoning:

One student with dyslexia wowed me with her project. She was rebranding a ladies athletic wear line. The student came up with an abstract symbol as the logo. She made a beautiful mood/inspiration board incorporating color schemes and designs she liked. When it came to the writing part, she typed her words and organized the board nicely. I loved how she chose to use an abstract symbol as her logo rather than letters or a word.

Narrative reasoning is reasoning using fragments of memory formed from past experience. This strength is shown using cases, examples, and simulations rather than abstract reasoning from principles. People with strong narrative reasoning might be novelists or lawyers. Students with dyslexia (at Sterne and at large) tend to have high verbal comprehension. They use strong higher-order language skills to compensate for low-level deficits in auditory and visual processing that can cause the reading problems in dyslexia. Some of our students with dyslexia are the best storytellers or presenters. 

Steve Tattum, Sterne’s reading specialist, regularly presents his reading program to prospective families, and will often have a student co-present. The most recent co-presenter is magnetic, and his ability to articulate his personal story really captivates the audience. 

Dynamic reasoning is the ability to accurately predict using patterns. According to Eide, “D-strengths are especially valuable for thinking about past or future states whose components are variable, incompletely known, or ambiguous, and for making practical, or “best-fit”, predictions or working hypotheses in settings where precise answers aren’t possible.” Strong dynamic reasoning can lead to careers in economics or entrepreneurship.

At Sterne, we have dynamic reasoners all around us. During the holidays, the faculty and staff participated in a secret snowflake gift exchange. One of our students made jewelry for teachers to give as their gift. These items were definitely some of the most coveted gifts during the exchange. This student, our jewelry maker, and budding entrepreneur got to test out his business savvy and craft.

Just like comorbidity with learning differences, there is definitely comorbidity with MIND-strengths. The case studies in The Dyslexic Advantage: Unlocking the Hidden Potential of the Dyslexic Brain highlight stories of the multiple strengths in the unique brains of individuals with dyslexia. At Sterne, we get to serve students with parallel stories everyday.  

 Submitted by: Sarah Ridenour, Director of Learning