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Dyslexia and creativity


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  • 1. DYSLEXIA AND CREATIVITY: INVESTIGATIONS FROM DIFFERING PERSPECTIVES No part of this digital document may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means. The publisher has taken reasonable care in the preparation of this digital document, but makes no expressed or implied warranty of any kind and assumes no responsibility for any errors or omissions. No liability is assumed for incidental or consequential damages in connection with or arising out of information contained herein. This digital document is sold with the clear understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, medical or any other professional services.
  • 2. Dyslexia, An Academic Perspective Additional books in this series can be found on Nova‘s website at:
  • 4. Copyright © 2010 by Nova Science Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means: electronic, electrostatic, magnetic, tape, mechanical photocopying, recording or otherwise without the written permission of the Publisher. For permission to use material from this book please contact us: Telephone 631-231-7269; Fax 631-231-8175 Web Site: NOTICE TO THE READER The Publisher has taken reasonable care in the preparation of this book, but makes no expressed or implied warranty of any kind and assumes no responsibility for any errors or omissions. No liability is assumed for incidental or consequential damages in connection with or arising out of information contained in this book. The Publisher shall not be liable for any special, consequential, or exemplary damages resulting, in whole or in part, from the readers‘ use of, or reliance upon, this material. Any parts of this book based on government reports are so indicated and copyright is claimed for those parts to the extent applicable to compilations of such works. Independent verification should be sought for any data, advice or recommendations contained in this book. In addition, no responsibility is assumed by the publisher for any injury and/or damage to persons or property arising from any methods, products, instructions, ideas or otherwise contained in this publication. This publication is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information with regard to the subject matter covered herein. It is sold with the clear understanding that the Publisher is not engaged in rendering legal or any other professional services. If legal or any other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent person should be sought. FROM A DECLARATION OF PARTICIPANTS JOINTLY ADOPTED BY A COMMITTEE OF THE AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION AND A COMMITTEE OF PUBLISHERS. LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Alexander-Passe, Neil. Dyslexia and creativity : investigations from differing perspectives / Neil Alexander-Passe. p. cm. Includes index. ISBN 978-1-61209-063-4 (eBook) Published by Nova Science Publishers, Inc.  New York
  • 5. CONTENTS Preface vii Introduction ix Part I. An Academic Perspective Chapter 1 Creativity and Dyslexia: An Investigative Study of Divergent Thinking Neil Alexander-Passe 1 Dyslexia, Reasoning and the Importance of Visual-Spatial Processes Alison M. Bacon and Simon J. Handley 25 Chapter 3 Visual Thinking for the Digital Age Richard Chipps 51 Chapter 4 Artistic Talents and Dyslexia: A Genuine Connection? Ulrika Wolff 67 Chapter 5 Dyslexic Visualizations in Practice: Strengths and Forgotten Frustrations Brian O‘Keefe 79 Chapter 2 Part II. A Personal Perspective 97 Chapter 6 A Dyslexic Artist and her Gallery Environment Michelle Molyneux Chapter 7 Three Case Studies of Creative Dyslexics Neil Alexander-Passe 105 Chapter 8 How a Unique Perception of the World Enhances Creativity Clayton S. Colgin 139 Chapter 9 Dyslexia: Its Impact on my Creative Process Bonnie M. Haley 147 99
  • 6. Contents vi Dyslexia, Visual Thinking and Lucid Dreaming - An Artist‘s Experience Mick Bean 151 Chapter 11 Approaching Dyslexia Sideways – Is it a Blessing or a Curse? Jane Graves 157 Chapter 12 How do Practicing Creative Visual Artists, who are Dyslexic, Approach Thinking and Learning in the Process of their Work? Katherine Hewlett 173 Chapter 10 Part III. An Alternative Perspective 179 Chapter 13 The Science of Creativity: Neuroaesthetics Beverley Steffert 181 Chapter 14 So near the Discovery: on not Falling Back into old and Preconceived Notions Thomas G. West 199 Index 223
  • 7. PREFACE Dyslexia and Creativity: An Academic Perspective‘ is the first in a series to investigate under-researched areas of dyslexia. It has come from a need to investigate a much quoted but little researched and substantiated area of dyslexia, namely positive attributes or talents that have come out of having a learning disability. Whilst traditional understanding of creativity is solely concerned with the arts, wider investigation suggests it includes many other careers, from cooking to sport, business to politics. Thus creativity can be seen is all areas of society. As dyslexia is traditionally perceived to be a disability affecting reading and writing, many imagine that dyslexics are unable to attain in our word-based society. However many have, and these include world leaders and celebrities, in a range of areas. Those believed to be dyslexic, include: • Inventors (Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison and Michael Faraday), • Artists (Leonardo da Vinci, David Bailey, Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Auguste Rodin), • Actors (Tom Cruise, Robin Williams, Kiera Knightly, Keanu Reeves, Whoppi Goldberg), • Sports people (Mohammed Ali, Sir Steven Redgrave, Magic Johnson, Bruce Jenner, Nolan Ryan, Sir Jackie Stewart), • Political leaders (Winston Churchill, John F Kennedy, George Washington), and • Business people (Sir Richard Branson, Henry Ford, William Hewlett, Charles Schwab, Ted Turner) So how can they be dyslexic and attain to such high standards? What is that they have, in addition to their difficulties that allow them to reach international success? One explanation is that dyslexics develop compensation skills as a reaction to their difficulties; another suggests that the dyslexic brain is neurologically different, and a third sees dyslexics as part of the next stage in human evolution, with superior abilities for our modern age. However research to date has been unable to support the claim that dyslexics are creative or have visual-spatial talents in excess of the normal population. Thus this book aims to shed light on the issue, through three types of perspectives: (1) Academic Perspectives; (2) Personal Perspectives; and (3) Alternative Perspectives. ‗Dyslexia and Creativity: An Academic Perspective‘ is the collection of sixteen perspectives, from authors and artists from the US, UK, Sweden and Australia, which aim to enlighten the reader to new academic research, personal views of dyslexic artists, and an
  • 8. viii Preface investigative interview study challenging dyslexic artists to ‗what makes the dyslexic artist unique‘. ‗Dyslexia and Creativity: An Academic Perspective‘ is an ideal reference book for researchers, educators, artists, and dyslexics who seek understanding of their creative abilities.
  • 9. INTRODUCTION Welcome to ‗Dyslexia and Creativity: investigations from differing perspectives‘, the first of a new book series, which aims to investigate issues facing dyslexia. As the title suggests ‗from differing perspectives‘, book topics will be investigated from more than one perspective, in this case: academic, personal and alternative. The editor is an experienced researcher into dyslexia and a designer. He felt that to look at such a contentious subject as creativity, one perspective alone would not do the subject justice. The second book ‗Dyslexia and Mental Health‘ is now in production for a 2011 launch. Early on in this project, contributing authors were asked to investigate creativity in its wider context (e.g. science, business, design etc) and not just defined by the arts (e.g. painting, acting, sculpture). Before a review of the enclosed chapters, it would be useful for readers to first understand definitions of dyslexia and creativity. Dyslexia: ‗Specific developmental dyslexia is a disorder manifested by difficulty learning to read despite conventional instruction, adequate intelligence, and adequate sociocultural opportunity. It is dependent upon fundamental cognitive disabilities that are frequently of constitutional origin‘ World Federation of Neurology (1968). ‗Dyslexia is evident when accurate and fluent word reading and/or spelling develops very incompletely or with great difficulty. This focuses on literacy learning at the ‗word level‘ and implies that the problem is severe and persistent despite appropriate learning opportunities. It provides the basis for a staged process of assessment through teaching‘ (British Psychological Society, 1999).
  • 10. x Neil Alexander-Passe Creativity: ‗Creativity by individuals and teams is a starting point for innovation; the first is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the second‘ (Amabile, Conti, Coon, Lazenby & Herron, 1996). ‗Creativity is defined as the tendency to generate or recognize ideas, alternatives, or possibilities that may be useful in solving problems, communicating with others, and entertaining ourselves and others‘ (Franken, 2001, p.396). ‗Creative refers to novel products of value, e.g. the airplane was a creative invention. Creative also refers to the person who produces the work, e.g. Picasso was creative. Creativity, then refers both to the capacity to produce such works, e.g. how can we foster our employees' creativity? And to the activity of generating such products, as in Creativity requires hard work‘ (Weisberg, 1993, p.4). Taylor (1988) suggests there are more than 60 definitions of creativity, with the most widespread being the concept of creativity as manifested by the production of work that is both novel and useful. Many people associate creativity with art and literature, where originality alone is deemed sufficient for the production to be called creative, compared to other fields where both originality and appropriateness are required (Amabile, 1998). As there is no single authoritative definition of creativity, there is no single standardized means to measure it, as most measures are dependent on the personal judgement of the tester. At first glance the two ‗Dyslexia and Creativity) seem very different, however taking a second look, one could conclude they both deal with unconventional cognition – different thought processes. If both conditions deal with the unconventional, then it requires a decision on what defines conventional and unconventional: Conventional: ‗A conventional method, product, practice etc has been used for a long time and is considered the usual type‘ and ‗always following the behavior and attitudes that most people in a society consider to be normal, right, and socially acceptable, so that you seem slightly boring‘ (Longmans, 2010). ‗The terms convention and conventional are flagrantly and intricately ambiguous. On the one hand, the conventional is the ordinary, the usual, the traditional, the orthodox as against the novel, the deviant, the unexpected, and the heterodox. On the other hand, the conventional is the artificial, the invented, the optional, as against the natural, the fundamental, the mandatory‗ (Goodman, 1989, p.80).
  • 11. Introduction xi Unconventional: ‗Very different from the way people usually behave, think, dress etc‘ (Longmans, 2010). ‗Not conforming to accepted rules or standards; her unconventional dress and hair style, not conventional or conformist; unconventional life styles, not conforming to legality, moral law, or social convention; an unconventional marriage; improper banking practices‘ (Princeton University, 2003). In both, we see that society has a part to play in their formulation. Thus it could be concluded that both dyslexics and creative people are different (due to their cognitive thought processes), to others in society. Sadly in current society difference has implications. If difference is celebrated, its ‗eccentric‘, if feared it‘s ‗odd‘ and if allowed but misunderstood its ‗alternative‘. Unfortunately in our current society the above perception comes down to class and money. If you are rich then its okay and you are called ‗eccentric‘, if poor ‗odd or weird‘ and if middle class ‗alternative‘. Being ‗alternative‘ is quite trendy at present. Compared to the UK, in America they love the eccentricness of the English way of life. Having such an accent opens doors which might usually be shut. This reminds me of an old story from my youth. In around 1990 I was in New York as a young teenager on holiday. I was walking down 5th Avenue looking at art galleries, and spotted some amazing Degas sculpture in a window. As a tourist on a scorching August day I wore shorts and a T-shirt. When I entered the private gallery the manager immediately come up to me and said ‗sorry this is a private gallery you can‘t come in‘. I thought it was a bit unfair but fair point, so said ‗okay, thank you‘. At that point the manager changed. He heard my English accent and changed his perception of me. From a scruffy and poor teenager who didn‘t fit in, to an eccentric middle-class/rich English lad on holiday with his wealthy parents. I didn‘t change, nor the environment, but his perceptions did. It is my belief that both dyslexia and creativity rely on positive perceptions of difference. This book aims to investigate such difference in three perspectives: academic, personal and alternative. The three are important, as research to date has found no strong evidence of such a correlation; however personal accounts and alternative studies have suggested a link. It is the editor‘s belief that putting the three together in one publication will aid greater understanding of the issues involved. ACADEMIC PERSPECTIVE Chapter 1 (Creativity and Dyslexia: An investigative study of divergent thinking) – This study takes the view that creativity in its wider context can be defined as divergence, as many measures of creativity rely on divergent (many solutions to problems) compared to convergent thinking (single solutions to problems). Three such measures were used in this study on a sample (N=88) of dyslexic and non-dyslexic control adults. The author used a dyslexic trait measure to investigate if creativity varied amongst mild to severe dyslexics.
  • 12. xii Neil Alexander-Passe The study used non-visual divergent measures based on the production of quantity and quality. Non-visual measures were also chosen to highlight that many dyslexics do well in non-visual professions (e.g. business and science). Whilst the results were inconclusive of a global heightened ability in dyslexics, it was concluded that the more dyslexic traits you have the lower you scored in these divergent measures. However females with dyslexic traits scored on par with non-dyslexic males. Thus gender and severity of dyslexic traits were seen as important factors in a study of this kind. Chapter 2 (Dyslexia, reasoning and the importance of visual-spatial processes) – This chapter focused on visual cognitive processes (e.g. visual imagery and visual memory) that dyslexics use when solving logical argument problems - the sort that are found in everyday reasoning. Dyslexic and non-dyslexic control samples were used with both English and Welsh reasoning problems and visual pattern tests. Results found dyslexics scored higher than controls in reasoning problems (visual and written) which the author believes supports anecdotal accounts of dyslexics being highly creative or visual as a compensatory device. It was then argued that as academic coursework in schools generally emphasise verbal skills, and do not facilitate visual reasoning, that dyslexics are disadvantaged. However if coursework was allowed as an option in visual form, then dyslexics would be able to attain as per their peers. Chapter 3 (Visual thinking for a digital age) – This study used a number of interviews to investigate learning styles and a new problem-solving method ‗Design Thinking‘, which is more creative and holistic. ‗Design Thinking‘ was based on transferring methods used in design practice into fields outside design, especially business. Presenting complex information contained in informative magazine layout form with images and highlighted quotes was found to aid understanding and information retention. The author also suggests that it is helpful for learners to understand their unique learning profile (the best way you learn and retain information) and if you made sure you worked with rather than against this style - more success would be attained in chosen careers. To conclude, ‗Design Thinking‘ is advocated for all companies outside of design to aid their problemsolving - skills dyslexics predominately use in their everyday life. Chapter 4 (Artistic talents and dyslexia – a genuine connection?) – Three studies are detailed in this chapter to investigate dyslexia and creativity – two with measures and one interview-based. Samples included university students, comparing dyslexics to non-dyslexic controls, artbased to other subjects. In the first study (N=80) art students were compared to (N=74) economic students on word recognition (creating word chains), print exposure (how much they read and the media awareness) and a dyslexic trait measure (for diagnosis and to measure the severity of the condition). Dyslexics scored worse than controls when creating wordchains, but scored higher than controls on print exposure. The second study sought confirmation of the earlier results, using the same word recognition and dyslexic trait measures, comparing (N=194) art-based students to (N=202) students studying four other non-art courses (political science, economics, civil engineering and psychology). However, in the second study, they found no significant difference in word chains production. The author concluded in both studies, the instance of dyslexics was higher for art-based courses. The third study took a different route to investigating the topic. In-depth Interviews along with measurements of impossible visual figures and phonological skills were used with a (N-
  • 13. Introduction xiii 40) dyslexic and (N=40) matched non-dyslexic control sample. The aim was to investigate creative skills and why participants felt they had higher creative talents, along with investigating if higher creative skills amongst dyslexics were due to genuine talent or as a compensatory device. Impossible visual figures have been identified by previous research as a visual-spatial skill dyslexics excel in; however this study did not confirm such findings. Results indicated that genuine creative skills were identified in the dyslexics before they had a chance to fail in reading and writing, thus rejecting the compensatory hypothesis. Chapter 5 (Dyslexic Visualization in Practice: strengths and forgotten frustrations) – This chapter follows a dyslexic PhD student through his art-based studies, making sense of his difficulties dealing with verbal literate teaching practices and dealing with a foreign language (Italian). He found many challenges and advantages with being dyslexic, along with recognising his strengths and limitations. The author challenges current learning practices and argues that there are strong reasons to value visual competences. As an image can speak a thousand words - the author suggests images can aid information retention without the need to read volumes of books. The concept of ‗Universal Access‘ is discussed, as used in designing computer and other systems for usability to a whole host of individuals. Where methods have limited value to some, but are of great value to others, such as multimedia technologies which are dismissed by some as adding little value, but are vital for the needs of disabled users. A number of electronic and web-based studies by the author are detailed. ‗Dyslexic Visual Literacy‘ (DVL) is suggested as a means to understand the dyslexic condition and their learning strengths, and ‗Dyslexic Prism‘ model is indicated to aid understanding of how dyslexics problem-solve. PERSONAL PERSPECTIVES Chapter 6 (A Dyslexic Artist and her Gallery Environment) – This chapter details the work of an established dyslexic artist, who specialises in photo-collage. The author details her creative journey, including childhood and other influences. She perceives her artistic creation coming from alternative neural wiring, allowing her to make creative jumps and divergent connections. Her large collage pieces reflect the chaos in her life, which are ever evolving images developing in her mind. Chapter 7 (Three Case Studies of Creative Dyslexics) –As the title suggests, three established but very different dyslexic artists were interviewed to investigate the source of their talents. Many crucial and contentious questions are posed which get to the heart of the theme of this book. Are dyslexics more creative, and why? What drives your creativity? Is creativity a form of therapy? Are creative skills a compensation for any literacy difficulty? Whilst creativity as a form of therapy was a clear theme in the interviews, what was unclear was whether art from dyslexics was different to that coming from non-dyslexics. It was interesting to note that these dyslexics relied upon randomness and playfulness in their work, rather than use of visualising skills (seeing the finished pieces in their minds eye). The process and creative path was perceived by the artists as being more important than the final pieces produced.
  • 14. xiv Neil Alexander-Passe Chapter 8 (How a unique perception of the world enhances creativity) – The author of this chapter is an advocate of the positive and unique benefits that dyslexics can bring to the creative process. He uses examples of two well-known dyslexic artists (Picasso and Rauschenberg) to describe how their creative process was affected by their dyslexia. The author argues that Picasso used holistic techniques to create, and his invention of cubism was a perfect method to demonstrate holistic concepts of showing more than one perspective at a time - blending two differing views on one canvas. Rauschenberg is used to exemplify how dyslexic artists use lateral thinking, juxtaposing and sequential leaps of creativity. Rauschenberg has noted ‗probably the only reason I‘m a painter is because I couldn‘t read‘, and his work shows clear visual-spatial methods to combine rotation and collage. Chapter 9 (Dyslexia: its impact on my creative process) – This chapter talks about the positive attributes of being dyslexic, and how being creative can aid non-artistic professions. The ability to find creative and novel solutions is of value to science, business and marketing, as the ability to think ‗outside the box‘ is admired and sought-after. The ability to visualise alternative perspectives (as in cubism) is deemed to be of value to problem-solving processes. A ‗creative process elements‘ model is presented to aid the readers understanding. Chapter 10 (Dyslexia, Visual Thinking and Lucid Dreaming – An Artist‘s Experience) – The personal insights and experiences of a dyslexic artist are included in this chapter, to allow the reader to experience divergent thinking and the power of multiple influences from everyday life. The author details how dyslexics use unconscious thought processes to solve problems, and only being aware of the problem again when the solution has been found – as it rises to the conscious. It is suggested that to solve certain types of problems, logic should be put on hold and time should be allowed for the unconscious mind to do its magic – finding the solution. Chapter 11 (Approaching dyslexia sideways – is it a blessing or a curse?) – As a dyslexia/special needs and art lecturer in a prestigious art college in London. This chapter details her path of ‗learning by experience‘ to support dyslexic students. It was this path that made her rethink her approach to supporting art students with reading difficulties, devising new strategies which worked with not against their learning style. Counselling also came into her role to first deal with student‘s anger from constant failure in mainstream education, and focusing their energies into writing the written aspect (contextualised studies) of their university degrees. She found what worked for one, would not work with all, thus individualised strategies were needed. What was also clear was that identification of disabilities at university has changed, and students are now more willing to recognise their difficulties and see that something can be done to improve their difficulties. This is in addition to more lecturers developing the ability to recognise difficulties and make referrals to special educational units. The author is a strong advocate of dyslexics being highly creative, but does not conclude that all dyslexics are creative, or that you must be dyslexic to be creative. Chapter 12 (How do practicing creative artist, who are dyslexic, approach thinking and learning in the process of their work?) – This chapter investigates why many dyslexics choose art-based careers. It is argued to be due to such courses having higher contact teaching and less reliance of written course work and reading text books. Such courses typically value multiple problem solving skills and do not believe in single yes/no, right/wrong answers. However to gain access to such careers and courses, students must progress through
  • 15. Introduction xv convergent lateral thinking to gain basic qualifications in mainstream educational establishments. These are areas dyslexic students struggle in and thus they experience disadvantage. Four case studies illustrate the cognitive approaches that dyslexics use in careers as visual artists. Each are different types of artists, who rely on different visualising skills, however a pattern emerged in analysis that ‗practice-reflection-practice-reflection‘ is constantly used to build reflective relationships and formulate creative pieces. ALTERNATIVE PERSPECTIVES Chapter 13 (The Science of Creativity: Neuroasthetics) – This chapter investigates creativity. What it is, how it is created, and whether dyslexics have an advantageous edge in producing creative works. Research to date has highlighted that dyslexics have cerebral imbalance, with higher right than left hemisphere abilities. It is argued that such an imbalance allows a greater ability to deal with ambiguity, and such ability is valuable when dealing with the constant bombardment of data in our information heavy society. The ability to see, process, and code information efficiently is important. How we code and therefore store information is important, as it is through efficient and logical filing that information can be successfully retrieved. Research suggests that due to the dyslexic‘s neural imbalance, they store information in abnormal ways (the alternative wiring hypothesis). This makes them unique in their ability to find alternative combinations, but puts them at a distinct disadvantage in mainstream schools and society that relies and values sequential logical information retrieval. The author suggests ‗creative side-effects of frontal lobe inhibition‘ as reasoning why many dyslexics and those suffering frontal temporal brain damage, are highly creative. Chapter 14 (So Near the Discovery: On not falling back into old and preconceived notions) – The last chapter of this book looks at dyslexia and creativity from historical and current examples of dyslexics who have excelled in science and technology. It is argued that challenging contemporary knowledge is important and vital to make the huge leaps that science needs to provide us with the solutions needed for future generations e.g. making microchips smaller. The author is an advocate of dyslexics having the skills and abilities for the next generation of technological developments, thus industry should recognize, as creative fields do, the abilities of dyslexics and seek them out. What is clear from the examples given is the ability to visualise solutions before putting pen to paper. Having the ability to see how electrical current will use a circuit board even before putting silicon to moulds, will save huge amounts of time and money, along with bringing products to market much faster than competitors. It is also argued that dyslexics are much more suited to university level and in fact post-doctorate research than that of mainstream education, which can have implications for the ability of dyslexics to survive school and reach university. This requires both educationalists and dyslexics to recognise alternative routes in to learning.
  • 16. xvi Neil Alexander-Passe CONCLUSION Of the thirteen chapters in this book, from a range of academic and non-academic authors, it is clear that correlations between dyslexia and creativity are inconclusive from academic perspectives, but conclusive from personal and professional accounts. But what is clear is the dyslexic‘s ability to deal with ambiguity which aids the creative or divergent problem-solving process. Measures to date have not yet identified the core source of creativity in dyslexics; however few doubt it is there. Thus Pandora‘s box is still waiting to be opened. Bibliography Amabile, T. M., R. Conti, H. Coon, Lazenby, J., Herron, M. (1996). Assessing the work environment for creativity. Academy of Management Review 39 (5): 1154–1184. Amabile, T. M. (1998). How to kill creativity. Harvard Business Review 76 (5). British Psychological Society (1999: reprint 2005) Dyslexia, Literacy and Psychological Assessment: Report by the Working Party of the Division of Educational and Child Psychology of the British psychological Society, BPS, Leicester. Franken, R. (2001). Human motivation (5th Ed.). Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole. Goodman, N. (1989). Just the Facts, Ma'am! P. 80. In Relativism: Interpretation and Confrontation. Ed. Michael Krausz. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press. Longmans (2010). Dictionary of Contemporary English. Retrieved 10th March 2010. Princeton University (2003). WordNet 2.0. Retrieved 10th March 2010. Taylor, C. W. (1988). Various approaches to and definitions of creativity [Electronic version, in ed. Sternberg, R.J.: The nature of creativity: Contemporary psychological perspectives. Cambridge University Press. Weisberg, R.W. (1993). Creativity - Beyond the Myth of Genius, 2nd Edition. New York: W.H. Freeman. World Federation of Neurology (1968). Report of research group on developmental dyslexia and world illiteracy. Bulletin of the Orton Society, 18, 21-22.
  • 18. In: Dyslexia and Creativity Investigations from Differing… ISBN: 978-1-61668-552-2 Author: Neil Alexander-Passe ©2010 Nova Science Publishers, Inc. Chapter 1 CREATIVITY AND DYSLEXIA: AN INVESTIGATIVE STUDY OF DIVERGENT THINKING Neil Alexander-Passe Graphic designer, Researcher and Author of ‗Dyslexia and Depression: The Hidden Sorrow‘, London, UK. As a dyslexic who experienced difficulties in school, he found alternative routines to gain his first degree in Graphic Design (dyslexics are known to excel visually) and a master‘s research degree in educational philosophy (as a mature student). He began to research dyslexia and the emotional suffering in children, teenagers and adults so that he was better prepared than his own parents, for any dyslexic children. But since none of his are dyslexic, he is drawn between being relieved that they have not suffering as he did at school, and secondly being frustrated that he they do not share the experiences of suffering with a learning disorder (so are unlike him). It‘s crazy he realises, but he is not sure if he should be thanking god that they are spared the suffering and alienation that dyslexia brings or resenting their easy flight through school? In ‗Dyslexia and Depression: The Hidden Sorrow‘, he hopes dyslexia will be seen in a new light, with greater understanding of the secondary manifestations that can come from suffering and helplessness. The author feels that depression is a real and significant manifestation from dyslexia, and notes that whilst he was seeking volunteers for ‗Dyslexia and Depression‘, there was a great influx of dyslexics with depression, thus he questions whether most dyslexics are affected by depression, to some extent, as a reaction to their suffering in mainstream education.
  • 19. 2 Neil Alexander-Passe ABSTRACT Many self-interest groups for dyslexics suggest that dyslexics are innately creative (especially visual-spatial). Much of this claim is made from biographical and small case studies, whilst empirical investigations with visual-spatial abilities have had mixed success. This study, therefore, took the view that, as there was little empirical research to back up such a claim, there was a need to try to find empirical support, beginning by investigating what creativity actually is and how it should be measured. Interestingly, visual-spatial awareness does not feature among mainstream creativity research, so was visual-spatial ever a viable creative skill for investigation to begin with? Empirical studies of supporting evidence suggest that divergent measures are an appropriate avenue for investigation with dyslexics. Three Guilford measures were chosen (Associational Fluency, Ideational Fluency and Alternative Uses) along with a dyslexia screening/severity measure. From an adult sample, N=46 self-reported dyslexics and N=42 controls took part. Results indicate that whilst individuals with high frequencies of dyslexic traits displayed less divergent skills than controls, with dyslexic females with the same high frequency of dyslexia traits outperformed control males. Thus, a hypothesis was suggested that whilst creativity cannot be ruled out amongst dyslexics, other factors, such as gender and personality, might have an influence. INTRODUCTION This paper poses the following question: ‗Are self-reported dyslexics creative‘? It is hypothesized that self-reported dyslexics show strong divergent abilities, compared to controls, and these skills vary according to the severity of the self-reported dyslexia condition. To answer these questions, the results are investigated by: 1) 2) 3) 4) 5) Gender Diagnosis Dyslexia traits Gender and self-reported dyslexia traits Empirical comparisons Dyslexia is a widespread condition, with an estimated frequency of one dyslexic child in each mainstream school classroom (Miles, 1994). Professor Berlin of Stuttgart (1872) coined the term ‗dyslexia‘, based on case histories of adults who could read only three to five words, but were of high intelligence. Use of the term has continued to this day, with dyslexia likened to conditions with neurological abnormalities. Initially, it was thought to be purely an acquired condition from accidental brain damage, until Kussmaul (1878) found developmental cases of word blindness. Orton (1937) first noted the main aspects of developmental dyslexia as pronounced reversals (b/d, p/q, on/no and was/saw), orientation difficulties/strong left-handedness and conflicting lateral preference, which forms the basis for many definitions (see Thomson, 1996; Miles, 1994). This study uses the definition from the World Federation of Neurology (1968), which defines dyslexia as ‗a disorder manifested
  • 20. Creativity and Dyslexia: An Investigative Study 3 by difficulty in learning to read despite conventional instruction, adequate intelligence and socio-cultural opportunity‘. In the UK and many countries in Europe, terms such as ‗Dyslexia‘ or ‗Specific Learning Disabilities (SpLD)‘ are used, whilst worldwide and especially in the US, ‗Learning Disabled (LD)‘ and ‗Reading Difficulties (RD)‘ are commonly used terms. ‗Dyslexia‘ and ‗SpLD‘ are more specifically concerned with difficulties that affect most situations (not just reading, e.g., co-ordination and balance) with neurological and phonological epidemiology. Reviews on dyslexia can be found in Thomson (1995) and Miles (1994). Dyslexia, on the whole, is a negative disorder that affects many life skills (reading, writing, arithmetic) as well as balance and co-ordination, with Miles (1994, p. 189) suggesting that dyslexics show ‗an unusual balance of skills‘. Individuals with dyslexia can be affected emotionally by being unable to learn as per their peers, commonly resulting in low self-image, low self-concept and even depression (Alexander-Passe 2004a, b, 2006, 2008a, b, 2009a, b, c, in press-1, 2, 3; Riddick, 1996; Edwards, 1994; Ryan, 1994). For more than a decade, a search has been carried out to identify positive attributes of this disorder; these investigations began with biographical and neurological studies. West (1991) located famous and influential individuals who had school learning difficulties yet had found alternative ways of learning and succeeding in life (e.g., Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci), making correlations between these factors and dyslexia, and creativity. Thus, public perception of creativity among dyslexics has grown (e.g., 712,000 hits on Google). Since West, the use of famous names (e.g., Richard Branson, Tom Cruise, Richard Rogers etc.) has become widespread (Being Dyslexic 2006; Roehampton University, 2006; British Dyslexia Association, 2007; British Broadcasting Corporation, 2006; International Dyslexia Association, 2006; General Communication Headquarters, 2006, McLoughlin, Fitzgibbon and Young, 1994) to illustrate the career heights that dyslexics can reach. However, this could be misleading and could give false hopes to parents, as a high proportion of dyslexics leave full-time education with few or no qualifications (Grant, 2001) Neurological investigations started by Geschwind and Galaburda (1985) noting clinical and post-mortem studies indicated atypical symmetrical brains, suggesting dyslexics have larger right (visual processing) brains; however, this conclusion was based on a very small sample of brains. Galaburda (1989) also suggests an ‗alternative wiring hypothesis‘ that some abilities may be strengthened at the expense of others in the re-organisation in the brains of dyslexics. The classic measurement of dyslexia uses the WISC-R (Wechsler, 1974) measures, and the ACID profile (Thomson, 1996) indicates dyslexics show superior performance than verbal skills, in WISC-R subscales. Thus, investigations have since been made into the possibility of superior visual-spatial abilities among dyslexics, with many correlating such skills to creativity (Padgett and Steffert, 1999; Wolff and Lundberg, 2002). To date, empirical studies investigating visual-spatial abilities have had limited success and will be discussed in greater depth later in this paper. It is due to the mixed success of these investigations that this study aims to take an alternative avenue to investigate whether dyslexics are creative starting with an empirical review of what creativity is and of the journey so far. Creativity (or creativeness) is defined as a mental process involving the generation of new ideas, associations and concepts, from existing ones. The popular perception is the act of making something new. However, ‗new‘ can be seen from two aspects: new in the eyes of the
  • 21. 4 Neil Alexander-Passe person creating it or new in the eyes of existing knowledge (Feldman, 1999; Feldman, Czikszentmihalyi and Gardner, 1994; Sternberg and Lubart, 1999). Initially, it seems a simple phenomenon, but it is in fact quite complex and subjective. To date, it has been investigated from several perspectives, ranging from behavioral psychology, social psychology, and artificial intelligence, to philosophy, history, business and management. Unlike many phenomena in science, there is no single, authoritative perspective or definition of creativity and, unlike phenomena in psychology, there is no standardized measurement technique. Taylor (1988) suggests there are more than 60 definitions of creativity, with the most widespread being the concept of creativity as manifested by the production of work that is both novel and useful. Many people associate creativity with art and literature, where originality alone is deemed sufficient for the production to be called creative, compared to other fields where both originality and appropriateness are required (Amabile, 1998). As there is no single authoritative definition of creativity, there is no single standardized means to measure it, as most measures are dependent on the personal judgement of the tester. Psychometric measures have been published and these have investigated creativity in clinical trials. Research by Guilford (1950, 1967) and Torrance (1974) has focused on four types of divergent products, namely, fluency, flexibility, originality and elaboration, as these products investigate the differences between divergent (many solutions to a problem) and convergent (a single solution to a problem, normally current knowledge) idea production. Similar measures have been created and are still in use today (Ferrando et al, 2007; Mouchiroud and Lubart, 2001; Khasky and Smith, 1999), but follow the same divergent/convergent theory. Other approaches, e.g., the social-personality approach (Sternberg, 1999; McCrae, 1987; Dacey and Lennon, 2000; Eisenman, 1997), investigate personality traits in individuals who are perceived to be creative, e.g., independence of judgement, self-confidence, risk-taking and openness to experience. Whilst creativity can be artistic in its productions, it can be found in everyday non-visual life and thus this paper is interested in everyday non-visual creative production in areas such as literature, science and business. There have been a number of studies, in addition to those mentioned earlier, that could be deemed to provide supporting evidence in the study of creativity (visual-spatial) and dyslexia. Investigation into the personality of successful dyslexics (Thomson, 1996; Wszeborowska-Lipinska, 1997; Scott, Scherman and Philips, 1992) suggest the following traits: Often under-achievers; Failing to attain their potential; Sometimes suffering a lifetime of frustration; High self-confidence; High self-esteem; Encouragement of their talents and hobbies by parents; Search for self worth; Persistence; and Stubbornness. These traits are similar to those found in creative individuals (as mentioned earlier, Sternberg etc.). They are also unlike the traits found in the majority of dyslexics (Alexander-Passe, 2006, 2008a, 2009a, 2010; Broatach, 2003). In a study of school-aged dyslexics, Grant (2001) focused on the four-stage Wallas (1926) model of creativity (preparation, incubation, illumination and verification), especially the preparation/persistence stages. He states, ‗I have been struck by the number of times they [dyslexics] have told me that they have to work harder than others at school and university in order to achieve the same mark as their peers‘. He also notes that dyslexics have a persistent work habit that is particularly beneficial in creative endeavors; he correlates this with the creativity studies by Radford (1990) and Ochse (1990). Gerber, Ginsberg and Reiff (1992), in
  • 22. Creativity and Dyslexia: An Investigative Study 5 a study of successful adults with learning disabilities (an American term to cover a number of difficulties including dyslexia), noted that divergent problem-solving methods were commonly used; divergent measures have also been used successfully with dyslexics (Everatt, Steffart and Smythe 1999). Grant‘s study of (2001) school-aged dyslexics, which investigated pre-university examination results, noted the frequency of student‘s examination passes in: Art 30%, Science and Maths (20%), then English Language and English Literature (15%). These can be compared to the subjects in which they scored worst: French, German, Spanish and Latin came out as most frequently being the worst (40%), followed by Maths and English Language (20%). It was concluded that dyslexics choose subjects they can do well in, over those where they may struggle due to high reader and writing requirements. Similarly, dyslexics are known to choose art/design university courses. Studies at art colleges (Padgett and Steffert, 1999; Wolff and Lundberg, 2002) found a high percentage of dyslexic students (West 1991). Researchers also have noted a disproportionate number of dyslexics develop artistic careers (Padgett and Steffert, 1999; Wolff and Lundberg, 2002; Winner and Casey, 1993; West, 1991), mathematical careers (Bloom, 1985) and careers as inventors (Colangelo, Assouline, Kerr, Huesman, and Johnson 1993; West, 1991). A more likely answer could lie in how dyslexics cope with school subjects that rely on words and numbers. The human reaction to danger, such as fire, is to pull away; this could be true of other types of danger. Studies (Alexander-Passe, 2004, 2006, 2008a, 2009a, 2010; Riddick, 1996) suggest school-aged dyslexics, when faced with a choice of study subjects, will choose ones with fewer essays and writing in general - such avoidance is an essential part of the coping strategies found amongst dyslexics. Thus, it is no wonder that, firstly, many dyslexics choose visual and non-written subjects such as art/design and, secondly, they do well in subjects that do not rely on reading and writing skills (Alexander-Passe, 2004a, b, 2009a, in press-1, 2, 3; Gardner, 2001), skills they innately have difficulties with. However, Wolff and Lindberg (2002) argue that as places on art/design degree courses are difficult to gain, the disproportionate numbers of dyslexics taking these causes is due to talent rather than compensatory strategies. Neurological studies of creative individuals (Flaherty, 2005) suggest that abnormalities in an individual‘s temporal lobes often increase creativity. Regarding dyslexics, Galaburda, LoTurco, Ramus, Fitch and Rosen (2006) and Jenner, Rosen and Galaburda (1999) among others have noted damage to these areas of the brain; this supports Galaburda‘s (1985) theory that ‗alternative wiring‘ could heighten skills such as creativity. Everatt, Steffert, and Smythe (1999, p.30) note that, despite differing viewpoints, many of the tools used to assess creativity (visual-spatial skills) fall into three general categories: (1) those requiring the subject to respond in novel/innovative ways, (2) those involving selfreport inventories, and (3) tasks assessing the ability to find insightful solutions to complex problems (Kirton, 1994). Whilst this simplistic model ignores artistic production, it is a useful basis by which to judge recent major studies in dyslexia and visual-spatial (creative) skills. As visual-spatial and creative skills are perceived by many to be similar concepts, as noted earlier, one must ask whether visual-spatial ability is noted in creative research. Empirical reviews of creativity (Eysenck, 1996; Feldman, Czikszentmihalyi, and Gardner, 1994, Sternberg, 1999; Guilford, 1950) omitted visual-spatial ability as a creative skill; thus, it is interesting to consider why visual-spatial skills were ever correlated with creativity in dyslexics.
  • 23. 6 Neil Alexander-Passe Three of the largest and most extensive studies to date, researching a possible correlation between dyslexia and creativity will now be reviewed, that is, Winner, von Karolyi and Malinsky (2000), Von Karolyi, Winner, Gray and Sherman (2003) and Everatt et al. (1999). Winner et al.‘s (2000) study of N=21 young adults with dyslexia compared to N=39 controls used a number of standardised creativity and visual-spatial tests with normal time limits. The dyslexics failed to excel in any of the tasks, and performed significantly worse than controls. They then studied N=15 high school students with dyslexia, compared to N=22 controls with a similar battery of tests, many with no time limits. Overall, the dyslexics performed worse than controls on half the tests and equivalently to the controls on the other half of the tests. Of all the tests, only the ‗impossible figures‘ (global visual-spatial) measure was found to show dyslexics excelling in visual spatial tasks; however, no comparison was made to norm data; thus, it is impossible to assess if the dyslexics scored superior to norms. Von Karolyi et al. (2003), continuing Winner et al.‘s (2000) investigations, suggested the reason for their inability to find superior visual-spatial skills was due to the choice of tests administered. So tests of possible and impossible black and white line drawings were used, with dyslexic (N=29) and control (N=35) high school students. Overall, the results indicated ‗individuals with dyslexia have superior global visual-spatial processing ability….based on their recognizing impossible figures more rapidly, but no less accurately than those without dyslexia‘. As per Winner et al. (2000), as no comparison was made to the norm data, it is impossible to assess whether the dyslexics‘ scores were superior to the norm data. Everatt et al.‘s (1999) study of creative thinking used both visual-spatial and divergent tests, in three studies. Study 1, with N=18 dyslexic and N=18 control college students, used a number of measures. The dyslexics performed equivalently to the controls on only half the tests, and scored higher on ‗alternative uses‘ and ‗picture production‘ measures. It should be noted that the ‗alternative uses‘ test was given orally, against manual instructions, and thus could be open to interviewer bias and prompting. Study 2, with N=14 arts-based dyslexic students and N=20 arts-based control students, used a second batch of measures. Overall, results indicated the dyslexics had higher overall ‗Kirton Adaptation-Innovation Inventory‘ scores, but weaker scores on the other measures, compared to the controls. Everatt et al. concluded that the dyslexics showed evidence ‗indicating themselves to be more innovative‘ than controls. Study 3, with N=16 dyslexic and N=23 controls attending colleges/universities, used a number of visual measures. The dyslexics were superior to the controls only on the ‗Insight Problem Test‘ and performed worse than controls on other measures. Study 4, with, firstly, N=17 dyslexic and N=16 control primary school pupils and, secondly, with N=20 dyslexic and N=25 control secondary school pupils, used a battery of measures. Results indicated little difference between dyslexics and controls in Study 2; thus, Everatt et al. concluded that any superior creativity in adults must come from post-school experiences or knowledge gained. Overall, the three studies did not find superior visual-spatial ability, but superior abilities in the divergent (alternative uses), innovative and picture production measures among the dyslexic sample; however, like the other two studies, no norm data were used and so it is impossible to assess any superiority of the dyslexic sample. Further reading suggests that the alternative uses and picture production tasks were experimental in nature. Studies by Winner et al. (2000), Von Karolyi et al. (2003) and Everatt et al. (1999) indicate a huge number of tests have been used to search for the holy grail of ‗positive abilities to dyslexia‘; unfortunately, these found only one visual-spatial task at which
  • 24. Creativity and Dyslexia: An Investigative Study 7 dyslexics excelled (impossible tasks). The majority of the other successful tasks, from Everatt et al.‘s (1999) study are cognitive ‗divergent‘ or ‗innovative‘ in nature. Thus, non-visual divergent tests might be suitable avenues of investigation for this study of whether selfdiagnosed dyslexics are creative. There are a number of non-visual divergent tests from the Guilford School of thought (Guilford and Guilford, 1980); these include: 1) Word Fluency (WF) – the ability to produce rapidly a list of words; each satisfies the specific requirement that it contains a number of letters, e.g., write words containing the letter ‗O‘. 2) Ideational Fluency (IF) – the ability to evolve a large number of ideas in situations that present meaningful requirements, e.g., name fluids that ‗burn‘. 3) Associational Fluency (AF) – the ability to produce rapidly words that bear some specified, meaningful relation to a given word, e.g., write a number of synonyms for ‗hard‘. 4) Expressional fluency (EF) – the ability to produce rapidly words in connected discourses, e.g., write a different four word sentence, filling in the gaps ‗K u y i .‘ 5) Alternative uses (AU) – the ability to find rapidly divergent uses for an object, e.g., name some alternative uses for a pencil? All the above tests are judged firstly on quantity and secondly on acceptability (quality), with set time limits. The above measures have been standardised and their manuals gives clear guidelines regarding how the tests should be scored and assessed. Reviewing the range of divergent tests, e.g., taking into account possible literacy writing difficulties, IF, AF and AU look the most promising in indicating a number of skills that could be creative in nature to both dyslexics and controls. Unlike in Everatt et al. (1999), all tests must be given as per test guidelines, which would firstly allow comparison to norm controls and secondly guide participants regarding the number of responses expected. THE STUDY As noted in the aims earlier, this study will investigate the creative abilities of selfreported dyslexics, as compared to controls, using a range of standardised divergent tests and self-diagnostic dyslexia screening measures to investigate varying creative abilities among the spectrum of severity of self-reported dyslexia. This study will use three divergent measures (Guilford and Guilford, 1980; Guilford, Kettner and Christensen 1978): Associational Fluency-A (AF), Ideational Fluency-B (IF) and Alternative uses-C (AU). And one self-reporting screening measure of dyslexic traits (Vinegrad, 1994), A 20 yes/no items questionnaire correlated with dyslexia
  • 25. 8 Neil Alexander-Passe Methodology A sample of N=88 adults was recruited via newsletters from two UK adult dyslexia charities, comprising N=46 adult self-reported dyslexics and N=42 adult controls. The gender split included N=21 males and N=25 females for the self-reported dyslexics and N=17 males and N=25 females for the controls. The mean age for the self-reported dyslexics was 35.64yrs (SD 11.543) and 43.41yrs (SD 8.180) for the controls. This study did not diagnose dyslexia, but relied on the subjects to indicate their own diagnosis; thus, a screening measure was introduced, firstly, to confirm diagnosis and, secondly, to screen for possible dyslexics in the control sample. All volunteers were used; thus, no exclusions were made to the possible sample. Participants completed both a general questionnaire (e.g., details such as age, gender etc.) along with the Vinegrad (1994) self-reporting dyslexia screening measure in a first mailing. Once this was received, a second mailing was dispatched with the creativity measures and instructions for another individual to time the volunteer‘s measure taking. Guidelines were given regarding types of locations conducive to test taking, and regarding how to give the tests (e.g., time keeping and avoiding helping or giving guidance). Helper information was required along with contact details from which a select number of spot checks were made. Once the data were returned using pre-paid postage envelopes, the responses were coded (to maintain confidentiality) and then inputted into Excel spreadsheets for data analysis using Excel and SPSS. All measures were scored as per the manual and the only allowance given to both groups was on spelling - if the words were spelt phonetically, they were accepted. Measures The Associational Fluency-A (AF) and Ideational Fluency-B (IF) measures have been tested on various samples, from naval air cadets/officer candidates, 9th grade boys and girls, and high IQ 9th graders, to Honour students and college students. The measures have several forms, but each has reliability statistics (Spearman-Brown) in the .56 to .72 for Associational Fluency and .68 to .77 for Ideational Fluency. C-Scores are also given for each measure. Associational fluency is the ability to produce rapidly words that bear some specified, meaningful relation to a given word. In the Structure of Intellect (SI) model (Guilford, 1967); this factor is called the divergent production of semantic relations or DMR. There is evidence for this ability (Frunter, 1948; Guilford, Kettner and Christensen, 1956; Guilford and Hoefner, 1971). Form B was used in this study. Ideational fluency is the ability to evolve a large number of ideas in situations that present meaningful requirements. The quantity of ideas produced is most important; the quality (e.g., cleverness, originality) is unimportant. In the SI model (Guilford, 1967) the ability is called the divergent production of semantic units or DMU. Evidence of this ability has been widely studied (Guilford and Christensen 1956; Taylor, 1947; Rogers 1953, Guilford and Hoefner, 1971). A detailed scoring manual is given for each measure; see Guilford and Guilford (1980). The Alternative uses-C (AU) measure has been administered to a range of samples from 5th, 6th, 7th and 9th grade students to adults and university students. This measure has three
  • 26. Creativity and Dyslexia: An Investigative Study 9 forms (6, 9 and 12 items); reliability statistics (Spearman-Brown) suggest correlations in the .53 to .63 range. C-Scores are also given for each measure. Form C was used for this study. This is the second edition of this measure, the first being entitled ‗Unusual Uses‘ (Wilsen, Guilford, Christensen and Lewis, 1954). This measure uses everyday items and requires individuals to name uncommon uses of them. In the SI model (Guilford, 1967); this measure of spontaneous flexibility belongs to the divergent production of semantic classes or DMC. Evidence of such ability comes from numerous sources (McGuire, Hindsman, King and Jennings, 1961; Antasi and Schaefer, 1971; Atkins and Lyerly, 1951). A detailed scoring manual is given for this measure (see Guilford, Christensen, Merrifeld, and Wilson 1978). Glover, Ronning and Reynolds (1989) suggest taking into consideration the following: 1) Divergent tests define an ability correlated with but not identical to that defined by convergent measures. (Magnusson and Backteman, 1977, found creativity tests were highly correlated and thus seen as stable according to Eysenck, 1996). 2) Correlations can be obtained only when IQ, as measured by convergent measures, is (roughly) below 120; above that limit there is little correlation (also found by Guilford and Christensen, 1975; Schubert, 1973). 3) Different types of divergent measures define an ability that may provisionally be labeled ‗creativity‘, ‗originality‘, or ‗imagination‘, although it is clearly realized that such identification demands proof, so we cannot take validity for granted. Barron (1963) tested eight types of creativity-originality tests on 100 captains in the US air force. Results from studies suggest that divergent tests have a certain degree of both validity and reliability (Michael & Wright, 1989). Vinegrad‘s (1994) self-reporting Dyslexia screening measure is used extensively to screen for dyslexia (BDA, 2007; Dyslexia Action, 2007; Leeds and Bradford Dyslexia Association, 2007). From 20 items, N=679 norm values resulted in mean scores of 12.140 (4.096 SD) for dyslexics and 5.824 (4.637 SD) for non-dyslexics, a 6.316 mean difference with a P value of <.0001. Items include questions about completing forms, forgetting messages, and co-ordination problems etc., all of which are classic traits of dyslexia (Thomson, 1996; Miles, 1994; Morgan and Klein, 2001). The 20 items are indicated in Figure 1. The four measures were chosen as suitable for dyslexic samples for the following reasons: 1) The screening measure (Vinegrad, 1994) has been correlated as a valid screening method for dyslexics and is extensively used by established dyslexia organisations as a screening measure (as noted earlier). Thus, concerns about using a text-based measure for screening dyslexia can be reduced, as its extensive use must confirm its suitability and accessibility for the vast majority of adult dyslexics. 2) Divergent measures from the Guilford school (e.g., Alternative Uses) have been used successfully on dyslexic samples before (Everatt et al., 1999). However, as Everatt‘s results were below norm levels, due to the test being used orally, which omitted visual clues to how many answers were requested, it was decided to investigate if allowing for phonetic spelling in its original written form (with visual clues) would be advantageous for this type of population.
  • 27. 10 Neil Alexander-Passe 3) Whilst there are few positive creativity empirical studies, those that have been carried out have suggested that dyslexics (and those with similar conditions) use divergent problem-solving skills (Gerber et al., 1992; Everatt et al., 1999). 4) A Guilford (1967) notes that since creativity is a ‗multivariate affair‘; no single test can be relied upon for the study of creativity, and so a battery of tests were chosen. 5) The measures chosen did not rely on known difficulties (e.g., sequencing), but on making divergent correlations between concepts (e.g., alternative uses for a pencil). West (1991) and Galaburda (1989) suggest that dyslexics have an ‗alternative neural wiring‘, which would allow greater divergent combinations. 6) The empirical review concerning dyslexics being superior in visual/visual-spatial tasks was inconclusive; thus, it was decided to use non-visual measures to investigate whether dyslexics are superior in word-based creativity. Allowances were made to accept words spelt phonetically and to not discount poorly spelt words. 7) Dyslexics are known to excel in both visual and non-visual creative and non-creative professions (West 1991); thus, non-visual skills cannot be excluded from an investigation into the abilities of diagnosed dyslexics. Yes 1. Do you find difficulty telling left from right? 2. Is map reading or finding your way to a strange place confusing? 3. Do you dislike reading aloud? 4. Do you take longer than you should to read a page of a book? 5. Do you find it difficult to remember the sense of what you have read? 6. Do you dislike reading long books? 7. Is your spelling poor? 8. Is your writing difficult to read? 9. Do you get confused if you have to speak in public? 10. Do you find it difficult to take messages on the telephone and pass them on correctly? 11. When you say a long word, do you sometimes find it difficult to get all the sounds in the right order? 12. Do you find it difficult to do sums in your head without using your fingers or paper? 13. When using the telephone, do you tend to get the numbers mixed up when you dial? 14. Do you find it difficult to say the months of the year forwards in a fluent manner? 15. Do you find it difficult to say the months of the year backwards? 16. Do you mix up dates and times and miss appointments? 17. When writing cheques do you frequently find yourself making mistakes? 18. Do you find forms difficult and confusing? 19. Do you mix up bus numbers like 95 and 59? 20. Did you find it hard to learn your multiplication tables at school? Figure 1. Self-reporting dyslexia screening measure (Vinegrad‘s 1994). No
  • 28. 11 Creativity and Dyslexia: An Investigative Study Results Table 1 indicates the results of Spearman‘s rho analysis to confirm correlation coefficients between the three divergent measures; these indicate a .563 to .627 correlation with a high significance of 0.01. Thus, the three divergent measures are all measuring similar attributes/abilities, but in slightly different ways. Table 1. Correlations Coefficient between the three divergent measures, using Spearman’s rho, as found in this study. Measures Ideational Fluency-A Ideational Fluency-A Associational Fluency-B Alternative Uses- C 1.000 .597(**) .563(**) Associational Fluency-B .597(**) 1.000 .627(**) Alternative Uses- C .563(**) .627(**) 1.000 ** Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed). 2 tailed. N=89 The results of this study (see Histogram 1 and Table 5) indicate significant differences between males and females, with females scoring higher; the largest differences were in Ideational Fluency, followed by Associational Fluency and lastly Alternative Uses. Gordon (1972), Olive (1972), Butler (1965) among others noted higher female scores in the Ideational Fluency and Associational Fluency measures. However, Anderson (1968) found no gender differences with the Associational Fluency among 180 8th grade students (yr 9 in the UK, 12-year old children). There are no gender norm data to allow comparisons with the Alternative Uses measure. Therefore, the results are to be expected and would suggest this sample is statistically normal. 70 Ideational-A 60 Association-B Uses-C 50 40 30 20 10 0 FEMALE Histogram 1. Gender data ((N=groups & Y=Scores). MALE
  • 29. 12 Neil Alexander-Passe 80 Ideational-A 70 Association-B Uses-C 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 CONTROL DYSLEXIC PROBABLE Histogram 2. Control, Dyslexic and Probable Dyslexic data (N=groups & Y=Scores). Initial comparison of trait data suggested that there was not as high a mean difference as expected by the author between self-diagnosed dyslexics and the controls (see Table 2), and in the three divergent measures (see Table 5). Thus, it was decided to use the Vinegrad screening data to screen for a sub-group of probable non-dyslexics amongst the controls scoring 9+ traits. Results shown in Table 3 indicate a wider difference (to the control group) in mean trait scores and a much larger differential in the three divergent measure scores (see Table 5 and Histogram 2) with this filtered probable dyslexic sub-group. A gender split of the three trait groups (self-claimed dyslexics, probable dyslexics and controls) is shown in Table 4 indicating little difference in gender trait mean scores, which suggests insignificant differences in traits experienced by both genders Table 2. Dyslexic traits for self-claimed dyslexics and controls. Samples Non-dyslexics Self-claimed dyslexics N 42 46 Mean 7.04 11.98 Std. Deviation 4.943 4.170 Table 3. Dyslexic traits for self-claimed dyslexics, possible dyslexics and controls. Samples Non-dyslexics (9+ traits) Probable dyslexics (0-8 traits) Self-claimed dyslexics N 16 26 46 Mean 12.73 3.75 12.09 Std. Deviation 2.154 2.405 4.191 The differences are significant in the divergent measures between the dyslexic and probable dyslexic groups, and the controls and indicate that self-claimed diagnosed dyslexics and probable dyslexics do far worse in the three divergent tasks than pure controls. Histogram 3 indicates that breaking down the results by a second variable (gender) reveals significant differences (see Table 5) The data suggest slight differences between ‗probable‘ and ‗diagnosed‘ dyslexics in trait scores. Gender data with the three groups (see Table 5 and Histogram 3) suggest initial gender differentials in the three divergent measures, especially with non-dyslexics being superior in Ideational and Associational Fluency, as compared to
  • 30. 13 Creativity and Dyslexia: An Investigative Study the two dyslexic groups. Overall, these initial results indicate it is unlikely that self-claimed and probable dyslexics have superior divergent (creative) skills compared to controls. Table 4. Dyslexic traits for self-claimed dyslexics, possible dyslexics and controls, with gender splits. Samples Non-dyslexics (0-8 traits) Non-dyslexics (0-8 traits) Probable dyslexics (9+ traits) Probable dyslexics (9+ traits) Self-claimed dyslexics Self-claimed dyslexics Gender Female Male Female Males Female Male N 19 7 6 10 25 21 Mean 3.50 3.20 12.50 12.10 12.25 11.89 Std. Deviation 2.088 2.775 1.871 3.247 3.915 4.618 80 Ideational-A 70 Association-B 60 Uses-C 50 40 30 20 10 0 FemaleControl FemaleDyslexic FemaleProbable Male-Control MaleDyslexic MaleProbable Histogram 3. Control, Dyslexic and Probable with gender data (N=groups & Y=Scores) Looking again at the differences between the probable and the self-claimed dyslexics, differences in scores may be explained by unidentified dyslexics having a lower academic self-image than have dyslexics who are aware they are not just ‗stupid‘ or ‗lazy‘. The whole sample was then split into four trait groups to try to understand the processes and issues involved. From the N=88 sample, four groups were formed according to the number of dyslexia traits scored: 1-4 traits (N=18, 20.5%), 5-9 traits (N=26, 29.5%), 10-14 traits (N=29, 32.9%) and 15-19 traits (N=18, 20.5%). Histogram 4 and Table 5 look at the total scores by dyslexia traits; results suggest that those with fewer traits, especially the ‗1-4‘ group scored highest on all three divergent measures. Interestingly, the ‗5-9‘ and ‘10-14‘ trait groups scored comparably in the
  • 31. 14 Neil Alexander-Passe Table 5. Table indicating how this sample compares to others. Ideational Fluency-A 51.9 (11.1) 55.6 (12.8) 49.1 (13.7) 56.2 (12.3) Associationa Fluency-B Alternative Uses-C 26.0 (6.2) 19.0 (4.7) 19.1 (4.8) 15.21 (4.2) Measure/Sample Naval Officers (1) High IQ 9th grade (1) 9th grade Boys (1) 9th grade girls (1) College honor student (1) Entering college students (1) College students (2) N= 219 206 229 228 200 951 42 Dyslexic college students (3) Control college students (3) 18 18 Females Males 51 37 66.2 (24.4) 47.7 (19.3) 25.7 (10.9) 18.9 (8.21) 19.6 (6.3) 15.8 (6.1) Self-claimed dyslexics Non-dyslexics 46 42 56.0 (24.1) 61.7 (24.1) 21.42 (10.2) 24.26 (11.0) 17.78 (18.1) 18.4 (6.9) Self-claimed dyslexics Non-dyslexics (0-8 traits) Probable dyslexics (9+ traits) 46 26 16 55.3 (24.5) 71.1 (22.4) 51.8 (22.2) 21.4 (10.0) 28 (9.4) 20.3 (11.2) 17.7 (6.0) 21.3 (5.8) 15.4 (6.9) Non-dyslexics (0-8 traits)-FEMALE Non-dyslexics (0-8 traits)-MALE Probable dyslexics (9+ traits)-FEMALE Probable dyslexics (9+ traits)-MALE Self-claimed dyslexics-FEMALE Self-claimed dyslexics-MALE 19 7 6 10 25 21 71.3 (22.4) 63.5 (19.1) 63.0 (27.5) 43.7 (18.9) 64.3 (25.9) 44.5 (18.0) 27.6 (9.9) 21.8 (8.7) 24.5 (16.4) 18.3 (9.5) 24.1 (10.7) 18.2 (8.4) 20.3 (6.0) 21.0 (7.3) 15.3 (8.3) 15.3 (7.2) 20.1 (5.9) 14.8 (4.7) 1-4 Traits 5-9 Traits 10-14 Traits 15-19 traits 18 26 29 18 69.1 (19.4) 59.1 (26.1) 59.6 (25.5) 48.4 (23.4) 28.5 (9.6) 19.8 (9.5) 23.7 (11.0) 19.9 (11.1) 21.0 (6.1) 18.2 (5.9) 18.1 (6.1) 15.0 (7.6) 1-4 Traits-FEMALE 1-4 Traits-MALE 5-9 Traits-FEMALE 5-9 Traits-MALE 10-14 Traits-FEMALE 10-14 Traits-MALE 15-19 traits-FEMALE 15-19 traits-MALE Standard Deviations in brackets. 11 7 13 10 18 11 9 9 72.6 (19.5) 62.5 (19.1) 70.9 (23.4) 41.1 (21) 67.1 (26.0) 47.4 (10.4) 57.3 (27.8) 39.6 (15.1) 31.9 (9.1) 22.2 (7.6) 22.38 (10.0) 16.1 (7.9) 27.2 (10.5) 18 (9.9) 21.4 (8.5) 18.4 (8.5) 20.5 (6.0) 22 (6.7) 20.2 (6.7) 15.4 (3.0) 19.8 (5.7) 15.2 (5.7) 18.4 (8.6) 11.6 (5.1) 10.83 (4.25) 8.33 (3.01)
  • 32. Creativity and Dyslexia: An Investigative Study 15 (1) Guilford and Guilford, 1980 (2) Murray and Russ, 1981 (3) Everatt et al, 1999 ‗Ideational Fluency-A‘, and the ‗Alternative Uses-C‘ measures, and the ‘10-14‘ trait group scored higher in ‗Associational Fluency-B‘ than did those with ‗5-9‘ traits. This would suggest it is not quite clear-cut that all dyslexics are poorer at divergent tasks. It may be the case that moderate dyslexics with ‗10-14‘ traits are divergent superior. Overall, it could be concluded that the higher the frequency of dyslexic traits exhibited, the lower the divergent score will be in these measures. However, it is unclear whether literacy deficiencies commonly found in dyslexics are to blame; further investigation into gender may reveal whether all the self-diagnosed dyslexics in this sample follow the same pattern or if another explanation exists. 80 1-4 Traits 70 5-9 Traits 10-14 Traits 60 15-19 traits 50 40 30 20 10 0 Ideational Fluency-A Associational Fluency-B Alternative Uses-C Histogram 4. Grouping by Dyslexic trait data (N=groups & Y=Scores). From the N=88 sample, eight groups were formed according to the number of traits scored and gender data: males, 0-4 traits (N=7) and females 0-4 traits (N=11); males, 5-9 traits (N=10) and females 5-9 traits (N=13); males, 10-14 traits (N=11) and females 10-14 traits (N=18); males, 15-19 traits (N=9) and females 15-19 traits (N=9). Histogram 5 and Table 5 investigate the data split using traits and gender. The results suggest that, overall, whilst female divergent scores decrease with the frequency of dyslexia traits; they do not decrease to the same extent as they do in males. It could be hypothesised that females deal with dyslexic difficulties and literacy deficiencies in different ways, which may explain why more males than females are perceived as needing help in mainstream school (Alexander-Passe 2006, 2008a, 2009b, c, d, e, 2010a, and b). It is hypothesised that whilst dyslexic females exhibit literacy difficulties at school, they still score educationally on a par with non-dyslexic males; thus, they are not perceived to be educationally in need. Looking again at Histogram 5, whilst the female data follow an overall decreasing pattern of scores for both the Ideational Fluency and Alternative Uses measures, this is not the case with the Associational Fluency data. Looking at the male data, there is no real pattern to the scores, except for data for Alternative Uses where scores decrease with the increase in frequency of dyslexic traits. The other two measures (Ideational Fluency and Associational Fluency) are erratic, but all generally decrease with the increase in frequency of dyslexic traits. Overall, for both male and female groups with 10-14 traits, there seems to be a surge of scores, which may suggest that moderate dyslexics are better able to cope with literacy difficulties than are those with slight and severe frequency of dyslexic traits. See Alexander-
  • 33. 16 Neil Alexander-Passe Passe (2006, 2008a, 2009a, c, 2010a, b) for a review of gender-based coping strategies for dyslexics. 80 Ideational Fluency-A 70 Associational Fluency-B 60 Alternative Uses-C 50 40 30 20 10 0 1-4 TraitsFEMALE 5-9 TraitsFEMALE 10-14 TraitsFEMALE 15-19 traitsFEMALE 1-4 TraitsMALE 5-9 TraitsMALE 10-14 TraitsMALE 15-19 traits-MALE Histogram 5. Grouping by Dyslexic traits with gender data (N=groups & Y=Scores). Discussion This study set out to investigate the creative abilities of self-reported dyslexics, as compared to those of controls, using a range of standardised divergent tests. The test results have been analysed in three ways: gender, dyslexic traits, gender and dyslexic traits combined groups. The results suggest that: 1) gender differences are evident suggesting that males and females can have different creative/divergent abilities. 2) females on the whole are more creative/divergent than are males. 3) the data strongly indicated that there were un-identified dyslexics in the control sample, thus using the screening measure a sub-control group was created (those with more than 9 out of 20 dyslexic traits). Both control groups (probable dyslexics and pure controls) scored differently, with the ‗probable‘ dyslexic group scoring similar to the self-claimed dyslexic group. This interesting finding suggests that many dyslexics might be unaware that they are dyslexic and may have journeyed through life just thinking they were a bit different and that their learning problems, however slight they might be, were down to laziness and lack of motivation. Such a group of individuals would have been stressed as teenagers and have low self-esteem (see Alexander-Passe 2004a, b, 2006, 2008a, b, 2009a, b, c, 2010a, b). The review of the three main studies (Winner et al., 2000; Von Karolyi et al., 2003; and Everatt et al., 1999) showed that each lacked a comparison to standardised data. Whilst they used standardised measures, in their findings, each study ignored how assessment of their samples compared to norms. This study aimed to be a fairer investigation and thus, where
  • 34. Creativity and Dyslexia: An Investigative Study 17 possible, comparison data are shown (see Table 5); in fact, it was one of the criteria in the measure selection process. The three measures are discussed below. Looking at the Ideational Fluency measure, we see from comparing the Guilford and Guilford (1980) data: 1) confirmation of gender differences, with females scoring higher than males, as was also found in this study. 2) all trait groups except for 15-19 traits score on a par with the norm group. 3) whilst all females in this study in all dyslexic trait groups score in excess of the norms, only the 1-4 trait non-dyslexic control group score as per norm levels, with the remainder scoring far below norm levels, especially males with 15-19 traits. Comparing Associational Fluency scores from Murray and Russ (1981) and Guilford and Guilford (1980), they indicate: 1) as there are no gender norms, we are unable to comment on gender differences. 2) all males and females and trait groups score either on a par with the norm data or far in excess of the college student honour norms. 3) the real differences are exhibited when we compare the trait and gender data, with 1-4 trait females scoring far in excess of norm data and 5-9 trait males scoring far below the norm data. Overall, this measure exemplifies the huge differences between genders with varying frequency of dyslexic traits. Lastly, we compare ‗Alternative uses‘ scores from Murray and Russ (1981) and Everatt et al. (1999). Such comparison suggests: 1) all this sample score in excess of the Everatt et al. data, (their measures were given orally) even males with 15-19 traits, and as they are also incomparable with the Murray and Russ data norm data one could conclude they are questionable, a view that is supported by Everatt et al. not naming the source of their measure, which suggests it was experimental. 2) all males scored on a par with the college students of Murray and Russ, with females scoring in excess of the norm data. 3) large differences are exhibited in the gender data, with males (5-9, 10-14 and 15-19 traits) scoring below or on a par with norm data for college students, with their comparable females scoring far in excess of the norm data. 4) such gender differences were not found among the 1-4 trait sub groups, with the males scoring slightly higher in this measure. Again, we see that, overall, huge gender and severity differences exist and this important finding has implications for how future support is given to dyslexics. The Everatt et al. (1999) data is interesting; one could postulate that there are significant differences between giving such a test orally to giving it how it was designed, that is, as a written measure. Looking at the test in detail, each of the six questions has six lines to be completed. The volunteer taking the test would therefore have an idea of how many words, at least 4 or more, were expected; this cannot be easily be relayed orally without the test
  • 35. 18 Neil Alexander-Passe becoming open to bias and guidance given to the volunteer. Thus, this author concludes that Everatt et al. might have disadvantaged dyslexics by making such an effort to compensate for their reading/writing difficulties. This study took the view that allowing for phonetic spelling was a fairer allowance and might suggest that giving a written examination orally for dyslexics might disadvantage them, as it would remove any vital visual clues given This study set out to ask ‗Are self-reported dyslexics creative?‘ The overall data suggest that it is unclear whether dyslexics are innately creative; however, it does seem evident that not only did the females in this population have superior creative/divergent skills, but the females with moderate (10-14 traits) or severe (15-19 traits) scored on a par to males with few of no traits of dyslexia. This would suggest that factors other than dyslexia might be responsible. The data, however, were clear in concluding that the more dyslexic traits someone exhibits, the less creative/divergent they will be in these measures. This would support the concept that writing fluency may be significant in understanding the result. This study chose not to give the measures orally as in Everatt et al. (1999), as this would have been a double handicap to the self-claimed/self-diagnosed dyslexic sample. However, if measures are not given orally (due to the lack of visual clues) and not given on paper (due to dyslexic deficiencies of reading and writing), what could be the solution to examination measurement? One solution would be to give the paper in its standard form to give the visual clues, but to allow oral answers to be given. CONCLUSION This paper began by investigating the claim in many dyslexia websites and in public perception that dyslexics are visual-spatial and creative. Empirical research so far on visualspatial skills have had mixed success, despite a number of large studies in prestigious institutions, with numerous types of samples, using many standardised measures. Evidence supporting the claim of creativity to date is based either on biographical data from possible dyslexic geniuses or on the frequency of diagnosed dyslexics passing art examinations, taking art degrees and working in art professions. However, recent studies (Riddick, 1999; Alexander-Passe, 2006, 2008a, 2009a, b, c, d, e, 2010a, b) support a hypothesis that dyslexics might choose and excel in such subjects as a form of avoidance, such as by choosing school subjects to avoid writing, which leads to them focusing on career paths to degrees and employment in such artistic and visual subjects. It was felt that to build a solid hypothesis supporting dyslexics being creative (visualspatial), it would be necessary to go back to basics to understand what creativity is, and to try to find any empirical evidence to support a creativity/visual-spatial/dyslexia correlation. From the psychometric approach to creative measurement, Guilford‘s divergent range of tests seemed to be the most suitable for this purpose and three were chosen (Associational Fluency, Ideational Fluency and Alternative Uses) and tested on an adult sample of selfdiagnosed dyslexics and controls. A screening measure was introduced to investigate correlations of the severity of dyslexic traits and creative/divergent abilities. Results found that divergent abilities were affected by gender and the severity of dyslexic traits, with the conclusion that overall, the more severe the symptoms of dyslexia, the less
  • 36. Creativity and Dyslexia: An Investigative Study 19 divergent someone will be, at least with these measures, even allowing for phonetic spelling. However, gender was an important factor, with dyslexic females even with high frequencies of dyslexia traits scoring on a par with control males with few (if any) dyslexia traits. Thus, an important finding was that creative abilities in dyslexics might be controlled by factors other than dyslexia traits, e.g., age/experience, gender or personality. However, this study did not find conclusive evidence to prove that dyslexics are innately creative; thus, the search must continue to find evidence that supports the hypothesis. To date, studies have been made using visual-spatial measures but have had only mixed success; studies requiring novel productions have had some success; and now in this study, divergent production has had some success, with females showing clear superior skills compared to controls Suggestions for Further Research This study suggests that gender and other variables (e.g., personality and age) combined; with the severity of dyslexia traits would be a valid way to continue the work of this study. It would begin to explain why self-diagnosed dyslexic females display more creative/divergent skills than do self-diagnosed dyslexic males. Limitations There were several limitations to this study: (1) the samples were dyslexia by selfdiagnosis rather than diagnosis by educational psychologists. This required a screening to take place among a control sample; the screening found a number of individuals unaware of their dyslexic traits, which might highlight the numbers of individuals that go through mainstream school unaware their difficulties could be helped, rather than thinking of themselves as ‗stupid‘ or ‗lazy‘; (2) The choice of measures of creativity is always questionable as no single measure can confirm creative skill, Guilford notes that creativity is a collection of skills and due the multitude of possible answers, manuals require a certain amount of subjectivity from the individual marking; the best course is to use a single person to mark all the documents produced, which happened in this study; and (3) It was decided to use non-visual measures of creativity; this may have given a bias to the type of creativity investigated. BIBLIOGRAPHY Alexander-Passe, N. (2004a). How Children with Dyslexia Experience School: Developing an Instrument to Measure Coping, Self-Esteem and Depression. Unpublished MPhil Thesis. The Open University Alexander-Passe, N. (2004b). A Living Nightmare: An investigation of how dyslexics cope in school. Paper presented at the 6th British Dyslexia Association International Conference.
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  • 39. 22 Neil Alexander-Passe General Communication Headquarters (2006). GCHQ disabilities toolkit leads the way. Retrieved December 16, 2006, from Gerber, P. J., & Reiff, H. B. (1991). Speaking for themselves: Ethnographic interviews with adults with learning disabilities. The University of Michigan Press. Gerber, P. J., Ginsberg, R., & Reiff, H. B. (1992). Identifying alterable patterns in employment success for highly successful adults with learning disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 25, 475-87. Geschwind, N., & Galaburda, A. M. (1985). Cerebral lateralization: Biological mechanisms, association, and pathology. Archives of Neurology, 42, 428-654. Geschwind, N., & Levitsky, W. (1968). Human brain: Left-right asymmetries in temporal speech region. Science, 161, 188-7. Glover, J. A, Ronning, R. R., & Reynolds, C. R. (Eds.). (1989). Handbook of Creativity. New York: Plenum Press. Grant, D. (2001). That‘s the way I think – Dyslexia and creativity. Paper at 5th BDA International Conference, University of Warwick, UK. Gray, J. A., Feldon, J., Rawlins, J. P., Hemsley, D. R., & Smith, A. D. (1991). The neuropsychology of schizophrenia. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 14, 1-84. Guilford, J. P., & Christensen, P. R. (1956). A factor-analytic study of verbal fluency. Reports from the Psychological Laboratory, 17. Los Angeles: University of Southern California. Guilford, J. P., & Christensen, P. R. (1975). The one-way relation between creative potential and IQ. Journal of Creative Behaviour, 7, 247-52. Guilford, J. P., & Guilford, J. S. (1980). Christensen-Guilford Fluency Tests: Manual if instructions and Interpretation. Orange CA: Sheridan Psychological Services Inc. Guilford, J. P. (1950). Creativity, American Psychologist, 5, 444-445. Guilford, J. P. (1967). The nature of human intelligence. New York: McGraw-Hill. Guilford, J. P., & Hoefner, R. (1971). The analysis of intelligence. New York: McGraw-Hill. Guilford, J. P., Christensen, P. R., Merrifeld, P. R., & Wilson, R. C. (1978). Alternative Uses: Permission Set Manual. Orange CA: Sheridan Psychological Services Inc. Guilford, J. P., Kettner, N. W., & Christensen, P. R. (1956). A factor-analytic study across the domains of reasoning, creativity, and evaluation, II. Administration of tests and analysis of results. Reports from the Psychological Laboratory, 16, Los Angeles: University of Southern California. Hales, G. (Ed.). (1995). Dyslexia Matters. London: Whurr. International Dyslexia Association. (2006). Other well-known people thought to have dyslexia or other learning disabilities, Retrieved December 26, 2006, from Jenner A. R., Rosen G. D., & Galaburda A. M. (1999). Neuronal asymmetries in primary visual cortex of dyslexic and non-dyslexic brains [Electronic version]. Ann Neurol., Aug, 46(2), 189-96. Khasky A. D., & Smith J. C. (1999). Stress, relaxation states, and creativity [Electronic version]. Percept Mot Skills. April; 88(2), 409-16. Kirton, M. J. (1994). Adaptors and Innovators, 2nd Ed, London: Routledge. Kussmaul, A. (1878). Word-deafness and word-blindness. In von Ziemssen, H. (Ed.) Cyclopaedia of the Practice of Medicine, Vol. 14, Diseases of the nervous system and disturbances of speech. London: Sampson Row, Maston, Searle and Rivington.
  • 40. Creativity and Dyslexia: An Investigative Study 23 Leeds and Bradford Dyslexia Association. (2007). Adult Dyslexia Checklist. Retrieved April 16, 2007, from Magnusson, D. & Backteman, G. (1977). Longitudinal stability of person characteristics: intelligence and creativity. Reports from the Department of Psychology, The University of Stockholm, 511. McCrae, R. R. (1987). Creativity, Divergent Thinking, and Openness to Experience. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 52(6), 1258-1265. McGuire, C., Hindsman, E., King, F. J., & Jennings, E. (1961) Dimensions of talented behaviour. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 21, 3-38. McLoughlin, D., Fitzgibbon, G., & Young, V. (1994). Adult Dyslexia: Assessment, Counselling and Training. London: Whurr. Michael, W. B., & Wright, C. R. (1989). Psychometric issues in the assessment of creativity. In Glover, JA; Ronning, RR and Reynolds, CR (Eds) Handbook of Creativity, (pp. 3352). New York: Plenum Press. Miles, T. R. (1994). Dyslexia: The pattern of difficulties. London: Whurr. Morgan, E., & Klein, C. (2001). The dyslexic adult in a non-dyslexic world. London: Whurr. Mouchiroud C., & Lubart T. (2001). Children's original thinking: an empirical examination of alternative measures derived from divergent thinking tasks [Electronic version]. Journal of Genet Psychol. December, 162(4):382-401. Murray, J., & Russ, S. (1981). Adaptive regression and types of cognitive flexibility. Journal of Personality Assessment, February, 45(1), 59-65. Ochse, R. (1990). Before the gates of excellence: the determinants of creative genius. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Olive, H. (1972). A note on sex differences in adolescent divergent thinking. Journal of Psychology, 82, 39-42. Orton, S. T. (1937). Reading, writing and speech problems of children. New York: Norton. Osborn, A. F (1953). Applied Imagination. New York: Scribner. Padgett, I., & Steffert, B. (Eds.) (1999). Visual Spatial Ability and Dyslexia, a research project [Electronic version]. London: Central St Martin‘s College of Art and Design. Radford, J. (1990). Child prodigies and exceptional early achievers. London: Harvester Wheatsheaf. Reiff, H. B., Gerber, P., & Ginsberg, R. (1997). Exceeding expectations: Successful adults with learning disabilities. Austin, Texas: Pro-Ed. Riddick, B. (1996). Living with dyslexia: The social and emotional consequences of specific learning difficulties. London: Routledge. Riddick, B., Sterling, C., Farmer, M., & Morgan, S. (1999). Self-esteem and anxiety in the educational histories of adult dyslexic students. Dyslexia, 5, 227-48. Roehampton University (2006). Famous Dyslexics. Retrieved December 16, 2006, from Rogers, C. A. (1953). The structure of verbal fluency. British Journal of Psychology, 44, 368380. Russeler, J., Scholz, J., Jordan, K., & Quaiser-Pohl, C. (2005). Mental Rotation of letters, pictures and three-dimensional objects in German dyslexic Children. Child Neuropsychology, December, 11(6), 497-512. Ryan, M. (1994). Social and emotional problems related to dyslexia. The Journal of Adventist Education. Perspectives, Spring, 20(2).
  • 41. 24 Neil Alexander-Passe Schubert, D. S. (1973). Intelligence is necessary but not sufficient for creativity. Journal of Genetic Psychology, 122, 45-7. Scott, M. E., Scherman, A., & Philips, H. (1992) Helping individuals with dyslexia succeed in adulthood: Emerging keys for effective parenting, education and development of positive self-concept. Journal of Instructional Psychology, 19(3), 197-204. Seltzer, K., & Bentley, T. (1999). The creative age: knowledge and skills for the new economy, London: Demos. Sternberg, R. J., & Lubart, T. I. (1999). The Concept of Creativity: Prospects and Paradigms, in ed. Sternberg, R.J.: Handbook of Creativity. Cambridge University Press. Sternberg, R. J. (1988). A three-facet model of creativity in R.J. Sternberg (Ed.) The nature of creativity, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Sternberg, R. J. (1999). Handbook of Creativity. Cambridge University Press. Taylor, C. (1947). A factorial study of fluency in writing. Psychometriika, 12, 239-262. Taylor, C. W. (1988). Various approaches to and definitions of creativity [Electronic version, in ed. Sternberg, R.J.: The nature of creativity: Contemporary psychological perspectives. Cambridge University Press. Thomson, M. (1996). Developmental dyslexia: Studies in disorders of communication. London: Whurr. Thomson, P. (1995). Stress factors in early education. In Miles, T.R. and Varma, V. (Eds.) Dyslexia and stress (pp. 5-32). London: Whurr. Torrance, E. P. (1974). Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking. Personnel Press. Vinegrad, M. (1994). A revised adult dyslexia checklist. Educare, 48, 21-4. Von Karolyi, C., Winner, E., Gray, W., & Sherman, G. F. (2003). Dyslexia linked to talent: global visual-spatial ability. Brain Language, June, 85(3), 427-31. Wallas, G. (1926). The art of thought, New York, NY: Hartcourt Brace. Wechsler, D. (1974). Manual of the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children. Revised. New York: Psychological Corporation. Weinberger, J. (1989). Response to Blay and Shevrin: Constructive critique or misguided attack? American Psychologist, 74, 1417-19. West, T. (1991). In the Minds Eye: Visual Thinkers, Gifted people with learning difficulties, Computer Images, and the ironies of creativity. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books. Winner, E., and Casey, M. (1993). Cognitive profiles of artists. In G. Cupchik and J. Laszlo (Eds.), Emerging visions: Contemporary approaches to the aesthetic process. Cambridge University Press. Winner, E., von Karolyi, C., & Malinsky, D. (2000). Dyslexia and Visual-Spatial Talents: No Clear Link. Boston College: Perspectives, Spring. Wolff, U., & Lundberg, I. (2002). The prevalence of dyslexia among art students. Dyslexia, January-March; 8(1), 34-42. World Federation of Neurology (1968). Report of research group on developmental dyslexia and world illiteracy. Bulletin of the Orton Society, 18, 21-22. Wszeborowska-Lipinska, B. (1997). Dyslexic students who succeed. Unpublished paper. University of Gdansk.
  • 42. In: Dyslexia and Creativity Investigations from Differing… ISBN: 978-1-61668-552-2 Author: Neil Alexander-Passe ©2010 Nova Science Publishers, Inc. Chapter 2 DYSLEXIA, REASONING AND THE IMPORTANCE OF VISUAL-SPATIAL PROCESSES Alison M. Bacon* and Simon J. Handley** School of Psychology, University of Plymouth, (UK) Some research reported in this chapter was supported by a grant from the Economic and Social Research Council. Award number RES-000-22-1965. ABSTRACT This chapter will present some research which has aimed to investigate how people with dyslexia draw on distinctly visual cognitive processes (such as visual imagery and visual memory) when reasoning with problems comprised of logical arguments. Although such problems may appear circumscribed, they encapsulate many of the elements involved in everyday reasoning and have been the subject of much research into how people manipulate and represent information when solving problems. We will discuss a series of studies which have compared dyslexic participants with non-dyslexic controls in order to examine differences in strategies adopted for a range of reasoning tasks. A consistent finding has been that most participants with dyslexia spontaneously adopt a strategy which involves the generation of detailed visual or visuo-spatial representations. Cognitive processes such as visual imagery and visual short-term memory seem to play an important role in reasoning for these individuals in terms of helping them to understand, clarify and mentally organise problem information. In contrast, non-dyslexics are able to reason using a more abstract or rule-based approach, working with information in the propositional form in which it is presented. The importance of visual processes to dyslexics is further demonstrated by converging * Dr Bacon‘s research interests lie in: (1) Individual differences and the implications of these in everyday life; (2) mental representation, imagery and visual-spatial memory; (3) Visual-spatial processes in special populations (such as individuals with dyslexia); and (4) Strategies for thinking & problem solving ** Professor Handley‘s is the Acting Head of School of Psychology/Associate Dean of the School of Psychology. His research interests lie in: (1) Reasoning strategies in people with dyslexia; (2) Hypothetical thinking and conditional reasoning in children and adults; (3) Pragmatics and reasoning; (4) Working memory, executive function and higher level cognition; and (5) Children‘s reasoning, autism
  • 43. 26 Alison M. Bacon and Simon J. Handley evidence from studies using individual differences and dual-task methods. These showed that although participants performed similarly on a measure of visual memory, capacity in this domain was only predictive of reasoning accuracy for dyslexic individuals. When dyslexics are asked to perform two concurrent tasks (reasoning and remembering a visual pattern) reasoning accuracy was impaired, suggesting that a conflict of resource in the visual domain. The secondary task had no effect on reasoning for non-dyslexics. In summary, our studies indicate that visual cognitive processes such as imagery, visual mental representation and memory form a central part of reasoning in dyslexia, and may compensate for impairments in phonological processing for these individuals. DISCUSSION It has frequently been claimed that dyslexia is characterised by enhanced abilities in the non-verbal domain, particularly with regard to visuo-spatial ability (Aaron & Guillemond, 1993; Davis, 1997; Galaburda, 1993; Vail, 1990; West, 1997; 1998). Many of these reports cite instances of individuals with dyslexia who show prodigious creative or artistic talent Moreover, many case studies are reported which suggest that such individuals are overrepresented in, and often excel at, occupations and activities which require visuo-spatial skills and creative thinking, such as art and design, architecture and inventing (e.g. Geschwind and Galaburda, 1987; McLaughlin, Fitzgibbon and Young, 1994; Steffert, 1998; West, 1997; Winner and Casey, 1993; Wolff & Lundberg, 2002). Aaron and Guillemond, 1993; present an interesting reflective analysis of the biographical and cognitive characteristics of three famous artists (da Vinci, Rodin and Russell) and conclude that these undoubtedly talented individuals possess both extraordinary visual skills and clear dyslexic traits. There is also evidence that visuo-spatial skills may be compensatory for dyslexics away from the artistic domain. While neurophysiologic studies have suggested that the dyslexic brain may process visual-spatial material in an atypical way (e.g. Riccio and Hynd, 1996), there is also evidence that dyslexics process language differently to non-dyslexics. Davis (1997) has suggested that dyslexics possess no inner monologue, instead generating a mental representation using the semantics (or image of meaning) of narrative. Case studies report dyslexics who seem able to draw on visual-spatial abilities in order to partly compensate for language difficulties (e.g. Goulandris & Snowling; 1991; Snowling & Hulme, 1989) and neurophysiological comparisons provide further support. During reading tasks, brain activation in normal participants is observed in the primary visual cortex and then in the left temporal lobe. Participants with dyslexia, on the other hand, present a similar temporal course of activation, but in the right hemisphere (e.g. Grigorenko, 2001; Shaywitz et al., 2002), areas typically associated with spatial, rather than language, processing. Despite the claims for an association between dyslexia and visual-spatial skills, research which has attempted to directly compare dyslexics and controls on measures of spatial ability and/or visual imagery, have produced little evidence of enhanced ability, with most studies indicating that dyslexics and controls perform comparably on such measures (e.g. Everatt, 1997; Koenig, Kosslyn & Wolff, 1991; Rusiak et al (2007). However, some evidence for a visual-spatial talent was presented by Von Károlyi (2001) who reported that individuals with dyslexia were able to recognise impossible figures significantly more rapidly, but no less accurately, than non-dyslexics. Recognition of such figures as impossible is thought to require
  • 44. Dyslexia, Reasoning and the Importance of Visual-Spatial Processes 27 global inspection of the image (i.e. the figure is considered as a whole, rather than by individual details, e.g. Schacter, 1992; Mottron & Belleville, 1993) and von Károlyi explained her findings in terms of a specific talent for rapid and holistic inspection among dyslexic participants - a processing style which research has suggested is mediated by the right hemisphere (Martinez et al, 1997). The study was replicated by von Károlyi, Winner, Gray and Sherman (2003) with the same result. Their overall conclusion was that ―individuals with dyslexia have superior global visual-spatial processing ability‖ (von Károlyi et al, 2003; p. 430). However, earlier work (Winner et al, 2001) administered a wide range of visual-spatial tasks and found dyslexic performance was equivalent, or in some cases inferior, to that of the non-dyslexic controls. One of their tasks was the Vandenberg and Kuse mental rotation task (VMRT: Vandenberg and Kuse, 1978) – a measure frequently used in research and clinical settings to assess ability in the visual-spatial domain. Peters et al. (1995) have shown that the VMRT is amenable to both global (rotating the figure as a whole) and local (rotating part of the figure at any one time) processing, with the latter being least effective. Gender differences have frequently been reported on this task and Peters et al. suggest that females typically perform less well than males because they tend to prefer a less effective partial (locally focused) rotation strategy. A global processing talent would suggest dyslexic superiority on this task – however dyslexic participants typically performed equivalently to controls (Bacon & Handley, 2008a; Everatt et al, 1999). In Winner et al (2001)‘s studies, dyslexics performed significantly less well than controls, though this difference disappeared when sex was accounted for. This suggests that at least some of their dyslexic participants were employing global processes although this did not result in enhanced performance. Furthermore, Winner et al report inferior performance for female dyslexics on the Rey Ostereith Complex Figure Task (ROCFT), a test of perceptual organisation and visual memory, where recall of a previously seen complex diagram is scored according to a number of criteria, including global configuration. Von Károlyi et al (2003) later explained this finding as resulting from the high memory load required to recall the complex figure. Overall, the evidence for enhanced visual-spatial ability in dyslexia is equivocal. However, there does not appear to be any clear indication of deficit in this domain either. The index of difference between dyslexic and non-dyslexic individuals may not therefore be one of ability per se, but rather the way in which those abilities are deployed. This chapter will focus on research which has investigated this possibility during reasoning. REASONING: A BRIEF INTRODUCTION The process of reasoning involves the manipulation and transformation of information in order to make inferences and draw conclusions about the world. Reasoning is integral to everyday thinking and problem solving. We reason and evaluate information, to come to major life decisions such as whether to change career, get married or move home, as well as more day to day decisions such as what to eat for lunch. An understanding of how people reason can help us to make better decisions in the workplace and ensure the effective acquisition and application of knowledge in educational settings. Luckily, the reasoning process can easily be simulated in the research lab using a range of simple problems and tasks
  • 45. 28 Alison M. Bacon and Simon J. Handley which present many of the elements involved in real world reasoning, but in controllable formats. Recently, there has been growing interest in the ways that individuals differ in their reasoning strategies – the way they represent and manipulate problem information. Several studies have indicated that individuals tend to adopt one of two strategies. Those we term visual-spatial reasoners generate a visual image, representing explicitly the spatial relationships and physical properties inherent in the problem. Conversely, abstract-verbal reasoners use information in a more abstract way, applying a simple rule or simply repositioning the written information within the problem space to form a conclusion. They show no evidence of using visual images or physical properties, simply working with the premise content in the written format in which it was presented. One reasoning task in which strategic differences have frequently been studied is syllogistic reasoning (e.g. Bacon, Handley and Newstead, 2003; Ford, 1995). Syllogisms are short logical arguments comprising two premises and a conclusion, for example: 1) Premise 1 2) Premise 2 3) Conclusion All teachers are psychologists Some writers are teachers Some writers are psychologists Each syllogism contains three terms (teachers, psychologists and writers in the above example) and each premise contains one of four possible quantifiers (either All, Some, None or Some...not) which describe the relationship between terms. One term is common to both premises (in this case, teachers). The classic syllogistic inference is to determine the one relationship which is not explicitly stated that between the two other terms (e.g. psychologists and writers). This forms the conclusion (i.e. some writers are psychologists). Such problems encapsulate many aspects of everyday reasoning such as deciding what conclusion, if any, can be drawn from assumptions about category membership, using stored knowledge and evaluating arguments (Galotti, 1989; Gilhooly, 1996; Johnson-Laird and Bara, 1984 - also see Evans, Newstead and Byrne, 1993; Garnham and Oakhill, 1994, for further details of syllogistic reasoning). Because syllogistic reasoning involves conscious, deliberative and reflective cognitive processes, the task allows researchers to tease out information about the reasoning strategies people use. Bacon, Handley and Newstead (2003) and Ford (1995) both present verbal and written protocol data which suggest that, most reasoners spontaneously employ either a visual-spatial or an abstract-verbal strategy for syllogistic reasoning. SYLLOGISTIC REASONING STRATEGIES IN DYSLEXIA Research has consistently shown that in an untrained general population (i.e. nondyslexic) a strategy ratio of around 1 visual-spatial to 3 abstract-verbal seems to be the norm (Bacon, 2003; Bacon et al, 2003; 2008). However, if individuals with dyslexia possess enhanced visual-spatial strengths, it is reasonable to suppose that they will prefer a strategy which exploits these strengths and will perform poorly compared to non-dyslexics if problem content makes visualisation difficult. Bacon, Handley & McDonald (2007) examined this question. They compared reasoners with and without dyslexia across two syllogistic
  • 46. Dyslexia, Reasoning and the Importance of Visual-Spatial Processes 29 reasoning tasks. In one task, the problems contained premise information very similar to that in the example above, with terms represented by various well-known occupations or activities. In the other task, the same problems were presented, but with terms translated into Welsh. For the non-Welsh speaking participants, these terms were effectively nonsense words – words for which they would hold no stored prototypical representations and which were hence presumably hard to visualise. In a within-subjects design, all participants provided both verbal (think aloud) and written (write down your working out) protocols whilst solving the syllogisms. The research has since been replicated by Bacon and Handley (2008a) and we present some results from both the original study and the replication below. In both studies, the written protocols were examined and classified according characteristics identified by Bacon et al (2003). Abstract-verbal and visual-spatial strategies were clearly identifiable within both groups of participants, and this classification was supported by verbal protocol data. Figure 1 presents some examples from the later study by Bacon and Handley (2008a). Dyslexic Non-dyslexic Visuo-Spatial Strategy Participant 23 Syllogism 2: No snowboarders are jugglers All horse riders are snowboarders Written protocol: J S hr HR Participant 32 Syllogism 10: No ardal are gwefan All cynnig are ardal Written protocol: C A G Verbal protocol: “So you have ardal in one circle and none of them are gwe…g… so we have all of them in another circle. No cynnig are ardal as well… so… it doesn‟t tell you anything about … gwefan, so you can‟t make a conclusion about them but cynnig are in the same circle as ardal. Between cynnig and gwefan, there is no relationship…so… No cynnig are gwefan”. Verbal protocol: “No snowboarders are jugglers. So you‟ve got a box representing jugglers, and outside that is a circle representing the snowboarders…. And then… all horse riders are snowboarders, so they [horse riders] go in the circle with the snowboarders… so… the jugglers are separate…no horse riders are jugglers” Abstract-propositional Strategy Participant 46 Participant 57 Syllogism 13: Syllogism 6: Written protocol: Some taflenni are not sicrhau All taflenni are ddiweddar t =d Verbal protocol: “All t are d…so “t equals d. So you can put it in instead of t. D can go into the first sentence, Some d are not s”. d Written protocol: No wrestlers are swimmers All swimmers are table tennis players Verbal protocol: “No wrestlers are swimmers and all swimmers are table tennis players. Cancel the swimmers and put in table tennis. These are like equations…you cancel some parts out and change things around. Here I cancel out swimmers and link together the other parts... put table tennis in line one instead of swimmers to give “No wrestlers are table tennis players”. Figure 1. Visual-Spatial and abstract-verbal strategies for syllogistic reasoning - typical protocols presented by dyslexic and non-dyslexic reasoners (Bacon & Handley, 2008a).
  • 47. 30 Alison M. Bacon and Simon J. Handley For the visual-spatial strategies, written protocols presented a diagrammatic representation of the premise information. Terms were depicted as groups or categories of objects represented on paper by finite shapes within which the name or initial letter of the objects (teachers, doctors etc) was written. These shapes were placed in differing spatial positions according to the quantifier which described their relationship. The verbal protocols described a process of creating a visual-spatial layout of the terms. The language used was typical of that which Bacon et al. (2003) and Ford (1995) observed in the protocols of spatial reasoners, referring explicitly to circles as depicting relationships or groups and including spatial prepositions such as ―in‖ and ―overlap‖ to describe the relative location of terms in space. For instance, in Figure 1, participant 23 clearly describes drawing a box labeled J to represent the group of jugglers and a circle labeled S to represent the snowboarders. She describes the circle as ―outside‖ the box because the quantifier in question is No (premise 1). For the abstract-verbal strategy, again, processes used by reasoners with and without dyslexia are very similar, and both show signs of the verbal substitution behaviour described by Bacon et al. (2003). This method of reasoning involves taking a value for the middle term (snowboarders) from the universal (All) second premise (i.e. assuming snowboarders = horse riders) and then substituting this for snowboarders in the first premise to give the conclusion, No horse riders are jugglers. The written protocols illustrate the moving around and substituting of terms with arrows often indicating the movement of term between premises. Verbal reports refer to actions such ―swapping‖ words or putting one word into a premise in place of another. Both participants 46 and 57 in Figure 1 clearly describe the process in their verbal accounts and show the movement of terms with arrows on their written protocols. Both participants describe working with the universal (All) premise first, even though it is presented second. This is fully in accordance with the substitution strategy where a value for the common term is required before a substitution can be made. Note, in contrast, that the visual-spatial reasoners each dealt with premises in the order presented. Notice also that participants get around a potential difficulty in representing the unfamiliar Welsh terms, simply using their initial letter. This tactic was common irrespective of dyslexic status. In both studies (Bacon et al, 2007; and the Bacon & Handley, 2008a, replication) a significant association between dyslexic status and strategy was observed. As expected, most non-dyslexic participants appeared to prefer an abstract approach. However, in the dyslexic group, there was a distinct preference for a visual-spatial strategy. Table 1 shows proportions of participants in each strategy group, for both studies. As Table 1 illustrates, the preference for a visual approach amongst dyslexic reasoners was clear and consistent across the two studies. This is in contrast to the earlier research with non-dyslexic participants, which indicated a majority preference for abstract-verbal strategies for this task. So why the difference in strategy preference? Dyslexia has been associated with deficits in left hemispheric function and brain imaging has suggested that such individuals use right hemisphere resources during reading tasks (which they presumably find difficult) whereas people without dyslexia present left-hemisphere activation (Grigorenko, 2001; Shaywitz et al., 2002). In the above study, we encounter individuals with dyslexia adopting visual-spatial strategies (presumably using right hemisphere resources) to solve problems which were presented in written, linguistic form and which most individuals without dyslexia solve using a verbal substitution strategy (as shown in Figure 1 and described on page 4). Gazzaniga and Smylie (1983) have suggested that the right hemisphere can understand language, but not deal with syntax. Verbal substitution is syntactic in that it utilises the form,
  • 48. 31 Dyslexia, Reasoning and the Importance of Visual-Spatial Processes but not content, of the problem. A left brain deficiency may lead individuals with dyslexia to adopt a strategy which involves elements of the problem content which they can most easily deal with, i.e. the semantic meaning which they can depict or represent using a visual-spatial array. Table 1. Syllogistic reasoning strategies used by individuals with and without dyslexia – presented as within-strategy percentages, for studies by Bacon et al. (2007) and replication by Bacon & Handley (2008a). Bacon et al (2007) Bacon & Handley (2008a) Strategy Dyslexic (N = 20) Non-dyslexic (N = 19) Dyslexic (N = 40) Non-dyslexic (N = 39) Abstract-verbal 27 73 26 74 Visual-Spatial 65 35 78 22 This explanation would suggest that dyslexics would be disadvantaged on problems where they cannot easily visualise the premises (such as those with Welsh content). In fact, in both studies the reverse was true, dyslexics performed better on these syllogisms compared to those with English content. The non-dyslexics performed comparably on both problems. This effect was consistent across the two studies, as the means in Table 2 illustrate. Table 2. Mean percent correct conclusions to syllogisms with English and Welsh content for dyslexic and non-dyslexic reasoners (Bacon et al, 2007; replication by Bacon & Handley, 2008a). Bacon et al (2007) Dyslexic (N = 20) Mean SD Bacon & Handley (2008a) Non-dyslexic (N = 19) Mean SD Dyslexic (N = 40) Mean SD Non-dyslexic (N = 39) Mean SD English content 40 9 53 17 43 16 50 13 Welsh content 50 11 49 17 48 17 47 13 One possible explanation for this surprising finding is the so-called visual-impedance effect. Knauff & Johnson-Laird (2002) showed that reasoning with visual content problems resulted in longer latencies, and later work by Knauff and May (2006) showed that accuracy could be similarly impaired. These effects were attributed to the detrimental effect of extraneous visual details in mental representations evoked by problem content. Knauff and May additionally presented evidence that individuals who are congenitally blind (and hence
  • 49. 32 Alison M. Bacon and Simon J. Handley do not construct visual mental images) are immune to the visual-impedance effect. In this way it is possible that dyslexic participants‘ use of imagery impaired their performance on English content syllogisms. However, research demonstrating visual impedance has concentrated on relational reasoning using three term series problems, rather than syllogisms. In the next section we discuss studies which aimed to investigate the type of strategies dyslexics use on this new task. STRATEGIES FOR TRANSITIVE INFERENCE Many everyday decisions are based on inferences about the relationship between objects, for instance, evaluating the relative merits of several products before deciding which to purchase. In this type of relational reasoning, objects can be ordered in a single dimension, for instance a scale where A is larger than B and B is larger than C. Hence, A must necessarily be larger than C and the recognition of this relationship is described as a transitive inference. Egan and Grimes-Farrow (1982) presented written protocol data from transitive inference and identified two groups of reasoners. A content analysis of participants‘ retrospective verbal accounts identified differences in key reasoning processes. Those they termed Concreteproperties thinkers referred to imagistic processes which involved representing the physical properties of objects (for instance relative size) and actively comparing these. The other group of participants, termed Abstract-directional thinkers, established a simple scale or dimension on which objects were ordered (for instance, a scale showing relative size from large to small). Bacon, Handley and Newstead (2005) directly compared strategies used for transitive inference and syllogisms. The strategies identified for the two tasks were closely in line with those shown in Figure 1 (for syllogisms) and described by Egan & Grimes-Farrow (for transitive inference). The study indicated a significant association between strategies employed across the two tasks. Individuals who used a visual-spatial strategy for syllogisms presented protocols for transitive inference which showed an explicit visual image of the properties of objects described in the premises. Conversely, those reasoners who employed an abstract-verbal strategy for syllogisms presented transitive inference protocols which indicated no explicit representation of properties. Rather they just ordered terms in a linear sequence which reflected their position on a relational scale. This study suggested that individuals have a general preference for either a visual or abstract reasoning strategy, which is not task specific. In some recent work, we extended this research to participants with dyslexia (Bacon & Handley, in press). DYSLEXIA AND TRANSITIVE INFERENCE Bacon & Handley (in press) present three studies which examine transitive inference in dyslexic participants. The first of these studies used protocol methods to gather evidence for the sort of strategies used by dyslexic and non-dyslexic reasoners on this task. N=40 dyslexic and N=40 non-dyslexic (control) participants completed an inference task comprising 16 three-term series problems with terms represented by capital letters. Participants were
  • 50. Dyslexia, Reasoning and the Importance of Visual-Spatial Processes 33 instructed to state the relationship between the two end terms in the context of the relational adjectives described. Eight problems contained relational adjectives which were deemed easily imagable according to pre-tests carried out by Knauff and Johnson-Laird (2002; fatthin; clean-dirty) and Bacon et al, 2005 (tall-short; rough-smooth). The other eight structurally equivalent problems contained neutral adjectives, smart-dumb; better-worse (from Knauff and Johnson-Laird, 2002) and kind-cruel; rich-poor (from Bacon et al, 2005). For instance, the example on the left below would has an imaginable relational adjective (we can easily imagine objects in term of height) whilst the example on the right has a less imaginable relation (it is harder to visualise a more abstract construct such as whether something/someone is smart or dumb. B is shorter than W W is shorter than J E is smarter than V V is smarter than T Participants were asked to write down their working out and provide concurrent think aloud protocols describing their reasoning. These protocols were then classified into either visual-spatial or abstract strategies in terms of the characteristics identified by Bacon et al (2005) and Egan and Grimes-Farrow, as described previously. Figure 2 shows some examples of protocols from dyslexic and non-dyslexic participants observed by Bacon & Handley (in press). Participant 62 is typical of many whose written protocol consisted just of the three letters written in linear order. This participant stated that he ―didn‘t need anything else‖ to reach a conclusion. This approach is typical of most non-dyslexic participants (82%) where the problem information is represented in a simple abstract form, with the relational adjectives perceived as simply instructions to place the letters in a given order. Several of these participants made comments to suggest that they only made their representation explicit because the task instructed them to show their working on paper, for instance participant 32 who presented the typical row of letters on paper but found difficulty in describing his reasoning verbally. This was he said because ―well I‘m not really thinking about anything specific… about what they are like… or anything physical about them…so it‘s hard to write it down – do I have to?‖. Conversely, other participants (whose protocols suggested a visualspatial strategy) stated a need to clarify the relative properties of the objects in order to reason, for example, participant 12 (a dyslexic) who said ―... I‘m glad I can write it down. It makes comparing the things easier, especially things like better and worse‖. For these people, the strategy involved vivid pictorial representations of the specific properties described by the problems. Even the less imagable properties (rich-poor, better-worse, kindcruel, smart-dumb,) presented little problem, being creatively illustrated by depictions such as pound signs, halos/horns, smiley/sad/angry faces or stars and dunce hats; (as Participant 7 in Figure 2). The majority of dyslexic participants (75%) used this type of visual-spatial strategy. The association between strategy choice and dyslexic status was highly significant (p < 0.001). This study showed that, once again, individuals with dyslexia tend to generate explicit visual representations of premise information while solving reasoning problems. For the transitive inference task, even the more abstract relations were represented by iconic symbols semantically associated with arbitrarily ascribed visual properties. The protocols bear a strong resemblance to those observed by Egan & Grimes-Farrow (1982) in their concrete-properties
  • 51. 34 Alison M. Bacon and Simon J. Handley thinkers, described previously. Participants described evaluating conclusions by means of a visual comparison of the physical attributes they assigned to objects. Mental comparisons such as these are thought to be based on literal representations based on real world knowledge of objects drawn from memory with intrinsic properties which are compared by a process of psychophysical judgement (e.g. Paivio, 1975; 1978; see Richardson 1987 for review). Our participants 7 (Figure 2) and 12 (cited above) were typical of several who explicitly mentioned comparing properties. Dyslexic Non-dyslexic Visual-spatial Strategy Participant 7 Problem 14: Participant 56 H is not as dumb as T T is not as dumb as X Problem 7: Written protocol: A H D X T H is not as rough as Z O is not as smooth as Z Written protocol: H Z O D D Verbal protocol: “H is not as dumb as T. Dumb… h is cleverer than t then, so it gets an A star and T gets a dunce hat. T is not as dumb as X… so X is dumbest… gets an extra dunce hat here... so… you can compare them on the scale and H is not as dumb as X”. Verbal protocol: “Right so H, Z, O. H is not as rough as Z so Z is pointy and H is soft and lovely. O is not as smooth as Z… so O is rougher than Z so it‟s even pointier. What is the relationship between H and O… well H is smoother, H is not as rough as O”. Abstract Strategy Participant 20 Participant 62 Problem 12: R is richer than G Problem 2: B is shorter than W R is poorer than Q W is shorter than J Written protocol: poorer G R Q Written protocol: BWJ richer Verbal protocol: “ R is richer than G… so R goes in the middle… and G … goes at the poorer end. R is poorer than Q, so Q is richer and it goes at the richer end of the scale. So… the relationship is, G is poorer than Q.” Verbal protocol: “OK, B is shorter than W and W is shorter than J … so it‟s B, W, J. B is shorter than J”. Figure 2. Visual-spatial and abstract strategies for transitive inference - typical protocols presented by dyslexic and non-dyslexic reasoners (Bacon & Handley, in press, study 1). This comparison process is quite distinct from that which Knauff and colleagues have suggested gives rise to the visual impedance effect. This transitive inference process was specified in some detail by Knauff, Fangmeier, Ruff & Johnson-Laird (2003) who presented evidence that during reasoning, highly visual premises result in activation in visual brain areas followed by areas associated with spatial processes. They proposed that transitive reasoning occurs in separable phases, with premise encoding involving both visual and linguistic processes, while reasoning itself relies on linear spatial representations.
  • 52. Dyslexia, Reasoning and the Importance of Visual-Spatial Processes 35 According to this account, premise materials elicit visual imagery which is extraneous to the inference process and the linear array must be retrieved from the visual image before the inference can be made. This takes longer and is more error prone, hence visual impedance (see also Knauff and Schlieder, 2005; Knauff & May, 2006). For most non-dyslexic participants in our studies, protocols described a simple linear ordering of objects– a process also described by the abstract-directional thinkers identified by Egan & Grimes–Farrow. These results suggest that dyslexic reasoners may be relying on visual processes to a greater extent than non-dyslexics in this task, just as they do during syllogistic reasoning. However, if dyslexic reasoners are drawing their conclusions by means of mental comparison (rather than by transitive inference), visual information is likely to be central to their reasoning, rather than extraneous to it. As such, imagery may not give rise to interference and error and dyslexics may not be subject to visual impedance effects. Bacon and Handley (in press) presented two further studies which investigated this possibility. These present converging evidence for the strategy distinction from non-protocol based methodology and suggest how strategy preference may affect reasoning accuracy. DOES REASONING WITH VISUAL PROCESSES AFFECT ACCURACY? Bacon & Handley (in press) present two further studies which directly test the role of visual processes in transitive inference and compare the subsequent reasoning accuracy of dyslexic and non-dyslexic individuals. These studies drew on the methods previously employed in visual impedance research (e.g. Knauff & Johnson-Laird, 2002). To recap, the visual impedance hypothesis claims that using a visual strategy for transitive inference results in reduced accuracy and longer latencies. Studies typically compare performance on problems with highly visual content with that on problems with neutral and visual-spatial content. The more visual problems are designed to spontaneously evoke an explicit visual representation. The most consistent marker of visual impedance is a significant trend in latencies (reading and response time) across problem type in the direction visual > neutral > visual-spatial. In addition, Knauff & May (2006) observed a trend in accuracy in the direction visual < neutral < visual-spatial with significantly reduced accuracy on visual problems. In the second study we report in Bacon & Handley (in press) N=35 dyslexic and N=35 non-dyslexic (control) participants were presented with the same problems as Knauff and Johnson-Laird (2002, Experiment 1). Eight problems were presented with each of three types of relations: visual (clean-dirty; fat-thin), neutral (smart-dumb; better-worse) and visualspatial (above-below; to the front-back of). All inferences used the same three object nouns (dog, cat, ape). In the third and final study we presented a new participant sample (again N = 35 in each group) with the same reasoning task but replaced the animal terms with three simple shapes (circle, square, and triangle). Such premises have previously been used in the Egan & Grimes-Farrow (1982) study and are far less complex and ambiguous than animal terms. As the range of stored prototypes available in relation to simple shapes should be fairly limited, we predicted this would assist the dyslexics in maintaining a clear representation of the premises and making their mental comparison. The change of content should not affect the reasoning of non-dyslexics if they are simply making transitive inference based on a
  • 53. 36 Alison M. Bacon and Simon J. Handley spatial array. Table 3 presents examples of problems, shown with visual, neutral and visualspatial relational adjectives. Table 3. Some examples of three-term transitive inference problems with content as presented in the two studies reported by Bacon & Handley (in press). Visual content Neutral content Visual-spatial content With animal terms (as used by Knauff et al, 2002;2006 etc; Bacon & Handley, in press, study 2) The cat is fatter than the ape The dog is thinner than the ape The dog is above the cat The ape is below the cat The ape is better than the dog The cat is worse than the dog With shape terms (as used in Bacon & Handley, in press, study 3) The square is fatter than the triangle The circle is thinner than the triangle The circle is above the square The triangle is below the square The triangle is better than the circle The square is worse than the circle Table 4 shows mean accuracy and latency data which illustrates the differences in results across the two studies. The results supported our proposals regarding strategic differences. In the study with animal problem content, not only were our non-dyslexic reasoners least accurate on visual content items, they also presented a significant pattern of latencies across problem type suggestive of the trend consistently reported in earlier work by Knauff and colleagues (visual > neutral > visual-spatial). The dyslexics‘ data, however, presented a somewhat different picture. In contrast to the non-dyslexic, these participants showed no evidence at all of the most-frequently observed visual impedance effect – the trend in latencies. Problem type appeared to have no effect on response time – in both studies their latencies were comparable across visual, neutral and visual-spatial content. In terms of accuracy, in the first study (with animal terms) dyslexics did show significantly reduced accuracy on visual items, both compared with other types of problem and compared with the non-dyslexics. However, these effects were not observed when the premise objects were simple shapes. This seems to suggest that there may be some form of accuracy impedance occurring for dyslexics, but only when the material to be visualised is fairly complex. An individual may retrieve several stored semantic images in response to a given animal name, each with different physical properties (as not all cats, dogs or apes are alike). For reasoners relying on mental comparison of such images, the conclusion reached may be logically inaccurate depending on the properties being compared. The result is a decrement in accuracy on visual problems particularly for both participant groups, but for different reasons. Overall, the data seem to support our proposal that non-dyslexics perform transitive inference while the dyslexics perform mental comparison and actively draw on distinctly visual processes. Further support for this emerged from evidence that visual memory plays an important role in reasoning for dyslexics.
  • 54. 37 Dyslexia, Reasoning and the Importance of Visual-Spatial Processes Table 4. Percentage of correct responses and mean response time (RT, in secs.) as a function of problem relation type and dyslexic status (Bacon & Handley, in press, studies 2 & 3). Visual relations Neutral relations % correct RT mean mean SD Visuo-spatial relations % correct RT % correct RT SD mean SD mean SD mean SD mean SD With animal objects (cat, dog, ape) Dyslexic 69 19 3.64 0.99 83 21 3.55 0.89 81 20 3.63 0.94 Nondyslexic 77 12 3.38 0.87 90 13 3.17 0.67 81 17 2.98 0.65 With shape objects (circle, square, triangle) Dyslexic 72 9 4.58 1.33 70 15 4.36 1.32 72 12 4.41 1.37 Nondyslexic 73 4 4.18 0.95 74 12 3.90 0.93 70 12 3.73 0.86 FURTHER EVIDENCE FOR VISUAL PROCESSES IN REASONING: THE ROLE OF VISUAL MEMORY A second aim of these two studies was to obtain some further corroborative evidence for the use of visual processes by examining whether dyslexic participants were actively attempting to maintain memory of visual information during the reasoning task. Individual differences in working memory capacity (how much information an individual can maintain and process in memory) have been associated with reasoning performance across a range of tasks (e.g. Capon, Handley & Dennis, 2003). As the protocol evidence has suggested that dyslexics draw heavily on visual resources whilst reasoning, we wanted to determine whether their abilities to remember visual information would influence their accuracy. The architecture of human memory has frequently been characterised in terms of a system comprising verbal, visual-spatial and executive components. Figure 3 presents an illustration of the basic tripartite model proposed by Baddeley and Hitch (1974). The model describes an attentional control system (the central executive) and two subsidiary slave systems responsible for temporary storage of information (phonological loop and visual-spatial sketchpad). Memory traces in these short-term memory systems will decay rapidly unless maintained by some form of active rehearsal. The phonological loop stores verbal (speech, language and possibly acoustic) information, maintained by means of subvocal or overt rehearsal. The visual-spatial sketchpad performs a similar function for visual and spatial information. Here rehearsal is thought to involve eye tracking. There have been a number of refinements to this model over recent years (for instance the addition of a
  • 55. 38 Alison M. Bacon and Simon J. Handley further storage system, the episodic buffer, thought to provide a general interface between the other three systems). The tripartite concept will suffice for the present purposes but for a more detailed recent account see Baddeley (2007). Visuo-spatial sketchpad Executive Central Executive Phonological loop Figure 3. The three-component model of working memory (e.g. Baddeley & Hitch, 1974). Problems with memory have been described as a defining characteristic of dyslexia (e.g. Ackerman and Dykeman, 1993; McLaughlin et al., 1994; Plaza, Cohen and Chevrie-Muller, 2002). Much research has concentrated on the verbal domain and has consistently demonstrated that dyslexics are impaired in the serial recall of verbal information, a process which plays an implicit role in reading and spelling (e.g., Ackerman & Dykeman, 1993; Jeffries & Everatt, 2004; Kibby, Marks, Morgan & Long, 2004; Miles, 1993; Vellutino, 1979). Conversely, research has tended to suggest that dyslexics are unimpaired on visualspatial memory tasks especially when verbal recoding is controlled for (e.g. Brosnan Demetre, Hamill, Shepherd & Cody, 2002; Gould & Glencross, 1980; Hicks, 1980; Jeffries & Everatt, 2004; Jorm, 1983). With high cognitive load, such as in a dual task situation or with complex measures where both processing and maintenance of information is required, deficits compared to controls are sometimes observed but have tended to be attributed to difficulties with executive function, rather than with visual-spatial sketchpad (e.g. Reiter, Tucha & Lange, 2004; Smith-Spark et al, 2003). However, there is growing evidence that the visualspatial sketchpad may comprise distinct subcomponents - a visual aspect concerned with imagery of patterns or objects, and a spatial component concerned with location (Della Sala et al., 1999; Logie, 1995; Logie & Pearson, 1997; Pickering, 2001). Della Sala and colleagues (1997) have developed a measure of specifically visual short-term memory, the Visual Patterns Test (VPT) and all participants in the two visual impedance studies reported above also completed this measure. The VPT had not previously been presented to people with dyslexia and we were keen to discover how they would perform and how visual memory span would relate to reasoning accuracy. The VPT presents matrices of squares, some of which are filled to form a visual pattern. Three matrices are presented at each level of difficulty, from 2-15 filled squares. After a 3 second presentation, participants are asked to recall the pattern by shading the appropriate squares on a blank matrix of the same dimension. Test score is calculated as the mean number
  • 56. 39 Dyslexia, Reasoning and the Importance of Visual-Spatial Processes of filled squares in the last three correctly recalled patterns. Figure 4 presents some examples of VPT items at three, six and ten shaded square levels. Figure 4. Examples of Visual Patterns Test items at three levels of difficulty: easy (3 shaded squares), intermediate (6 shaded squares) and difficult (10 shaded squares). Table 5 shows VPT scores and correlations between these and reasoning accuracy across the two studies. In both studies, dyslexic and non-dyslexic participants scored comparably on the VPT, suggesting they did not differ in visual memory ability. However, the correlational analyses suggest differences in the relationship between this ability and reasoning accuracy. Table 5. VPT scores and their correlations with reasoning accuracy for dyslexic and non-dyslexic reasoners for each problem type (Bacon & Handley, in press, studies 2 & 3). Visual Neutral Visual-spatial relations relations relations With animal objects (cat, dog, ape) Dyslexic Non-dyslexic 0.56** 0.10 0.46** 0.22 0.39* 0.22 VPT score 8.10 7.69 With shape objects (circle, square, triangle) Dyslexic Non-dyslexic 0.55** -0.03 0.31 -0.23 *Correlation sig. at .5 level; ** correlation sig. at .01 level 0.27 -0.18 8.30 8.37
  • 57. 40 Alison M. Bacon and Simon J. Handley With original problem content (animal names) a significant association between VPT score and reasoning accuracy was observed for the dyslexic group across all problem types. This implies that ability to remember visual information may be a predictive factor in determining reasoning accuracy for these individuals. This was the case not only on problems with supposedly highly imaginable relational adjectives (clean-dirty; fat-thin), but also on those with neutral adjectives (smart-dumb; better-worse) which Knauff et al‘s research suggested were relatively difficult to visualise. On visual content problems, the significant difference in correlations between the participant groups further suggests that dyslexics draw on visual resources when problem content is particularly imaginable, while non-dyslexics show little evidence of engaging such resources irrespective of problem content. They likely experienced interference from extraneous visual images (as evidenced by impedance in accuracy and response time on those problems) however they do not appear to draw on visual aspects of memory, and visual memory ability does not predict reasoning accuracy for these individuals. This is consistent with a transitive inference strategy reliant on abstract or spatial representations. The lower section of Table 5 shows the correlations between VPT score and reasoning accuracy for the second study where problems contained objects represented by simple shapes. Again, the correlations suggested that dyslexics were drawing on visual memory resources to a greater degree than non-dyslexics on all problem types. These findings clearly supported the strategy distinction suggested in the verbal protocols and our proposal that dyslexics were visually comparing representations in order to make their inference. Moreover, performance deficits on visual problems could be eliminated for dyslexics by making premise content simpler and less ambiguous (using simple shapes instead of animals. This indicates that that their visual representations contain not only information about relations, but also about the objects to which relational properties are ascribed. For the non-dyslexics however, the transitive inference process only requires the representation of abstract tokens or letters. Relational adjectives are not used as descriptors of properties to be compared; rather they are seen as scalar measures which determine where the terms (or abstract tokens representing them) are placed on linear scale or continuum. The meaning of the adjectives in any other sense is irrelevant as any visual information they evoke is dismissed in performing the inference, but the need to do this is what gives rise to impedance on more visual problems. These differences in strategy may also help to explain performance on Welsh and English content syllogisms observed by Bacon et al (2007). English content can be assumed to be highly imaginable and rich in semantic associations, so a reduction in accuracy for dyslexics might be expected as a result of attempts to manipulate and maintain complex, and possibly conflicting, images (as with the relational problems with animal terms). In contrast, Welsh words would evoke little in the way of stored semantic representations. For the non-dyslexic participants however, whether the terms were English or Welsh would have made little difference as in either case they arrived at a conclusion by manipulating premise structure with little thought to its meaning. Overall, these data do not suggest any enhanced ability in the visual domain, but they do indicate that visual resources are important for dyslexics across a range of reasoning tasks. However, both syllogistic and relational reasoning are known to afford a choice of strategy. The final two studies we report here examine what happens when participants with dyslexia are represented with reasoning problems with content and structure which does not readily allow for a visual-spatial approach.
  • 58. Dyslexia, Reasoning and the Importance of Visual-Spatial Processes 41 DYSLEXIA AND ABSTRACT PROPOSITIONAL REASONING: EVIDENCE FROM INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES AND DUAL TASK METHODOLOGIES While some types of reasoning problems (such as syllogisms and transitive inference) lend themselves readily to solution by a choice of strategy, there are others which are considered strongly verbal in nature and less amenable to a visual or visual-spatial strategy. One example is propositional reasoning (e.g. Braine et al., 1998). These problems test an individual‘s ability to reason, to create logical arguments containing the connectives, if, and, or and not. Each problem presents a series of short sentences describing a given state of affairs involving three or more abstract objects, denoted by capital letters. Following the sentences, a conclusion is presented and the task is to evaluate the truth of the conclusion, assuming the information in the sentences to be true. For instance: 1) Sentence 1: 2) Sentence 2: 3) Conclusion: If there is an N, then there is not a B or an I It is false that there is not an N There is an I In this type of propositional reasoning, accuracy is impaired by concurrent tasks which draw on verbal processes, but not by concurrent visual-spatial tasks. This has suggested that these problems favour verbal rather than visual processing, at least amongst non-dyslexic participants (e.g. Farmer, Berman & Fletcher, 1986). Consequently it is of interest whether dyslexic participants draw on visual processes in reasoning with such problems. In some recent work (Bacon & Handley, 2008b) we presented dyslexic and non-dyslexic participants (N=35 dyslexics and N=35 non-dyslexic controls) with both propositional and syllogistic reasoning problems and the Visual Patterns Test. Again dyslexic and non-dyslexic participants presented similar levels of visual memory ability (VPT scores 8.3 and 8.4 respectively). Reasoning accuracy was also comparable (syllogisms correct, dyslexic 36% and non-dyslexics 37%; propositional correct, dyslexics 58% and non-dyslexics 61%). However, again correlational analyses indicated differences in the involvement of visual processes, as Table 6 illustrates. The correlations show that visual memory (VPT) was strongly associated with reasoning accuracy on both types of problem for dyslexics, but not for non-dyslexics. For each group, regression analyses were conducted on data for each problem type. The analyses contained three predictor variables, dyslexic status, VPT and an interaction of these two. For both types of problem, accuracy was predicted by the significant interaction between VPT score and dyslexic status, suggesting that visual memory was differentially predictive for the two groups of reasoners. Separate within-group regressions confirmed these findings: visual memory was a significant predictor of reasoning accuracy for dyslexics on both syllogistic and propositional reasoning, but not for the non-dyslexics. The results of these individual regressions are shown for each participant group in Table 6. These results suggested that although reasoning accuracy was similar in the two groups of participants, they differed in the extent to which they drew on visual resources during the task, just as the previous research had suggested was the case for relational reasoning.
  • 59. 42 Alison M. Bacon and Simon J. Handley Converging evidence was presented in a further study in which we employed dual task methods to load the visual memory system. A new set of participants (N=30 dyslexic and N=30 non-dyslexic controls) were asked to carry out two concurrent tasks, reasoning and remembering a visual pattern. Our rationale was that if the two activities both draw on visual memory resources, then reasoning performance would be reduced when the concurrent visual load was high. If visual memory involvement is distinct to dyslexics, we could predict a decrement on reasoning for them, but not for the controls. In designing the concurrent memory task we selected to-be-remembered patterns from the Visual Patterns Test, i.e. grids of squares with some shaded to form a pattern. The previous studies had shown that dyslexics and controls score very similarly on the VPT across three studies (Bacon & Handley, in press; 2008) the mean score was 8.2 (SD 1.8) for dyslexics and 8.2 (SD 1.6) for non-dyslexics. What this tells us is that the most difficult pattern recalled correctly has 8 shaded squares. For a dual-task situation, our high load pattern needed to be simpler than this to ensure sufficient capacity to complete both this and the main reasoning task concurrently. Pilot work suggested that suitable levels of difficulty for the concurrent memory task were 6 shaded square patterns for high load and three shaded squares for low load. Figure 5 presented previously includes examples of patterns at these levels of difficulty. Table 6: Correlations between reasoning accuracy and VPT score and results of regressions on each problem type for the two participant groups (Bacon & Handley, 2008b). Dyslexic Non-Dyslexic Correlations: .57** VPT*propositional -.10 .50** VPT*syllogistic -.08 Regression results. VPT as predictor of: Syllogistic accuracy β = .57, t = 3.96, p < .001 β = -.10, t = -.59, p =.63 Propositional accuracy β = .50, t = 3.27, p = .003 β = -.09, t = -.49, p = .56 ** Correlations sig. at .001 level. The study was presented on computer with participants completing both syllogistic and propositional reasoning problems under both high and low concurrent memory load conditions. Each experimental trial comprised three stages: Pattern presented for 3 seconds on computer screen. Completion of reasoning problem, either by generation of conclusion (syllogisms) or evaluation of presented conclusion (propositional problems).
  • 60. Dyslexia, Reasoning and the Importance of Visual-Spatial Processes 43 Pattern recall. Blank matrix presented on screen, squares turn black in response to mouse click allowing participant to reproduce previously seen pattern. Table 7 shows the results. Dyslexic reasoners were significantly less accurate under high visual memory load conditions, on both problem types. The non-dyslexics however, were relatively unaffected by the secondary task.
  • 61. 44 Alison M. Bacon and Simon J. Handley Table 7. Accuracy results from dual task study (Bacon & Handley, 2008b). Shows percentage correct (SD in parentheses) and between group comparisons. Task Reasoning Accuracy Pattern recall Problem Load Syllogisms High Low Propositional High Low Syllogisms High Low Propositional High Low Dyslexic 54.2 (29.1) 74.6 (17.2) 54.6 (27.9) 78.3 (20.2) 48.8 (32.6) 56.7 (24.1) 47.1 (31.4) 57.5 (24.5) Nondyslexic 68.4 (16.3) 67.5 (18.7) 71.4 (11.4) 81.9 (17.3) 69.7 (27.2) 68.4 (17.6) 61.7 (23.6) 69.6 (19.6) The finding clearly demonstrates that dyslexic participants draw upon visual memory when reasoning with both syllogisms and abstract propositional arguments, performance being disrupted by visual working memory load. Further evidence for this claim is provided by the observation that participants with dyslexia also recalled fewer visual patterns on the secondary task. This suggests a conflict of resources in the visual domain for these participants. Interestingly reasoning accuracy did not differ across dyslexic and non-dyslexic participants on either type of problem when the concurrent visual memory load was low. This suggests that the use of visual processes amongst the dyslexic participants does not in general lead to poorer reasoning performance, even on propositional problems. CONCLUSIONS People with dyslexia have frequently been described as possessing enhanced or compensatory visual-spatial skills. Indeed, in our own experiences of working with dyslexic students and research participants we have frequently heard individuals refer to themselves as being ―a visual person‖, someone who likes to think about things in a visual way. The studies we have presented here offer support and a degree of explanation for these anecdotal accounts. We have found no clear evidence for enhanced visual-spatial ability in dyslexia – and in this respect, our findings support those of much of the earlier work in this area. However, what this data suggests is that individuals with dyslexia draw on intact visualspatial resources in circumstances when non-dyslexics do not. During a range of reasoning tasks, dyslexic participants have consistently adopted strategies which rely on visual and visual-spatial processes. This even occurs with tasks which are thought not to be particularly amenable to such an approach. Furthermore, loading visual memory systems disrupts reasoning for dyslexic participants. This suggests that they may be using their visual-spatial skills in a compensatory way, allowing them to reason as accurately as non-dyslexics even when the information they have to work with is strongly propositional in nature (if the task allows for this). A further interesting and novel finding concerns visual memory ability. These were the first studies to present dyslexic participants with the Visual Patterns Test and so attempt to measure their memory performance in the specifically visual domain. Over four
  • 62. Dyslexia, Reasoning and the Importance of Visual-Spatial Processes 45 studies where this task was presented, we have consistently shown dyslexic and non-dyslexic participants to perform very similarly on the measure, just as earlier research has suggested is the case with traditional measures of visual-spatial short-term memory (e.g. Smith-Spark et al, 2003; 2007). Overall, we suggest that the marker of difference between dyslexic and nondyslexic individuals in the visual-spatial domain is not one of ability per se, but of deployment. Visual imagery and memory seem to provide a facility which dyslexics can draw upon to supplement their verbal abilities. They have the capacity to think about and manipulate even abstract information effectively, if it is presented in a way which allows them to draw on the visual processes they need. The tasks presented in our studies are designed to emulate some of the processes inherent in everyday problem solving and future research might usefully investigate compensatory visual-spatial process in dyslexia within everyday real-world situations away from the laboratory. There is already abundant evidence for dyslexics actively employing visual skills in their vocational life and, as previously discussed, they are frequently found to exploit them in artistic and creative occupations. However, as Wolff & Lundberg (2002) point out, the association between dyslexia and art is not causal and, in some cases, art may be an occupation chosen as an attempt to escape the literary demands of traditional academic fields. Our participants were university students and, as such, were drawn from those dyslexics who have succeeded in formal education. These individuals are likely to be those who have learned (either by their own efforts or through appropriate support programmes) to effectively compensate for their weaknesses, drawing on alternative resources and maximising their talents and gifts. However, for many dyslexics, this has proven a daunting task in an educational world which emphasises the importance of verbal skills. Our research highlights the importance of teaching interventions which facilitate dyslexics in drawing on visual resources. We have shown that when they are prevented from doing so, reasoning performance is affected. Conversely, their accuracy can be manipulated to mirror that of non-dyslexics by changing the problem content to make it less semantically ambiguous. These findings have important implications not only for education, but for any setting where dyslexics are asked to make decisions based on written information. If information is presented in a way which is amenable to representation as a simple, non-ambiguous visual image then dyslexics are likely to be able to handle the task successfully by drawing on compensatory processes. BIBLOGRAPHY Aaron, P.G.; and Guillemond, J.C. (1993). Artists as dyslexics. In D.M. Willows, R.S. Kruk & E. Corcos (Eds.). Visual Processes in Reading & Reading Disabilities (pp. 393-415). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. Ackerman, P.T.; and Dykeman, R.A. (1993). Phonological Processes, confrontational naming and immediate memory in dyslexics. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 26(9), 567609. Bacon, A.M. (2003). Individual Differences and Strategies for Human Reasoning. PhD thesis, University of Plymouth.
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  • 67. In: Dyslexia and Creativity Investigations from Differing… ISBN: 978-1-61668-552-2 Author: Neil Alexander-Passe ©2010 Nova Science Publishers, Inc. Chapter 3 VISUAL THINKING FOR THE DIGITAL AGE Richard Chipps Principal Lecturer in Design Theory and Innovation, De Montfort University, (UK) Prior to joining De Montfort University in 1995, the author spent 10 years working for design consultancies within the East Midlands in the retail, POS and museum design sectors. On commencement of his teaching post, he focused on the integration business links and projects into the curriculum. Richard has undertaken a large number of collaborations with students and the regional design sector. Richard is currently managing a regional research project into Resource Efficient Design within retail and consultancy work with a similar focus. In addition to this he is University co-ordinator for In Curriculum, an intra University project exploring the issues of inclusive curriculum design and is pioneering the use of on line teaching within the Design Management and Innovation curriculum and Art and Design Education at De Montfort University. He is particularly interested in how multi sensory teaching approaches, appropriate for dyslexics, can be used to support neurotypical students, as well as dyslexic, so that all may achieve. The author was identified as dyslexic at the age of 17 by an art teacher who recognized the same traits in writing and spelling and cognitive style as he had, being dyslexic himself.
  • 68. 52 Richard Chipps Figure 1. Based on an idea by Grant Mills. ABSTRACT This chapter discusses an individual‘s experiences and growing awareness of dyslexia and its impact on thinking and problem solving; a journey into cognition. Many of these experiences have been negative and bruising, damaging to one‘s self esteem. However, this journey is also one of growing awareness and discovery, a ‗cognitive labyrinth‘ (See Note 1); Pink (2005) considers the labyrinth to be a journey during which the traveller explores the non linear, deep intuitive side of themselves. The author‘s journey has led to a growing awareness, that a change is taking place, where businesses are recognising new approaches to problem solving, strategies that as discussed in this chapter are often exemplified by dyslexic individuals. Similar conclusions have been drawn by other authors including West (1997) and Davis (1997) ‗The Gift of Dyslexia‘; with both making links between visual thinking and dyslexia, and how this ability can be of benefit to the individual. This discussion will explore new ground, drawing on studies in learning style theory, dyslexia and design. Evidence will be presented that suggests a link between dyslexia, learning style and a new approach to problem-solving termed Design Thinking. Design Thinking is a strategy for problem solving exemplified by a more creative, holistic and human centred emphasis (Drews, 2009) The Author believes that design thinking approach is applied by some dyslexic individuals. The discussion will also consider how methods of supporting dyslexic students and encouraging them to engage with their learning style can be used to develop similar problem solving skills in neurotypical students. The catalyst for these connections was a conference presentation by Drews (2009) in which a problem solving strategy termed Design Thinking was reviewed. The paper reported on insights into the topic from a number of design practitioners. Drews interviewees, repeatedly used similar terminology to describe Design Thinking, as is used in texts describing the experiences of dyslexic learners, who often have a visual-holistic (Note 1) The term Labyrinth is often used interchangeably with maze. However, the modern definition sees a distinction with the maze as a tour puzzle with choices of direction and dead ends. A labyrinth has one single path, it is a journey to the centre and back.
  • 69. Visual Thinking for the Digital Age 53 learning style. The author noted an apparent commonality between a dyslexic‘s approach to problem solving and Design Thinking. DESIGN THINKING Drews (2009) described ‗Design Thinking‘ as a visual holistic strategy for problem solving located within design practice which is being transferred to and adopted by businesses outside of design. Drews reports on other commentators both from design and non-design disciplines who also believe that this adoption is taking place. Pink (2005) also perceives a change taking place and writes that society is moving into what he terms a ‗conceptual age‘; an age where creative, divergent, non linear thinking is going to be more highly valued. He writes that this change is reflected in the economy, which is leaving behind the logical linear computer like capabilities of the information age to move to a more intuitive, empathetic and big picture, conceptual age. In this new age, he suggests, the approaches to problem solving that will be valued are those of the creator and empathiser and visual thinker. Other writers support the rise of the ‗Design Thinker‘; Martin (2004) writing in his introduction to the Alumni magazine of the Rotman School of Management supports this view. He suggests that design based processes are increasingly offering an alternative approach to businesses strategy. As a consequence strategies for business improvement and wealth generation are changing and that we are leaving behind one business age and moving into another. Similar ideas are also presented by design writers, and in particular senior executives of IDEO a design and innovation consultancy based in California who suggest that a Design Thinking approach offers businesses a way of innovating and mitigating risk and provides them with a strategic advantage (Business week, 2007). Pink (2005) goes further; he believes that Right brain-directed (right brain) thinking which is holistic and creative is starting to achieve social and economic parity with the traditional Left brain-directed (left brain) thinking which is analytical. Krupska & Klein (1995) and Mortimore (2003) suggest what is described here as Right and Left-directed hemispherical specialisation of brain function, the right hemisphere being predominantly visual spatial, creative whilst the left hemisphere is predominantly linear, critical and analytical. Singleton (1999) note that writers describe patterns of thinking predominantly visual-spatial that are often exemplified by dyslexic individuals. This chapter will discuss the synergy between Design Thinking, dyslexic learning style and whether in this conceptual age, as Pink (2005) describes, the dyslexic‘s individual approach to problem-solving might provide an advantage. The discussion will also consider whether neurotypical individuals can be encouraged to develop their non-linear approaches to problem solving and thereby become ‗Design Thinkers‘.
  • 70. 54 Richard Chipps Figure 2. Chapter diagram. JOURNEYING THROUGH THE COGNITIVE LABYRINTH The Author‘s journey though the ‗cognitive labyrinth‘ has been punctuated by negative personal encounters and positive enlightenments, discovery and reflection. These experiences have occurred throughout education, a career in interior design, in teaching art and design in higher education and are ongoing. Each of these has contributed in its own way to an awakening realisation that neurodiversity and dyslexia in particular, affect thinking and contribute to an individual‘s uniqueness. Some of these experiences can be clearly recalled; the relief of identification as dyslexic, the awakening realisation that dyslexia seemed to provide strengths in visual skills, and the ability to recall maps and routes but not place and road names. It also seemed to enable links and connections to be made between apparently random ideas that others could not see. These strengths contrast with known dyslexic weaknesses in writing, memorising, spelling and word recall (Krupska & Klein, 1995; Mortimore, 2003). It was only later that these were recognised as a personal learning style, with a preference for visual and holistic approaches to problem-solving and being in direct conflict with the linear text-based strategies, so prized by our culture (Pink, 2005). However there is growing evidence that in some contexts these non conformist strategies of thinking and problem-solving are beginning to be acknowledged as valuable (West, 1997).
  • 71. Visual Thinking for the Digital Age 55 THE DYSLEXIC CONTEXT I believe that dyslexia is one of a number of specific learning differences that come under the umbrella of neurodiversity. Although this chapter is concerned primarily with dyslexia, it will adopt the terms neurodiverse or neurotypical in order to describe the individuals cited in the case studies that follow. These students represent a spectrum of learning ability ranging between neurotypical and neurodiverse, including individuals who are dyslexic, along with individuals who show some dyslexic traits and those who do not i.e. neurotypical. The dyslexic students cited here did not consider themselves ‗disabled‘ and found the label unwelcoming. They were happier with the term neurodiverse, which as presented by Pollak (2009) in ‗Neurodiversity in Higher Education‘, is more appropriate than ‗specific learning difficulty‘ or ‗dyslexic‘ with its disability connotation. The life and experiences of dyslexic individuals, both contemporary and historical have been well documented by academic and popular authors alike. They include celebrities such as Jackie Stewart, Duncan Goodhew (Davis, 1997) Richard Branson (Ott, 2007) Winston Churchill and Leonardo de Vinci (Krupska & Klein, 1995). As a result of dyslexia‘s increasingly high profile, it has lost some of its stigma and is more openly discussed, yet remains controversial particularly when statements and publications challenge its existence. In one such case, the BBC cites a UK Member of Parliament who branded dyslexia as a fiction, and a myth invented by education chiefs to cover up poor teaching (BBC, 2009). An earlier article in the Times Educational Supplement sparked a reaction in defence of dyslexia from a number of sources, including broad sheet news papers and the BBC (The Guardian, 2005; BBC, 2005). Regardless of which perspective is taken either personal or academic, dyslexia its existence, assessment, identification and intervention, is still a topic of debate (Ott, 2007). Education can be a challenge for the dyslexic, who often feels different, that they do not fit in and do not understand why. (Ott, 2007; Riddick, 1996; Krupska & Klein, 1995). They are acutely aware that they find it hard to read out loud in class, to memorise timetables, struggle with spelling tests, all tasks in which their peers succeed. As a consequence of what appears to be lack of engagement they can be accused of being difficult, lazy or hopeless (Mortimore, 2003). The effects of this negativity can lead in some cases, to disruptive and antisocial behaviour, exclusion, and even a criminal record. At the very least these individuals end up with low self esteem, lack of self-confidence and a poor self-image, the results of which are carried into adult life (Kruspska & Klein, 1995; OTT, 2007; BBC, 2006). As neurodiversity in general and particularly dyslexia has become more socially accepted, this prejudicial attitude is beginning to fade from our educational system, and could be further reduced by the embedding of additional neurodiversity training for teachers. This will provide teachers with a deeper understanding of neurodiversity, its impact on an individual, and help to develop skills and knowledge in suitable teaching strategies. (BBC, 2009). These approaches need to dovetail with the individual‘s learning style which can often be holistic, visual or divergent in nature and will be unique; setting them apart from their neurotypical peers (Krupska & Klein, 1995; Mortimore, 2003). In order for students to benefit from this support they need to be identified as neurodiverse and often this can be a significant milestone; as for some this is their centre of the labyrinth, the point where the journey‘s direction changes, resulting in a relief that the problems they face are not their fault but have
  • 72. 56 Richard Chipps an underlying cause (Krupska & Klein, 1995; Pollak, 2009). However, for others the experience simply raises more questions than answers, and increases the feeling of having been let down by the system (Krupska & Klein, 1995). The process of identification is also important for teaching staff, in order to facilitate appropriate targeted teaching strategies. The earlier in their educational career identification starts, the better it is for the student‘s development (to be discussed later), however in some cases this does not commence until higher education (Gilroy and Miles, 1996). For students who reach higher education, the introduction of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) in 2005 has made significant changes, by requiring institutions to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that individuals with a disability have equal access to learning (Pollack, 2009). The DDA has increased the awareness of, and support for, neurodiverse students in Higher Education (Pollak, 2009). As a consequence, disabled students have greater confidence when applying for university, especially in areas traditionally attractive to dyslexic students such as art and design. As noted, dyslexic students are well suited to these creative subjects, in that they often demonstrate strengths in visual spatial skills and often have a creative right brain dominated approach to thinking (Krupska & Klein, 1995). This had led to a migration of dyslexic students into the creative subjects, to a point when there ratio is higher than that within the general population (Graves, 1999) However, all students including art and design whether neurotypical or neurodiverse have chosen subjects in which they excel and which more closely match their cognitive style. So whether neurotypical or neurodiverse, art and design students are creative in their approach to thinking. Some of these dyslexic students would have been identified and received support at school, whilst others have developed coping strategies (compensated) and remain oblivious to the fact that their struggles have an underlining cause (Krupska and Klein, 1995). However, the strategies they developed in order to get them into university may not be sustainable at degree level with the increased workload, demands of independence, self motivation and organisation putting them under increased pressure (Singleton, 1999). Thus, many will begin to struggle and fail in tasks, leading to a spiral of academic and personal problems Hargreaves (2007). Resulting in some individuals asking for help early on, whilst others try and keep going getting increasingly frustrated without any specialised support. It is noticeable, having personally taught in art and design at degree level, that it is not just neurodiverse students that find the transition to university difficult. In fact, neurotypical students who share the same cognitive style as their dyslexic colleagues can also share some of the same learning difficulties, although to a lesser degree. The effect on both groups of students is particularly noticeable in study skills that require a good short term memory, such as note taking from lectures, seminars or briefing activities and the ability to write quickly and legibly (Hargreaves, 2007; Krupska & Klein, 1995; Mortimore, 2003). They may also find analysing texts, books and journal articles laborious and time consuming as well as compiling it into a coherent, logical and structured thought-out out essay or report (Hargreaves, 2007; Mortimore, 2003;). These difficulties can be remediated by teaching strategies, which focus on visual and multisensory approaches which are as appropriate for dyslexic students, as well as their neurotypical peers. Indeed there is evidence to suggest that approaches which are effective for neurodiverse students are effective for all students (Pollak, 2009). These approaches include visual spatial holistic strategies such as: mind mapping, posters, spider diagrams, flash cards,
  • 73. Visual Thinking for the Digital Age 57 planners charts, metaphors, similes and narratives. (BrainHe, 2009; Gilroy & Miles, 1996; Hargreaves, 2007; Mortimore, 2003) All of which are designed to help the individual match the task to their cognitive style which in this case is predominantly visual-spatial. ‗I respond much better to information when it‘s presented in a magazine format where text is supported by image‘ Becky Very similar strategies to those detailed above were also alluded to by advocates of Design Thinking by Drews (2009), when identifying the distinguishing features of their thinking process. Pink (2005) also presents not dissimilar approaches, to thinking based on the same visual-spatial Right brain-Directed thinking style. He identifies design (creativity) narrative, symphony (seeing the big picture) Empathy, Play, Meaning, as core to this Right brain-Directed approach all strategies familiar to any dyslexic individuals who have successfully engaged with their learning style (Mortimore, 2003). These contrast with the more traditional analytical, critical ‗Left brain‘ linear ways of tackling problems. The author believes that there are similarities between the various approaches discussed here with visual holist thinking. In order to investigate the nature of Design Thinking and the synergy with visual spatial thinking and the learning approaches of dyslexic individuals, the discussion will explore some aspects of learning style theory. This will enable the author to address the question, whether Design Thinking is actually a cognitive approach, a learned strategy for problem solving, or simply what designers instinctively do. In order to understand the interrelationship between Design Thinking, visual thinking and dyslexia, it is necessary to introduce some background to learning style theory. Figure 3. The relationship and influence of the elements of learning styles (authors own). LEARNING STYLES Mortimore (2003) offers a number of approaches to the topic, which she suggests fall into two general constructs, the broad and the cognitive. The first includes the influence of external factors and personality; the second focuses on how an individual processes information (Mortimore, 2003; Hargreaves, 2007). The evidence discussed so far seems to suggest that the cognitive model is a better reflection of the descriptions of Design Thinking. An overview of discussions on learning style or the way in which an individual learns best is formed from three linked components, Mortimore suggests research generally agrees on the following:Cognitive (thinking) style is specific to the individual, relatively consistent and defines the way in which an individual processes incoming information; learning style is an
  • 74. 58 Richard Chipps individual‘s cognitive style applied to a specific problem and is more flexible; and the final component is learning strategy. The following model will be adopted to provide a framework for the ongoing discussion: Cognitive style: relatively consistent and individual way of processing incoming information; how we think. Learning style: flexible within parameters defined by one‘s cognitive style; the way in which we best absorb information. Learning strategy: flexible techniques, tailored to one‘s learning style; how we best approach a learning problem. For a neurodiverse individual, who has a cognitive style less flexible than their neurotypical colleagues, there is increased complexity (Mortimore, 2003). For example, a dyslexic‘s cognitive style may be more visual and holistic, with their learning style and learning strategies following suit; and they will find breaking away from this difficult and ineffective. Indeed, research suggests that 80% of dyslexic learners preferred to solve problems visually and 33% never think verbally at all (Cooper in Pollak, 2009). The influence of the dyslexic cognitive style is more far reaching than just on the students learning and in addition it can affect them in all or some of the following additional ways (Kupska and Klein, 1995; Mortimore, 2003): difficulty with word retrieval; slowness in assimilating verbal instructions; persistent problems with spelling difficulty in matching sounds to words or letters; difficulties in matching words to their visual pattern and the directionality of letters; problems with reading and comprehension; weakness in short term memory both auditory and visual; difficulty with motor coordination; sequencing and organisational problems. ‗By the time I get to the bottom of the page I have forgotten what was being said at the top…so I have to re-read it‘ Becky Each individuals profile will be unique and will affect the way in which they learn and live their lives. In order for these students to succeed they have to adopt and apply non-typical learning strategies synchronised to their cognitive style and profile. In turn this will facilitate and develop their understanding of themselves as learners. This knowledge of how they learn is known as metacognition (See Note 2) (learning how to learn) (Mortimore, 2003). For example, a dyslexic individual with a strong preference for visual, spatial, and holistic approaches will benefit from adopting strategies aligned to their learning style in order to process information. In essence they ‗translate‘ the task from one format they find difficult, into another that more closely matches their strengths. For a visual learner, taking notes in a lecture as a mind map rather than written text will reduce the processing load required and may be more successful (Hargreaves, 2007; Mortimore, 2003). This strategy is also appropriate for the work place for keeping records of telephone conversations or client meetings. For these individuals their cognitive style, learning style and learning strategy will be closely aligned and they will begin to master their own approach to problem-solving. (Note 2) Metacognition takes a number of forms, but includes knowing how and when to apply different learning strategies and approaches to problem solving in essence, learning how to learn.
  • 75. Visual Thinking for the Digital Age 59 As the examples below demonstrate, encouraging all students to explore alternative learning strategies can be of benefit and provides them with alternative strategies for problem solving. This in turn develops what Riding (in Mortimore, 2003) calls ‗a cognitive tool kit‘ providing a flexible approach to problem solving and the more that students explore and practice different approaches, the better and more flexible they become (Silver, Strong & Perini. 2000). For dyslexic individuals, with the correct support, exploring alternative approaches to problem-solving can become almost intuitive as they learn to work in alignment with their particular cognitive style. However, experience suggests that their neurotypical colleagues may need rather more persuasion to explore alternative strategies. ACTIVITIES TO SUPPORT LEARNERS The following case studies illustrate how approaches for dyslexia support have been applied to both neurotypical and neurodiverse individuals, in order to develop metacognition and a cognitive tool kit to help them fit their learning strategy to any given problem. The students were finding the writing of an extended essay, a task that is a primarily linear and analytical particularly challenging. Nigel is neurotypical, but with a cognitive style common in individuals with Dyslexia, which tends towards a visual and holistic approach (Mortimore 2003). Nigel (neurotypical) was a mature student who had worked successfully in business as a landscape architect. He applied for the course (Design Management and Innovation) with the intention of improving his prospects and business skills. His experience within industry was such that he commenced the course in the second year. He was a very creative individual with abilities across a wide range of activities which included graphic design, drawing, painting and sculpture. Nigel‘s struggles began with his final year extended essay, and it became clear in the interview that his cognitive approach didn‘t fit the task, he was frustrated and constrained. ‗Up to now there has been no consideration to my visual style. I have applied someone else‘s methodology (It‘s like) running through quicksand‘ Nigel Nigel began identifying the ways which he preferred to work, and subsequently developed a strategy. He was encouraged to work visually, in order to translate a fundamentally analytical critical linear task of essay writing into his learning style. He took a holistic approach, collecting and presenting his ideas in diagrams, illustrations, in visual materials that stimulated his thinking and helped him translate these ideas into text. When he started working in this way his project began to move forward. Another student, Patsy, also worked best by visualising ideas first, then working towards text. Her holistic approach meant she needed to see the big picture before the individual tasks, in doing so she created an overview of her document using visual metaphors for her ideas. Patsy (dyslexic) started the course direct from school and commenced at level 1. Her creative and visualising skills were her strong point. Having chosen design subjects she always saw her skills as creative. As the course progressed and the written elements of the
  • 76. 60 Richard Chipps work became more demanding, she began to find it difficult to communicate her ideas successfully in text. At this point she asked for help to express herself effectively, and consequently developed a visual approach to writing. ‗If I can‘t see it I can‘t think what I want to do - I can‘t get past that point‘ Patsy However for both students organisation of the material was still an issue and they both developed a multi-sensory approach, producing a visual learning framework or concept map to structure and manage the information (Hargreaves, 2007; Mortimore, 2003). Nigel spread his material across the floor in a large scale mindmap. He walked amongst it grouping image text, ideas and themes, in order to visualise the whole process from beginning to end. Through a human-centred approach, physically touching and moving the material around, Nigel gained a deeper affinity with the research. Patsy did the same, but was far happier working at a smaller scale in a visual mindmap and then colour coding the material. For Patsy the visual material was an aid-memoire for the text, a way of helping her to recall what it was she was writing about. For Nigel it was more of a catalyst stimulating the ideas and direction. He pinned it around his room as a constant reminder for what he was doing. ‗It‘s a bit like a mess (the work). You have a big round picture of what it should look like… you have to find a way to get there.‘ Patsy ‗Pin the visuals on the wall…type the text direct from the visuals.‘ Nigel The strategy adopted by these students would not feel out of place in a design studio where designers exploit their holist/imager cognitive style, by posting drawings, project charts, working models, prototypes and other visual material around the studio. This approach allows them to be constantly in touch with their ideas, and experiment to learn from the material around them. ‗I try and visualise it at the start. Its helpful, gets my brain going. Then I use different coloured fonts and include pictures. It then comes alive and I can understand where I want to go. I will also take time out from typing to include images as it helps so much.‘ Patsy Whilst Patsy was beginning to develop her written material direct from her research using visual images of her topic to generate ideas, Nigel was still struggling. It was suggested that he develop a narrative metaphor of his ideas. In his mind he visualised his written work as a visit to a formal walled garden: the doorway in the wall, the introduction to his work where the discussion starts, and where the scene is set. The journey along the gravel path develops his argument, as each point of interest along the way forms a topic in his discussion. Flowerbeds populated by different plants each have their own unique appearance, colour and fragrance is juxtaposed to form contrast, symmetry, discord or harmony, in the same way that ideas in text, quotes and references, do in a written essay or report. This immediately struck a chord with him and he was able to define the elements of the garden, in terms of his research material and argument. Visual metaphors for his work allowed Nigel to zoom in and out of the problem, switching between the level of detail and overview in order to validate the decisions he was making. The ability to perceive
  • 77. Visual Thinking for the Digital Age 61 the problem from both a detailed level and overview is a skill of Design Thinking that is highlighted by Drews Nigel was applying Design Thinking (Drews, 2009, p. 354). Another student, Julie, who was constantly struggling to effectively develop her work, learnt by taking a dyslexia test that she had a non linear learning style, but in fact was not dyslexic. She was finding the task difficult, because her approach to thinking and her visual learning style did not respond favourably to the ‗normal ways of doing things‘. Julie (neurotypical) was a mature student who has a very strong visual approach to thinking. She had always struggled to translate her ideas into writing and never felt confident with her ability to communicate her ideas. She knew that her approaches to work were different from her peers but was never certain that they were legitimate. She strove constantly to work as others did in note books and sketch books. Using linear thinking tools such as note books and the constraints of A4 paper were a problem: the act of turning one page after another isolated information, covering up what had gone before simply felt claustrophobic and restrictive and the ideas could not flow. Early in her course it was suggested to her that she might try using a roll of wall paper to work on; this formed a missing link. ‗I was getting stuck. I can now get everything out that‘s in my head I don‘t feel restricted and my mind can flow freely‘. Julie It was the adoption of a visual approach to learning that began the journey for her, where she could apply her own learning style using learning strategies rather than trying to force her to work in a linear approach that did not suit her. ‗I did not realise that this was a process that I was going through, I just thought that it‘s the way I worked. But by understanding it I have made my work improve‘. Julie Julie‘s methods of working had been legitimised as an effective problem-solving tool. She described the roll of paper as a treasure map; you know what you are aiming for and then work out how to get there. It allowed a randomness that A4 sheets of paper simply do not give. Julie was working back from a known outcome, and developing a strategy to get there; a methodology presented by Drews and once more accredited to Design Thinking (Drews, 2009, p. 357) The previous examples demonstrate how applying flexible approaches to learning can be of benefit in an academic environment. The following case study begins to make the link between the academic and business contexts. Ray (neurotypical) was a mature student undertaking the course part time. He was in fulltime employment and on a day release programme with his employers. He started the course at the third level based on this previous work in employment and his vocational qualifications. Ray was very unsure what to expect from higher education and found acclimatisation difficult. However once he developed methodologies for his work and realised that the approaches he used in business were equally legitimate at university, he found his feet. Ray is not a designer as such, but applies a creative approach to developing ‗learning products‘. He expected higher education to be very text-based and that is how he tackled his first tasks. He collected a wide variety of quotes texts and references; however he found this frustrating, as it did not sit comfortably with him. Ray was encouraged to work in ways he
  • 78. 62 Richard Chipps was comfortable with; using a large visual plan created on the white board, he worked through his project brief step by step starting with an overview and working back to the detail, a methodology which engaged him. ‗Once I had a picture of what was required then that was ok…and it became the best and most enjoyable project that I have done.‘ Ray His normal working process commences by collecting visual material, metaphors and allegories using visual galleries such as ‗flicker‘. He associates this material with the brief and makes connections, adding words and ideas, in this way building a rich picture of the project and its requirements. It is only at this stage that other constraints such as branding guidelines and the like are introduced. For Ray as for many individuals who work in this visual manner, turning the material into text can be a laborious process. ‗Being very visual in my approach it‘s hard at times to turn this into a written outcome, but as long as I can see what the final outcome needs to be then it‘s alright.‘ Ray In the workplace he had deliberately rejected the traditional textual linear Left-braindirected thinking approach to presenting information and developed a method where information is communicated quickly and powerfully in visuals (Pink 2005). He believes that moving away from a text centric strategy has paid off. The organisation he works for is dominated by text heavy documents and standard presentation techniques with predominantly written content that fail to communicate effectively, often turning the audience off from the content. The same old presentation in the same old way. He suggests that staff have difficulty in assimilating written material quickly and therefore he deliberately set out to change the culture and provide material which was visually rich and easily assimilated. An approach that he believes appeals to the majority is inclusive and does not focus on those who excel at reading and extracting information from text. ‗I wanted to create something that everybody could visually understand at a glance… it was one page that people could understand at a glance it worked I have been asked to do many more.‘ Ray The feedback that he has received has been very positive, the business believes that in the fast moving digital age there is little time to read and prepare for meetings. To counteract this he presents a couple of illustrations and a diagram which can be followed up with more detail later. In the digital world where learning is changing from the traditional book to e-learning, the use of large amounts of text is becoming almost irrelevant and visual learning is the way forward. The dyslexic friendly approaches described here have synergy with writers on Design Thinking, who describe it as a visual holistic problem-solving process. Rodeiguez and Jacoby (2007) define what they see as the three building blocks of the process: empathy, prototyping and narrative, strategies that are visual centric in nature. Tim Brown the CEO and president of IDEO has published and written extensively on the importance of this human-centered approach to problem solving. He writes in an article for the Harvard Business review that these creative approaches have much to offer the business world and that Design Thinking
  • 79. Visual Thinking for the Digital Age 63 has a role to play in any company wanting to innovate (Brown, 2008). These strategies and those adopted by Ray, Nigel, Julie and Patsy all have an affinity with those discussed by the writers on Design thinking; there are clearly similarities between the two. Ray‘s industrial practice affirms the belief that these approaches are gaining credibility and that the strategies adopted by our dyslexic and some neurotypical students are being recognised as valuable in businesses. To be prepared for this, individuals need to be able to switch between both traditional analytical modes of thinking and holistic approaches, to develop multimodal learning strategies. The methods described here help students tackle linear analytical tasks such as report or brief writing in a holistic visual way, providing them with flexibility in problem solving. IN SEARCH OF A UNIFYING THEORY In this final section the chapter will draw together the threads of Design Thinking; visual spatial thinking and dyslexia. An overview of the descriptions of Design Thinking presented by Drews (2009) provides a useful insight and suggest that it is characterised by an holistic, non linear, decision making process with an intuitive and emotional element, which may work back from the solution to the problem. It is these characteristics which are consistent with the approaches adopted by our case studies and all fall within the visual holistic cognitive style of many dyslexic individuals. However, this approach to problem-solving is not suitable for all problems, particularly those with clear and unambiguous solutions which will continue to be tackled analytically. (Drews, 2009). It is however appropriate for complex problems, which lack clear boundaries and where the solutions are difficult to predict. Drews cites the design theorists Horst Rittel and Melvin Webber who label these as ‗wicked problems‘, problems which are not easily solved by the traditional analytical approaches of business and are commonly found within design disciplines. These wicked problems demand a flexible approach without a predetermined solution or method of achieving it. Such approaches are characterised by being holistic, intuitive and empathetic and allow for connections to be made between apparently random ideas, all of which, Drews suggests, are inherent within Design Thinking. These are also found in the cognitive approaches of visual holistic thinkers, and exemplified by dyslexic individuals. Furthermore, other descriptions of the process strengthens this connection and identifies the following additional characteristics of Design Thinking: an unwillingness to accept the status quo, creating the future unconstrained by what would seem to be impossible, visionary, identifying where you want to be and then working back from that point, embracing ambiguity and empathy (Drews, 2009; Mortimore, 2003) These features are summed up by Clive Grinyer (as cited in Drews, 2009) who says that designing incorporates a vision of where you want to be; you may not know how to get there or what the final solution will be…but you know what you are aiming for. There is a considerable cross over between the language and descriptions used to explore both dyslexic, visual holistic learning style and Design Thinking: visual, empathetic, holistic, start at the end and work back, making unusual connections (Pollak, 2009, p. 66). These descriptions appear and reappear in discourses on the subjects, a repetition from unconnected sources too
  • 80. 64 Richard Chipps consistent to be simply coincidence. Drews (2009) does not draw any conclusions on the nature of ‗Design Thinking‘, whether it is a process that can be taught or a way certain individuals tackle problems. She does however state that some people seem to be able to apply Design Thinking quite naturally whilst others need encouragement to adopt the approach. This would seem to suggest that different individuals have different abilities in Design Thinking, perhaps some intuitive and some learned? In order to draw together the different threads discussed, this chapter proposes the following unifying model of dyslexic cognition, learning style theory, and Design Thinking. Figure 4. A unified model of Design Thinking (authors own). The following construct proposes that Design Thinking is, an overarching expression of three approaches to problem solving aligned to an individual‘s cognitive style and are manifested as: individuals who ‗intuitively use Design Thinking methods‘ (Drews, 2009) individuals who ‗are more talented and are able to use (apply) Design Thinking (strategies)‘ individuals who ‗need a little more encouragement (to use Design Thinking)‘ The following names and definitions are offered for the three different approaches detailed above, Visual Thinkers, Conceptual Thinkers and Creative Thinkers. Firstly the Visual Thinker, individuals who ‗intuitively use Design Thinking methods‘. These are individuals who are ‗hard wired Design Thinkers‘ whose cognitive style is visual spatial and who have fully mastered the learning styles and learning strategies associated with this approach. These individuals demonstrate a seamless intuitive approach to Design Thinking. Secondly the Conceptual Thinker, individuals ‗who are more talented and are able to use (apply) Design Thinking (strategies)‘. Those who favour a visual spatial learning style and have learnt to effectively apply the corresponding learning strategies, but for whom this approach is not in complete harmony with their cognitive style. An applied approach to Design Thinking.
  • 81. Visual Thinking for the Digital Age 65 Thirdly the Creative Thinkers, individuals who need a little more encouragement (to use Design Thinking)‘ who have adopted a visual spatial learning strategy, but whose inherent cognitive style and learning style is not visual spatial. AN ADOPTED APPROACH TO DESIGN THINKING The Visual Thinker will have learnt to apply and exploit their visual holistic cognitive style and have the associated learning style and learning strategies fully aligned. Within this category will sit our compensated dyslexic, as well as neurotypical individuals who share the same approach. However, the Conceptual Thinker and Creative Thinker will have learnt to adopt visual approaches as a methodology for problem-solving, but for them it will always be secondary to their intuitive approach. For the compensated dyslexic, in particular, Design Thinking is the way they are. For them it is natural, embedded and intuitive, seamless in its execution. These individuals have developed a mastery of their cognitive style and metacognition. They have become confident and effective in their application of creative visual approaches to problem solving. Those who have developed the ability to think in this way whether neurotypical or neurodiverse will have a huge advantage in the oncoming conceptual age (Pink, 2005), particularly as businesses increasingly adopt Design Thinking. Drews states her belief that the demand for and recognition of Design Thinking is on the rise. This is in turn identified in publications from the Harvard Business School, Business Week and the Design Management Institute and when supported by the likes of the Rotman School of Management and London School of Business, Design Thinking is clearly on the agenda. As this approach is further legitimised as a valuable strategic tool, businesses will actively engage individuals who can demonstrate mastery of the process. The most successful will have the three elements of cognitive style, learning style and learning strategy fully aligned. Some of the best ‗Design Thinkers‘ will be dyslexic individuals who have mastered their visual spatial cognitive style and who can naturally apply a seamless holistic approach to problem solving and demonstrate mastery of ‗visual thinking for the digital age‘ (See Note 3). BIBLIOGRAPHY Achieveability (209). Accessed 6th June 2009 Barinhe (2009). Accessed June 4th 2009 British Broadcating Corporation BBC (2009). BBC website MP brands dyslexia a fiction January 14 2009 Accessed 3rd June 2009 British Broadcating Corporation BBC (2005). BBC website. Row over dyslexia denial 2nd September 2005 Accessed 3 June 2009 (Note 3) Although the conclusion of the chapter is that neurodiverse individuals may have an advantage in the digital age, this should not be see as implying that the possible benefits of nerodiversity outweigh the disadvantages in a world currently dominated by linear analytical thinking.
  • 82. 66 Richard Chipps British Broadcating Corporation BBC (2006) BBC website. A plea for extraordinary children. 13 December 2006 Accessed 5 June 2009 Brown, T. (2009). Design Thinking. Harvard Business review website. Accessed 5th June 2009 Davis, R. (1997). The gift of dyslexia. (London): Souvenier press Design Thinking (2009). IDEO website definitions of Design Thinking. Accessed 4th June 2009. Drews, C. (2009). How can design thinking help business leaders create their vision? Design2Busienss Proceedings of D2B2. Tsinghua International Design Managenet Symposium Beijing 2009. (Manchester): Adelphi Gilroy, D.E & Miles, T.R. (1996). Dyslexia at College. (London): Routledge Graves, J. (1999.) Dyslexia and Creativity Study day Oxford Brooks 1999 Hargreaves, S. (2007). Study skills for dyslexic students. (London): Sage In Curriculum (2009). Accessed 6th June 2009 Karolyi, C.V. (2001). Visual spatial strength in dyslexia rapid discrimination of impossible figures. Journal of learning disabilities vol 24 nu 4 July August 2008. Pages 380-391 Krupska, M. & Klein, C. (1995). Demystifying dyslexia. (London): London Language & Literacy Unit. Martin, R. (2004). Rotman Management the alumni magazine of the Rotman school of Management. (Toronto): Joseph L Rotman school of management University of Toronto. Mortimore, T. (2003). Dyslexia and learning style a practitioners handbook. (London): Whurr. Ott, P. (2007). Teaching children with dyslexia: a practical guide. (London): Routledge Pink, D. (2005). A whole new mind moving from the information age to the conceptual age. (New York): Penguin Group. Pollak, D. (2009). Neurodiversity in Higher Education positive responses to specific learning differences. (Chichester): Wiley-Blackwell. Riddick, B (1996). Living with Dyslexia: the social and emotional consequences of specific learning difficulties. (London): Routledge. Rodreiguez, Do. & Jacoby, R (2009). Business week website. May. Embracing risk to grow and innovate. Accessed June 2009 5th Silver, H. F. & Strong, R.W. & Perini, M.J. (2000). So each may learn integrating learning styles and multiple intelligences. (Alexandria): ASCD Singleton, C. Dyslexia in higher education policy provision and practice report on the working party on dyslexia in higher education. (Hull): University of Hull. The Guardian (2009). Guardian website. Dyslexia dismissal sparks angry defence Friday September 2005. Accessed 3 June 2009. Vark Learn (2009). Assessed 9 Aug 2009 West, T.G. (1997.) In the Minds Eye. (New York): Prometheus Books.
  • 83. In: Dyslexia and Creativity Investigations from Differing… ISBN: 978-1-61668-552-2 Author: Neil Alexander-Passe ©2010 Nova Science Publishers, Inc. Chapter 4 ARTISTIC TALENTS AND DYSLEXIA: A GENUINE CONNECTION? Ulrika Wolff Department of Education, University of Goteborg, (Sweden) The author‘s research interests are primarily on dyslexia/reading and writing difficulties, reading and cognitive abilities related to reading, such as phonological ability. Her dissertation, 'Characteristics and Varieties of Poor Readers' investigated different types of reading and writing difficulties, and focused on dyslexia. She directed her future research towards, on the one hand (through a comprehensive intervention study) understanding what factors are critical and influence early learning of reading skills and, on the other hand, towards understanding what educational efforts best help students with reading and writing difficulties, in other words, how these efforts should be set up and how intensive they should be. She prefers to teach about reading and what research has to say about dyslexia/reading and writing difficulties today and the ramifications for education. Although dyslexia is usually regarded as a serious handicap, there is a widely held opinion that dyslexic individuals may possess enhanced creativity. This chapter concerns this possible association between dyslexia and visual creativity, and is based on three studies, of which two are previously published (Wolff & Lundberg, 2002). The association is usually assumed to be either a common cognitive feature in the dyslexia population, or it is assumed to be a specific feature in a subtype of the dyslexia population. However, surprisingly few studies have been reported to confirm any of these assumptions. On the other hand, informal observations of a more anecdotal character, confirm one or other belief. The internet, for example, is replete with information about the relationship between dyslexia and creativity (e.g. This information is often presented as fact, but without reference to any empirical studies. This is an example from Tri Services National Institute of Training and Research on Dyslexia, United States of America (Disability and dyslexia service, 2009):
  • 84. 68 Ulrika Wolff Dyslexics also have uncommon gifts, skills and talents in many fields; the creative arts, architecture, engineering, construction, mathematics, physics, electronics, computer sciences, law, medicine, banking and finance, sports, entertainment and others. A host of skills is attributed to dyslexic individuals, but there is no empirical support for such relationships. However, several professionals, like psychologists and educators, have informally noted that dyslexic students often exhibit creative skills. Also, a number of case studies have been published about visual-spatial talented individuals who may have been dyslexic (e.g. Aaron & Guillemarde, 1993; Aaron, Phillips & Larsen, 1988; West, 1997). Names often mentioned of famous, successful dyslexic individuals are for example Edison, Leonardo da Vinci, Maxwell, Rodin, Pasteur, and Aalto. Agatha Christie has also been supposed to have suffered from a mild form of dyslexia (Siegel, 1988). In the early 1920‘s, Samuel Orton (1925) suggested an association between spatial skills and dyslexia. Geschwind and Galaburda (1987) also noted a higher incidence of dyslexic individuals than expected in professions such as engineering and architecture, which require spatial abilities. They assumed that the distribution of both talents and deficits in dyslexic individuals was caused by different brain organization - an unusual symmetry of planum temporale. This might make sense in an evolutionary perspective. If it is supposed that dyslexia and creative talents emerge together, then only the talents would be apparent in a pre-historic non-literate society. Deficient phonological skills would be too mild to be an obstacle in speech (Ramus, 2001). Thus, a dyslexic predisposition was advantageous, explaining the evolutionary resistance of dyslexia. Another possible explanation for the association between dyslexia and visual creativity may simply be a question of children seeking for compensation in fields not involving reading and writing, because of their early failure in this area. A third explanation is that there might be a more general ―co-morbidity‖ where an unknown general factor has caused both dyslexia and creativity without any direct causal connection between the two conditions. A fourth possible explanation is that the problems with reading and writing, and the resulting frustration may activate original and unconventional coping strategies and modes of thinking. Finally, a fifth explanation is that the association may just be an illusion based on the conspicuous discrepancy between reading achievement and artistic talent. Such talents might be equally distributed among nondyslexics and dyslexics, but are just more visible among dyslexics. Non-dyslexics have the opportunity to enter any field whereas talented dyslexics maybe more restricted to non-verbal domains, such as art, design and crafts. There have been a few empirical studies conducted on the putative association between dyslexia and creativity, and on some related areas (for a review see Winner, von Karolyi, Malinsky, French, Seliger, Ross et al., 2001). Everatt, Steffert and Smythe (1999) assessed children and adults on several measures of creativity, in a series of studies. Results indicate that dyslexic adults showed greater creativity and more innovative styles of thinking on both tasks and self report measures, compared to the non-dyslexic adults. No differences were found between dyslexic and non-dyslexic adults on any of the visual-spatial tasks. Lastly, no clear differences were observed between the dyslexic and the non-dyslexic children on any of these measures. As Everatt et al. note, creativity is a rather vague concept. Mostly creativity is described as innovation, novelty or insightfulness, according to the authors. Thus, the studies hence supply some support for the view that dyslexic individuals are creative. As enhanced skills were found among dyslexic adults but not among dyslexic children, it may also support one of the hypothesis proposed
  • 85. Artistic Talents and Dyslexia: A Genuine Connection? 69 above, that failure in important areas like reading may activate unconventional ways of coping-strategies. Winner et al. (2001) reported that young dyslexic adults performed worse or equivalent to non-dyslexic young adults on a series of visual spatial tests, with and without time constraints. However, the authors suggested that three-dimensional, more real-world tasks may be worthy of further investigation. The diverging abilities hypothesis was proposed by von Károlyi (2001), i.e. individuals with dyslexia may have enhanced global visual-spatial skills (mediated by the right hemisphere), but diminished local visual-spatial skills (mediated by the left hemisphere). von Károlyi compared middle and high school students with and without dyslexia on recognition of impossible figures, which is a global visual-spatial task. The dyslexic students were faster than the students without dyslexia, but were not more accurate. This finding was replicated by von Károlyi, Winner, Gray and Sherman (2003). It was suggested that real-world activities, like mechanical skills and visual artistry, may be dependent on global visual-spatial skills. Dyslexic students‘ talents in this area may imply certain educational strategies and also help students to find suitable professions. Howard, Howard, Japikse & Eden (2006) examined two implicit learning tasks, sequence learning and spatial context learning, which are supposed to be based on different underlying brain functions. College students with dyslexia exhibited a double dissociation. They were superior on spatial context learning, but impaired on sequence learning, compared to college students without dyslexia. TWO PREVALENCE STUDIES Thus, there are numerous informal and anecdotal observations indicating an above average association with dyslexia and artistic creativity out of the ordinary. Most of them are based on single cases and there is a scarcity of empirical studies. However, as mentioned above, there are a few studies, where dyslexic and non-dyslexic individuals‘ creative talents have been compared and assessed. These studies show inconsistent results, and one reason for this maybe that it is questionable, if a particular task really assesses creative ability (Everatt et al., 1999). To avoid such pitfalls, no creativity tasks were used in the studies to be presented here. Instead it was assumed that art university students in very prestigious schools with very strict admission policy would be exceptionally visually talented or creative to begin with, and thus guarantee a generally high level of artistic talents would be assured. Another reason for previously reported inconsistent results may be that dyslexia is not a clear concept, and may be defined diversely in different studies and situations. In accordance with the current consensus view on dyslexia and the definition proposed by the International Dyslexia Association (Lyon, Shaywitz & Shaywitz, 2003), dyslexia is assumed to be a phonological deficit, primarily manifested by poor word decoding. The main objective of these two studies was to determine the incidence of dyslexia among art university students and compare it to the incidence of dyslexia among students following more traditional university programs. It was necessary to include a substantial number of students in the sample, to examine the incidence of dyslexia among the art university students. In the two studies a total of N=268 art students and N=282 non-art students participated. The art students were all students
  • 86. 70 Ulrika Wolff available in certain schools with very demanding admission policy, and there was virtually no attrition. Study 1 In the first study N=74 students (34 females, 40 males) were recruited from two art schools at University of Gothenburg, Sweden and N=80 students (43 females, 37 males) from a school of economics at the same university. The art students were on average older than the students of economics (27.5 years old versus 24.5 years old). All invited students at the participating schools agreed to join the study. A screening for dyslexia was conducted comprising a self report screening questionnaire and a word recognition test. The questionnaire was an early version of the questionnaire used in Study 2 (Lundberg & Wolff, 2003; Wolff & Lundberg, 2003). It included 14 items covering practical problems with reading in daily life, practical problems with writing, motivation for literacy activities and items concerned directly with the history of reading and writing difficulties. A low total score on the 14 items indicated that the respondent had problems with literacy. Six of the items were typical dyslexia indicators also included nonreading aspects. A low sum score on these six items was regarded as a strong dyslexia index (Lundberg & Wolff, 2003; Wolff & Lundberg, 2003). The word recognition test consisted of chains of words written together without interword spaces. Each chain was built up by three common words. The task was simply to separate the words with pencil marks. A large number of chains were available (40 on each page). The performance was expressed as the number of correctly marked chains within a period of three minutes. Successful performance requires a high level of automaticity and orthographic processing. This test has been widely used as a valid and reliable procedure for assessing word recognition skill in Sweden (Jacobson, 1993). An author recognition task was also included as an indicator of reading habits or print exposure, but was not used as indicator for dyslexia in the selection process. This task was modeled on West, Stanovich and Mitchell (1993). It consisted of a list of 40 names of which 20 were names of reasonably well-known Swedish and international authors and 20 were foil names (non-authors). The score was expressed as the number of correctly marked names minus the number of incorrectly marked names. This indirect technique is assumed to circumvent the compliance normally accompanied conventional questionnaires on reading habits. Results of Study 1 The mean total score on the dyslexia screening questionnaire for the art students was 43.8 (maximum 56 points). The standard deviation was 7.8. The students of economics had a mean of 48.0 (SD = 3.9). The difference was significant (t = 4.24; p<.001). The variation of scores was obviously lower among non-art students, to some extent possibly due to ceiling effect. The mean score on the six dyslexia items was 18.4 (SD = 4.6) for the art students and 20.8 (SD = 2.5) for the students of economics (t = 5.57; p<.001). Also on this subset of items the variation was higher among art students.
  • 87. Artistic Talents and Dyslexia: A Genuine Connection? 71 The art students had a significantly lower number of correctly marked chains on the wordchains test (Mean = 71.3, SD = 12.2) than the students of economics (Mean = 81.3; SD = 9.4). Also this difference was highly significant (t = 5.68; p< .001). On the author recognition test the mean score for the art students was 14.5 (SD = 4.1) and for the students of economics 11.3 (SD = 3.7). This time the art students significantly outperformed the students of economics (t = 3.00; p<.01). Thus, despite the poorer word recognition skill and more reported dyslexia signs the art students seemed to show a wider readership probably reflecting a stronger cultural orientation. The cut-off point for deciding whether there is a case of dyslexia or not has of course an arbitrary character. Following a conventional criterion it was decided to put the cut-off at 1 SD below the mean on the different assessment measures (e.g. used by Catts, Hogan & Adlof, 2005). The screening criteria used for dyslexia were one standard deviation below the mean for the self-reported dyslexia indices on the questionnaire and one standard deviation below the mean on the wordchains test. Among the N=74 art students, 11 individuals (3 females, 8 males) or 15 % met these criteria; among the N=80 students of economics only one individual (female), less than 1.3 % could be regarded as dyslexic according to our criteria. Even if we put the cut-off point at 1.5 SD below the mean the incidence of dyslexia would be far higher among art students; 7 % versus 0 %. Thus, our expectation of a higher incidence of dyslexia among artistically gifted individuals was empirically confirmed. The gender difference often observed was also confirmed in this study. Study 2 The aim of Study 2 was to replicate Study 1. The research design was improved by an extended and modified screening battery, and by a broader spectrum of students recruited from various university programs. This time N=194 art academy students (148 females, 46 males) participated from four different art schools. They were fine arts, photography, design & crafts and architecture. Most of the gender imbalance among art students is due to the clear gender bias in favour of females in design and crafts (N = 115). A total of 202 non-art students (98 females, 104 males) participated from four different university programs, namely political science, economics, civil engineering and psychology. Among the N=397 students available only one refused to participate. The author recognition test was excluded from the screening battery. It was considered too time consuming in this context, as it is not a direct indicator of dyslexia. However, the phonological nature of dyslexia was more explicitly recognized by a phonological choice test. This task was a modification and a Swedish adaptation of the silent phonological choice task designed by Olson, Forsberg, Wise and Rack (1994), and consisted of a large number of triplets of non-words. In each triplet, one of the words would sound like a real word if pronounced (gan - pab - kat). In order to mark the correct alternative the subject must be able to use a phonological strategy. The total working time was 2 minutes and the performance was expressed in the number of correctly marked words within this working period. The same wordchains test as in Study 1 was included in the screening battery. The self report questionnaire was extended, and now included 29 items. The additional items served the purpose of increasing the reliability. A principal component analysis indicated that two
  • 88. 72 Ulrika Wolff factors could well explain the total variance. The first factor was based on 18 items and the second factor was based on 6 items. The first factor was interpreted as a dyslexia-indicator factor, and the second factor was regarded as an interest or motivation factor. Typical dyslexia items concerned reading and writing skills as well as more basic verbal and information processing skills such as difficulties with remembering new words, tables, pin codes, names, alphabetic order, and foreign language learning. In addition some of the dyslexia items were concerned with earlier diagnosis of reading disability or dyslexia, remedial help in school, and family incidence of dyslexia. The interest factor was indicated by items concerning reading habits and preferences, library use, and the enjoyment of reading. Results of Study 2 The art students reported significantly more dyslexia signs in the questionnaire than did the non-art students (t = 5.05; p < 0.001). On the subscale concerning reading interest the pattern of differences between art and non-art students was the opposite. Despite higher dyslexia load, the art students showed a stronger preference for literacy activities reflecting a stronger cultural interest. As opposed to Study 1 there was no significant difference between the two student groups on the wordchains test. The art students exhibited a lower performance on the phonological choice test than the non-art students (t = 2.80; p< 0.05). In order to examine possible differences in test results between different study programs within the main categories, art and non-art, a one way ANOVA was performed for each test instrument with study program as the independent variable. Post hoc analyses indicated that students of architecture had significantly fewer self reported dyslexic signs, than students of crafts. Furthermore the students of civil engineering showed lower reading interest, than students of political science and psychology. These minor exceptions from the major pattern justified the collapsing of data across study programs within the main categories. The cut-off for meeting the dyslexia criterion was 1 SD below the mean on self report of dyslexia signs and 1 SD below the mean on either the wordchains test or the phonological choice test or both. According to these criteria 12% of the art students could be regarded as dyslexic and 5% of the non-art students (see Figure 1). Thus, in Study 2 the difference between the groups was smaller than in Study 1. One reason might be that we included a broader spectrum of study programs and that some of the non-art students were taking less demanding courses. The test battery was slightly different too. Another reason might be the fact that there was a clear gender imbalance among the art students in this second study. There were 148 females and 46 males. So expressed in another way: Among the art students 17% of the males and 10% of the females met the dyslexia criterion, and among the non-art students 5% of the males and 6% of the female students.
  • 89. Artistic Talents and Dyslexia: A Genuine Connection? 73 1 4% 1 2% 1 0% 8% 6% 4% 2% 0% Art students Non-art students Figure 1. Prevalence of dyslexia in percentages among art university students and non-art university students. Thus, the higher incidence of dyslexia among art university students, than among non-art university students found in Study 1 was thus replicated in Study 2. However, these studies are correlational in nature and can not give any basis for causal conclusions. We certainly need more detailed information, and therefore, an individual interview study, also including some more objective assessments, was conducted. Study 3 One aim of the third study was to examine if the dyslexic art students‘ talents were genuine or rather reflect compensation for failure in the area of reading and writing. Another aim was to better understand if there are differences between different dyslexic groups in relation to visual creativity. From Study 2, N=20 art students and N=20 non-art students with dyslexia were selected. They were then carefully matched with N=20 art students and N=20 non-art students without dyslexia on gender, age and academic courses. The entire N=80 students agreed to participate. The students‘ phonological and orthographic skills were assessed. Vocabulary tests, an in-depth interview, and judgment of impossible figures were also included in the assessment battery. Phonology The phonological test battery, designed for this study, consisted of non-word reading, non-word spelling, spoonerism (the task was to as quick as possible swap the initial sounds of a word pair, e.g. nice dog becomes dice nog), reversed spoonerism (the task was to swap the initial sounds of a spoonerized word pair back to the real words, e.g. bice noy becomes nice boy), vocabulary with confusable alternatives (e.g. for the target word picnic the alternatives may be execution – execration - excursion). A phonological choice task (Høien & Lundberg, 1999) was also included, which is a computerized timed task, similar to the pencil and paper task in Study 2.
  • 90. 74 Ulrika Wolff A phonological composite measure, a sum z-score, was computed. This composite measure showed a correlation with the dyslexia items in the screening questionnaire in Study 2 of .77, indicating the validity of the questionnaire as an instrument for dyslexia screening. As expected the dyslexic groups performed significantly worse than the control groups on the phonological items (F (3, 74) = 23.7; p<001). There was no difference between the art academy students and the non-art university students (Figure 2). The students also took an ordinary vocabulary test (the task was to choose the correct synonym with a target word out of five alternative words or phrases). On the ordinary vocabulary test dyslexic students and non- dyslexic students performed equally well. However, on the vocabulary test with phonologically confusable alternatives, the students with dyslexia performed significantly worse than the students without dyslexia (t = 3.36 p < .001). Thus, the two student groups seem to have the same level of vocabulary knowledge, unless there is too much load put on phonological representation for the dyslexic students. Phonology, sum z-score 3 2 1 0 A rt, dyslexic No n-art, dyslexic A rt, no n-dyslexic No n-art, no n-dyslexic -1 -2 -3 Figure 2. Mean z-score of a composite measure based on phonology for the groups of art students with dyslexia, non-art students with dyslexia, art students without dyslexia, and non-art students without dyslexia. Orthography Three orthographic tasks were also formed into a composite measure. They were orthographic reading (Høien, & Lundberg, 1999) (a computerized timed task, where incomplete sentences were given by the loud-speaker, e.g. The machine is made of… and the task was to mark the correct alternative of two homophone words presented on the screen steal – steel), an orthographic choice task (Lundberg & Wolff, 2003; Wolff & Lundberg, 2003) (two phonologically acceptable words were presented, and the task was to mark the only one which was orthographically correct) and spelling of exception words (a phonological strategy was not possible to use, i.e. the words do not follow any Swedish spelling rule). The results of the orthographic tasks (see Figure 3), followed the same pattern as the results of the phonological tests; the non-dyslexic students out-performed the students with dyslexia (F (3, 76) = 22.6 p < .001), and there was no difference found between art and nonart students.
  • 91. Artistic Talents and Dyslexia: A Genuine Connection? 75 Orthography, sum z-score 3 2 1 A rt, dyslexic No n-art, dyslexic 0 A rt, no n-dyslexic No n-art, no n-dyslexic -1 -2 -3 -4 Figure 3. Mean z-score of a composite measure based on orthography for the groups of art students with dyslexia, non-art students with dyslexia, art students without dyslexia, and non-art students without dyslexia. Impossible Figures As noted earlier, Winner et al. (2001) and von Károlyi et al. (2003) compared students with and without dyslexia on several spatial tasks. In most cases the students without dyslexia outperformed the dyslexic students, or to the same level. The only measure where the students with dyslexia were superior was faster identification of impossible figures, included in the von Károlyi et al. study. In order to see if we could confirm this visual-spatial strength, identification of impossible figures was included in the assessment battery. The participating students were presented with 16 two-dimensional figures, of which half were impossible figures. They were instructed that an impossible figure is a two-dimensional figure, which gives the illusion that it would work if it was built in three-dimension. To decide if it is an impossible figure one must attend to the figure globally and one must attend to the features and realize that the features conflict. We could not confirm the results of the von Károlyi et al. study, as in our study, the dyslexic students did not excel on this task. There was however a significant difference, however, the art academy students being faster and more accurate than the non-art university students, regardless of being dyslexic or not (t = 2.86; p < .01). INTERVIEWS The interviews were rather extensive, each lasting for about one hour. Only a small part is discussed here, as many questions concerned other variables e.g. schooling, critical incidences etc. One important attempt of the individual assessment was to investigate if the overrepresentation of dyslexia students at art universities was due to students compensating for failure in reading and writing. Therefore, all students were asked when they themselves, or someone close to them, realized that they were exceptionally talented and/or interested in drawing etc. Whilst one or two were uncertain, all the remaining art students, both dyslexic and non-dyslexic, were convinced that their talents were obvious to people at pre-school. This was true even for the cases of dyslexic non-art students who considered themselves as artistically talented. Thus, their initial artistic interest does not seem to be compensation for problems reading and writing.
  • 92. 76 Ulrika Wolff As the genetic origin of dyslexia has been established (e.g. Galaburda, LoTurco, Ramus, Fitch, & Rosen, 2006; Pennington, & Olson, 2005; Ramus, 2006) a second question asked if any family member, or other relative, was dyslexic? The difference between dyslexic and the non-dyslexic group was significant. In the dyslexic group 60% reported dyslexia among their relatives, compared to 23% of the control group. A more surprising result was a significant gender difference among the dyslexic students. Of the female students with dyslexia, 86% reported one or more relatives with dyslexia, while only 32% of the male students reported dyslexia among their relatives. From the screening in Study 2 (N = 396) a subset of especially diagnostic questionnaire items were correlated with the incidence of dyslexia in the students‘ families. Results showed that the correlation for the female students was .44 and for the male students .22. It might be the case that the phonological problems are stronger among girls, as their generally higher linguistic proficiency and maturational advantage may act as protecting factors. Perhaps the noninherited reading problems among boys are attributed to attention and unfavourable responses to education. An alternative interpretation may simply be that females are more attentive to family conditions than males are. CONCLUSION AND COMMENTS The two prevalence studies have demonstrated that dyslexia is a more common trait among art university students than among non-art university students. The screening for dyslexia was based on self-reported signs of dyslexia, word recognition, and (in Study 2) phonological skills. Self reports of dyslexia among adults have previously proven to be reliable (Lefly & Pennington, 2000). A correlation of .77 between the questionnaire and a phonological composite measure (Study 3) indicated the validity in this study. The possibility of compensation among university students with dyslexia was acknowledged in Study 2. Thus, students did not have to exhibit low scores on word decoding to meet the dyslexia criterion, in case they scored low on both the self report questionnaire and the phonological task. The cut-off limits for dyslexia are of course arbitrary, and naturally, the frequency of dyslexia decreased with more conservative criteria. However, the relative difference between the groups remained. An author recognition test was used as an indicator of print exposure in Study 1. The art students performed significantly better on this task, in spite of the fact that they exhibited poorer word recognition as well as reported more dyslexia signs. Similar results were obtained in Study 2, with art students reported higher interest in reading than the non-art students. This cultural interest may be the driving force for attaining compensatory skills in reading and to manage to pass the university courses. In line with this, art students tended to be relatively stronger in orthographic skills than phonological skills. Four groups of students participated in study 3; art and non-art student with and without dyslexia. This study involved a more careful orthographic and phonological assessment. As expected there were significant differences on both composite measures between the dyslexic and non-dyslexic students in favour of the non-dyslexic students. No differences were found between the art and non-art students. Thus, it was not possible to identify any typical pattern of dyslexia signs between the two dyslexia groups.
  • 93. Artistic Talents and Dyslexia: A Genuine Connection? 77 The art students were superior in identifying impossible figures, compared to the non- art students no matter if they were dyslexic or not. In other words, we could not replicate Von Karolyi et al. (2003), finding faster identification of impossible figures among individuals with dyslexia. However, the fact that no difference was found does not imply that there are none. The sampling procedure with art students matched with non-art students may disguise superior visual-spatial abilities. Yet, there was no difference found among the non-art students with and without dyslexia. Then again, if spatial advantage manifests itself in proportion to severity (Winner et al., 2001), these university students may not represent the most severely affected by dyslexia. All art students, with few exceptions, reported that their artistry talents were noticed by their family and themselves at an early age, long before they experienced failure in reading and writing. The strict admission policy to the art schools also implies genuine talents. In some of the schools there are N=700-800 applicants a year, and only N=10-15 students are accepted. The individual assessment of orthographic and phonological skills indicated the validity of the screening procedure for dyslexia. Moreover, a very informal proof for the selection criterion was the response from the students when called and asked to participate in the individual study. All students had provided informed consent before the screening study, and were thus aware of the purpose. The students without dyslexia asked why they were selected to participate. None of the students with dyslexia, apart from one or two, asked why they were selected. They knew why. To conclude, there is an ongoing discussion about the nature, and existence, of the association between dyslexia and creativity. Given the inconsistent evidence, it may be plausible to expect dyslexic individuals with superior creative skills to constitute a subgroup of the dyslexia population. The studies reported here support this view. BIBLIOGRAPHY Aaron, P.G.; Phillips, S.; and Larsen, S. (1988). Specific reading disabilities in historically famous persons. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 21, 521-584. Aaron, P.; and Guillemarde, J.-C. (1993). Artistic as dyslexics. In D. Willows, R. Kruk, & E. Corcos (Eds.), Visual processes in reading and reading disabilities (pp. 393-415). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Catts, H.W.; Hogan, T.P.; and Adlof, S.M. (2005). Developmental changes in reading and reading disabilities. In H.W. Catts, & A.G. Kahmi (Eds.). The connections between language and reading disabilities, (pp. 25-40). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Disability and dyslexia service (2009). Definition of dyslexia. Retrieved September 3, 2009. Everatt, J.; Steffert, B.; and Smythe, I. (1999). An eye for the unusual: Creative thinking in dyslexics. Dyslexia, 5, 28-46. Galaburda, A. M.; LoTurco, J.; Ramus, F.; Fitch, R. H.; and Rosen, G. D. (2006). From genes to behavior in developmental dyslexia. Nature Neuroscience, 9, 1213-1217.
  • 94. 78 Ulrika Wolff Geschwind, N.; and Galaburda, A.M. (1987). Cerebral lateralization: Biological mechanisms, associations, and pathology. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Howard, J.; Howard, D.; Japikse, K.; and Eden, G. (2006). Dyslexics are impaired on implicit higher-order sequence learning, but not on implicit spatial learning. Neuropsychologia, 44, 1131-1144. Høien, T.; and Lundberg, I. (1999). Kartläggning av ordavkodningsstrategier. [Diagnose of word reading strategies]. Stavanger: Lexia AS Norge. Jacobson, C. (1993).Manual till Ordkedjor. [Manual for the wordchains test]. Stockholm: Psykologiförlaget. Lefly, D.L.; and Pennington, B.F. (2000). Reliability and validity of the adult reading history questionnaire. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 33, 286-296. Lundberg, I.; and Wolff, U (2003). DUVAN, Dyslexiscreening för ungdomar och vuxna. [Dyslexia screening for adolescents and adults]. Stockholm: Psykologiförlaget. Lyon, G.R.; Shaywitz, S.E.; and Shaywitz, B.A. (2003). Defining dyslexia, comorbidity, teachers‘ knowledge of language and reading. Annals of Dyslexia. An Interdisciplinary Journal of Dyslexia Association, 53, 1-14. Olson, R.; Forsberg, H.; Wise, B.; and Rack, J. (1994). Measurement of word recognition, orthographic, and phonological skills. In G.R. Lyon (Ed.), Frames of reference for the assessment of learning disabilities. New views on measurement issues. (pp 243-277). Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes. Orton, S.T. (1925). Word blindness in school children. Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry, 14, 581-613. Pennington, B.F.; and Olson, R.K. (2005). Genetics of dyslexia. In M. Snowling & C. Hulme (Eds.), The science of reading. A handbook. Oxford: Blackwell. Ramus, F. (2001). Outstanding questions about phonological processing in dyslexia. Dyslexia, 7, 197-216. Ramus, F. (2006). Genes, brain, and cognition: A roadmap for the cognitive scientist. Cognition, 101, 247-269. Siegel, L.S. (1988) Agatha Christie's learning disability. Canadian Psychology, 2, 213-216 West, T.G. (1997). In the mind´s eye: Visual thinkers, gifted people with dyslexia and other learning difficulties, computer images, and the ironies of creativity. Amherst, NY: Prometeus. West, R.F.; Stanovich, K.E.; and Mitchell, H.R. (1993). Reading in the real world and its correlates. Reading Research Quarterly, 28, 34-50. Winner, E.; von Karolyi, C.; Malinsky, D.; French, L.; Seliger, C.; Ross, E.; and Weber, C. (2001). Dyslexia and visual-spatial talents: Compensation vs deficit model. Brain and Language 76, 81-110. von Károlyi, C. (2001). Visual-spatial strength in dyslexia: rapid discrimination of impossible figures. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 34, 380-391. von Károlyi, C.; Winner, E.; Gray, W.; and Sherman, G. (2003). Dyslexia linked to talent: global visual-spatial ability. Brain and Language, 85, 427-431. Wolff, U.; and Lundberg, I. (2002). The prevalence of dyslexia among art students. Dyslexia 8, 34-42. Wolff, U.; and Lundberg, I. (2003). A technique for group screening of dyslexia among adults. Annals of Dyslexia, 53, 324-339.
  • 95. In: Dyslexia and Creativity Investigations from Differing… ISBN: 978-1-61668-552-2 Author: Neil Alexander-Passe ©2010 Nova Science Publishers, Inc. Chapter 5 DYSLEXIC VISUALIZATIONS IN PRACTICE: STRENGTHS AND FORGOTTEN FRUSTRATIONS Brian O’Keefe Senior Interaction Designer, Eastman Kodak (USA) The author is a Senior Interaction Designer responsible for building and designing usable interfaces for an array of photo capturing devices at the Digital Capture Department, Eastman Kodak, USA. He Brian is a specialized Interaction Designer, User Experience Researcher and Multimedia Artist. He completed his Post Doctorate in the spring of 2009, at the Centre for Interaction Design, Edinburgh Napier University, UK. Working on a European Union funded project called ‗Companions‘, his responsibilities were to analyze usability paradigms and design the aesthetic front end of a conversational interface that learns about the user through photographs and associated memories; to invoke a shift from day-to-day interactions to lifelong relationships with digital systems and devices. His doctoral dissertation in the spring of 2007, was entitled ‗Being Visual: Dyslexia as a Resource for Design‘, at the Università degli Studi di Firenze, Italia. Whilst studying he also lectured several undergraduate and masters level multimedia design courses from 2004-2007, at the Università degli Studi di Siena, Italia. The author‘s core research interests fall on the bleeding edge of design, development and the prototyping of new and novel interfaces based on the emerging patterns of human interactions through technology.
  • 96. 80 Brian O‘Keefe ABSTRACT Dyslexic Visualizations in Practice: strengths and forgotten frustrations, outlines how pushing the boundaries of visual proficiencies in the classroom can exemplify the creative resourcefulness of the dyslexic condition. Through online multimedia applications, this chapter uses three specific visualization studies to not only graphically visualize the key principles, but also explore one adult‘s revisitation of forgotten dyslexic childhood frustrations and challenges. The overall goal is to encourage researchers and practitioners to look past dyslexic shortcomings, and utilize this particular and recurring form of visual-spatial thinking: to uncover creativity in places often considered noncreative (limited-creativity) and understand the potential of visual competencies within multimedia applications. To illustrate the visual resources found in the dyslexic condition, this will: [1] discuss divergent views of the condition, [2] highlight dyslexic challenges, reconceptualize such areas deemed as ‗limited value‘ as being of value, [3] focus on dyslexic visual strengths, [4] raise the profile of visual literacy in the classroom, [6] discuss how E-Learning classrooms are already utilizing visual proficiencies, [7] build the argument that the dyslexic condition can be used explicitly to create multimedia applications. The goals of these studies are to heighten the profile and push the boundaries of visual literacy integrated through dyslexia within traditional academic values and expectations. INTRODUCTION In 1975, the United States Congress passed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and since then the United States of America has formally acknowledged that people with dyslexia are considered ‗Learning Disabled‘. (USDE, 2002) Not surprisingly, special education communities and practitioners have addressed this issue and taken into account the needs of dyslexic people (IDA, 2006; O‘Keefe, 2008; Shaywitz, 2004; Stowe, 2000). Multimedia technologies are considered to be critical when attempting to reach people who may struggle with verbally based technologies (Shaywitz, 2004; Stowe, 2000; IDA, 2006); i.e., the International Dyslexic Association (2006) features gaming technologies and highresolution graphics to reach and teach dyslexic children by appealing to their visual skills.
  • 97. Dyslexic Visualizations in Practice: Strengths and Forgotten Frustrations 81 Visually based languages and technologies have played an important role in finding a way to reach a particular kind of learner/user (Shaywitz, 2004). This chapter is not concerned with how multimedia technologies can further assist people who are considered ‗Learning Disabled‘, rather, the primary focus of this chapter is in raising the profile of visual proficiencies through dyslexia and highlighting the notion that most of us are nearly illiterate in the visual domain (Woosley, Kim and Curtis, 2003). Dyslexia and its highly developed visual competencies have been known to extend the scope of problem solving (Galaburda, 1993; Gardner, 1993; Krasnow Institute, 2008; West, 1997) and can enhance the rhetorical analysis of the visual language (Davis, 1997; Messaris, 1993; West, 1997). By approaching dyslexia in this way, this special human condition can make important contributions when designing multimedia technologies; a limitation for one area can be reused and valued in other domains (Jonsson, 2002; Emiliani & Stephanidis, 2003; O‘Keefe, 2008). This chapter discusses general aspects of the dyslexic condition, focuses on its associated strengths and graphically illustrates visual proficiencies though three visualization studies conducted within a PhD program at the University of Florence, Italy (O‘Keefe, 2008). These particular visualization studies follow a native English-speaking dyslexic young adult, in a very rigorous and traditional doctoral program in Italy. Having previously escaped a traditional academic education with an undergraduate degree in fine arts, this young student found himself not only dealing with frustrating literature reviews and dissertations, but also having to comprehend Italian fluently. This created a unique scenario wherein the student relived the nightmarish learning challenges of his childhood and had to act and respond in ways his classmates did not have to consider. Handwritten paper notes became photographs, classroom sound recordings became ambient noises, and Powerpoint presentations became the backdrop for multimedia applications that captured the coursework and graphically recreated the challenging experience. All of this was created by the student after nine months, in response to an intensive exam. Although this student was faced with specific difficulties and challenges, he was able to utilize his visual proficiencies and respond to traditional academic evaluations with photographs, illustrations and interactive motion graphics. Understanding visual proficiencies as it related to his visual method of thinking, e.g. dyslexia, became the backdrop of his remaining doctoral research. DIVERGENT VIEWS ON THE DYSLEXIC CONDITION There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of definitions and meanings associated with dyslexia. Many researchers, medical professors, neurologists, educators, parents and the people themselves have their own meanings and definitions. According to the International Dyslexic Association (2006), the oldest association of its kind state: ‗Dyslexia is a languagebased learning disability. Dyslexia refers to a cluster of symptoms, which result in people having difficulties with specific language skills, particularly reading. Students with dyslexia usually experience difficulties with other language skills such as spelling, writing, and pronouncing words. Dyslexia affects individuals throughout their lives; however, its impact can change at different stages in a person‘s life. It is referred to as a learning disability because dyslexia can make it very difficult for a student to succeed academically in the
  • 98. 82 Brian O‘Keefe typical instructional environment, and in its more severe forms, will qualify a student for special education, special accommodations, or extra support services‘. According to West (1997), over the centuries, creative visual thinking has made significant contributions to a verity of non-art or non-visual disciplines i.e. physics, athletics and mathematics. West is a strong advocate for understand the potential of the dyslexic condition. He states: ‗In the near future, creative visual thinkers with some learning difficulties might very well find themselves far better adapted to certain fundamental changes‘ (p.12). Shaywitz (2004) focuses on the problems and states that dyslexia is a very complicated that affects the comprehension of language codification. Shaywitz primarily discusses several key traits affiliated with dyslexia that would create difficulties when reading, writing, speaking, decoding words, spelling, phonetic awareness, auditory discrimination and handwriting. Shaywitz argues that these problems all contribute to behavior and emotional problems. O‘Keefe (2008) discusses how commonalities within the dyslexic condition can be utilized for opening-up new dialogues within the computer science discipline of Human Computer Interaction (HCI) and Interaction Design. O‘Keefe weaves reoccurring highly developed visual competencies from the dyslexic condition, to re-conceptualize how practitioners in the HCI discipline approaches the development of new technologies. The understanding of dyslexia in this chapter mainly focuses on use of the condition as a resource for raising the profile of visual competencies for those who have limited proficiencies in the visual domain. Providing an opportunity to not only highlight dyslexic strengths but to use those strengths in other applications. THE CHALLENGES AND ADVANTAGES OF DYSLEXIA There are several basic challenges and difficulties a person with dyslexia must face in an age when social norms focus predominately on verbal literacy e.g. teaching methods. They include learning to speak correctly (pronunciation), organizing written and spoken languages (grammar), distinguishing letters and their sounds (phonetics), memorizing number facts, spelling, reading, leaning foreign languages and ‗correctly‘ doing math problems (IDA, 2006; Shaywitz, 2004; Being Dyslexic, 2004). These difficulties can be frustrating and obviously challenging for anyone, dyslexic or not; however, people with dyslexia have specific challenges and these struggles increase throughout a child‘s educational career. Reading and writing challenges are sometimes so great that dyslexic children often suffer emotionally from low self-esteem and low confidence (Shaywitz, 2004; IDA, 2006; Being Dyslexic 2004). In verbally literate societies dyslexic people are often prescribed to think verbally and much of our natural visual development is left untrained and malnourished in comparison to verbal education traditions (Stowe, 2000; West, 1997). Although challenges are real, there are hidden advantages in the dyslexic condition. These advantages develop in the challenges posed by early classroom experiences (Stowe, 2000). Ironically, due to early exposure to specific challenges within classrooms, some children with dyslexia become well practiced problem solvers (West, 1997; Davis, 1997). While others in the classroom may have been able to grasp general reading and writing concepts with ease, children who struggle find themselves forced to act creatively to arrive at
  • 99. Dyslexic Visualizations in Practice: Strengths and Forgotten Frustrations 83 similar reading and writing objectives. Like most skill sets taught to children, specialized skill sets associated with dyslexia follow children into adulthood and become critical tools later in life. People with dyslexia have been known to compromise and creatively work around many problems with their accustomed visual competencies (O‘Keefe, 2008; Stowe, 2000; West, 1997). Shaywitz (2004) interviewed many dyslexic adults. Although her intentions were primarily aimed at pointing out specific problems associated with the condition in adults, this research aims to highlight and focus on the subtle ways dyslexic people have been able to work around their challenges. Daniel, a fifty-two year old man who has a severe dyslexia condition, wrote: ‗I have had to memorize every word that I use in speaking or in writing. If I have not memorized that word, I can‘t pronounce it either. I leave off parts of words when I write and I leave of parts of words when I pronounce them. I also leave of words in sentence if I am writing something. If have memorized a word now see that word hyphenated in a song book, I do not recognize that word. I have to take that word and squash hyphens and get that word back to how it looks when I memorized it before I can recognise it again‘ (p. 116). On the surface Daniel‘s shortcomings are obvious. Spelling and grammatical mistakes are evident throughout; however, there are beneficial aspects of Daniel‘s methods. Daniel has adopted ways to get around his apparent problems. His inability to recognize words seems to be the main focus here but his process represents an overlooked act of creativity. Certainly, one could argue that simply learning the word the right way, the first time around, could thwart complications noted by Daniel. Although Daniel‘s method of visually squashing and expanding words in his mind enabled him to solve his own comprehension problems, Daniel uncovered a very complicated yet creative way to arrive at what others could argue as an easy task - decode a word. Difficulties attributed to dyslexia seem unexpected in relation to other cognitive, visually based abilities dyslexics seem to naturally acquire. According to several sources (Shaywitz, 2004, IDA, 2006, Stowe, 2000), dyslexic people have multiple strengths associated with their ‗handicap‘ These strengths include high energy, drive, ambition, willingness to work hard and the ability to focus for long periods of time on tasks that interest them. Ironically, these strengths – combined with many verbal challenges – collaborate to nurture creativity and to influence ‗out-of-the-box‘ thinking, which arguably contributes to sharpened problem solving skills. West (1997) explains that the ‗handicap‘ is the very mechanism that attributes to overcoming difficult challenges, which can produce great achievement. ‗A handicap of one sort or another may intensify motivation, mold characters, or help one to learn many things, but it would appear to me wholly insufficient to explain the most towering and unexpected achievements, such as Einstein‘s theories or Edison‘s inventions. On the contrary, what is being suggested here is that for a certain group of people the handicap itself may be fundamentally and essentially associated with a gift‘ (West, 1997, p. 19). Learning difficulties and the need to surmount obstacles posed by a prescribed verbal literacy creates well-practiced problem solvers. These challenges in conjunction with natural visual proficiencies seem to be the main ingredients for beginning to understand the potential of dyslexia. Being challenged in areas considered ‗unexpected‘ or deemed elementary by socio-education standards could encourage early learners to discover in areas where others may not have known possibilities (West, 1997).
  • 100. 84 Brian O‘Keefe STRENGTHS AND MISTAKEN LIMITATIONS Although many researchers, neurologists, teachers and even parents may have diverse views on what dyslexia is and although dyslexia manifests itself in various ways in many different people; many researchers argue that most dyslexics do share one commonality: enhanced and highly developed visual-spatial competencies (Davis, 1997; Galaburda, 1993; West, 1997; Wolff & Lundberg 2002). This is a fundamental strength. The strengths associated with dyslexia are naturally developed, through the challenges posed by the condition in conjunction with inherent visual and spatial sensibilities. Although people with dyslexia struggle with verbal traditions, their visual-spatial competencies seem to be a leading factor in future career choices i.e., fine arts, graphic design, architecture etc (Wolff & Lundberg, 2002). Since dyslexia is a genetic condition acquired birth and never truly overcome (Stowe, 2000), its impact is continuous and integrated on some level into everything a dyslexic person does in daily life (Smith-Spark, Fawcett, Nicolson and Fisk, 2004). West (1997) suggests that visual proficiencies, spatial ability, pattern recognition and problem solving are subsequently the mechanisms of visual thinking that work in a nonsequential continuum. This method of thinking internalizes the creative interaction of an integrated cognitive experience afforded by vision - with or without the use of ocular vision and does not require full consciousness (Gardener, 1993; West, 1997). Developed visual competencies are not something learned later in life; these visual abilities are often developed naturally and at a very young age. Evidence of this can be identified in very young children before a traditional literacy education begins (Stowe, 2000; West, 1997). ‗Geschwind points out that three-year-olds who show ‗unusual skill in drawing, doing mechanical puzzles, or building models‘ may be identified as likely dyslexics by experienced observers, prior to any reading education, primarily because of the positive traits that they share with other dyslexics but do not share with non-dyslexics‘ (West, 1997, p.20). Geschwind suggests that being visually competent is natural for young children with dyslexia. Such children show a higher developmental state in visual competencies. Naturally developed visual competencies found repeatedly in the dyslexic condition seem to be a foundation of being dyslexic. However, there is skepticism. Under the context of a reading experiment, visual competencies are categorized as having a limiting value. Some researchers too often overlook and disregard visual competencies. Shaywitz focused on a particular observation dealing with dyslexic children and their ability to properly comprehend visual cues verses words. ‗These very young [referring to dyslexics] children are relying on visual cues of various sorts, such as the shape of a red stop sign or the famous golden arch. In one study, researchers pasted a Coca-Cola logo over a Rice Krispies box, and the majority of preschoolers continued to ‗read‘ it as Rice Krispies. This level of reader will recognize only a few words, invariably associated with a highly distinctive visual cue. These young children are not paying attention to the word itself but are memorizing some associated visual cue and relying on that to memorize and later recognize the word. Using such arbitrary cues is obviously of limited value‘ (Shaywitz, 2004, p.102). Shaywitz recognizes the ‗highly distinctive visual‘ capabilities in very young preschool children, but from her perspective, there are problems with this visual approach during the reading comprehension process. On one hand she is correct. Her report aims to understand the
  • 101. Dyslexic Visualizations in Practice: Strengths and Forgotten Frustrations 85 cognitive mechanisms behind understanding visual cues verses words to reach and teach a particular kind of leaner. On the other hand, Shaywitz improperly categorizes the visually based cognitive learning methods children use during the reading comprehension process as having limited value. Having ‗limited value‘ in one area can have ‗increased value‘ in other areas. The computer science discipline of ‗Universal Access‘ is widely known to be concerned with designing systems, services, technologies and telecommunications that include usability needs of all people. Not surprisingly, this discipline has taken the needs of dyslexic people into account. Multimedia technologies have proven crucial when reaching people who may struggle with verbally based technologies (IDA, 2006; Shaywitz, 2004). Universal Access stresses that usability and usefulness are critical factors when reaching vast user groups (Stephandis, 2001). Systems should be designed to allow information to be readily available and satisfy accessibility requirements set by socioeconomic guidelines, human-rights groups and politicians (Stephandis, 2001; Kemppainen, 2005). Devices and systems should be prepared to allow use in the broadest variety of contexts and situations in order to manage human diversity and abilities. ‗Enabling communication with others and with your self can be considered the overall goal of Human Computer Interaction. People with ‗special needs‘ have no basic needs – what is special for them is that they have specific difficulties and consequently, needs for special solutions. But sometimes, these solutions are of more general value – for all. (Jonsson, 2002, p.1) Although Jonsson‘s argument seems to address design needs for users with severe handicaps, he does make an important point that designing for one group of users could benefit all - meaning that what could be considered having limitations in one domain could serve as well, or better than, the design‘s original intentions. Devices and services should be designed to include the most effective interaction methods possible, to compensate for personalization factors and diverse user scenarios (Emiliani and Stephanidis 2003). This is particularly aimed at not only the everyday users but also people with disabilities such as, the blind, the deaf, the autistic, the walking impaired, the dyslexic, etc. ‗Universal Access‘ provides opportunity when designing for dyslexia or its nineteenth century classification, ‗word blindness‘ (Stowe, 2000). This research takes a unique perspective in that the dyslexic condition could be re-conceptualized and used to inspire new ways of designing interactive systems based on the need for special solutions (O‘Keefe 2009). Universal Access has as already shown that designing for the blind has proven useful for people who are not blind (Emiliani and Stephanidis, 2003). Text-to-speech technologies was originally intended to enable blind people to read computer screens and surf the internet; however, these technologies have been readapted and used in applications not intended for the blind. Consider the everyday automotive driver. He/She is blind by situation. The activity of automotive driving creates a scenario where the driver should not be looking at a computer monitor, keyboard or secondary mouse console while operating a vehicle. Assisted audio technologies, intended for the blind, have been re-used for GPS automotive navigational technologies (Emiliani and Stephanidis 2003). Automotive GPS technologies enable the driver to keep their eyes, off the map and on the road, while the text-to-speech technology says, ‗In 100 meters, turn left onto Lothian Road‘. This research encourages the pursuit of designing technologies for the ‗word blind‘ and their visual proficiencies. Although dyslexia has been categorized as having ‗limited value‘ in certain areas, the impact of one set of limitations could be turned around and used for the
  • 102. 86 Brian O‘Keefe overall general value for all. If researchers and educators stopped putting most of their energy in ‗correcting‘ the dyslexic condition and focused their energy cultivating the benefits, then perhaps the dyslexic ‗disability‘ could be turned to benefit the vast majority of users who are visually illiterate or those who have poor, undeveloped visual competencies. Designing technologies for a highly visually literate group of people with some learning difficulties could be useful for all. The search for a single configuration of systems and services is the exploration of new knowledge. The true value of ‗designing for all‘ is that in the pursuit of challenges, difficulties and possibilities, there are unforeseen opportunities i.e., designing for blindness. Designing to include every user, and those we label as ‗disabled‘ is ‗not only a matter of good will‘ but developmental in scientific and technological research. Simply, ‗all necessary knowledge and technology is not yet available‘ (Emiliani and Stephanidis, 2003, p. 215). THE RETURN OF VISUAL COMPETENCIES When illiterate societies began to fade in the late 19th century and the importance of a verbal education grew into the middle classes. Only when a verbal literacy became a mainstream skill did early educators sense something problematic with otherwise intelligent children (West, 1997). These children demonstrated difficulties with basic reading and writing tasks. Early educational researchers observed students experiencing ‗trouble with words‘ or its Latin translation, dyslexia (Stowe, 2000). Ong (2002) notes that the course of human history fundamentally shifted from mainly using visual competencies to verbal/sequential method of thought. This shift has been invaluable and has given rise to the fabric of human achievements across academics and sciences. Arguably, sequential methods of thinking, or being verbally literate, have contributed to great achievements including our greatest human technology - the written word, or the codification of human language (Ong, 2002). For these reasons, modern societies have embraced verbal literacy and embedded its resource deeply into value systems. Although verbal competencies have proven resourceful throughout millenniums. Historically, our great-great grandfathers lived in times when a verbal education was commonly reserved for the rich and privileged. Hands-on learning experiences, apprenticeships, skilled labor, working through daily repetition, learning by seeing, or even ‗trial and error‘ experiments were all based on an interaction of non-literate, hand-on activity (West, 1997). One could ask, have we overlooked or misplaced the value of our visual competencies. Has the obvious successes of being verbally literate shadowed our rich our ancient visual past? ‗Our attraction to images is both primal and pervasive. Writing, with its linear sequencing of ideas is a historical afterthought in the history of human cognition. Yet traditional scholarship has lost this root to our past‘ (Gould, 1993). Ong suggests that this phenomenon is due to the transition from oral culture to literate culture (Ong, 2002). Gould argues that some of our visual traditions have been left in the past mainly due to our modern academic transitions. Arguably, in the pursuit of stressing the need to be verbally literate have we become visually illiterate? To address this issue, research in the field of digesting and interpreting visual metaphors has ensued. Visual Literacy (VL) is a vast field of study. The meaning of VL varies due to its application to on many areas and disciplines i.e., information visualization, fine arts, metaphor theory etc. In a very broad sense VL is the cognitive ability to read, digest and
  • 103. Dyslexic Visualizations in Practice: Strengths and Forgotten Frustrations 87 understand visual information and metaphors. In 1969, John Debes coined the term: ‗Visual Literacy refers to a group of vision-competencies a human being can develop by seeing and at the same time having and integrating other sensory experiences. The development of these competencies is fundamental to normal human learning. When developed, they enable a visually literate person to discriminate and interpret the visible actions, objects, symbols, natural or man-made, that he encounters in his environment. Through the creative use of these competencies, he is able to communicate with others. Through the appreciative use of these competencies, he is able to comprehend and enjoy the masterworks of visual communication.‘ (IVLA, 2006) Woosly, (2004), details attempts to teach visual literacy through computerized exercises, along with evaluative studies designed to teach and emphasize the importance of being visual literate. Spotlighting the advantages of being visually literate in a predominately verbally literate culture. The author notes that ‗most of us can read and write, but only a few of us are professional novelists. In contrast, there are a number of visual professionals, and yet the majority of us are completely illiterate in the visual communication domain.‘ (p. 13) Woosley, also argues that remedying visual illiteracy requires a greater exposure to a visual education. They maintain that visual literacy should be taught in parallel to our highly valued verbal literacy and at the earliest levels of education. However, being visually literate is a natural human condition - anyone can learn it. Similar to learning vocabulary concepts, the basic skills of visual literacy also include its own vocabulary, which include the language necessary for understanding and discussing images and visual symbols. ‗Visual language is not the same as verbal language. It is often less precise (sometimes more), less concerned with grammar, more purely sensory, and less embedded currently in cultural conventions.‘ (p. 14) The visual language can use images to be as explicit as words or be less precise. The advantage of being less precise with visual information can be that it enables the viewer to acquire his/her own interpretation. The strengths of visual literacy derives from not being exact, sequential or precise. Visual literacy is less concerned with grammar and more inclined to use sensory interpretation (Messaris 1994; Woosley et al. 2004). The use of images through the visual language is not better or stronger than the words, but sequentially constructed by verbal codification of language. The suggestion here is that in certain contexts, the image is more powerful in communicating through sensory cognitive skills in comparison to strictly verbal competencies. This is apparent in the way we deliver information through various technologies. Multimedia technologies such as gaming, touch Mp3 players, mobile web devices, software applications, etc., have become increasingly hands-on, visually based and thrive on learning through the experiences of the interaction rather than reading about its use in the system preferences, books, pamphlets or manuals. In some contexts technologies have become more dependent on utilizing other cognitive skills where the written word may not be enough. Ironically, learning from a mix of computer-based technologies is fostering apprenticeship like practices reminiscent of our ancestral past. Increasingly, there have been important changes in the classroom to merge and utilize visual and verbal proficiencies in education. Recent learning conventions have been adopting the need to utilize visual competencies within the digital classroom. E-Learning is an example of a modern day bridge between verbal and visual forms of communication (Clark and Mayer, 2003; Woosly et al. 2004). The E-Learning experience utilizes multiple teaching styles and languages, which
  • 104. 88 Brian O‘Keefe include but is not limited to verbal, visual, kinesthetic and auditory skill sets. Using more than one literacy in the classroom is especially prudent when transmitting knowledge in new ways and especially without the direct aid of a teacher. Clark and Mayer (2003) discuss the merger of text and image as an inseparable components or mediums that reinforce the learning process across virtual classrooms. They discuss the merger of two or more informational mediums i.e. textual, auditory, visual, etc., and integration with a certain levels of appropriateness. Clark and Mayer also suggest that images for online instructional design should not be decorative, but rather an explanative to reinforce the message of the content. Under this context, pretty pictures of sunsets and palm trees could be considered inappropriate if the online lesson was explaining the mating behaviours of crocodiles. Images of sunsets and beaches could be used to reinforce romanticism by human standards, but even if human mating behaviors were the topic of online learning, pretty beach pictures could still be out of context, especially if the content was geared towards the science of human cell reproduction. The success of images and utilizing visual proficiencies is entirely dependent on the context in which the lesson is presented. Transmitting and using content in an E-Learning environment requires a careful selection of verbal and visual components to reinforce a particular concept. This section discusses how people can be better prepared to use visual learning practices for multimedia applications. However, in e-learning and other instructional design applications, the text is more or less dependent on the image and the image is more or less dependent on the text. To expand the possibilities of the visual language within online instructional applications, visual information needs to enter the domain of interactive multimedia arts. The following exemplifies highly developed visual dyslexic competencies in traditional classroom scenarios. VISUALIZATION STUDIES The following visualization studies are intended to highlight various aspects and arguments of this research. The objectives of these studies are to render the verbal language of this chapter to metaphorical discuss visualized multimedia representations. Although not exclusive to the dyslexic condition, the goals were to heighten the profile and push the boundaries of visual literacy integrated within traditional academic values and expectations. Dyslexia thought processes are utilized the following studies to exemplify and drive the argument that a well-balanced understanding of the condition can provide new perspectives and influence classroom examinations through creative problem solving. These visualizations are all web sites created by the author in Adobe Flash. They can be found online (O‘Keefe, 2006). ‗ABCDyslexia‘ is a visualization study is designed to reiterate discussions from the previous section. The visualization uses spelling ‗mistakes‘ to visually support the notion that mistakes occur when limitations are applied to a method of thinking. This visualization creates a satire between the pronunciation of ‗The Queen‘s English‘, contrasted against the ‗misspellings‘ of a dyslexic young adult. ‗The Exam‘ is a series of visualization studies which follows a dyslexic PhD student named Joseph, following a computer science course at the Università degli Studi di Firenze,
  • 105. Dyslexic Visualizations in Practice: Strengths and Forgotten Frustrations 89 Italia: anno acedemico 2004 – 2007. Although there are eight studies with this project, this chapter addresses two, ‗La Teoria degli Spazi Antropologici‘ and ‗The Unified Modeling Language of Doing Nothing‘. These visualizations discusses and exemplifies elements of all of the above sections i.e., the challenges of learning in a primarily verbally literate environment, the value and strengths of several visual proficiencies and finding creative solutions based on challenges that could be considered elementary to others involved. ABCDYSLEXIA: PAYSHENTS ‗ABCDyslexia‘ is a playful micro-site designed to highlight how spelling mistakes can be re-conceptualized and considered small glimpses of creativity. The objective of this visualization is to use individual keys on the keyboard to hear and see misspelled words. Once a key on the keyboard is pressed and held, the visualization unfolds. This case study demonstrates the creative use of images and words in the guise of a spelling mistake or a ‗limitation‘. By utilizing exact graphics with inexact word spellings, the overall premise of ‗ABCDyslexia‘ is to graphically and verbally contrast and blur the lines between the ‗exactness‘ of verbal language with the ‗less-precise‘ quality of the visual language. The study is supported by using graphics, kinesthetic tactile input, animations and sound via proper pronunciation from British English or ‗The Queen‘s English‘, see Figure 1. Figure 1. Still from ‗ABCDyslexia: Payshents‘. Supporting Graphics: Structure, precision, exactness, sharp edges, numbers, black and white colors were instruments used to reinforce the environment of the verbal language when concerned with spelling. Counters on the top, bottom, left and right quadrant are placed to calculate exact location of each letter on the vector based map. Supporting Kinesthetic: The keyboard provided tactile feedback and enabled interaction with 26 English letters. Words are assigned to each letter e.g. when ‗o‘ is pressed the word ‗over‘ is displayed, when ‗p‘ is pressed the word ‗payshents‘ is displayed and so on. Note, there is a fun distortion effect if multiple keys are pressed at once. Supporting Animation: Easing, sweeping, and slight inaccurate animations also assisted in supporting the goals of this study. After the map image sweeps into place, the location
  • 106. 90 Brian O‘Keefe never sets comfortably onto an exact corner or intersection. The final target destination of the animation stops a little outside or just off target. The suggestion is that there is something a bit off or something that needs to be adjusted, hinting that something is amiss, even though the graphic design layout seems structured. Supporting Sounds: Pronunciation as the ‗The Queen‘s English‘ and phonetics further supports the contrast between proper pronunciation and phonetic spelling. Although inaccurate to the crown, there is creativity in dyslexic spelling. After presenting this work to users, one English user suggested that these spelling mistakes seemed so incorrect that she admitted that she could not spell so inaccurately even if she tried. The suggestion here is that once a user learns one way of doing, that person finds difficulty seeing other avenues of doing. With novel elements such as ‗The Queen‘s English‘, precise graphics, keyboard interactions, and pronunciation verses phonetics metaphors, sweeping animations, and calculative numbers; Joseph was able to create a multimedia application that contrasts the spelling tradition against the phonetic creative solutions when attempting to spell words properly. THE EXAM: UNIVERSITY OF FLORENCE, ITALY In the Florentine winter of 2004, Joseph was faced with several fundamental obstacles at the beginning of his doctoral course. He arrived from a fine arts background and was newly exposed to computer science engineering tools. Joseph was enrolled in a very rigorous traditional educational system and not fluent in Italian. The course required all students to follow and respond to nine-out-of-twelve computer engineering courses. Java, Document Modeling, Information Architecture, Web Services, UML, XML, Semantic Web, Wireless Systems, and The Theory of Anthropological Spaces were selected amongst the twelve courses provided. All courses were taught at a doctoral level in Italian, followed by one extensive final exam in Italian. Following these courses at a very traditional academic university created an experience that was wrought with challenges that native Italian students did not have, mainly (language barriers), demanding creative problem solving on a daily basis. In place of hand written notes, hundreds of images were taken secretly during the courses, capturing everything from teachers, other students, computers, windows, computer monitors, tables, keyboards, and power point slide presentations. Various sounds were recorded as well, squeaking of chairs, opening of doors and the voices of lecturing professors and chatty classmates were also captured. These snippets of unconventional classroom documentation became Joseph‘s most valuable assets of classroom lesson material. Instead of following strict academic traditions and delivering a lengthy written thesis, outlining the impact the courses had on his future doctoral research at the university, Joseph delivered nine visual studies. These studies used web-based multimedia technologies that included the rhetorical creative use of photography, graphics, sounds and illustrations based on his unique experiences. Controversial at the time, the visual interactive response to the exam did successfully become the foundation of his PhD and the basis of this chapter.
  • 107. Dyslexic Visualizations in Practice: Strengths and Forgotten Frustrations 91 The following visualization studies ‗La Teoria degli Spazi Antropologici‘ and ‗Unified Modeling Language (UML)‘ can be found online at (O‘Keefe, 2006). Please note that these visualizations are not intended to be user-friendly. They are explorative in nature and require a lot of unusual interactions, hidden menus and buttons, odd sounds and thrive on using the visual language to address the notion that not all the intended delivered classroom information was received. These visualizations are as much as about presenting computer science concepts as they are about recreating the challenges experienced by Joseph attending these classes. LA TEORIA DEGLI SPAZI ANTROPOLOGICI‟ ‗La Teoria degli Spazi Antropologici‘ is an example of using the visual language as the only method of obtaining information during a course where verbal proficiencies were completely useless. Combining ambiguous graphics, distorted animations and inaudible sounds bits recreates a classroom environment that does not make sense. Inaccessibility due to verbal competencies is the premise of this visualization. See figure 2. Figure 2. Still from ‗La Theoria degli Spazi Antropologici‘. Joseph was desperately and completely lost during the lessons. The professor‘s lecture was designed around high level anthropologic theory revolving around something to do with technology. Following this course was extremely obscure, even the native Italian speakers had difficulties keeping up. Joseph could not rely on words of any kind so, to respond to the exam and the course, so he recreated his experiences through what he saw and heard. Allavailable information was captured and recorded in fragmented bits i.e., photographs and sound snippets of teachers, students and classrooms. With these audio/visual notes the visualization stitches together fragmented sound bits and photographs in order to capture the overall classroom experience. The professor of this course was extremely expressive and passionate about his research, so images were selected that best captured the expressive actions of the professor. These images were then randomized and animated in and out of transparency. In attempts to capture the way the professor
  • 108. 92 Brian O‘Keefe explained himself to the class, audio segments were also randomized mixed to further resonate the feeling of being lost in a foreign classroom. The professor had a wealth of information to teach, but this student was not able to grasp the original intentions of the lesson. With the creative configuration of visual and audio fragmented bits, Joseph discovered a creative way to solve a complex problem and respond to examinations using only his visual proficiencies because the verbal competencies were simply inaccessible. „THE UNIFIED MODELING LANGUAGE OF DOING NOTHING‟ ‗The Unified Modeling Language of Doing Nothing‘ also uses the visual materials to capture classroom lessons. Unlike the previous visualization study, Joseph was able to understand the main principles of the lesson through normal classroom proficiencies. Pictures mainly were taken to capture power point presentations so he could later return to the slides and either catch up on concepts or translate Italian to English. Figure 3. Still from, ‗The Unified Modeling Language of Doing Nothing‘. However, there was problem. Joseph arrived from a visually based art background and this was his first exposure to ‗Unified Modeling Language‘ (UML). UML stereotypically deals with mapping out the flow or path of sensitive information in a debit-card purchasing or ATM transactions. Due to being from a fine arts background, he concluded that UML had nothing to do with his interests, and he could not foresee anything or even remotely beneficial from following such a UML course. Extremely frustrated in having to report and respond on this seemingly and completely meaningless subject, Joseph, out of spite, created the UML flow chart of ‗Doing Nothing‘, because he thought that learning UML would do nothing for his future research activities. To create a UML flow chart based on ‗Doing Nothing‘, a simple everyday scenario was created to metaphorically encapsulate the experience of the lesson‘s significance and demonstrate a general knowledge of UML, even if it was created out of spite. After the virtual classroom‘s drop down projection screen is activated, the scenario begins with nothing present. With a little payshents, the user can uncover hidden boxes describing a ‗Person Sitting‘ on perhaps a bus, train or car. The pseudo UML flow chart begins. Drawn lines
  • 109. Dyslexic Visualizations in Practice: Strengths and Forgotten Frustrations 93 between the boxes begin to unravel and they describe the sequence of activities of a person ‗Doing Nothing‘ while sitting on a bus. The flow chart continues as other boxes are discovered and the user realizes that people can do something while ‗Doing Nothing‘. Involuntarily bodily movements such as twitching, adjusting foot position or gazing off into the sunset are possible traits of a bus rider unaware that he/she is doing nothing. The flow chart persists and during the process of ‗Doing Nothing‘ a person could have a ‗Realization‘. Perhaps that realization was that he/she was bored of ‗Doing Nothing‘. Consciousness ensues and opens up many more possibilities while doing nothing. As the flow chart continues to unfold this person could have thoughts about what is going around him/her i.e., a person nearby is speaking too loudly on the phone. The flow chart concludes after the passenger realizes that ‗Doing nothing‘ while sitting on a bus, non-consciously adjusting his/her feet, noticing how bored he/she actually is while listening to a loud person on a phone can have an epiphany. The process of designing a UML flow chart of ‗Doing Nothing‘ was fueled by a conclusion of valuelessness constructed out of photographical snippets of fragmented information, leading to a moment of Zen: ‗Within Nothing, Everything Exists‘. The final box of the UML flow chart states this quote from the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu. The value of ‗The Unified Modeling Language of Doing Nothing‘ is that through the process of graphically illustrating perceived irrelevant lesson material, the student Joseph learned that finding ways around his own ignorance and misconceptions merited a lesson in humility. DISCUSSIONS: DVL AND THE DYSLEXIC PRISM The natural visual competencies observed continuously within the previous visualization studies suggest that this could be a highly developed visual literacy or Dyslexic Visual Literacy (DVL). DVL is a means of understanding and using the dyslexic condition for its strengths. Since VL (Visual Literacy) can be taught to anyone (Messaris, 1994; Woosley, et al. 2003), DVL can therefore suggest a starting point in discussions investigating the possibility of non-dyslexics utilizing visual-spatial perspectives - skills experienced by many dyslexics. The general objectives of DVL are to highlight dyslexic visual thinking through a general understanding of visual-spatial abilities according to Davis (1997), West (1997) and Gardner (1993). DVL encourages the blend of visual metaphors as well as a deeper understanding of spatial relationships, and creatively sets the stage for detecting patterns in unrelated information through creative problem solving (Gardner, 1997; West, 1997). The general value ‗for all‘ points to a platform for people of non-dyslexic proficiencies to utilize dyslexic strengths within their disciplines. The premise of DVL is not intended to replace verbal traditions in education, but specifically aims to enhance them (O‘Keefe, 2008). To utilize DVL, two main obstacles must be overcome. The foundation of DVL originates from being visually literate. Research suggests that a loss of visual proficiencies is due to lack of a visual education (Gould, 1993; West, 1997; Woosley et al., 2003), but there are ways to practice visual proficiencies (O‘Keefe, 2008; Woosley, et al., 2003). The inadvertent use of today‘s digital technologies and information design (i.e., E-Learning) harbors the importance of the visual language. The concern of visual illiteracy may fade as more people are exposed to technology. The second obstacle is that a person without dyslexia
  • 110. 94 Brian O‘Keefe does not have the same visual-spatial methods of problem solving. Since being dyslexic is a lifelong condition, which over time may create well-practiced problem solvers, the notion of ‗turning someone dyslexic overnight‘ seems illogical on several levels. Since this is a fundamental challenge, this chapter provides a small tool to act as a catalyst and stir discussion of this possibility, The Dyslexic Prism (O‘Keefe, 2008). The Dyslexic Prism is designed to provide a starting point; a general overview towards understanding DVL and the utilization of dyslexic strengths. This tool asks the viewer to step back and to become pseudo-dyslexic by practicing various recurring traits of the condition. The primary goal of the Dyslexic Prism is to break down sequential thought. The Dyslexic Prism is subjective and by being so, demonstrates the essence of its contribution to the visual language. The Dyslexic Prism has six themes: Child-Like View, Reverse Approach, Spatial Senses, Metaphor Relationships, Creating Obstacles and Visual Language. The Dyslexic Prism (Figure 4) is written and a number in a list format, however there is no prescribed order or particular sequence. Figure 4. The Dyslexic Prism. 1) Child-Like View: (Being Dyslexic) A child-like view of the world should never be underestimated. The goal is to look at a new idea with fresh eyes or look at an old idea from the perspective of a child. 2) Reverse Approach: (Visual Thinking) Practice non-sequential thought. Start at the end of an idea, project or activity, and work backwards. The goal is to think out of sequence but continue to make relationships based on the information you have in conjunction with what you could know. 3) Spatial Senses: (Spatial Ability) Navigate without the use of any technologies, i.e., GPS, street signs, maps or compasses. Only rely on your own sense of direction. The goal is to rely on what you can provide. Walking in the forest with no footpaths could sharpen this skill. 4) Metaphor Relationships: (Patter Recognition) Turn on the television and flip through the channels, never stopping for more than several seconds. Then create a story to
  • 111. Dyslexic Visualizations in Practice: Strengths and Forgotten Frustrations 95 explain how these images relate to each other. The goal is to see how images relate using visual metaphors. 5) Creating Obstacles: (Problem Solving) Utilize a personal strength in several completely different ways. The goal is to produce the same quality of work and discover if there could be better way to gain similar results. 6) Visual Language: (Being Visual) Use your natural visual abilities in something as mundane as observing cloud formations. Look at shapes in nature that correlate to seeming unrelated objects in other forms, i.e., a few drops of cream in a cup of coffee can form abstract shapes present in galaxy formations. CONCLUSION There are many researchers and practitioners who aim to provide diverse insights into the dyslexic condition. This chapter uses dyslexia to underscore the importance of visual proficiencies, not only within the classroom, but also when creating multimedia technologies. Individuals with higher visual competencies (dyslexic or not) could enhance the dynamics and rhetorical analysis of imagery through multimedia platforms - deepening arguments visually (Messaris, 1994). This chapter explores, discusses and demonstrates through various visualization studies of dyslexics. These provide a platform to build visual proficiencies, and more importantly suggest ways in which dyslexia could be utilized for its fundamental strengths. If technologies intended for the blind have made important contributions ‗for all‘, then the ‗word blind‘ could equally make important contributions ‗for all‘ if researchers and practitioners focused on designing systems based on visual proficiencies - this is not merely to disassociate dyslexia from the realm of the ‗handicap‘ or overcome adversity. This research highlights and encourages abstract methods by applying the visual language within a classroom setting through interactive multimedia applications. Increasingly, as daily activity merits new knowledge of interactive systems and devices, society puts an even greater focus on interactive visual technologies - it will be those who lack developed visual competencies who could now experience a ‗handicap‘ (West, 1997). REFERENCES Abascal, J.; and Civit, A. (2001). Bridging the ‗Gap between Design for All and Assistive Devices. In: Stephanidis, Constantine (Ed.): Universal Access in HCI. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, London Being Dyslexic. (2004). Dyslexia Information, Retrieved December 2, 2009, from Blakeslee, S. (1991). Study Ties Dyslexia to Brain Flaw Affecting Vision and Other Senses. The New York Times. 15 September 1991. Clark, M. (2003). E-Learning and the Science of Instruction. San Francisco, CA: J. Wiley & Sons, Inc. Davis, R. (1997). The gift of dyslexia. (London): Souvenir press.
  • 112. 96 Brian O‘Keefe Emiliani, P.L.; and Stephanidis, C. (2001). "Future Strategies" In: Roe, Patric (ed.), Bridging the Gap? Access to telecommunications for all people. Published by the Commission of the European Communities, COST219bis, pp. 211-220. Galaburda, M.S. (1993). Dyslexia and Development: Neurobiological Aspects of ExtraOrdinary Brains. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Gardner, H. (1993). Frames of Mind. New York, NY: Basic Books, member of The Perseus Books Group. Gould, S. J. (1993). Eight Little Pigs: Reflections in Natural History. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. International Dyslexia Association. (2007). Frequently Asked Questions About Dyslexia, Retrieved November 30, 2009, from International Visual Literacy Association. (2004). What is ‗Visual Literacy?‘, Retrieved September 7, 2006, from Jonsson, B. (2002). Ten Thoughts on Enabling Communication – For All. Lund University, Sweden: Certec. Kemppainen, E.(2001). Legislative Development in Europe. - In: Bridging The Gap? Access to telecommunications for all people. Edited by Patrick R.W. Roe. COST219bis, the Commission of the European Communities 2001. (145-153) Krasnow Institute. (2008). Talents of Dyslexics: Case studies in neuroscience, Retrieved November 30, 2009, from Messaris, P. (1994). Visual Literacy: Image, Mind & Reality. Bolder, Co: Westview Press member Perseus Book Group. O‘Keefe. B. (2006). aDesignedPath, Being Visual: Dyslexia as a Resource for Design Interactive PhD Submission, Retrieved November 30, 2009, from O‘Keefe. B. (2008). ‗Dyslexia as a Resource for Design.‘ In Proceedings International Association of Science and Technology for Development HCI. Innsbruck, Austria. Ong, W. J. (2002). Orality and Literacy. England, London: Taylor & Francis Group Shaywitz, S. (2004). Overcoming Dyslexia. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knof, Random House Inc. Smith-Spark, J. H., Fawcett, A.J., Nicolson, R.I., and Fisk, J.E. (2004). Dyslexic students have more everyday cognitive lapses. Memory, 12(2), 174-182. Stephandis, C. (2001). User Interfaces for All. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers. Stowe, C.M. (2000). How to Reach & Teach Children & Teens with Dyslexia. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, A Wiley Imprint. US Department of Education. (2002). ‗Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Retrieved Dec 16, 2006. West, T.G. (1997). In the Minds Eye. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books. Wolff, U.; and Lundberg, I. (2002). The Prevalence of Dyslexia Among Art Students. Dyslexia, 8, 34–42 Woolsey, K.H; Kim, S; and Curtis, G. (2004). VizAbility: Learn to Communicate Visually. Boston, MA: Thomson Learning Inc., Course Technology.
  • 114. In: Dyslexia and Creativity Investigations from Differing… ISBN: 978-1-61668-552-2 Author: Neil Alexander-Passe ©2010 Nova Science Publishers, Inc. Chapter 6 A DYSLEXIC ARTIST AND HER GALLERY ENVIRONMENT Michelle Molyneux Artist, (UK) The author has worked on commissions for: English Heritage, The Evening Standard, and Dreamcast, among others. She has also received many private commissions from major contemporary art collectors worldwide. Major achievements include having won the "Conde Nast - Vogue Award", the "Darwin Award for Fine Art" and the "David Fletcher Award". She has lectured in colleges in the UK and exhibited in solo and group exhibitions, including the "South Bank Photo Show" at the Royal Festival Hall, the "Absolut Vodka" show at The Royal College of Art, London, The Bruton Street Gallery, The October Gallery, both in London, and Liverpool Biennial. During her years at The Royal College of Art, encouraged by Professor John Hedgecoe, Molyneux developed her unique style of photo-collage, against the background of a school of thought merely concerned with technique and curriculum orientated tutors, stifling individuality. The key to understand Molyneux's collages can be found in her capacity to slip through the traps and prejudices of society, armed only by her great sense of humour and her ability to maintain a child-like spirit. Molyneux's instinctive understanding of the human mind, which tries to grapple with moral and instinctive decisions and to distinguish between the real and the fake and the essential nature of images and prints which continually transform and change.
  • 115. 100 Michelle Molyneux THE RESIDENCE AS AN ARTIST IN THE WILLIAMSON ART GALLERY After my retrospective exhibition at the Williamson Art Gallery, this was widely acclaimed and written about in the north of England. Schoolchildren began to be very inspired by my work. Often they would come to my gallery space when I was giving talks on my concept of my art and dyslexia. Before long, I was giving workshops in my working environment and gallery space. Studio of the Residency in the Williamson Art Gallery My next show was called ―Assumptions and Perceptions‖ which was a fluid exhibition created in a gallery space, so the public could see how the collages were made. This two-way process was a unique experience for people to watch and be involved in the production of my collages. The preparation for my collages starts by printing photos that I have taken over the last month. A stretcher is made and these prints are spread-out over the floor and the concept formation begins. My project for the Independent Biennial was a topical theme linked to the Biennial, combined with other gallery images and images of environments that have personal meaning to me. The preparation required is long and exhausting, and can take up to two months. The concept for my work is for people to observe me in my artistic process, watching it develop, flow, and grow into the carousel of swirling movement, progressing into what I call ‗a massive vortex of emotional turmoil‘. When I cut up photographs, I am cutting into slices of my memories and near death experiences, of a premature birth and growing up not knowing about my dyslexia. My image/memory cutting is therapeutic in dealing with my painful family memories of childhood and youth. On my large-scale pieces (in the art residence), my concentration is complete as I am completely absorbed in my art process. This has developed over many years, from childhood, as I have struggled with concentration. I can now work for many hours without a break, regardless of how tired I become. In the past, I sometimes found it hard to let my thoughts flow, but I found music a massive help in this (to concentrate), so now without music there is
  • 116. A Dyslexic Artist and her Gallery Environment 101 no flow, and my art depends on this. I find the rhythm helps me to juxtapose my work by ‗cutting large sky pieces into rhythmic shapes‘. As a dyslexic, I find the diverse range of sounds from music helps me to stimulate my brain. The movement from sound gives me a sensation of peace to produce rhythmic formular constructions, and I find collage making an energetic physical act - just like lovemaking. I believe all my processes are linked together to create great works of art. Are the Processes a Dyslexic uses Similar to an Art-Form? Yes. I feel the intensity to my work and my obsessiveness towards thought, along with constant cutting repeatedly into photographic images, formulates depth in scale and form. This multi-dimensional thought is applied to all aspects of my life and problem-solving. The colours I use vibrate and dance, and these levels of perspective appear in four dimensions. Dyslexia is helpful in this process, because the dyslexic brain is different to a normal brain (e.g. wired in a different way). I believe the dyslexic brain sees things much quicker than an ordinary person. This is not to say ordinary people are unable to produce good art, but if you review all the artists that are also dyslexic and their artwork - they see the world in a unique way and their art has a different dimension to it. Art allows them a window into society that they would have been unable to reach through the written word. Maybe their unique perspective comes from their obsessiveness connected with their dyslexia or how they process life and society. Their extreme obsessiveness is helpful in their production of art, along as acting as part of their own therapy. Art focuses me and my pain is released in strong and profound ways, so it energizes my spirit and makes me feel young. That is what I believe art does for my consciousness.
  • 117. 102 Michelle Molyneux Project Gallery: On Going Work in a Gallery Environment The New Work and the Show 2008 to 2009 A cryptic (something normally hard to describe, so I describe it through photo-collage) was produced to celebrate the Biennial combined with galleries in the north of England – to produce images of icons of people, and their places of choice. In the production of the collages, my role in each piece was to personalise each artwork to each gallery director – this process was trying, but also very productive. Again, each large-scale piece was then collaged to music of my choice, from certain albums and chart toppers. This ongoing project is still going strong, and the artwork produced so far has been powerful and well received by the public. Getting back to dyslexic art and dyslexia, I am able to work long hours and I can concentrate better than I have done, maybe this is to do with working with, rather than against a dyslexic brain – I am now better able to understand my disability and its emotional manifestations. Things are not always easy, especially when my mood swings happen. I usually get depression after finishing a collage because my baby has been finished and the release and relief is overwhelming to say the least. We live in a turbulent world and each piece is my way of dealing with such a world. Additionally, at present I perceive my inner world as terrible (based on my childhood), and I have no escape from it, as I find it hard to resolve my threads of thought. The chaos in the Lady Lever collage is still chaos in my mind, even though the artwork is delivered. Although it has been delivered, it is still churning in my mind – this is the chaos and fragmentation as part of being dyslexic. The memory of making art as a child is my link between innocence and concept. It is this memory that defines me and what my art is about.
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  • 120. In: Dyslexia and Creativity Investigations from Differing… ISBN: 978-1-61668-552-2 Author: Neil Alexander-Passe ©2010 Nova Science Publishers, Inc. Chapter 7 THREE CASE STUDIES OF CREATIVE DYSLEXICS Neil Alexander-Passe Graphic designer, Researcher and Author of ‗Dyslexia and Depression: The Hidden Sorrow‘. (UK) As a dyslexic who experienced difficulties in school, the author found alternative routines to gain his first degree in Graphic Design (dyslexics are known to excel visually) and a master‘s degree in research philosophy (as a mature student). He began to research dyslexia and the emotional suffering in children, teenagers and adults so that he was better prepared than his own parents, for any dyslexic children. But since none of his are dyslexic, he is drawn between being relieved that they have not suffering as he did at school, and secondly being frustrated that he they do not share the experiences of suffering with a learning disorder (so are unlike him). It‘s crazy he realises, but he is not sure if he should be thanking god that they are spared the suffering and alienation that dyslexia brings or resenting their easy flight through school? In the author‘s book ‗Dyslexia and Depression: The Hidden Sorrow‘ (Alexander-Passe, 2010) he hopes dyslexia will be seen in a new light, with greater understanding of the secondary manifestations that can come from suffering and helplessness. The author feels that depression is a real and significant manifestation from dyslexia, and notes that whilst he was seeking volunteers for this study, there was a great influx of dyslexics with depression, thus he questions whether most dyslexics are affected by depression, to some extent, as a reaction to their suffering in mainstream education. ABSTRACT This study aims to investigate how three artists with diagnosed dyslexic cope with being dyslexic and how their dyslexia impacts on their creative process. The study will ask in excess of 40 semi-structured items to investigate whether their artistic production is unique because of their dyslexia.
  • 121. 106 Neil Alexander-Passe REASON FOR THE STUDY Alexander-Passe (2010) discusses previous studies investigating a correlation between dyslexia and creative skill. These have been inconclusive in supporting such a hypothesis that dyslexics are creative above normative levels. These include Alexander-Passe (2011) using divergent measures of creativity; Winner, von Karolyi and Malinsky (2000) and Von Karolyi, Winner, Gray and Sherman (2003) using creativity and visual-spatial tests, especially measures of ‗impossible figures‘; and Everatt, Steffert and Smythe (1999) also using visual-spatial and divergent tests. In all, close to forty different measures have been used to investigate the question of superior creative and visualspatial talents amongst dyslexics. Whilst all the above have been inconclusive, it does not mean that dyslexics are not superior in creativity, as many dyslexics are reported in creative professions (art, design, theatre, science, architecture etc). However it does suggest that whilst non-dyslexics are suited to standardised measure of divergence or visual-spatial abilities, dyslexics may be unsuited to such measures, and alternative devices may be required. Such devices and measures have yet to be discovered, and the search goes on. This study aims to develop case studies to identify the unique aspect of creativity amongst dyslexics, and through such study, a means to develop dyslexic-friendly creativity measures may arise. The Study The study will use semi-structured interview script with a number of diagnosed dyslexic adults, to investigate both their childhoods and artistic products. The author, who is an artist/graphic designer by training, is a strong believer that creative products are a product of ones personal journey in life. Therefore the semi-structured interview script will investigate how their creative products are a reflection of their youth, schooling and adult life. The script will also investigate whether their creative journey is a personal therapeutic method in dealing with their learning difficulties and resulting emotions, as found in Alexander-Passe (2009a, b, c, and d) to be the case with other adults with dyslexic, especially those with both depression and dyslexia. Method Figure 1 details the semi-structured interview script used in this study. This script began as 35 items, based on Alexander-Passe (2011), but was enlarged during the first interview to take into account the greater need to investigate the creative process. A semi-structured script was chosen to be investigative in method, and the author had found this in previous studies to be advantageous with a dyslexic sample (Alexander-Passe, 2009a, b, c, d; 2010). Interviews took place by phone in the participant‘s own home, so that the study reached dyslexics in all areas of the UK. Recruitment took place through adverts on both the author‘s own website (, the website for the Arts Dyslexia Trust
  • 122. Three Case Studies of Creative Dyslexics 107 (, and through email invitation after searches on the internet to identify dyslexic artists. Three participants were recruited and each satisfied the author that they were formally diagnosed as dyslexic. Participants were given full details of the study, were sent the main questions by email beforehand, and were given two chances to withdraw from the study. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33. 34. 35. 36. 37. 38. 39. 40. 41. 42. 43. 44. What evidence do you have that you are dyslexic? Did you receive any support for your degree? What age did your parents first think you were dyslexic or had a learning problem? What qualifications did you leave school with? At what age was your dyslexia first diagnosed? How does dyslexia affect your daily life? Does it? Does your wife/partner do your business paperwork for you? Do you avoid things because of your dyslexia? Reading or doing forms? What classic dyslexic symptoms do you have? Left and right? Laying the table for meals? Learning to drive? Who else in your family is dyslexic? Do you feel you are different to your family and friends? Short-term memory? Forgetting if the front door or car door is locked? Do you like being dyslexic? Why? Do you like being different? Is being dyslexic good or bad? Is dyslexic being positive or negative? Do you think it is a class-based problem? Do you think differently to most people you know (to non-dyslexics)? How do you define creativity? I think it is easier to teach divergent thinking then creativity? What is a creative thought? Do you think you are creative? Why? Do you think creative thought is just arts based? Do you like being creative? Why? Is art your therapy? What sort of art or design do you produce? Do you think your creativity is different to non-dyslexics? At art college they gave me a sketch book to work through my process, I found this hard as I went straight to the final concept, A to C without B. Why do you think so many dyslexics are artists or designers? Do you think all dyslexics are creative? Why? Please can you describe your creative process? How much does music play in your creative process? Is it related to your mood? Does different music create different art? Your work seems quite cubist, is that one of your interests? How do people react to your process and art? Where you a loner at school? Do you prefer abstract to traditional art? What art based qualifications have you achieved? What has been your art-based career highlight to date? Figure 1. Interview questions.
  • 123. 108 Neil Alexander-Passe All interviews were audio-taped as a record, and participants were informed of the study‘s compliance to the Data Protection Act. Informed consent and the ability to withdraw at any time in the interview was offered, along with the ability to not answer any interview question, and lastly that their names/person details would be camouflaged. In fact whilst camouflaging of names was set as standard, each participant felt this was not required and their real names have been used. Consent was given at the start of each taped interview, and each interview took approx. 60-90 minutes. At the start and during the interview, and where relevant, the author self-disclosed that he was dyslexic, is a practising artist/designer and had attended Art College for five years as a full-time student. At the end of the interview, each participant had the opportunity to ask the author any questions or to email any questions they had relating to the study. The interviews were transcribed and a copy was sent to the participants to be checked/amended. So that more developed case studies could be produced, each artist was asked to submit images of their art and a short text about their work to be published, so that readers will have a greater understanding of their personal journey, and how art has been a major aspect of such a journey. Results The three case studies can be found in Appendix 1, 2 & 3. Each case study has an interview, a text about the artist to support their interview and lastly a few samples of their artwork. This was seen as the best means to describe how their art was a living part of their life. Three artists, Mike Juggins, Sally Carson, and Lynn Weddle are featured in this study. Each represents a different perspective to being an artist. Mike Juggins was only diagnosed at 29yrs old, when returning to university to do an art degree, after a first career in social care and prisons. He came from a farming family and a culture where being an artist was not perceived to be a ‗real-work‘. Whilst his siblings were non-dyslexic, he was the first in the family to go to university and gain a degree. His dyslexia has meant he thinks differently and dyslexia impacts on his daily life. Through art he has gained a means to deal with his dyslexia, and his journey to being a professional artist, has brought him considerable happiness and contentment. This has changed him from having limited success in social work, to high success as an artist with his film shown at the UK‘s House of Lords, and lecturing in New York, Washington, and Hong Kong on his work. Sally Carson was also diagnosed as an adult, again it was only when she went back to do her masters, that she was finally diagnosed as being dyslexic. She is an abstract contemporary artist who enjoys creating form. Whilst her first degree is in silver-smithing, her master is in art psychotherapy. As she sees that through art, colour and form she has been able to help herself and she is now working to help teenagers cope with difficulties in their life. Lynn Weddle was diagnosed dyslexic at 21yrs, whilst studying a BA in photography. Her work makes use of the artistic process to enable others to make images about their life. Whilst also her work has been autobiographical, as a means to understand her own relationship with her dyslexia. Many demons have been faced by her photo documentary work in returning to her old school to relive her trauma. She is now undertaking an MA in Photography to develop her enabling work. She has enjoyed international success, with her
  • 124. Three Case Studies of Creative Dyslexics 109 work being sold worldwide for marketing campaigns. Her work on dyslexia has been published in a UK national magazine (The Sunday Telegraph) and she has given presentations on her work, including a presentation at an international conference in Finland. Whilst participatory photography work has taken her to Latin America and New York. Discussion The interview script can be split into three parts. How they understand their relationship with their dyslexia, how they perceive art, and how they perceive the combination their creative process and dyslexia. Both Mike and Sally left mainstream education (school) with few or no qualifications, however Lynn gained substantial success at school, which she puts down to sheer determination. This suggests that if dyslexia was not identified, then difficulties will not addressed, and suitable help will not be given. However with Lynn this study suggests that determination and resilience is an important factor, as also found by Alexander-Passe (2010a). However as Alexander-Passe (2006, 2008a, 2009d) note, many dyslexics develop advanced avoidance strategies that camouflage their difficulties. Ranging from constantly breaking pencils to avoid time on task, sitting at the back of the class to avoid being asked to read, and constantly losing homework. Such strategies does not excuse their teachers from their role of detecting learning difficulties, but does highlight the skill that many dyslexics have at hiding their difficulties. All three find that their dyslexia affects their daily life, even as adults. The need to read and write in our paper based society means that they have difficulties communicating, getting to meetings on time, and dealing with forms. Organisation and time management is a major difficulty with dyslexics, with many dyslexics putting off paying bills and dealing with important paperwork as a result. Many dyslexics commonly enlist their partners or family members to help with paper work, and this group is no different (Alexander-Passe, 2009d; 2010a). Their short-term memory causes major difficulties with organising their life, and if they don‘t write things down immediately then such information may be forgotten. Difficulties with basic skills, such as knowing the left from their right mean that they tend to avoid tasks requiring such skills, e.g. laying the table and giving directions. Such difficulties affect their self-esteem and their ability to feel normal (Scott, 2004). Interestingly, each enjoys being dyslexic, despite their difficulties. This may be due to them now, as opposed to at school, seeing that dyslexic brings abilities, and that such abilities are a compensation for any difficulties experienced. They also remark that they enjoy being different, and that difference is good, and as Mike notes, ‗full of surprises‘. Suggesting that they enjoy having novel ideas and seeing the world through different perspectives. They also can see that they are now able to make a valid contribution to society. Difference is mentioned by all three participants, and is a theme found in other studies of dyslexics (Alexander-Passe, 2004, 2008, 2009a, b, d; 2010a). Being different and enjoying being different could be why they are successful as artists. As art is in essence a creative skill, to combine to make new, original and interesting things, be it a sculpture, painting, drawing, poem, film or multi-media creation. Therefore their difference may be a key to understanding their creative process.
  • 125. 110 Neil Alexander-Passe In a similar way, when they were asked if dyslexia was positive or negative, good or bad? A number of interesting responses were gained. In the right environment, dyslexia was seen as a good. One example of this is in business, art and design, or in architecture, with Lord Richard Rogers and Sir Richard Branson mentioned. However in mainstream education or in roles requiring high numerical or reading/writing skills, it is seen as a negative. School is another example of a negative environment for dyslexics, due to their difficulty in fitting into standard moulds of normality and ability. In mainstream education, dyslexics suffer (Riddick, 1996, Scott, 2004, Alexander-Passe 2008, 2009a, d) due to their inability to keep up with their peers, causing numerous emotional manifestations that can lead to low self-esteem, stress, and at times self-harm and attempted suicide. The participants noted that they perceived themselves as different to non-dyslexic siblings, spouses, friends and work colleagues. This difference is explained in how they look at problems, and thus solve problems they face. Mike notes that in a similar way that twins have a kinetic bond between them, with a sixth sense of what the other is thinking, he has a similar bond to dyslexic siblings and friends. Lynn also echoes this by noting that she shared university accommodation with other dyslexics, and it was the first time she had experienced such a bond. Such a bond not only came from a common bond of suffering, but a bond of similar mindset. The study then moved onto discussing how they perceived art. This was important to understand if dyslexics perceived art in a different way to non-dyslexics, or to non-dyslexic peers. Mike defines creativity as ‗the ability to challenge oneself. The ability in me, to harvest spontaneously with my painting, and the ability to go with a ‗flash‘ of an idea when it comes quickly, and to trust your imagination‘. Lynn echoes West‘s (1991) concept of dyslexics thinking ‗in the minds eye‘, with Sally talking about ‗I think I am creative in being able to look at the problem from different angles‘. It is interesting that they all perceive creativity as something you can use in all aspects of your life, not just in the creation of a piece of art. It was echoed by all participants that their art was a form of therapy. In fact it was this aspect of their own creative process that encouraged Sally to do an MA in Art Psychotherapy, to help teenagers deal with their own crises through art. This is an important aspect of the investigation, as the study asked if dyslexics were more creative than non-dyslexics. In essence, what is it in dyslexics that makes their art unique, or makes more dyslexics develop art or creative-based careers? Mike seems convinced that art from dyslexics is different to that of non-dyslexics. He uses examples of Hockney, Da Vinci and Picasso to support his claims, noting that he is able to go into an art gallery and identify dyslexic artists by their work. He remarks ‗If you have a chance to look at the process of these artists, it is pretty obvious that dyslexics work in a distinctly different way than most educational establishments would like us to work‘. He finds with his dyslexic artist friends, they ‗just see things and go straight to the concept stage, without considering the process – it‘s spontaneous‘. Reflecting what Lynn noted about seeing their work ‗in the mind‘s eye‘ and going through the creative remodelling process in a virtual setting before putting pencil or paintbrush to canvas. Whilst it does not clearly define why a dyslexic art piece is different to non-dyslexic art, it suggests that the process is different.
  • 126. Three Case Studies of Creative Dyslexics 111 Sally talks about non-dyslexic artists being more organised and less emotionally attached to their art pieces, as she finds it hard to sell her own work. This is due to her art being part of her personal journey, thus in essence it is a part of her. Lynn is less clear about dyslexic art being unique, noting ‗I think creativity is creativity, whether you are dyslexic or not. I would not feel right to say whether a dyslexic‘s creativity was better or worse. We are all products of our own life stories and journeys, so we would each create differently‘. This last sentence is interesting. If our art is the product of our life stories and journeys, then an artist with a troubled background will create different artwork, to one who flowed through school with grade A‘s. Therefore if most dyslexics have experienced emotional trauma in mainstream education, then it is this trauma or turmoil that might make their work different. In the case of Lynn, with her photo-documentary style of work based on her trauma at school. A non-dyslexic wouldn‘t have been able to create such a body of work, due to not experiencing such trauma growing up. Depression and low self-esteem due to exclusion from peers at school has been a powerful stimulus for Lynn in her work. She also works with other disabled people to facilitate them in expressing their emotional journey, thus without her own emotional trauma she would not have been drawn to such creative work. Mike‘s art, be it drawing, painting or film making is heavily influenced by his dyslexia, and he uses it as subject matter in his art. Thus without his knowledge and understanding dyslexia inside out, he would not be able to express how a dyslexic brings a different perspective to the world. Looking at the creative processes these dyslexics use, it is interesting how much they attribute luck to their art. Sally talks about not knowing where her paintings will lead to, they are visual puzzles to solve. Lynn notes that whilst she sets up her equipment with a rough brief, it is luck that makes the difference in getting a good or bad shot, out of the tens of images she takes of a set. However it is through art training that the artist knows which shot is creative or novel, and which shot is ordinary. Mike talks about the influence of music with his work, with the music setting the mood. This suggests that rhythm is an essential part of his process. Whist not suggesting that the music dictates his art, he talks about music being similar to a glass of wine, in that it relaxes you to be open to possibilities. It is interesting how others perceive the art of our participants. Lynn notes ‗People are generally quite excited about my work, as they can see that I am trying to push boundaries in some way - definitely in the art education world‘. This suggests that she is making an interesting and valid contribution to the art debate. Sally notes ‗They like the use of colours, I think they always try and look for some sort of symbolism to find meaning in my paintings, but I like the way they are open to interpretation‘. This is interesting as she perceives her art as for herself and not really for the viewer. She is unhappy about putting titles to her painting, as she feels it restrains the work and labels it as X or Y. Thus to her the reviewer is of little consequence. As noted before, her art is her personal journey and therefore it is hard to let go of such a journey by selling her work. Her painting are like her children or a kidney or lung, and it would be painful to let others adopt or have them. Mike seems less attached to his art. As a film maker he doesn‘t lose ownership of his work, but shares them, so that others can experience what he feels. He also is very proactive in sharing his dyslexic experience with others, so that greater public understanding can be gained of dyslexia.
  • 127. 112 Neil Alexander-Passe Results This study set about to interview a number of dyslexic artists about their art, their process and how they perceived the combination of art and dyslexia. The chapter began by reviewing other studies investigating dyslexia with creativity, visual spatial skill and divergent thinking. It also notes the inability of previous projects to identify superior creative abilities in dyslexics. Whilst dyslexics are commonly found in creative professions, it is unclear why this is so, and why traditional tests of creativity do not highlight such abilities. Therefore this study aimed to investigate why dyslexic artists are different, and try and identify alternative methods to support the recognition of such talents. Three participants took part in the study, which encompassed drawing, painting, photography and film making. Each gave a different perspective to their emotional journey leading to their art, the perception of art, how they felt as dyslexics, and how art created by dyslexics could be perceived as unique. Whilst the sample was small, it was useful in identifying that art is an important form of therapy to deal with living in a word and numbers-based society which these respondents felt excluded from. One could express this in the concept that dyslexics operate with one arm tied behind their back, requiring them to adapt to an inhospitable world where you need two hands to operate most doors, machinery etc. Each described a personal journey of being identified late as having learning difficulties, therefore failing at school and feeling worthless as a results. Then gaining recognition that they had something of value to offer society. Such a journey of failure, mastery and then recognition, may in fact be a fundamental trait to the dyslexic artist. The question must be asked, can this be used to create a means to identify creative dyslexics? Mike suggested he had an ability to look at a painting or drawing and know instinctively if it was created by a dyslexic or a non-dyslexic artist. This interesting idea was based on the visualisation of alternative perspectives. However as each participant talked about an emotional journey of trauma, might the identification of anger or depression also be a useful means of identification? However none of the work of the three participants suggested that anger, depression or emotional trauma was subject matter in their work. Whilst Mike and Lynn are able to visualise their work, in their ‗mind‘s eye‘, Lynn and Sally talk about the randomness of their creation process. Therefore a neurological test of neurological ‗virtual creation‘ may not be a useful identification model. However a measure to test playfulness or an openness to investigate new combinations may be advantageous. Therefore new researchers are invited to design a measure of visual test of divergence. Alternatively a battery could be devised to assess the ability to be resilient and visually divergent amongst dyslexics.
  • 128. Three Case Studies of Creative Dyslexics 113 CASE STUDY 1: MIKE JUGGINS What evidence do you have that you are dyslexic? At the age of 29 yrs I was statemented by an educational psychologist - a full WISC-R test. It made no sense to me, but was required to get support for my degree course. Did you receive any support for your degree? No, not really. I did get a PC after a battle with the educational authority. But I did not get support or extra time in examinations, not that I was looking for that. It took a year to get a rubbish PC, as that was all that was available. So I did get some support. What age did your parents first think you were dyslexic or had a learning problem? I don‘t like the term diagnosed, but I know what you mean. I guess at 29yrs old I was formally diagnosed, as I was on an art foundation course. However I had a fairly good idea at 15yrs old of my dyslexia, as my parents came back from a parent-teacher evening and mentioned the possibility, but nothing was done about it. By working in social care and in the post office, it was obvious to me that I was dyslexic or different to others. But it was only when I went back into formal education at the age of 29yrs old, that dyslexia was clarified. What qualifications did you leave school with? No O‘levels, but 3-4 CSEs (Maths and English) at grade 3. Nothing much that counts, or is recognised now. At what age was your dyslexia first diagnosed? 29yrs old. How does dyslexia affect your daily life? Does it? Yes it does, in as much as a lot of my work is computer based, so reading and writing, and the time management of things is affected. The fact that all the post and the bills are paper-based, and because I am busy and have lots of complex and complicated interests doesn‘t help. I don‘t help myself, by not being a florist or cutter down of trees, which would make life easier. I have lots on, I don‘t have the greatest organisational skills, and although I am fully literate and numerate now, it does take me that little bit longer and take a lot out of me. So yes I would totally say I am affected daily by my dyslexia. Does your wife/partner do your business paperwork for you? Yes in as much as she is able to, but she has a full-time job, so I take on as much of it on as I can. For a number of years it was something that I enjoyed the challenge of. To actually try and get as good as I can at it, and I think I have higher literacy thresholds. I might not show it. I depending on if I‘m having a good day or not. I have a word processor, so can pretty much write letters without too many red lines coming up (showing errors) on stuff. I‘m also good without a computer in front of me, slower, it doesn‘t hinder me as much as before, although I do get a bit of help, I try and do it myself. Do you avoid things because of your dyslexia? Reading or doing forms? Form reading, not that it is particularly academic, but I probably write more than I read. I don‘t read books for pleasure, its more about being too tried, so I don‘t enjoy it, but I may later in life. Of late I have put in an arts council bid, and I avoided a lot of the writing for that.
  • 129. 114 Neil Alexander-Passe Since leaving my last job, I do seem to have put myself out. I avoid reading and writing at the moment, due to hammering it hard for the last ten years, so I‘m taking a break from it. So I do avoid a little bit of both. What classic dyslexic symptoms do you have? Poor short-term auditory memory, people give me instructions and there is every chance that I will muddle them up and get them in the wrong order, like taking down telephone numbers, I‘m a nightmare at them. Whereas my visual memory is very good, once I see it I can remember it really well. I‘m a slow reader and an erratic speller. Left and right? I don‘t get my left and right mixed up, because I‘m very left footed. When I play football, my left foot was semi-pro but my right foot should be on the scrap-yard. I‘m very left dominated but can only see through my right eye. At primary school I was told I was ‗gummy‘ handed and made to write with my right hand, but I am quite ambidextrous. I wear my watch with my right hand but can eat with both. I can pick up a fork and just use it to each. I paint with my left hand as it seems much freer. Laying the table for meals? I used to get flack for it (told off), but now I don‘t care. Sometimes I just put the two (knife and fork) together on one side. Everybody knows, if my friends ever take the Mickey they know I can tie them in knots verbally, so they generally don‘t mention it. Learning to drive? I did not learn to drive till I was 29yrs old, to get to university. I think the clutch control and reverse parking was problematic when learning. Apart from that I was quite natural. I seemed to have problems thinking about where my left and right hands should be. But my second instructor was dyslexic, and said that the problems I had were quite common, it was the same difficulties he had. Who else in your family is dyslexic? My father evidently, although I haven‘t seen him for 15yrs. He is both right and left handed, and could paint behind his back. Although he was only a head chef, he was very capable at a number of things. Definitely my son who is 19yrs old and my youngest daughter who is 11yrs. My brother to a lesser degree as he didn‘t have as many problems with learning basic skills, although his handwriting is like a drunk spider who has fallen into an inkwell. But his abilities, strengths came out in engineering and computer aided design. Do you feel you are different to your family and friends? Most of my family are dyslexic. In terms of my wife there is a difference in brain functioning, definitely. She jokes that she has acquired dyslexia sometimes when she does daft things like put the milk into the cupboard and things. That‘s because we chat together at cross purposes, with lots going on and things get confusing. There does seem to be a big difference between a dyslexic and non-dyslexic person, as when she reads things, she can be very ordered, if I read I would not have picked out the most important bits of the documents, but she would bullet point the main points to the side of the page, where I couldn‘t do that at all. She uses active linear thinking. She is good at ceramics as well. She is aware that we, the dyslexic members of the family talk differently, being in our own world. She trained as a nurse in social care, so is used to seeing different people and treating them as different. At times there is a clear difference. She has less visual-spatial abilities then me, but makes up the difference with other memory abilities.
  • 130. Three Case Studies of Creative Dyslexics 115 Short-term memory? Forgetting if the front door or car door is locked? I know what you are getting at, but I live in a small village and don‘t really need to lock the door anyway. If I have done something, I have a picture of it in my mind. It is more when someone gives me a list, its not there (no image in my mind). If I write things down, then it beds in, otherwise it‘s like the radio, background noise. Do you like being dyslexic? Why? Yes, because is full of surprises this way. I know many people, who don‘t seem to have such interesting lives. I‘m not saying mine is brilliant, by any means, but my life is fully of wonderful distractions. I have lots of interests and am told I often see things differently, like thinking out of the box. I see it as an advantage. I like being dyslexic. Do you like being different? Initially no, but I think its only been the last few years that I have felt comfortable calling myself an artist, as I come from farming stock in Whitshire. So I am the first person, my mother had six brothers and sisters, so quite a big family. I was the first of any generation to have gone to university, with probably the worst track record at school. It was a bit of an issue, and most of my friends were not arty. So at school you definitely didn‘t want to be different. I was sporty and not bad at drama. Being in the lower sets I went to remediate classes for reading, so I didn‘t like being different then, but I‘m happy and comfortable being different now. I don‘t say I like it, but am comfortable with it. Is being dyslexic good or bad? It‘s about context, as in certain situations it is absolutely wonderful. In Richard Branson his business skill comes from his ability to see the bigger picture and being able to turn things in his head, to see gaps in markets and so on. In Richard Rogers the way his brain is wired and the environment he is in, it‘s an advantage. But in the criminal justice system where I worked for many years, many would say that it‘s bad, because of where individuals are (locked up). In the right environment and if you are supported through work, or in university…you are not patronised and supported, then being dyslexic can be a good thing, we invented the wheel…from Da Vinci to Einstein, the way we (dyslexics) see things has fundamentally shaped how we see the world - through lateral dyslexic brains. At times, I will be honest, during the last 2-3 years, I probably was depressed. As it is difficult in such a text-based society, to get qualifications. At times I thought about being dyslexic and there being no magic cures. There has been times when it has not been comfortable being dyslexic, like in my last job. Little did I know, they didn‘t want an arts officer, but an arts administrator. This meant 18hrs a week just reading and writing reports, and that‘s when it‘s bad. After months of that you have a constant headache, you are constantly shattered and I put on weight, as all you do is sitting and that‘s not work to me. That‘s when it‘s bad, when you are in the wrong context. Is dyslexic being positive or negative? It depends which situation I‘m in. I love my sport, so to listen and watch Mohammed Ali or Arsenal football, and hearing that Merson and Bergkamp (both football players at Arsenal) are dyslexic, there is a real positive in that. The negative is having problems with basic literacy/numeracy and the way we educate in this country is just through the small funnel which is auditory processing and linear sequencing, e.g. if you can‘t write about cooking you can‘t get a GCSE in it. My son has no GCSEs except for art and I told him what to write in that.
  • 131. 116 Neil Alexander-Passe It‘s negative in the main for most people, because there is still a misunderstanding of what the neurological difference actually is and means to most people, and there is a lack of support out there. Thus there people who struggled at school who are unemployed, in the criminal justice system, or with mental health problems, that‘s when it is incredibly negative for most people. In the right context being dyslexic can really work for you, but its finding that space. Do you think it is a class-based problem? Yes I definitely see that. When I had my art graduation show, a chap turned up and talked to me about my art (postcards) and the very ‗in-the-face‘ text based stuff I was doing, like producing the university prospectus and my thesis was ‗dyslexic art in within the word-based educational system‘, which was hard for my textual studies lecturers to get their head around. A lecturer about art is not about art just putting up a slide show. The chap who came round was dripping in money, flash car, he told me he was one of the top five knee surgeons in the country, assured me that the 8% of the top knee surgeons in the country were dyslexic. He preferred someone who could understand balances and strains, to be able to spin the knee cap in their mind, to someone who could write a wonderful dissertation. When he talked about his son, he had him assessed at the dyslexia institute, and was in a prep school where they were fully aware of dyslexia and the cutting edge phonetics that works for children. It was obvious from that conversation that he was able to do things for his sons, like Anne Kelly, the former education ministers in the UK who took her sons out to private education. If you have the money, there does seem to be an understanding of dyslexia and appreciation. I think one of Princess Diana‘s sons is dyslexic and I am sure he gets the support he needs. If you compare this to the school I was working in as artist in residence. They had 40% of children on the special needs register, as the register SEN department was being used a dumping ground for difficult children, like in other schools. The main feeder for the school was a large council housing estate with low income families. It was obvious that if you failed at school, then your career choices are limited and your opinion of school will be poor and you will not have the ability to get help for your own dyslexic children. I think there is a ‗ghettoisation‘ of dyslexics, with low qualifications, low income and poor aspirations. If parents have money and enjoyed education opportunities themselves, then they will get the help their children needs. Do you think differently to most people you know (to non-dyslexics)? Yes I do. My wife is linear and I‘m not. I saw Tony Buzan once and he started his talk with a little about ‗metacognition‘ and then asked the audience ‗who is aware of their learning style?‘ (How they think). The educational psychologists in front of me held up their hands. I know my areas of strength and weaknesses, in team meetings and formal situations (e.g. with probation workers and police officers) it can take me a bit of time to understand things, e.g. how they changed the school terms from 4 to 6. I wasn‘t even sure that there weren‘t just 3 terms a year. But, I do realise I think differently to most, but not all. There are plenty of non-dyslexics who can think in the way I do. How do you define creativity? With difficulty…the ability to challenge oneself. The ability in me, to harvest spontaneously with my painting, and the ability to go with a ‗flash‘ of an idea when it comes quickly, and to trust my imagination. It is hard to describe something natural. I don‘t think you can teach creativity, but I can see it in others. When I‘m in full throttle, I know I‘m being
  • 132. Three Case Studies of Creative Dyslexics 117 creative e.g. material-based, colour-based. I find it really hard to name my paintings as I can‘t describe the process, I just know that it looks and feel right. I think it is easier to teach divergent thinking then creativity? Yes I can see that. What is a creative thought? There is something about the word ‗creativity‘ that some people see as like a precious metal to possess. I think a lot of people would like to have it, but there doesn‘t seem to be a generalised understanding it. In critics at art college, people would jump on you if you used the word ‗creativity‘ as they felt it was something sacred. So I see it as the ability to pull things together, move things on and to constantly challenge oneself. Whereas someone who can draw a beautiful rocking horse I would challenge if that is creative, the ability to copy light and space. I personally don‘t think is creative Do you think you are creative? Why? Based on what I have just said, yes. I like the way I video edit. I like the way I use various parts of my brain to process what is in front on me and use layers. If that is an example, then yes. Its depends on how you define creativity? I‘m pretty sure I am. Do you think creative thought is just arts based? No. It could be science or poetry. In me, most of my creative thought is verbal concepts. I wouldn‘t necessarily think I am creative because I can paint or am handy with Photoshop. I think more with my creative writing. Do you like being creative? Why? I don‘t like how much money it earns me (not a lot). Again I can‘t judge it against anything else. I guess I am happier now that I‘m a full-time artist. As before it was the case ‗call yourself an artist‘ that‘s a bit brave, as where I came from you would get the Mickey taken out of you for that in working class environments. I‘m happier about it now, as that‘s the way I am. Is art your therapy? Yes, the drawing side of things – my escape, it‘s not really an escape; but a change in mode. Today I have been working on a load of drawings. My energy level is very different when I work with materials and colours. When I spend too much time writing, I know I‘m in the wrong mode, so I switch. But sometimes it can depress you when you can‘t do the things you like, when you are in the world of words. But when you are working visually you know where you are and can jump about the page and work on things, compared to trying to work on an article which can take me weeks and is painful. What sort of art or design do you produce? Mainly video, painting and drawings. At foundation stage (art college) I was asked to consider sculpture and ceramics. In the school where I worked I made sculpture out of card and staples. I guess working in 2D is my thing. In essence I am a painter, but I have made films with other people through ‗film forum‘ (teaching others and working with them). I have never had the opportunity to work with wood or metal, although I‘m unsure if I would have the patience for it. Probably I‘m naturally 2D, but I can appreciate 3D. Do you think your creativity is different to non-dyslexics? Yes. When I read that Hockney and Picasso, Da Vinci and others were dyslexic, it seems to be those that beak new ground have that label. If you have a chance to look at the process of these artists, its pretty obvious that dyslexics work in a distinctly different way to most
  • 133. 118 Neil Alexander-Passe educational establishments would like us to work - for sure. Although they are probably aware that 60% of art students are dyslexic, they still want to see the process from idea to concept. My dyslexic friends just see things and go straight to the concept stage, without considering the process - it‘s spontaneous. At art college they gave me a sketch book to work through my process, I found this hard as I went straight to the final concept, A to C without B. That‘s a good example of why most people in art education haven‘t any idea about dyslexia. My favourite artists are probably dyslexic, but it would be hard to look at one piece of work and say that the person was dyslexic. But if you saw a body of work, then you can see them merging things together or using material in different ways - a bravely that comes being dyslexic and being lets loose with all these things. At art college nothing is wrong, it‘s about being free and open. It would be hard to say if something was different coming from a dyslexic. Although I do go round art galleries and say ‗I bet that artist is dyslexic‘. Why do you think so many dyslexics are artists or designers? I think the way we are wired lends itself to the disciplines we are successful in. Building compositions lends itself to creative professions. But the way we construct education explains why more dyslexics choose art and design. As you can get onto an art and design course without qualifications, means it‘s easier to progress with these professions. In one way it is a way into education, but it is also an escape route from other careers. Do you think all dyslexics are creative? Why? Yes. I made a film recently with a load of dyslexics. Without an art background, they wouldn‘t have considered themselves as creative. But the way they used language, adapted their career paths, friends, solved problems…they were having to use creativity - different parts of their brains and adapt to the materials they were using. This I believe was a form of creativity. I do think there is a common trait amongst dyslexics, even those I worked with in prisons; that they would be creative in whatever they do, not just about art. 99% of dyslexics I have ever met say jokes or use language, even those working on building sites, use creativity in their lives e.g. how they wired up their TV sets or made something in their garage e.g. making their own car. Please can you describe your creative process? How much does music play in your creative process? I can draw and paint without music, but I choose to paint with it, as the rhythm of it helps. If I was deaf I don‘t know what sort of painter I would be. When I cut videos, I cut the music first then the film, but others work the other way round. Music is important as movement in my art. Is it related to your mood? Does different music create different art? Yes, definitely. If I listen to different music, I will choose different stuff for work. If I was angry (from the news) it would be loud, but I can‘t listen to that all day. I like Jazzy stuff like John Martin or more ambulant stuff. Then I would need to be more classical, Vivaldi or the four seasons by Kennedy to calm me down - it depends on what I wanted to produce. It is like having a glass of wine; it puts you in the mood to do things. As I know what I want to do each day e.g. putting high tempo stuff to energise my work. Your work seems quite cubist, is that one of your interests? Yes. A lot of my stuff came from cubist drawings. I first seriously looked at cubism ten years ago whilst at art college; it was by far the most interesting movement.
  • 134. Three Case Studies of Creative Dyslexics 119 Picasso is just so good at it, how surfaces are split, how painting stopped being a representation of the world and was about art. Modernistic statements, to me look a bit unfinished and I like to develop stuff, flatting objects ‗it tickles me pink‘ (I really like it) when they fold onto one another - just working in space is lovely. I‘m sure that someone who wasn‘t dyslexic could have the patience for it. I don‘t have the patience to read for hours and hours, but for cubism I have the patience. When I went to the Picasso exhibition in Barcelona I came out thinking that this was what I wanted to do (painting and cubism). The Dali museum was also great near Barcelona. Some of Dali‘s work is clever and the difference in scale was amazing. Do you prefer abstract to traditional art? Abstract art. To me real painting is abstract art, as just copying what you see is not real art. What art based qualifications have you achieved? A‘ level in art, BA in Fine Art. What has been your art-based career highlight to date? As a filmmaker having my work shown at the House of Lords in London (UK), as a writer and public speaker giving a speak at a school for dyslexics in New York, and as a painter at the Reading 3000 exhibition, as I sold some work there for a good price. About Mike Juggins, 43yrs Old DYSLEXIA - The tears I have cried ( A tear for every story of despair that I have heard, from fellow dyslexics, over the years. However, the smiles and words of thanks from so many people from across the globe have made the journey worth while. I have spent TEN hard years on the issue now and I am proud of what I have achieved. I‘ve done all I can to change things for the better and hopefully inspired many fellow dyslexics to believe in themselves. However, a real lack of understanding of what it is to be dyslexic still exists in society. I could do so much more if only I were to be included at policy level. Small changes in education, prisons and employment policy would save the UK billions and transform so many people‘s lives. ‘I Paint, therefore I am...’ My dyslexia is the source of my creativity and a massive part of who I am. Churchill, Steve Job, Einstein, Darwin, Jamie Oliver, da Vinci, Agatha Christie, Picasso, Branson, Tracey Emin, Warhol and Billy Connolly prove that dyslexics are very capable when they focus on their ability. Many of our top politicians are also dyslexic. I have spent the last nine years campaigning for a greater understanding and awareness of dyslexia. I have lectured around the world…Cardiff, Belfast, London, New York, Washington, Hong Kong and even Swindon. These years of bloody sweaty tears has seen my words on the subject published, allowed me to have my say on UK‘s Radio 4 and have films premiered at places like the House of Lords. Like most dyslexics my weaknesses defined me from the outset and School never felt natural. All that sitting about was difficult for me. I was a very active and sporty child with a tendency for daydreaming but an inability to grasp the art of reading.
  • 135. 120 Neil Alexander-Passe I was a slow walker, didn‘t speak until I was 3 years old, but by the time I started school I was running and chatting a plenty. Infant school was bearable as I was good at playing with sand and water. My problem with text-based education came alright when I started junior school. I can remember being told I was lazy, not trying and a total simpleton Ironically my surname Juggins means silly fellow, or simpleton according to old dictionaries. (Juggins by name Juggins by nature). To make things worse my Mum was told that I was gammy handed; as I was a natural left-hander…they soon cured me of that. My mother only told me this, a minor detail, two years ago and I guess it explains why I can paint with both hands. Well, if primary school had dented my self-esteem then senior school totally obliterated it. I was placed in bottom sets with lads whose only interests seemed to be fighting and tattooing themselves with ink and a compass. I didn‘t take any O levels and left school broken and still unable to read or write to a functional level. After several dead-end jobs I enjoyed a period of working for the health authority with people who have learning disabilities. A great job, but the pay was frustrating and I knew I hadn‘t finished my education. So, I enrolled for an art foundation course at my local college, Swindon, before breezing my BA at the University of the West of England. I was the first person in the whole faculty to hand in a dissertation – Dyslexic Artist in a Word Based Education System. Discovering that at least 40% of the prison population were dyslexic was a red rag to me. I had been lucky enough to have the support of my family and stayed on the straight and narrow. But I understood why a person might rebel from a society that denies them an appropriate education. I have also worked as a community artist, educator and film-maker in many educational and social settings. Because I was a ‗slow learner‘, I guess I always aimed to make things as multi-sensory as possible. I believe that accessible information motivates success and always encourage others to focus on ability. I continue to devote some of my time to these issues in the belief that the right intervention can help people turn their lives around. However, I went to University to develop my painting which brings physical visual and emotional joy and beauty to my soul. Painting is my highest place and at times I guess that I use it as a safety valve from the pressure of being a dyslexic in a text based society. It‘s something I need to do daily. The rules that apply to writing don‘t exist in the world of painting. I love playing games with perspective, inventing new ways of expression and seeing. When I paint I am in the colour, I feel my gesture and find my balance. My painting is the real me and the paint needs to become my narrative. As a liberal minded type of guy I have many social issues to explore via my art. Poverty, war, religion and the environment - to name but a few. I want to paint the world. Calm has come over me since my move to Ashburton in Devon (UK), I love working on community arts projects and still get plenty of time in my new studio. My 11 year-old daughter Jess is also dyslexic and wonders why I just don‘t paint and make films all the time. She writes me little notes of encouragement saying… ―You are a grate painter dad‖ (spelt GRATE). I am taking her advice and flying.
  • 136. Three Case Studies of Creative Dyslexics 121
  • 137. 122 Neil Alexander-Passe CASE STUDY 2: SALLY CARSON What evidence do you have that you are dyslexic? A DSA (disability student allowance) grant and a dyslexic assessment required for my MA. Did you receive any support for your degree? A laptop and a printer. What age did your parents first think you were dyslexic or had a learning problem? My parents had no idea. What qualifications did you leave school with? One O level in art. I don‘t think it helped not going to school much, especially from the age of 14yrs old - I would be called a school refuser now. My dyslexia/difficulties were not picked up at school, as you needed to be extremely bad to get help. My handwriting was okay, but my spelling was crap. At what age was your dyslexia first diagnosed? I was first assessed at 49yrs, but I had an indication of it when my son was assessed at 7yrs old and I was 33yrs old. The educational psychologist said that he got the dyslexia from me. How does dyslexia affect your daily life? Does it? My short-term memory, organisation skills are poor – I must really work had at that. For academic work my problems are structure. I can write, but use bullet point statements, and then I join them together. I hate it when people just turn up on my door-step, as I forget they are coming round. There have been loads of times when I have arranged to meet people and have forgotten. My dyslexia is about co-ordinating, remembering when I must be somewhere. I‘m also having problems co-ordinating my fingers to learn to type, thinking about where letters are under and above each finger. Does your partner do your business paperwork for you? I am divorced and love being on my own. Do you avoid things because of your dyslexia? Reading or doing forms? I must write things down in my diary, but I sometimes forget to write things, as I get so distracted talking with people. What classic dyslexic symptoms do you have? Short-term memory, organisation skills, motor-coordination skills. Left and right/co-ordination? I‘m not too clumsy, I can‘t juggle or do the egg and the spoon race at school was a no-no. Tying my shoe laces was never a problem. Learning to drive? I find driving difficult, especially when I have been abroad and come back to the UK. I get confused about the right side of the road to drive on. Who else in your family is dyslexic? I think my father might have been, as he was useless at Maths, but his memory was amazing. My son is dyslexic for sure.
  • 138. Three Case Studies of Creative Dyslexics 123 Do you feel you are different to your family and friends? I think in the past I felt different, but did not know why. It‘s like me not going to school, as I felt an idiot (different, inferior). I have worked in schools and find that most kids with learning difficulties feel incredibly stupid, even though they are not. But now, the course I‘m on, I would say that 90% of the students on the course are dyslexic (MA in Psychotherapy). Do you like being dyslexic? Why? Yes. Like most people who are dyslexic, I‘m very creative. I think we think in different ways, our brains are wired differently; it actually makes you think in more creative ways. It might take longer to get there, but on the way you can come up with more creative solutions. Is being dyslexic good or bad? On the whole it is good, but doing academic work with it is a real drawback. It just takes so ‗bloody‘ long to write anything. Is being dyslexic positive or negative? Its positive, it must be. Do you think differently to most people you know (to non-dyslexics)? Yes definitely. When dyslexics learn the structure of language, we find it difficult. I found it difficult as I heard the wrong sounds. A classic one for me was when I was 28yrs old; I just had my second child. I realised for the first time the difference between ordinance (as in survey maps) and audience, and I realised if the words were in front of me I would be able to see the difference. But when I was smaller I wouldn‘t even be able to guess the first few letters, to look it up in a dictionary. I would start with ‗ad‘. My mother was always correcting me on my pronunciation, but I just couldn‘t hear the subtle difference in the words and learning a foreign language at school was a nightmare. How do you define creativity? I think it just covers all aspects of your life. Emotionally you can be creative. I am definitely visually creative and in my thinking. I certainly think visual art is the main creative thing for me. I have met loads of dyslexics who say they are musical or can speak languages, they have creative abilities that I don‘t. Are there creative subjects? No, it‘s in all subjects. In business you must be very organised if you are dyslexic. To me it‘s in my everyday life, and I hope it‘s in all aspects of my life. I certainly find studying psychology is really good for me, as its intuitive, working out how people function. Thinking about how to help people function better What is a creative thought? I think when people are talking to me about their problems, people problems (emotion) rather than business problems, and then I think I am creative by looking at problems from different angles. Have you ever heard about divergent and convergent thinking? I must be more of a divergent thinker, like most dyslexics. Have you heard of the book ‗why love matters: how affection shapes a baby's brain‘ by Sue Gerhardt. It‘s a really good book.
  • 139. 124 Neil Alexander-Passe Do you think you are creative? Why? Yes. Probably a complication of things, my father was an architect; he had a good eye for visual things. As dyslexia affects one part of the brain, it allows another part to be more active. I think it‘s because some parts of the brain are blocked. In people who are blind, some parts of their brain are blocked, but as compensation other parts get stronger to utilise the doors that are open. If a door is closed you can‘t go in, so it forces you to look through other doors. After reading Sue Gerhardt‘s book, I think its very connected to how you are brought into the world, or before and the stress of the mother. In that trauma in the womb might be the cause of dyslexia. Sue‘s book does not label dyslexia, but you can see the links. My course requires me to go to therapy, and whenever I mention dyslexia to my therapist, asking to investigate my feelings towards it, she is unhappy about talking about dyslexia. She prefers to talk about me. She is very anti-labels, as many in schools (of thought/understanding) hang onto labels as self-fulfilling prophecies. It‘s better to understand a person, than rely on explanations of labels, as people can change and labels do not need to stay for life. Do you like being creative? Why? Of course. It‘s really positive. Is art your therapy? Most of the time it‘s a great comfort. I‘m 47yrs and two years ago I separated from my husband after twenty eight years of marriage. I found it very hard to be on my own, but I now really enjoy it. My mother plays the piano and she finds great solace in that. Being by yourself allows you to get on with things, and making things without someone else being there. It is still lonely, but you can feel really productive - I find that especially with my art. I think most artists would say that their art is their therapy. I think one of the problems I would have if I was a commercial artist, was having to produce ongoing stuff, with someone at my door asking if I have produced the next set of ten paintings yet. I don‘t think I can churn them out like that. What sort of art or design do you produce? Abstract painting, sometimes sculpture. I am looking to do something non-abstract soon. Do you think your creativity is different to non-dyslexics? That‘s very hard to say, I would not like to classify that. I think if you are creative you are creative. Non-dyslexic people maybe more organised and have more self-esteem. I find it very difficult to sell my work, I hate it. When I try and sell things and you get rejected, it‘s hard. But I guess it would be hard for anybody. If art is the production based on ones past experiences. Wouldn‘t the hardship or conflict in a literacy-based world they feel different to, affect and influence their work, making it different? It would be interesting to investigate that, to spot the difference. I have never looked at other peoples work and said ‗they must be dyslexic‘. It‘s a visual image to me and I enjoy each painting I see. I have never made that comparison or split before.
  • 140. Three Case Studies of Creative Dyslexics 125 Why do you think so many dyslexics are artists or designers? When parts of your brain are closed off, you develop compensation skills, thus for dyslexics its art, due to the different wring in our brains. I don‘t know enough about it to make any opinion about it, but it would be interesting to research it. My essay for my MA course last year was interesting; it made me think about my art and paintings. I never know how my paintings will look like, before I start, which is why I like doing abstract painting. As I can just carry on and on painting. Please can you describe your creative process? Every time I sit down with a blank piece of canvas or a blank piece of paper I think of it as an experiment - never a finished piece of work, always an experiment. I think that‘s where my creativity comes from. I don‘t visualise, I just play with shapes, and I love mixing the paint on the canvas rather than a plate. When I start I just squeeze paint directly onto the canvas and then I start mixing it with my hands, mixing the colours. Do you just paint with your hands? I use paintbrushes, my hands and a palette knife, but I also find playing cards quite good as well. It‘s better than the palette knife. I would quite like to spray paint, but I would need a workshop for that. Where do your shapes come from in your work? It reminds me of Mondrian‘s ‗City Bogie Wogie‘ I think aerial views of cities are fascinating, I love maps, and I‘m very inspired by that. The idea of looking through buildings. One Alfred Hitchcock film was just doing this, looking at people in buildings, in apartments in New York. It was the idea of being on the outside looking in, seeing past the brick walls. Watching them going from one room to another, I love this idea. I‘m also fascinated by straight lines and curves, combining the two, the balance of the two with colour. I also like classic photographs of spiral staircases. Who inspires your art? Naum Gabo (1890-1977), who was a sculpture. He did a very famous head (Head No.2) made out of flat metal sheet which slotted into one another, it‘s in London‘s Tate Modern – I love the lines and curves. My mother had a bracelet brought back from my father from Mexico. It had segments. I didn‘t realise it inspired me till I saw it a while ago and made the connection. I‘m not very good at remembering names of artists I love. How do people react to your process and art? They like the use of colours, I think they always try and look for some sort of symbolism to find meaning in my paintings, but I like the way they are open to interpretation. It is what it is for the viewer; I‘m not trying to get a message over. Where you a loner at school? I avoided school from 14yrs old; I would be called a ‗school refuser‘ now. I was not part of the mainstream and did not mix much at school. So yes a loner. Do you prefer abstract to traditional art? Abstract art.
  • 141. 126 Neil Alexander-Passe What art based qualifications have you achieved? I have a BA Hons in silver-smithing, but I got my parents to help with my thesis. I wrote it, my father rewrote it and my mother typed it. What has been your art based career highlight to date? Selling some of my work. About Sally Carson, 49yrs Old Sally is an Abstract Contemporary Artist who makes zealous connection with 'things'. Her most vivid work are an abstract of cities (viewed from above).Vibrant and dynamic, her mesmerizing style makes one halt to almost hear the city. She works with various mediums but mainly with acrylics on canvas. Born and brought up in London, her father was an architect and her mother was the founder of the Drake Research Project. Her daughters and her son are also blessed with artistic flare. She has studied art and silver-smithing at The University of Ulster as well as Sir John Cass (University of London). She is currently studying Art Psychotherapy hoping to be working with teens with difficulties. Influenced by the likes of Naom Gabo she continues to bring curves, lines and squares onto the canvas in a most energetic way.
  • 142. Three Case Studies of Creative Dyslexics 127 CASE STUDY 3: LYNN WEDDLE What evidence do you have that you are dyslexic? When I was 21yrs old I was tested and diagnosed at art college. Did you receive any support for your degree? I received a DSA (disability student allowance) and support for my studies. What age did your parents first think you were dyslexic or had a learning problem? My mum thought that I might be dyslexic when I was 2-3yrs old, as I had little comprehension of language I saw a speech therapist till I was 4yrs old. There was a concern as I was a very late talker, so the therapist stressed to my mum the need to talk to me a lot. Thus she was aware from a young age. Whilst other kids were learning to write I was drawing, and my writing at the time was backwards and dyslexia was suggested. At school they were aware of my problems, and I received remedial help at primary school. It was quite traumatic as I was removed from my normal class and went into another room to learn extra spellings. It was the worst things you could have done (for my selfesteem) and I was given special reading books. They were really heavy reading (hard) books, and I was given one extra per day in addition to my normal reading book and I remember just not being able to do it. Sitting down with my dad to read was horrible (stressful) due to the amount of extra books I was given. I was never really sat down and told why I was different, but was given these things and not really supported. I was seen as a burden at school and was given extra stuff to catch-up this really affected my self-image and confidence. I remember being smacked once at school, due to my skim reading one of my reading books (to read at home), and as I was unable to read it back to the class. I was smacked in front of the class. Probably one of the most humiliating things I have ever been through and the trauma still stays with me to this day and it‘s my main memory of primary school. I was a happy kid, outgoing outside of school with friends, but inside school I was withdrawn. When I left primary school I was very good at art, and my work won a county art competition. The art teacher said to my mum ‗she is a lovely girl but don‘t expect too much from her‘. When I graduated with a first class degree my mother wanted to send her a copy of the certificate to show how wrong she was. What qualifications did you leave school with? I did really well considering my difficulties. 10 GCSEs, all A* to C grade and 3 A‘ levels. I‘m one of these people who wanted to prove everyone wrong, and I still do this today. I still question my worth and don‘t feel intelligent, even though I guess I must be. At school I worked so hard to prove them wrong, staying at school till 6pm at night for my art, then staying up late at home to do the rest of the subjects - ‗pulling teeth‘ until it was done. This is exactly what my dad did at school, so it must be a family trait – the need to survive. At what age was your dyslexia first diagnosed? Although my parents thought I was dyslexic, I was not formally diagnosed until I was 21yrs old at art college. The school did not label it but I had various teachers tell me I must be e.g. the design and technology teacher at 14yrs old, looked at my work and said ‗do you know
  • 143. 128 Neil Alexander-Passe you are dyslexic‘? Nothing was done or followed through at school. I wasn‘t diagnosed till my last year at art college. I can‘t understand it now, as my dyslexia is quite severe. How does dyslexia affect your daily life? Does it? In many ways I guess. The basics and challenge of using words. Do you avoid things because of your dyslexia? Reading or doing forms? Yes, on a daily basis. Any reports that need writing are my elephant in the room and I always put them off to the last minute. It is like pulling teeth, but they have to be done! Rising to the challenge is always how it feels. What classic dyslexic symptoms do you have? My biggest one is spelling, as I have problems with phonetics to break down words. I can‘t comprehend how you break works down into syllables to try and work out spellings. I have recently tried to learn Spanish for work and went to Latin America for courses, but I just can‘t break down the phonetics. So learning a new language is one of the most challenging tasks I have ever set myself. I also have problems with reading and writing. The only dyslexic symptoms that still really frustrates me are to do with my writing and spelling, as most people looking at my note books would think it‘s written in code or a foreign language, but I can read them. If it wasn‘t for a spellchecker I wouldn‘t be able to operate. Or rather no one would be able to read any of my writing. Left and right? When I‘m driving and someone says to take the next left, I will take the next right. Yes, it‘s definitely a problem. Do you have problems laying the table for meals? Yes, yes, yes, I really have to think to do it! Sometimes not setting even places or too many and also putting knives and forks round the wrong way. Who else in your family is dyslexic? My father was severely dyslexic. We are both hard working and extremely driven. He would sit until late each night to learn spellings, whilst most people would have picked them up at school. He needed to work hard to keep up with his peers. He was lucky to have had drive (was motivated) at school, even though he was from a poor background; he aimed to be a top accountant - which he achieved. My brother thought he was dyslexic as he exhibited many dyslexic traits, but when he was tested they said he wasn‘t dyslexic, just a slow learner. I still think he is dyslexic; it just might be the particular test he took. My uncle, my dad‘s brother is also severely dyslexic; he is a van driver driving up and down the country on a daily basis. I find it amazing; he can‘t read the names of towns. When he drives there he writes them down on a piece of paper and matches up the letters to be able to read them. He has been in his job for the last twenty years, matching up words as he can‘t actually read, he can just about deal with instructions to cook food. He barely operates in this word-based world. To me, this is incredible, the intelligence to develop such coping strategies. Do you feel you are different to your family and friends? I guess so, as I felt that I had something to prove, and I knew I had to work harder at academic subjects, and it really comes down to how I was treated when I was at school. I wanted to prove people wrong, that I was not a person with a problem or a difficulty. I‘m someone who has other things that are way more important and meaningful to offer. I did feel
  • 144. Three Case Studies of Creative Dyslexics 129 different to my friends at school, just because they found things easy and I was struggling. I think when I was at art college and was surrounded by others with dyslexia - I became alive. I was a very quiet withdrawn teenager until I was in my early twenties, and then took myself off at art college, surrounded by likeminded people, and haven‘t looked back since. Gaining a sense of belonging? Yes. I have just finished a project at a specialist dyslexic school, with another dyslexic artist. We were comparing our experiences and I remember saying to him and the other students that I wasn‘t myself until I surrounded myself with other dyslexics - to be myself and that only happened at art college. I don‘t know what I would be now if it wasn‘t for that (emotionally said). There were four of us, all dyslexic, living in a house together for our degree. We used to having spelling competitions for a laugh, to see who was more dyslexic, with who‘s spelling came out the worst, it was quite funny. We really opened ourselves up and joked a lot, it was really nice. Short-term memory? Forgetting if the front door or car door is locked? My short-term memory is not so great. I rely heavily on writing everything down and it‘s something I must work on. I have problems remembering if I have locked the car or have fed the cat? I have had the same mobile telephone number for the last ten years, but have only just learnt the number. Remembering my bank pin number is also a nightmare too. You get to a certain stage where you develop coping mechanisms, to deal with certain things on a daily basis. I‘m good at coming up with creative solutions to such problems, so they are not a problem anymore. I enjoy this challenge and rise to it. Do you like being dyslexic? Why? Big question. Yes. I wouldn‘t be working in the field I am now if it wasn‘t for it, I wouldn‘t have the compassion and understanding for others and this is very important to me personally and professionally. The work I do is with other people, so I need to understand them, for them to join in and to get them to talk about their situation. I find a lot of the time, even when I‘m not working in a disability setting, like for example in mental health centres, that I can go in and talk about my difficulties with my dyslexia, and suddenly I‘m on a level with them, as I have struggled in my own life and I have turned that into a positive. I now spend my time working with people who have experienced difficulties and helping them to visualise themselves through photography. If I wasn‘t dyslexic, I don‘t think I would be as passionate about life or what I do. So I‘m very lucky that I have struggled at times, as it has made me a better person. I know I‘m lucky as I have had opportunities and have been supported, to come to terms with exactly what dyslexia is. I obviously had the drive and determination to push through that, so I‘m very lucky. Do you like being different? I like being dyslexic, I like being different, I feel misunderstood in some ways, but empowered in others. I wouldn‘t change it (not to be dyslexic) as there are so many good things that have come from it – creativity, difference, compassion. Is being dyslexic good or bad? I think it is hard to say, it‘s both. Like everything in life there is good and bad in everything, there is a perfect combination in being dyslexic. The negative side of it is that it is hard to fit in, within a word-dominated society.
  • 145. 130 Neil Alexander-Passe When I was at school it was very much about reading and writing, so it was bad in the sense that being dyslexic was being unconventional and I didn‘t quite fit into their boxes. But it is also given me a different way of thinking which I think is much more exciting than being conventional in mainstream society. I think it‘s great because you learn to cope, learn to look after yourself to further your creative abilities. I feel dyslexics are creative people. Whether they are naturally creative is part of their mindset, I am unsure as the research is just being developed but I think to overcome dyslexia means you become more creative, even if you are not naturally creative. Is being dyslexic positive or negative? I guess what it comes down to is your attitude, so it can be really negative or positive; it depends on how you want to see it. However I‘ve chosen to see it in a positive light, because I have chosen to be very very open about my dyslexia, to empower others. Going into schools and working with dyslexic children is great as it can empower them to see a dyslexic adult who has survived. For me to say, ‗I was in your situation at school, I really hated being in school and didn‘t feel I fit in, I struggled, but I got there in the end‘. So I turned the negative into a positive. Do you think it is a class-based problem? No, not fundamentally, but I think it can be a class based problem, due to education, and the way it is understood and perceived by others. Do you think differently to most people you know (to non-dyslexics)? It‘s hard to say, I think dyslexics are naturally problem-solvers, so when a problem is presented they see it as a challenge. They think and use their visual-spatial awareness and creative thinking to think around a problem. So again it comes back to attitude. I think that thinking in a non-linear way, in say recalling a story is common in dyslexics. I think about the feeling and how it looks, to visualise it, remembering the emotion of the event. I remembered the space and who was there, and what was happening and what the light was like, in recalling a memory. Whereas friends of mine who are not dyslexic would think in a very linear way, with the information. I believe dyslexics think differently. How do you define creativity? Tricky. As a photographer, photography to me is about problem-solving, it‘s about using my equipment to capture moments and set-ups. Its about breaking things down to transferring the image you have in your mind, creativity is having something in there (in your mind‘s eye), so for me its about how I break down the lighting, positioning, getting to that final image, and solving those problems to get there. But then again creativity is about expressing, making, doing, and having that experience. I guess for me what it breaks down to is sharing and offering an insight, feeling and experience. So my artwork is my vehicle to offer that experience. I‘m very much about creativity being about sharing in someway. That is why I work with a participatory approach. How would you know which photograph is the most creative one? That‘s a hard question. I guess it‘s the one that is really intuitive. I don‘t go into a situation knowing (in my mind‘s eye) how the finished photograph will look. It is very much about being in that space, with the right equipment and seeing something out of the corner of my eye, based on gut instinct and intuitive drive to make that happen. How much does luck play in your creative process?
  • 146. Three Case Studies of Creative Dyslexics 131 A very interesting question. I think it does, especially in photography. You can press the button at exactly one second, to capture the right moment, but you point the camera in a set direction and set time, so there is an element of luck there. But you have to set that up to happen. So it‘s a mix of both I guess. Do you think you are creative? Why? I know instinctly if something is right. I have worked in art gallery education so have had to be creative - to work to budgets or with certain restrictions. I‘m definitely creative in that sense, as I see where the boundaries are and I like to play with them, to make them a bit different, and try my best to create something within boundaries but is a bit different. Do you think creative thought is just arts based? No. I‘m a really strong believer that you can be creative in whatever you do in life. Do you like being creative? Why? Yes. I wouldn‘t change it for anything - its rewarding and challenging. It‘s interesting, as you don‘t know what is coming next; it‘s a really exciting way to think, work and live. What sort of art or design do you produce? Only photography. When I was at school I really wanted to work in graphics or fashion I got very into textiles. On my art foundation I was very into drawing and painting. I used to draw all the time. When I was 2-3yrs old and asked what I wanted to be, my mother tells me I said a ‗drawer‘, although it‘s not a real word. A contradiction in terms. So without a doubt I was going to work in the arts and creatively, so I never thought any different. When I had careers advice at school, it was always about something creative. I would love to if I had the time to draw and paint, as I find a lot of value in that. I have also used film, in a photographic way, as I have used still frames, as part of my photography - I am still experimenting. My main passion and focus is photography. If I could use film for ever I would use that, but for commercial work a digital camera makes more financial and speed sense. In my personal work I use medium format film, hopefully soon with large-format cameras. As I feel digital photography takes away the magic of waiting - it‘s too instant. Do you think your creativity is different to non-dyslexics? Hard to say. I think creativity is creativity, whether you are dyslexic or not. I would not feel right to say whether a dyslexic‘s creativity was better or worse. We are all products of our own life stories and journeys, so we would each create differently. Why do you think so many dyslexics are artists or designers? I think it comes down to the visual and spatial awareness in dyslexics; I‘m a firm believer in Thomas West‘s theory that dyslexics use different parts of their brains - the visual and spatial parts of the brain. If your right side of the brain is dominant, then you will want to work in the arts or design, as that‘s where your strengths lie. When I was younger, I absolutely loved drawing. I don‘t know if it was because I couldn‘t read or write, but that was my world, or because that was my fated world. It could be natural talent or as a compensation, or a combination of the two. Do you think all dyslexics are creative? Why? Yes, I think so. I think some will not be aware of it, they might not have struggled so much with language, and so may not have developed their creativity and have not thought of it as strength - so they may not be very creative in their way of living or profession. But it is
  • 147. 132 Neil Alexander-Passe definitely there. The majority of people I know who are dyslexic work creatively in some way. Please can you describe your creative process? How much does music play in your creative process? My art practice is participatory based. The main part of my work is collaborative photography projects, commissions and residencies with and through a variety of organisations. People are now coming to me with projects to run, obviously there is a lot of creativity needed to set up these projects, but I have got to a stage now when I‘m not designing my own projects so much. That‘s why I have decided to go back to do an MA, so that I may work on my own projects again and to push my work further. My MA project has been looking at the role of the artist as a facilitator, looking at where the boundaries lie, creating a body of work where I‘m using the creative process in collaboration with other people. I‘m breaking down the elements in creating a portrait, running workshops to break down the composition and colour, volume, language, gesture, eye contact, location and offering the process to the people I work with. So that they may make the decisions themselves - I am kind of facilitating by working with them to produce a body of work. The idea is that I work with vulnerable people and allowing them to take control and empowering themselves to have some say in how they represent their given situation. I‘m hoping to work with young people who have hidden disabilities, looking at their selfimage and identity of being a disabled person, who‘s disability is not physical or visual - and how this affects their identity. How do people react to your process and art? Two days ago I presented some of my work. I always get nervous about presenting it, because I still do not fully understand what it is all about. I find it really hard to talk about it and never feel I do it justice. Translating how it feels and want to do into words – it kind of loses something. I find it really hard presenting to a group of people, but again I enjoy the challenge. People are generally quite excited about my work, as they can see that I am trying to push boundaries in someway - definitely in the art education world. In your work you seem to be changing words/signs and making them look dyslexic, what is that about? How do people react to them? People like them, think they are playful and fun. Even the self-portraits, some of them can be quite comical. People see the humour and the playfulness in them. Personally I don‘t see them as comical, as they have an important message for me. It is quite interesting that they are received in this way. I want them to be playful; I want them to be positive and interesting. They are not meant to be depressive. They should be quite fun, but I did not expect them to go down the comical route, but I think that is interesting how others perceive them. Using this work with children and young people is really empowering. By giving them cameras and asking them to make their own versions, they ultimately take control of their dyslexia. They have the opportunity to show the world how they see it. It‘s magical really. Do you think people find things comical or funny when it is close to the mark or difficult to deal with? Pushing boundaries. Yes, maybe. I am looking to push boundaries and to give people an insight to how others perceive the world. My new body of work is definitely pushing boundaries.
  • 148. Three Case Studies of Creative Dyslexics 133 I‘m looking at how you make a photographic image. What I‘m trying to do with that, is offering a chance for those without the knowledge and understanding, to present themselves in photographic images, in its truest form – I‘m giving them the chance to do that. It‘s like at school, I was trying to prove myself then, and now my motivation is work and career development. Its about pushing boundaries or perceptions that people have of the world. Is art your therapy? Definitely, yes. When I was producing the self-portraits, I was making that body of work for the whole year. I dressed up in my old school uniform and went back to my old schools. I spent a lot of time in those schools with my camera, after hours with the cleaners, as that was when I was able to use the space. I faced a lot of my demons then with my camera it was my tool. I feel I changed a lot as a person through that experience, because I ultimately reflected on issues and memories that were quite deep rooted in my self-image and how I considered myself in the world. I challenged that and looked at my perceptions in different ways. I was also thinking about how others perceived me, and how I really believe in myself now (as a self-believing prophecy). Spending time in that space and photographing myself, made me realise how I had changed from when I was a child, into a person that everybody else had said I was. But what they said wasn‘t true, as I was intelligent, that I had something to offer and that I wasn‘t thick or stupid. But people at school told me I was thick and stupid as I couldn‘t read or spell, or read out aloud in class, so I began to believe them all. It all came down to confidence, and that one year project completely empowered me to be the person I had always wanted to be and that‘s why ever since making that project in 2003, I‘ve endeavored to use photography with other groups of people so that they can also experience this. The ‗bottom line‘ is that photography has therapeutic value. I‘m very interested in photo-therapy, and have done a fair bit of research on it. One of the main bits of research which I have forced myself to do, is reading books, which is another form of therapy for me. So I am very interested in this aspect. It‘s quite heavy and full on, but it is something I‘m very interested in and does filter into the work I do. Last year I was invited to talk at an international conference in Finland, about photography and therapy. I presented my dyslexia self-portraits and other work, which was quite amazing and again empowering. Were you a loner at school? No, I had friends, good friends, but I did feel like an outsider a great deal of the time, as I felt different and isolated at times. Do you prefer abstract to traditional art? I would much rather go to a contemporary space and see modern or abstract art. I do like traditional art, but it doesn‘t ‗rock-my-boat‘ as much as new challenging conceptual art. What art based qualifications have you achieved? BA in Photography. I am now doing an MA in Photography. What has been your art-based career highlight to date? I guess the Finland presentation, presenting on an international platform. It was great that others on an international scale wanted to know about me and my work. Also one of my dyslexia portraits, which is sold through a large photography library was used for a Sunday Telegraph (UK newspaper) colour supplement. It was used out of context, but it was absolutely magic that one of my photographs had been printed hundreds of thousands of
  • 149. 134 Neil Alexander-Passe times, and that families having their Sunday breakfast were looking at my work. It was an amazing feeling; again it came down to that confidence thing. I was blown away that my work was good enough to be used like that - feeling worthy. I am constantly challenged each day to gain self-worth. I can cope with not being able to read and spell, as I can get around that. Instead of reading books I can go to conferences and actually hearing what speakers have to say. But I feel I‘m always fighting against the inner demons of self-worth (am I worthy?). Is it about being accepted for who you are? Yes, definitely. It‘s about who I am, but also that I was intelligent enough to be operating in those circles. Recently I was asked to talk to gallery educators, and I‘m always blownaway that I have something of value to say and that people are willing to sit down and listen to me. I don‘t really get nervous about that anymore, whereas at school I couldn‘t even read the first sentence of a book out loud. I was so insecure and lacked self-confidence. I kind of amaze myself in so many ways, it‘s due to my determination you know. I stress myself out about it, but its all part of the process. About Lynn Weddle, 30yrs Old Lynn Weddle, is a photographic artist based in the UK. She produced a body of work titled 'Being Dyslexic' in 2003, a series of photographic self-portraits representing the emotional and social impact of the condition. By revisiting her childhood school, dressing in the school uniform and re-enacting memories from her schooling and dyslexic experience. Lynn uses the work within her participatory photography practice, going into schools, pupil referral units, art colleges and universities, offering other dyslexics the opportunity to visual represent their thoughts, feelings and opinions towards their dyslexia. The work is then showcased in exhibitions within the institutions and further afield in galleries, museums' and in public display campaigns to educate others and promote a positive outlook and understandings of the experience of the dyslexic. Feb 09 - present Programme Developer & Artist Educator: British Museum (freelance) Developing and facilitating family drop-in sessions within the learning programme creatively engaging participants with the museum collection. Jan 09 - present Project Coordinator and Artist Educator: The Art Academy (freelance) Developing and delivering the ‗Articulate‘ program one-year pilot outreach project with hard to reach young people in the Lambeth area. Nov 08 - present Visiting Lecturer: University College Falmouth (freelance) -Working with Year 2 photography students running lectures and one-on-one tutorials on BA (Hons) Journalism. May 07 - present Project Manager: The Charlotte Miller Art Project, Ecuador & Mexico (freelance) – Arts outreach program with street working children: developing funding streams, project direction, liaising with volunteers and charity staff on project curriculum, planning and delivery, organising and running admin, promotion and publicity. Showcasing work in the UK, USA and Latin America.
  • 150. Three Case Studies of Creative Dyslexics 135 Oct 07 - present Artist Advisor: Dada South (freelance) - Mentoring disabled early and mid career artists. June 06 - present Artist in Residence: Various organisations - Firstsite, Four Corners, Brighton Photo Fringe and Tate Modern. Sept 05 - present Facilitator: Photovoice (freelance) - Delivering projects internationally through partner NGO‘s and charities. Have run and developed large scale participatory photography and advocacy projects with street working children and HIV suffers in Latin America, young unaccompanied refugees in London and disabled young people in Hampshire. Sept 04 - June 05 Tutor: Farnborough Sixth Form College (part time) - Teaching A.S and A Level photography on a part time basis. Sept 03 - present Artist Educator: Various organizations (freelancer) - Firstsite, Colchester and Ipswich Museums, Surrey County Council, Essex County council, Dorking County Council, Focal Point Gallery, Creative Partnerships (North London and East Sussex), Newlyn Art Gallery, Festival of Words, Save the Children, Museum of Children‘s Art: NYC, University of the Creative Arts: Farnham and Uckfield Local history archive.
  • 151. 136 Neil Alexander-Passe
  • 152. Three Case Studies of Creative Dyslexics 137 BIBLIOGRAPHY Alexander-Passe, N. (2009a). Dyslexia, Gender and Depression: Research Studies. In Hernandez, P & Alonso, S (Eds.) Women and Depression (pp. 15-74). New York: Nova Science Publishers. Alexander-Passe, N. (2009b). Dyslexia, Gender and Depression: Dyslexia Defence Mechanisms (DDMs). In Hernandez, P & Alonso, S (Eds.) Women and Depression (pp. 75-140). New York: Nova Science Publishers Alexander-Passe, N. (2009c). Dyslexia, Children and Depression: Empirical Evidence. In Taylor, B.T. (Ed.) Children and Depression (pp. 41-81). Nova Science. Due 2009. Alexander-Passe, N. (2009d). Dyslexia, Children and Depression: Research Evidence. In Taylor, B.T. (Ed.) Children and Depression (pp. 1-40). New York: Nova Science Publishers. Alexander-Passe, N. (2010). Dyslexia and Depression: The Hidden Sorrow. New York: Nova Science Publishers. Alexander-Passe, N. (2011). Creativity and Dyslexia: An investigative study of divergent thinking. In Alexander-Passe, N. (Ed.) Dyslexia and Creativity: An investigation from differing perspectives. Nova Science. Everatt, J., Steffert, B., & Smythe, I. (1999). An eye for the Unusual: Creative Thinking in Dyslexics. Dyslexia, 5, 28-49. Riddick, B. (1996). Living with dyslexia: The social and emotional consequences of specific learning difficulties. London, Routledge. Scott, R. (2004). Dyslexia and Counselling. Whurr, London. Von Karolyi, C., Winner, E., Gray, W., & Sherman, G. F. (2003). Dyslexia linked to talent: global visual-spatial ability. Brain Language, June, 85(3), 427-31. West, T. (1991). In the Minds Eye: Visual Thinkers, Gifted people with learning difficulties, Computer Images, and the ironies of creativity. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books. Winner, E., von Karolyi, C., & Malinsky, D. (2000). Dyslexia and Visual-Spatial Talents: No Clear Link. Boston College: Perspectives, Spring.
  • 153. In: Dyslexia and Creativity Investigations from Differing… ISBN: 978-1-61668-552-2 Author: Neil Alexander-Passe ©2010 Nova Science Publishers, Inc. Chapter 8 HOW A UNIQUE PERCEPTION OF THE WORLD ENHANCES CREATIVITY Clayton S. Colgin (Australia) The author has a Bachelor of Visual Arts degree from the College of Fine Arts and a Masters of Visual Art degree from Sydney College of the Arts, Sydney, Australia. Using mixed media in an eye-catching display of multiple distractions, Colgin uses fragments of newspapers, magazines and word documents to represent his inability to attach meaning to letters as a result of his dyslexia. Warped using photo editing software, text images mimic the blurring falsifications that occur in the mind. Floating letters and various coloured stains add to the impact of this work, reflecting the mind's tendency to turn a white sheet of paper into a painfully distorting shift of colour. His artistic inspiration arises from many sources, including his interests in psychology, symbolism and ancient cultures. He enjoys juxtaposing bright and dark colours and experimenting with texture while maintaining a focus on imagery as being essential to the meaning of a painting. ABSTRACT Dyslexia is rampant in the art world. Leonardo da Vinci, Pablo Picasso, Robert Rauschenberg, Chuck Close and Andy Warhol are just a few of the prominent artists believed to have been dyslexic. Is this coincidence or a causal link? There is increasing evidence that creativity can be enhanced by dyslexic thinking. Researchers have found that, unlike most people, dyslexics rely heavily on the visual processing regions of the brain and use these regions even for reading. In addition, dyslexics can more quickly process global visual information. What this means is that dyslexics perceive the world differently. This alternative perception of reality is evident in the art and creative processes of dyslexics.
  • 154. 140 Clayton S. Colgin Dyslexia can alter perception in several ways: it causes distortion of written letters; it allows a holistic absorption of visual imagery; it necessitates reliance on visual-spatial thought, and dyslexics see both space and time as intertwined. Holistic thinking involves seeing something all at once. Nowhere is holistic perception better expressed than with Pablo Picasso‘s Cubism. An examination of Cubism, as well as Picasso‘s other artworks, shows a dyslexic mind at work. While Cubism seems like a gigantic creative leap, it is actually a natural progression of dyslexic thought. The links between art and dyslexia, while inherently understood in the art world, has not been thoroughly investigated. The art historian, Robert Mattison, is one of the few to have formally considered the influence of dyslexia on the artistic processes of the dyslexic artist e.g. Robert Rauschenberg. Rauschenberg believes his innovative uses of three dimensional objects and collage are a result of his dyslexia. Dyslexics think visually and their artworks can be seen as visual extensions of their thoughts. Thus, an examination of the works of dyslexic artists can help us to understand a dyslexic perception of reality and allow us to delve into the processes of artistic creation. INTRODUCTION Dyslexia is considered a disability because it hampers reading, writing and, as a consequence, learning to one degree or another. Dyslexic sufferers can have the mildest symptoms of letter reversal and slow reading, resulting in these people never knowing they are dyslexic. Dyslexia can be more severe, however, resulting in extreme visual distortion when reading: letters seem to blur, move around, bleed and drip into the line below, sometimes with the white spaces within and between letters more prevalent than the letters themselves. Dyslexia is a blanket description for anyone who has an unexpected difficulty with learning to read. ―Unexpected‖ means that they have normal vision and at least normal intelligence. There are many different tests designed to detect discrepancies between intelligence and reading ability, but these tell us little about the cause of that discrepancy. Very little is understood about dyslexia, even though it has been studied for over fifty years. One core difficulty that has been identified, a problem with phonological decoding. What this means is that dyslexics have problems associating symbols with their meaning (Raskind, Igo, Chapman, Berniger, Thomson, Matsushita, Brkanac, Holzman, Brown, and Wijsman, 2005). By symbols, I refer to alphabetical letters which stand for, or symbolize, a sound. There are a lot of theories about what ―causes‖ dyslexia, from hormonal imbalances in the womb to brain damage, but there is clear genetic evidence. Which means it is at the mercy of natural selection. With such a high percentage of the population dyslexic (10%), according to Pennington (1991), it is likely that dyslexia is merely a variation on the norm for human. If this is the case, why did dyslexia evolve? Historically, until writing became widespread, there was no need for phonological decoding, but there was a need for good hunters, thinkers, builders and even artists. Good visual-spatial reasoning may be a positively associated with dyslexia, as there are a higher proportion of dyslexics among art students, artists and architects than in the general population (Wolff and Lundberg, 2002).
  • 155. How a Unique Perception of the World Enhances Creativity 141 Researchers have found that unlike most people, dyslexics rely heavily on the visual processing regions of the brain and use them even for reading. Magnetic Resonance Image (MRI) scans conducted on the brains of dyslexics and non-dyslexics showed that the right, visual-spatial regions of the brain are used by dyslexics, rather than the left hemisphere‘s symbolic processing regions (Raskind et al., 2005). Dyslexics can also perceive the world around them globally or holistically. With global or holistic perception, ―things are first perceived in their entirety, as a combination of details and qualities which are not divided or abstracted‖ (Holistic Educator, 2008). According to von Karoli, Winner, Gray and Sherman (2003) dyslexics were much faster than non-dyslexics at accurately determining that a complex figure, like Escher‘s drawings, was ―impossible‖, indicating that they can more quickly process global visual information. Non-linear thinking is a natural component of visual thought: images can be recombined in infinite ways and still carry meaning. Alphabetical characters, in contrast, can only be combined in so many ways and still form recognisable words (Raskind et al., 2005).. Words also need to be linked together linearly to complete a comprehensible thought: ‗See Spot run‘ does not mean the same thing as ‗Spot run see‘. Dense with images, visual thinking can be incredibly fast, carrying many layers of meaning, but can be more difficult to translate into words, and it may carry more than one interpretation. While dyslexic thought patterns work well with imagery, this kind of thinking goes horribly wrong with alphabetical characters. Thus, dyslexia can be both a gift and a curse. Creativity is the recombining of disparate concepts into a new idea. Visual thought, non linear thinking, and a holistic grasp of concepts all contribute to creativity in dyslexics. Non-dyslexics can think visually, as well, and can be equally innovative, but due to their difficulties, dyslexics are forced to rely on the visual portions of the brain more, so as a group, they tend to be more creative. Chuck Close, who is dyslexic, once stated that he had to put everything into his art because there was nothing else that he could do. This implies that the disability of dyslexia limited his options, but he didn‘t become a truck driver—he chose a creative profession for a reason; because he was good at it (von Karoli, Winner, Gray and Sherman, 2003). Dyslexics have highly developed visual thinking skills, and thus logically, visual thought should be important to the visual arts. However, it is surprising that the works of particular artists is rarely discussed in relation to their dyslexia. This chapter will remedy that by looking at two famous dyslexic artists: Pablo Picasso and Robert Rauschenberg. Their paintings will be examined for elements of dyslexic thought, particularly holism and time. For a dyslexic, letters are not static on the page; they have motion, blurring and distorting. Words in motion, the aging process, the ticking of a clock, all are manifestations of time, and these examples often appear in the work of dyslexic artists. Holism can be evident in many ways, such as showing a comprehensive overview of a concept, three dimensional representations, or by depicting multiple angles at once without using three dimensions—this can mean Cubism.
  • 156. 142 Clayton S. Colgin PABLO PICASSO ―A painter paints to unload himself of feelings and visions.‖ [Pablo Picasso in von Karoli et al., 2003). Holistic thinking involves seeing something all at once. This aspect of holism, can also be called global perception, meaning an individual sees all angles of an object at once—front, back, sides, even the inside—even if a touch of imagination is required to ―see‖ the parts that are not normally visible. Nowhere is holistic perception better expressed in painting than in Cubism. ‗Girl before a Mirror‘ (1932) is an ideal example. In both the side and front views, we see two different views of a woman‘s face: the side view is sad and moon-like, while the full face is lightened with yellow and is smiling like the sun. The reflection in the mirror reveals yet other sides to the face and the woman‘s figure, with opposing colours that alter the feel of the reflected image, reversing shadow and light from the main figure so that we see everything, even what would normally be hidden. With Cubism, multiple angles are shown, allowing this technique to capture all sides of an object at once, effectively pressing a three-dimensional object onto a two-dimensional canvas. Picasso claimed that this was the very purpose of Cubism: ―All of this is my struggle to break with the two-dimensional aspect‖ (Ashton, 1972, p.61). Speaking of a strange sketch on paper, he said ―It‘s a chair, and you see, that is an explanation of cubism! Imagine a chair passed under the rollers of a compressor—it would turn out just about like that‖ (Ashton, 1972, p.63). Thus, Cubism grants a two-dimensional painting an ability not even matched by sculpture, the ability to show an object holistically. Images reflected in mirrors help to convey holism, also reversing shadow and light, as they are meant to show what is normally hidden. Holistic perception is not limited to seeing multiple angles at once but is also capable of seeing multiple emotional or conceptual meanings at once, like seeing night and day, sadness and joy. Cubism can also show time and motion. Time and motion are inextricable. We can watch a person or object moving, see it shifting position from one second to the next, or we can turn away from a scene and then look back a few seconds or hours later and see that it has changed, see that tree branches have moved in a breeze or day has turned into night. If two snapshots separated by moments are blended together the image appears blurred, like when slow film is used to photograph a runner; effectively, the image of the runner in different spots over time is blended together. Thus, we can watch motion continuously, like watching a movie, or we can be aware of motion in snapshots, and both are valid representations of time passing. The motion in Picasso‘s works is more similar to the latter—snapshots of time, yet they are blended together in one painting without blurring rather than divided into separate still images. Returning to the example of Girl before a Mirror, both the side and front views of the woman‘s face are seen simultaneously, like the face has been rolled out flat. However, we can think of the face in another way, in terms of motion or time. The side view of the face is not terribly distorted if looked at in isolation; similarly, the full rounded front view isn‘t entirely squashed flat and would look more normal in isolation. Thus, we could be seeing two snapshots of time fused together: a side view at one time and a full face view at another time. The sense of images in time is reinforced by the two perspectives, side and front view,
  • 157. How a Unique Perception of the World Enhances Creativity 143 mirrored by two different colour schemes, like moonlight and sunlight, two entirely different times of day or different stages of life. Another example of how Picasso captured time and motion using blended stills is Dying Bull (1934). While somewhat distorted, much of the bull in the painting is well proportioned and not ―flattened‖. The entire right half pretty much conforms to conventional perspective, but the left third is discordant. Both sides of the bull‘s face are visible, and where the right front leg should be there is another large, muscular hind leg facing the wrong direction. This discordance disappears if we imagine motion: the bull thrashing about in pain might twist its head from side to side, so that two stills of this blended together would allow us to see both eyes at once; if the bull had been facing to the right then its right hind leg would be in the position shown, so all we must imagine is that it turned itself around, but Picasso left the first snapshot of the leg in its original spot. Thus, Dying Bull makes perfect visual sense if we imagine seeing two or three snapshots of time blended together. Picasso‘s Cubism thus has the ability to show not only three-dimensional objects holistically but to capture motion or time without blurring. In addition to the holistic way of seeing space and time achieved by Picasso‘s work, he also made use of symbolism to convey greater, holistic concepts without words. Guernica (1937), for example, is famed for its layers of symbolic meaning about war. It has been described as Surrealistic, as a recording of the subconscious (Walther, 2006). It contains many powerful symbols of light and dark, life and death, the ancient and the modern. A broken sword next to a flower on the ground is a powerful contrast, containing dichotomies typical of holistic thought. A modern electric light shaped like an eye watching everything in detachment, while next to it a more ancient lamp of flame and passion is carried in the arm of someone fleeing the dark in horror, speaks of emotion versus intellect. It is a powerful work with many more layers of symbolism as well as multiple perspectives of space and time. Picasso‘s art provides us with many examples of how dyslexic perception can be expressed through art: multiple spatial perspectives, time, motion and holistic meaning through symbols. He has said that the goal behind Cubism was simply to paint: … And to paint seeking a new expression divested of useless realism, with a method linked only to my thought—without enslaving myself or associating myself with objective reality. Neither the good nor the true; neither the useful nor the useless. It is my will that takes form outside all extrinsic schemes… (Ashton, 1972, p.63). With Cubism we see the clearest view of Picasso‘s thought. He shows us the world through his own perception, a dyslexic perception of reality. ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG ―Curiosity is probably the most important energy that any creative person can have.‖ [Robert Rauschenberg in Mattison, 2003] Rauschenberg‘s art spans painting, performance, photography, sculpture and epitomizes mixed media. He is known for his lateral thinking, for rearranging, juxtaposing and engaging in intuitive, non-sequential, leaps of creativity. Rauschenberg has admitted to using many ―tricks‖, which were intended to bring himself to a state where creativity flows, namely relying on the novelty of his materials, or on Jack
  • 158. 144 Clayton S. Colgin Daniels and fatigue (Mattison, 2003, p. 33). The biographer and art historian, Robert Mattison, has suggested, that in addition to the deliberate cultivation of creative thinking, Rauschenberg may also be influenced by an innate characteristic—dyslexia—which Mattison points out should not be thought of so much as a disability but as an alternate mode of perception (Mattison, 2003, p.34). Rauschenberg said, ―Probably the only reason I‘m a painter is because I couldn‘t read‖ (Mattison, 2003, p.34). Dyslexia is a disability; it limits what dyslexics can do and limits their choices in life. Yet, it is also an alternate mode of perception; one such mode could be advantageous to a painter. Rauschenberg also said, ―[as] a dyslexic, I already see things backwards! You see in printmaking everything comes out backwards, so printing is an absolute natural for me.‖ Many of Rauschenberg‘s works, like Retroactive I (1964), where images within a collage are multiplied, rotated or inverted, show evidence of the visual-spatial thought correlated to dyslexics. In dyslexia or visual modes of thought, an image can be rotated in any way and still be understood in terms of its inherent meanings. The dyslexic, however, is almost compelled to twist and distort things, unable to keep them static, in an effort to ―see‖ them more clearly or to understand them in a new way. In Rauschenberg‘s words, ―[images] keep on suggesting things [even] when they are juxtaposed with other images on the canvas, so there‘s… possibilities of collaboration and discovery‖. Another tendency of dyslexics is to see alphabetical letters as images, rather than abstract symbols for sounds. Rauschenberg, when confessing his reading problems, said, ―Every few minutes my mind would shift and I would pick out all the O‘s then all the letter A‘s on the page.‖ This is a symptom of experienced by many dyslexics. A single letter, such as A, will seem to float above the page, all of the A‘s on that page will be floating above the paper, separate and isolated from the words they are supposed to belong to. Rauschenberg‘s Summer Rental series (1960), for example, treat all letters as pieces of imagery without confining them to words or sentences. The letters are also sometimes rotated, reversed, or distorted just as any image is treated by visual-spatial thought. Dyslexics seem to have an affinity for three-dimensional imagery, which is why they are often sculptors, like Rodin, another known dyslexic artist. In lieu of sculpture, collage adds another spatial plane, granting a painting some degree of three-dimensionality. There are an infinite number of collages among Rauschenberg‘s work, not to mention his involvement in dance and performance - examples of his need to express three dimensional thought and motion. One piece that Rauschenberg spoke of in particular during an interview held at the Guggenheim museum in 1998, was Untitled (1954). This combine (as Rauschenberg‘s collages and mixed media works are called) is more like a sculpture than a painting. He spoke of his love of the piece because it was the first to ―move away from the wall‖, which clearly shows his deep-rooted need to have three-dimensionality in his creations (Rose, 1998). Rauschenberg‘s Reservoir (1961) is all about time and motion. Combining wood, metal, fabric, paint and other materials in a three dimensional feast of imagery. Motion is conveyed by using a real wheel suspended in the middle of the painting, plus another dark wheel painted prominently in the sky. Two clocks are also embedded in the work (their settings separated by the time between start and finish of the painting), which tick away time continually.
  • 159. How a Unique Perception of the World Enhances Creativity 145 The plethora of clocks, wheels, athletes, dancers and other symbols of movement in Rauschenberg‘s paintings have been remarked upon previously by Branden Joseph, who wrote that, ―[Rauschenberg‘s] works… seem to lament their own lack of mobility (Schimmel, 2005). John Cage observed, ―[Rauschenberg] regrets we do not see the paint while it‘s dripping.‖ (Cage, 1961, p. 100). Rauschenberg has produced a bewildering mass of works over his lifetime, and it would be foolish to claim all, or any, of it was specifically about his dyslexia. He dealt with whatever subjects concerned him at the time: animals from childhood memories; his own confusion as a Southern boy thrust into the fast-paced life of urban New York City; an enthusiasm for flight and space travel at the dawn of the Space Age. There were endless ideas and subjects for his works. Rauschenberg said that ―[art] has you, but it isn‘t you‖ (Rose, 1998). Dyslexia, despite having a profound impact on Rauschenberg‘s everyday life, may not have been the subject of his work, but it certainly was a factor in his mode of thought and the generation of all his works. As Mattison points out, Rauschenberg has used the disorientation that results from his dyslexia to express the disorientation most people experience in the confusion of contemporary life (Mattison, 2003, p. 39). CONCLUSION All humans can think in images. The primitive mind—which existed before language evolved and which still exists in the core of all our minds—must have thought with images, and this is apparent in our dreams. Humans now generally have evolved to use both images and words; however I believe that dyslexics rely exclusively on image based thought. Because dyslexic thought is prone to: turning and warping objects, to blending imagery in the imagination as new ideas are generated. A snapshot of some of this imagery offers a direct look at thought in its unfinished form and a glimpse of creativity in action. The paintings of dyslexic artists provide such a snapshot. By pointing out the elements of dyslexic visual thought in the work of Picasso and Rauschenberg, one can begin to see the commonalities among dyslexics. Hopefully, this will enable non-dyslexics to understand how a dyslexic sees the world. With understanding comes greater acceptance. More importantly, dyslexics should look to the art, creative expression and snapshots of thought from other dyslexics and tell themselves ―I am not alone.‖ BIBLIOGRAPHY Ashton, D. (Ed.) (1972). Picasso on Art: A Selection of Views, Da Capo Press, USA, p. 61. Encyclopedia of Psychology (2008). Dyslexia, 20010406, viewed online 26 May 2008, Marshall, A. (2003). Brain Scans Show Dyslexics Read Better with Alternative Strategies, Davis Dyslexia Association Inc., viewed online 5 June 2005, Mattison, R.S. (2003). Robert Rauschenberg: Breaking Boundaries, Yale University Press, New Haven, CT.
  • 160. 146 Clayton S. Colgin Pennington, B.F. (1991) Diagnosing Learning Disorders, New York; Guilford. Raskind, W.H; Igo, R.P.; Chapman, N.H.; Berninger, V.W.; Thomson, J.B.; Matsushita, M.; Brkanac, Z.; Holzman, T.; Brown, M,.; and Wijsman, E.M. (2005). A genome scan in multigenerational families with dyslexia: identification of a novel locus on chromosome 2q that contributes to phonological decoding efficiency, Mol Psychiatry, 10(7):699-711. Rose, C. (998). An Interview with Robert Rauschenberg, Program recorded February 27. Wolff, U.; and Lundberg, I. (2002) The Prevalence of Dyslexia among art Students, Dyslexia, 8 (1): 34-42. Walther, I.F. (Ed.) (2006). Picasso, Taschen, Köln, p. 400-401 Schimmel, P. (Ed.) (2005). B.W .Joseph, Rauschenberg‘s Refusal essay in Combines, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, p. 260. Cage, J. (1961). On Robert Rauschenberg, Art and His Work, in Silence, Wesleyan University Press, Middletown CT, p. 100.
  • 161. In: Dyslexia and Creativity Investigations from Differing… ISBN: 978-1-61668-552-2 Author: Neil Alexander-Passe ©2010 Nova Science Publishers, Inc. Chapter 9 DYSLEXIA: ITS IMPACT ON MY CREATIVE PROCESS Bonnie M. Haley Founder and Director of the National Society of Creative Dyslexics, MBA, IMSLEC. Editor Marianne McCarthy, LICSW (USA) The author is a certified Orton-Gillingham tutor, a Federation for Children with Special Needs Advocate, and a parent of children with dyslexia. She is passionate about helping those with dyslexia, and inspiring public awareness of the gifts of being an individual with dyslexia. She currently tutors children in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. The National Society of Creative Dyslexics (NSCD) is a non-profit located in the suburbs of Boston, Massachusetts, its idea was founded in 2006. Its founding members had a vision to promote the gifts of dyslexia and to influence change. Change might mean change to programs in public schools, change to promote the abilities and creativity of dyslexia, and most importantly, a change to honour those with dyslexia, because dyslexia is not a disability, and it is a different way of learning. The NSCD offers supports for families to reach successful educational outcomes for their children. Leading the way to improve the awareness of dyslexia and its true gifts. Albert Einstein the physicist, Stephen Cannell the producer and writer, and Charles Schwab the financial investor more than likely all have one unique gift in common. They have a uniqueness that is common among those who have dyslexia. I believe that they are able to vividly visualize what others cannot. What is creativity? What makes one person‘s creativity more powerful than another? What abilities does someone with dyslexia bring to creativity? Having lived with dyslexia my entire life, it is my opinion that there are two distinctively positive characteristics for those who have dyslexia that leads the way to a heightened creativity. The first is the ability to brilliantly visualize. My brain constantly fires visual images. Unlike the norm, most individuals I know picture words in their mind. For me, a word is only understood when a visual picture is associated with it for understanding and meaning.
  • 162. 148 Bonnie M. Haley The second most distinctive characteristic of dyslexia is curiosity. The Carroll School, a school specializing in dyslexia for children located in Lincoln, Massachusetts captures and cultivates this dyslexic characteristic so well. Curiosity drives dyslexics with unrelenting zeal to discover an answer and find truth and understanding. When understanding is reached, a higher level of creativity is unleashed. Those who have dyslexia cannot understand the full meaning of a word simply by reading or being read its definition. This leads the way to curiosity for meaning and an innate use of multi-sensory exploration to allow the meaning of a word to be understood. Those with dyslexia learn best through experiential, hands-on teaching and experimental: being able to touch, hear, see, and use their body provides the path to meaningful information and understanding of words. My thoughts and the pictures in my thoughts are three-dimensional and include rich colours and detail. Proven through the use of MRI technology, the dyslexic right brain is larger in size and has more capacity than a non-dyslexic right brain. The right brain is responsible for creativity and imagination. A right brain with increased ability provides for a highly unique creative process. Specifically, this ability to visualize in a three-dimensional abstract and thinking without boundaries and preconceived ideas, adds to a very powerful creativity. As so powerfully paraphrased by Editor Marianne McCarthy, ‗there was a time when everyone who existed believed that the world was questions, no worries. It was flat. was discovered that the truth was quite different, that the planet was round or pear shaped and actually quite dimensional. The visual process of dyslexia is something like this. Non-dyslexics think in words - similar to the world being flat. The person with dyslexia thinks in dimensional, visual ways that expand the possibilities.‘ Being highly creative and producing solutions is the result of my search for word meaning and an ability to visualize. It is no wonder that many with dyslexia are drawn to the arts. As a child, I loved to draw, act, and create. In third grade I won a writing contest for the best scary short story at Halloween. In high school drama, my colourfully unique costume designs were easily imagined and produced. Finding creative solutions come easy for me. With my eyes open and focused toward a solution; I can visualize the whole solution with its fine details distinctively imagined using my mind‘s eye. Its details are distinctly imagined in my mind, with the pieces being shifted and manipulated for an optimal outcome. Dyslexia‘s innate visualization is a significant aspect and is anything but ordinary. It is the core of what makes this unique creative process happen. It is an ability that cannot be felt nor understood unless you experience it. To expound upon it and describe it is a challenge in itself. Having dyslexia is a gift: a gift that affects all aspects of my life and the lives of those around me. My unique creativity has allowed me to envision solutions through out my life and professional career. The process is intertwined with enthusiasm and passion that comes from my curiosity, which results in the abundant energy needed to complete the final visualization. The passion exists as an excitement of ascertaining the desired solution. With it, there is also an instinct that rides beside my mind‘s eye. My mind provides constant feedback on all creative possibilities, which contributes to reaching the optimal creative solution. Can you picture the drafting board and pencil that never rests? This is my creative process: it happens quickly - before my mind moves on to the next idea or task. An important ingredient in my creative process is the use of perspective. Ones perspective or viewpoint provides your window of the world. The ability to not only see the whole but the details enhances ones perspective. These details provide exclusivity to my
  • 163. Dyslexia: Its Impact on my Creative Process 149 creative process. My perspective allows my mind to see what others cannot see - and to visually think. The thoughts that transpire from this unique perspective are endless and untiring, providing a constant energy source to fulfil a creative outcome. As my mind works to solve a problem and design a solution, the mind‘s eye perspective places me at the centre of the energy. An understanding of a word or greater problem through visualization will begin the creative process. The desired solution begins to transform with visual pictures of possible pieces intertwining to make to the whole solution. The swirling energy and floating pictures begin to create the whole solution. Actual exposure and hands-on experience enhances my ability to visualize solutions. It is very important to learning and gaining understanding for those with dyslexia. The more experience that is gained, the better one is at creating solutions. My professional career has spanned business systems, human resources, and marketing. The uniqueness of my creativity has helped me to be successful in all aspects of my career, and bring an imagination that were admired and sought. I thrived in environments that not only encouraged thinking outside the box, but allowed implementation of ideas and solutions. I believe that my gift of dyslexia was valued by my employers even though they were not aware of where I got my gifts. Figure 1. Dyslexia Creative Process Elements. Using Figure 1, the elements of my creative process are summarized as follows: Curiosity: Curiosity begins the creative solution that knows no boundaries and goes where ever it desires. Visualization: Visualization is the mechanism for seeing what others cannot see. Perspective: Perspective forms the pictures that are visualized in a three dimensional mind.
  • 164. 150 Bonnie M. Haley Imagination and Mysticism: Imagination and mysticism is done in the mind‘s eye where I visualize a solution. Mysticism works with imagination and provides an intuitiveness that opens my mind to all possibilities. Connection: Connection is the ability to attach and bond ideas together that do not seem to be related at all. Taking one part from one situation and connecting it with another unrelated situation is inherent in my solution process. Feedback: Feedback is the immediate response that constantly provided me with ideas as I think and visualize a solution. The National Society of Creative Dyslexics is the positive result of over a decade of advocacy to provide an appropriate public education and understanding of all children and adults who learn differently and have dyslexia. Let‘s allow the gifts of dyslexia to shine - at all ages.
  • 165. In: Dyslexia and Creativity Investigations from Differing… ISBN: 978-1-61668-552-2 Author: Neil Alexander-Passe ©2010 Nova Science Publishers, Inc. Chapter 10 DYSLEXIA, VISUAL THINKING AND LUCID DREAMING - AN ARTIST‟S EXPERIENCE Mick Bean Dyslexic Artist, (UK) In the author‘s art he has a philosophy of where ‗no boundaries of thought, with pencil and brush, no edges, only open space where art can roam free and develop‘. He is often asked what his ‗style‘ is. However he believes that working to a given style can be restrictive; so he tries to keep a clear mind and express what‘s inside. He follows his pencil and tries to not to be marginalised by rules or expectations. If he finds himself falling into the trap of repeating a ‗style‘, he makes a conscious effort to adjust or alter how the work is presenting itself. Often the act of creating a piece of art can be the end product, and not the finished picture. The feeling of euphoria while painting or drawing an abstract piece means he often disregards the end product knowing it‘s ‗done it‘s job‘. A very selfish approach to art he agrees, but it‘s his way of expressing his soul. As an end product the picture produced may mean nothing to an onlooker and even he often finds it hard to find artistic merit in it himself. He likes to draw from life, churches, castles, fields and meadows. Seeing children playing and old men arguing, women chatting and animals scurrying, but none of them have ever given him the euphoric feeling that he gets from working with abstracts. He thinks he draws from thoughts, he doesn‘t know? As a youngster who did not understand words or numbers, he found art the window into my inner world, a very private world, but one which got him through some tough times. The author was diagnosed dyslexic when he was eleven and my parents were told he would probably never read or write. He is now in his 50s and realises that he was in fact quite bright. He was assessed for dyslexia at the Tonbridge dyslexia institute and was put in the top 15% of intellectuals of my age group, with a reading and writing age of an eleven year old. Art, art is the author‘s personal window on life - not for him to reach out to his environment, but for his environment to look into his world. A world of colour, depth, meaning and feeling. Leave logic behind. He asks ‗can you do it?‘
  • 166. 152 Mick Bean LUCID DREAMING AND ONIONS My schooldays were a nightmare, I was bullied by teachers who had no idea about dyslexia or how it affected the world a dyslexic person lives in. This is chapter is an opportunity to record how I coped with my thought process and being told that I was ‗dyslexia‘. Left and right, up and down, sweet and bitter, love and hate, I‘m sure I don‘t need to go on giving examples of opposites. As children we learn all about them at school and like most things we don‘t question what we are told by our ‗superiors‘ (e.g. teachers or parents). As a school boy I clearly remember thinking things weren‘t always as they seemed and on occasions I would question things which were clear and obvious to my classmates, but seemed ‗wrong‘ to me. The way our brains work is unique to each and every one of us and working with children who suffer/enjoy autism, dyslexia and learning differences in general has helped me to begin the long road of unwrapping the way I think as a dyslexic person. One aspect of this relates to my school/teenage years and my ability to dream lucid dreams. I didn‘t realise it then, but I now know that lucid dreaming was a window into my mental processes. Let‘s start with my brain which I will call my ‗onion‘. An ‗onion‘ because every now and again I realise something or the ‗penny drops‘ and I‘m able to peel off another skin from my ‗onion‘, revealing a little more into the way I think. I‘m not going to explain the ins and outs or the wonder of lucid dreaming as its all well documented, just tap in LUCID DREAMING into internet search engines and all will be revealed. I realise now that I was questioning everything I was learning. I put new knowledge into shapes, forms, colour, rhythm, depth and texture, but most important of all I added emotion to my ‗dream‘. I can‘t speak for other people, but it seems to me that what we are taught is never questioned, at least not on the level I‘m trying to explain. As children we were told black is the opposite of white and this is never questioned, it was obvious, but my ‗onion‘ had to work through it, it had to see if there was a skin to peel away. I knew it was a fact that black was the opposite of white, but my mind had a mind of its own, and lucid dreaming was an insight into how I was working it all out. As a school boy I knew what was happening, but I was unable to express myself verbally without making myself sound silly or stupid. Few people understood lucid dreaming let alone how my understanding of thought was presenting itself. I have not experienced lucid dreaming after my 20s (I‘m now in my 50‘s), but I do experience another phenomena while asleep which seems to have taken its place. It has taken years to begin to understand what is happening and a surprisingly long time to realise it is has evolved from lucid dreaming. I guess it has to be called a dream, because it only ever occurs when I‘m asleep, but it‘s nothing like a dream at all. It usually happens when I have disturbed sleep, perhaps a dog barking in the distance kicks it off or I may be having difficulty to sleep due to the stresses of the previous day. It is only when I become ‗aware‘ of the ‗vision‘, that I realise it has been a reoccurring vision over days or weeks. Once I have become aware of it I never ‗see‘ it again, as another one always takes its place.
  • 167. Dyslexia, Visual Thinking and Lucid Dreaming - An Artist‘s Experience 153 So what is it I „See‟…and why do I think it has a Bearing on how a Dyslexic Person „Thinks‟!! It‘s a flash of images, all intertwined with no top, bottom, edges or sides. It remains still but I‘m able to move in and out as I wish, I‘m part of it, and it has depth like a 3D image. Each part has a meaning and each part has colour. The colour‘s not the same as the colours you see during the day, they are more abstract, not at all like normal colours, as the shades of what I see are shades of emotion. The nearest I can get to what I see is that it appears like metallic or opalescent - as it has it‘s own depth which I cannot explain. Over the years I have begun to understand what it means, some CE (Coloured Emotions) blend into each other. Feelings of pity within shapes can effortlessly blend into a feeling of sadness. Feelings of tension can blend into a feeling of calm and all the feelings between seem to float. Love and hate often blend together, as we are able to love someone, yet hate aspects of what they are. Love and hate are not opposites, at least not in my world. The opposite of hate is happy, I have never seen hate blend into happy, like water and oil, as they have there own place and never mix. This is an example of how my mind thinks; it questions everything before accepting what it‘s told. Trying to explain exactly how I see this phenomenon is truly impossible. I can only say that over the years I have experienced them, and that I am now beginning to understand more of what‘s happening. I realise I‘m only scratching at the surface and am sure that in time, that many more skins on my ‗onion‘ will I peel away. There are many aspects about the experienced phenomena that I do not understand. Why for example when it happens do I feel ecstatic? I do think I understand why it only lasts a split second in time, as once I see the ‗image‘ there is nothing else to experience from it, its job has been done and the phenomena moves on to the next ‗image‘ to process. I liken it to tasting something, for example if you put vinegar onto your tongue, you know straight away what it is, without thinking, and your tongue has done its job. Sometimes during the day I might become aware that I have been thinking through a problem, it may have stemmed from an overheard conversation or something off the radio or television. People may have been discussed an issue, where no common ground was found. I suddenly realise that I have been thinking about it unconsciously, my ‗onion‘ has been trying to sort out the problem. Occasionally I find I can‘t stop thinking about issues and this gives me a headache. Often it‘s about trivial things of little importance. I have no say in what my ‗onion‘ chooses to worry about, hard as I try to think of other things, it must to take its own course. Then, I suddenly realise that I am back to ‗normal‘ mode, but more importantly, I have worked out an answer to that problem - at least an answer that is best suited to all parties. For example…. A while ago a police sergeant was talking on the radio about the congestion on London roads. He said he didn‘t know what would happen if a solution couldn‘t be found. My mind went into involuntary overdrive, I couldn‘t stop thinking about it, and I had flash CE during the night and headaches during the day. Then when it stopped I realised I had thought of an answer, or at least one that could warrant consideration. The answer was this. Any car can park in allotted parking areas for free as long as they leave there dipped headlights on, that way the owner would do the shopping in a shorter time as possible, be in
  • 168. 154 Mick Bean and out double quick, and being in charge of a car with no dipped lights would make for a hefty fine….. OK, I realise this is full of holes and would probably never work in practice, but I use this example for two reasons: It‘s a good example of how my ‗onion‘ works with no conscious input from me; indeed I couldn‘t care less about the congestion on the London roads. I told a few people about the headlight idea, some people thought it a good idea and said I ought to write and tell someone about it (who, ah…you)!!!! Quite some time after that I was reading a letters page in a newspaper and low and behold, there was ―my‖ idea sent in by someone, had my idea spread? I know others may have similar ideas, but I use this as a good example of what has happened in the past with ‗ideas‘ I have had. Drawing a. Static pose, poor girl. Drawing b. London's Brainstorm Pandemic.
  • 169. Dyslexia, Visual Thinking and Lucid Dreaming - An Artist‘s Experience Drawing c. Loving cuddles. Drawing d. Hustle-bustle busty Brighton. A miserable day I spent in Brighton. 155
  • 170. In: Dyslexia and Creativity Investigations from Differing… ISBN: 978-1-61668-552-2 Author: Neil Alexander-Passe ©2010 Nova Science Publishers, Inc. Chapter 11 APPROACHING DYSLEXIA SIDEWAYS – IS IT A BLESSING OR A CURSE? Jane Graves (UK) Jane Graves wanted to be a ballet dancer but washed up at Oxford. She taught cultural studies at Central Saint Martins (University of the Arts) for twenty-nine years (1968-1996), and became a specialist dyslexia tutor by accident but found those years amongst the richest and most exciting in her life. When she left CSM on grounds of ill health, she practiced as a psychoanalytical psychotherapist till 2006. Her book The Secret lives of objects is available through Trafford Publishing. Though disabled, she continues to live life to the full. INTRODUCTION Before I begin, I should make it clear that this chapter makes no claim to be based on scientific research, but my personal experience. My background is in the humanities, not the sciences. I read English Literature at Oxford, and subsequently went to LSE (London School of Economics) where I gained a qualification in Social administration, and trained as a Generic Caseworker. I taught cultural studies at Central Saint Martin‘s (University of the Arts, London) for twenty-nine years (1968-1996), and became a specialist dyslexia tutor for ten years (19861996). At the same time, I devised and taught a Cultural studies programme for MA Design students, and trained as a psychoanalytical psychotherapist. This weird melee no doubt influenced the way I approached dyslexia. Thus, I can make no claim to objectivity, but I can certainly put forward a claim for extreme subjectivity. This is an explanation, but not a justification for the meandering waywardness of my own writing. What I am trying to do is to describe my own process of discovery, from skepticism to understanding, from a despair and a sense of frustration which mirrored that of the students themselves – and quite accidentally, stumbling across the benefits. In all these contexts, my
  • 171. 158 Jane Graves primary source of information was the students themselves – ‗it is always the students who are the real teachers‘. I have to rely on my memory, because I have preserved minimal records. My work with dyslexic students stopped in 1996 when I retired from CSM, but I continued with dyslexic workshops until 2000 and therefore learnt indirectly about other people's students, and sometimes directly from students themselves when they attended my workshops. My chapter, however, might be a leaping off point for an art/design student who wishes to embark on a PhD, which is practice-based or practice-led. Such research projects are increasingly common in art and design. They pave the way for a very different approach, which is a long way off from the scientific model that was originally identified as the ‗ideal type‘ of research for any discipline, be it in the humanities, the so-called ‗soft‘ sciences, or the alien field of art and design. There are grey areas within this catalogue. Increasingly, many have started to wonder whether all these disciplines have more in common than was supposed, and the interdisciplinary approach is the way forward. Such radical change usually comes about very slowly in educational institutions. One of the characteristics of the period, in which I worked, was the sudden rush of enthusiasm for equal opportunities, so the London Institute (as the university was called then) set up an equal opportunities committee. All the constituent colleges were in turn instructed to set up their own. I noticed that my colleagues were keen to get involved in ‗Gender‘; however ‗Race‘ was a difficult one owing a startling lack of black people in college at the administrative or teaching level. However, at college and the institute level, there was a marked lack of interest in ‗Special Need‘. So I chose ‗Special Needs‘ and at this early stage I had no idea what an Aladdin‘s cave of riches I was about to stumble upon. Nevertheless, there were thorns in the path. One particular caveat, in which arose from a rather heavy-handed emphasis on ‗political correctness‘, I was not allowed to speak of ‗dyslexic students‘ or ‗those who suffer from dyslexia‘. I found the last particularly irksome, as students who are dyslexic undergo a great deal of suffering because of their dyslexia. Often they are frustrated by the failure of their personal endeavors – more often by the unsympathetic response they experienced or from how others perceive them. All labels are a bad idea, but if a label is the only way one explain oneself, then so be it, then hold up one‘s label high and shout ‗DYSLEXIC‘ from the roof tops. Translating this into a milder and more ameliorative tone, I would suggest, if the opportunity arises, it is best to try and explain dyslexia to those who are hostile or uncomprehending – or at least explain one‘s own experience of it. A specialist dyslexia tutor, who has a slightly more detached view than the sorely tried student (me), might describe it to an uncomprehending colleague as a ‗hidden handicap‘ like deafness. Whereas the blind person often has a white stick, dark glasses or even a guide dog, the deaf person has no external insignia to reveal their condition to the uninitiated. A deaf person who fails to respond to a question, or ignores a warning shout is perceived as crazy, or a fool. Deafness usually only becomes apparent when you see somebody using sign language, or making a concentrated attempt to lip read. This is the first step in confronting the often-ingrained belief that dyslexic students are ‗stupid and lazy‘ – or that dyslexia does not exist. I had assumed that this attitude had died the death by 2009 but clearly, this is not my experience. Since I myself have become disabled, I welcome the opportunity to describe the nature of my disability before I meet somebody. Some get frightened and I have needed to find a means of reassuring them. Others are genuinely interested and wish to know more. If being disabled
  • 172. Approaching Dyslexia Sideways – Is it a Blessing or a Curse? 159 is a label, it is one I am glad I wear. My life would be a great deal more uncomfortable without my dyslexia label. Without it, I would be ‗a risk to myself and others‘ with the numerous forms I have to fill in. Nevertheless, I have, like my dyslexic students have at times, experienced skepticism – which might be summed up as ‗Is she putting this on?‘ However, such labels are only useful as far as they lead to a reintegration in society, then they should fade away. This is a process that has to be frequently repeated with every new syndrome, which is identified. The idea that every member of society makes a useful contribution is an ideal (as in the social model of disability), which we must pursue endlessly but it by its very nature I believe it is unrealisable. In addition, there are still plenty of people, some in positions of authority, who deny that dyslexia exists. As strange as it might be to say, it still not the right time to abandon the dyslexic label. In writing this chapter, I have had to confront many such difficulties about what form my chapter should take. Should I include all the lists I used or should they be parked in Appendices? How could I describe the process of learning for me and for the students who were the real educators? Long-term memory may be endless, but it is subject to constant rewriting. All these things I have had to confront and I trust the reader will either pick their way through or throw my text away in exasperation. For those who can bear with me they will find I have reserved the good news to the end, and I only discovered this by a chance. LEARNING BY EXPERIENCE I came to dyslexia by accident. I received a violent metaphorical kicking on the shins from a desperate student who felt I had treated him badly. We had many happy chats about Flan O‘Brien‘s novel The third policeman that was the subject of his major BA (Bachelor of Arts degree) written work and I had reached the point when I thought I should be seeing something on paper, but the student only handed me a scrappy half sheet. I have this dreadful feeling that I might have said ‗What is this?‘ which could have provoked this poor and frightened student beyond the point of endurance to a verbal tirade. So shattered was I by the experience, that I have managed to expunge from memory what he actually said to me. However, the sense of guilt remained and I subsequently dedicated my dyslexia pack ‗Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment‘ to the students I had failed. (The title of the pack is one of the many wise sayings of the Persian mystic Jalalu‘ - Din Rumi.). It is not, I think, always a bad idea to embark on an enterprise out of a sense of failure. I feel I owe a great deal to John for knocking some of the Oxbridge shit out of me. However, my failures still haunt me. A vivid memory will return in the night of a student who said to me, for example, ‗You don‘t know how hard I am trying‘. In addition, it would seem a poor excuse to say ‗No, I didn‘t‘. As unconvincing to myself as to the student to whom I had, no doubt, given a hard time. After the rude opening of my eyes by John, we got down to business. John went off to the London Language and Literacy Unit (subsequently to be known as the LLU) to have his dyslexia confirmed and assessed; whilst I went off to the same place to acquire the rudiments of understanding of dyslexia and of teaching dyslexic students. The formal part of my course was only two hours teaching a week, and we were given texts to read over the week and took turns to make presentations.
  • 173. 160 Jane Graves The best thing about the course was that we learnt through doing. We were given students to work with and our performance was monitored. As always, this got us moving – and despite my extensive teaching experience, I found myself as nervous as a small child in school, being asked to read aloud in class. We were taught to use a standard passage for diction and another for reading aloud. In addition, to a method of teaching spelling called ‗Look, cover, say‘. Whilst I did not believe spelling mattered, the world did not share my contempt for spelling, and often students turned up to me thinking that the source of all their troubles was their poor spelling. In such cases, we did the ‗Look, cover, say‘ method – although with luck they would get bored with it, they realised that their actual difficulties with reading and writing were much more extensive and affected other aspects of learning skills. I found grammar was a real problem, and the only strategy I devised, was whenever you have to pause to breathe you probably need to put in a full stop. But, since I am an asthmatic, and most of the students were not, this did not help as much as I had hoped - it was in the end a method of trial and error. It had been firmly dinned into me at the LLU that dyslexics did not learn through rules, but only through concrete and practical examples, but when it came to grammar, I got lost myself. Possibly, due to my not trying hard enough or misunderstanding what LLU had taught. There were, however, many blessings to be found at the LLU. Firstly, the students I worked with did not come from an art/design background. Since I had always worked with art/design students this was unnerving but fruitful, and was a help in disciplining me in the future when I returned to my familiar world. Secondly, I knew I would never again be smug enough to say ‗working class kids are illiterate, but middle class children are dyslexic.‘ Such crisp dicta are usually tangled with confused notions of class and intelligence, which when subjected to rigorous analysis are ‗but a tale …of sound and fury signifying nothing‘. But even better was the third blessing. My Fairy Godmother had given me one unexpected gift. I had spent the first four years of my school life in remedial classes, where I totally failed to learn to read. It was an experience of total and unmitigated boredom. I was repeatedly told to concentrate, but I did not know what that meant and I spent many hours trying to understand this elusive term. It was only much later in life that I realised that intelligence ceases to exist if you become conscious of its existence. In other words, ‗one cannot think about concentration as a concept and apply it at the same time‘. Fortunately, for me, my ill health rescued me from the horror of school, but this certainly gave me some insight into the experience of the dyslexic child who sits at the back of the class and behaves badly. Once I had left at the age of nine I leapt ahead and by the age of ten I had become an enthusiastic reader. My strategy for survival at school had been to bolt whenever I got the chance. On one ghastly occasion the Headmaster, Mr. V tied himself to me, observing he did not like little girls who cried. Thereupon, of course, I howled the more. As the miserable four years dragged on, I was becoming a thoroughly unpleasant child, beginning to develop manipulative skills in the playground to get others into trouble and to keep me out of it. Memory is such that we all constantly reinvent the past, as it is modified by our subsequent experience. In Mr.V‘s case, I have a rather entertaining version of this. My cousin Peter was also a late and reluctant reader. My Aunt M, his mother, went down and pointed out to Mr. V that I had been in remedial, and had not learnt to read until I was ten. ‗Nonsense‘ said Mr. V ‗She was brilliant. She went to Oxford‘. Whereupon my Aunt forced him to check through his records, and there I was, large as life and twice as natural – in remedial! History
  • 174. Approaching Dyslexia Sideways – Is it a Blessing or a Curse? 161 does not record whether Mr. V ‗turned over a new leaf and mended the error of his ways‘. Somehow, I doubt it. After my year at the LLU, back at Central Saint Martin‘s I leapt into dyslexia teaching with insouciance as arrogant as my previous ignorance. Every Thursday afternoon I opened up a surgery for an hour for those students who thought they might be dyslexic, and would appreciate a test. I put notices up on all the college sites to advertise my services. Meanwhile, I continued to work with John on his major written work and on his studio report. It is hard to say which of us was the most exhausted. I was to learn over time that the attention span of dyslexic students is very short indeed and that I was pushing them far too hard. An hour‘s test left them completely exhausted, and half-an-hour‘s tutorial was more than enough (I started to keep aspirins in my office for those who developed headaches because of stress!). In addition to the announcement about my dyslexia testing and my surgery, I soon put up a ‗Quick check-list for Dyslexia.‘ I have no idea where I got this from – or whether I wrote it myself (Editors note: based on an early version of Vinegrad, 1994). It certainly does function as a distillation of the wisdom I acquired from the LLU. It went as follows: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. Do you find difficulty in telling left from right? Is your spelling poor? Is your writing difficult to read? Do you take longer to read a book? Do you dislike reading long books? Are you fearful of reading aloud? Do you dislike writing letters or reports? Do you find it difficult to take messages on the telephone and pass them on correctly? Do you find forms difficult or confusing? If you have a very long word to say do you, find it difficult to get the syllables in the right order? Do you find giving directions or finding your way difficult or confusing? Do you mix up dates and times and miss appointments? Are you fearful of speaking in public because you get lost or cannot read your prompts? Do you have difficulty in remembering the sense of what you have read? Do you have difficulty in remembering people‘s names? Do you have difficulty in counting your change? Do you forget telephone numbers all the time? Do you find it difficult to do sums in your head? Can you say the days of the week fluently backwards? Do you mix up the bus numbers 95 and 59? Can you use a dictionary? Can you find a book in the library? If you have difficulty with more than half, you might well be dyslexic. If all your problems are with number, you might be numerically dyslexic. I wonder how this strikes somebody reading this for the first time in 2009 – especially somebody who is young. For me at least these questions still seem relevant and pertinent and
  • 175. 162 Jane Graves in 1986, they certainly appeared to be peculiarly familiar in the sense that students started queuing outside my door demanding to be tested. Many strange and unexpected things started to emerge. There were those who had been called ‗stupid‘ and ‗lazy‘ so often they had internalised the abuse. One of the extreme examples was of a young woman who was one of the graphic design students attending my cultural studies course. After my first lecture on ‗Ideology and Institution‘, she rushed into my office and burst into tears. After she had quieted down, I asked her if she could explain to me what was troubling her. She replied ‗I understood every word of your lecture, but I know I can‘t, because I‘m stupid‘. I was bewildered. Having made such an effort to make a difficult subject accessible to my students, I was at first at a loss to understand the nature of her thinking. Why did this prove she was stupid? Why was understanding lectures evidence of her stupidity, was it because she felt anything worth while listening to should not be comprehensible? She could not believe that in listening to a lecture you picked up a few key points, whilst your mind went walk-about and developed an alternative discourse. I began to provide notes for every lecture. They were plenty of gaps because dyslexics do not respond well to a page cluttered with text (a particularly helpful piece of advice from the LLU). However, of course, students used these sheets in many different ways. Some virtually ignored them, left them behind, or even put them in the waste paper basket at the end of the lecture. Other students scribbled dutifully away on them with their own comments, or practiced their drawing skills. By a careful examination of the waster paper baskets, I discovered that many of the students drew me! This was a salutary shock, because I cannot take notes and listen to a lecture at the same time, I had assumed that this was the normal way of tackling a lecture. It was as if I had a divine right to look at a group of the thirty students and see thirty pairs of eyes constantly trained upon me. I was astonished to see one young woman who I had recently diagnosed as dyslexic scribbling away. When I subsequently found an opportunity to ask her about this she said ‗well I have to do that otherwise I would completely lose concentration. But when I look through them afterwards they make no sense so I throw them away.‘ I had been contemptuous of the course I had undertaken at the LLU, but must now admit that they stimulated seeds, which came to fruition later on. For example, illiteracy is an overused term, which is seldom defined. Are you illiterate if you cannot write your own name, read a page in a popular newspaper, or even perhaps understand a poem or even one of Shakespeare‘s plays? One often reads that in a particular area of the UK that over 25% of the population are illiterate – or conversely in another only 3%. How is this researched? Is it based on old school reports, or employer‘s reports? Are they likely to be biased or written by people who are themselves semiliterate? As always with such research, it is the methodology that needs to be made transparent not the results. Inevitably, illiteracy is constantly shifting and changing. If you fail to read and write this assignment, is it because you have not been taught to? Nonetheless, many of those who have not received adequate teaching still manage to pick up reading and writing skills. Those will receive a pat on the back, as evidence that they are more ‗intelligent‘ than those who fail to make such progress. On the other hand, those who are dyslexic who I believe will not ‗pick up‘ reading and writing skills. At primary school level they might infuriate teachers by their failure to remember a simple little word like ‗was‘ from one page to the next – especially if they manage to read a much longer and apparently more difficult word. A modern teaching approach would expect these hiccups – but if persistent, could be symptomatic of dyslexia.
  • 176. Approaching Dyslexia Sideways – Is it a Blessing or a Curse? 163 As with all such reasoning, there are many ambiguities. Diagnostic opportunity varies from area to area, along with different modes of assessment, and the process which decides whether a child is to receive extra help or not - can all take time, time a child doesn‘t have, as each day reinforces their feelings of being stupid or abnormal compared to their peers. It is not surprising that parents and teachers become exhausted and stressed in the struggle to gain appropriate support – not to mention the children themselves. Dyslexia, it seems, is not good news to teachers, schools and local educational authorities. It seems to provoke a flood of defensiveness, irritation and resentment, possibly because it can be so easily confused with illiteracy. However, there seems to be an additional complication because of the focus society put on the word ‗intelligence‘. I obviously cannot here embark on a full-scale history of the word nor of Sir Cyril Burt‘s intelligence tests, which were to set the whole intelligence game going. (They are now assumed to be seriously flawed, with even suggestions that his research assistant did not actually exist.) Although intelligence tests have been refined and developed since then, I still believe there basic inconsistencies in its definition. What is ‗intelligence‘? Nature is bountiful with her gifts and society should not say or judge that one person‘s ‗gift‘ is better than another. Intelligence seems to me nothing more than another convenient ‗polemical‘ peg on which to hang yet another hierarchical hat. All societies have systems of social stratification, but it vital that the different levels do not ‗coalesce‘. In the case of dyslexia they do. Dyslexics are perceived as being illiterate, stupid, and lazy. ‗Lazy‘ in a society, which is as heavily work orientated as our own, has become one of the deadly sins. When dealing with students who claimed they were lazy, I found myself treading on eggshells. There was the odd student who would declare they were ‗lazy‘ just to see how I would react, but I had a simple way of dealing with them. I would say that laziness was a serious emotional problem, which would require counselling. If this produced the work at once, the problem was solved. If, however, there was a serious emotional difficulty in settling down to work, the student counsellor was the right person – and sometimes of course, the student was dyslexic, in which case I was the right person. Such a simple explanation does not entirely solve the problem. Dyslexics may well believe they are ‗ill, idle, and stupid‘. One student who I had just diagnosed as dyslexic burst into tears and said ‗I thought that I had a brain tumour, but this is worse‘. I was so stunned by this that I could barely speak. How could dyslexia be worse than a brain tumour? Nevertheless, I was to find that they often equated the poor short-term memory, which is the curse of dyslexia, with severe physical or mental illness. This was in part because they had unreasonable expectations of themselves. Others did indeed have viciously inadequate memories. A friend once told me that one of their students thought they should remember every single word of a book – and was astonished to learn her tutor did not agree. Another mature student told me she had five car keys - with one in a metal box fixed under the car. This was an extreme example, but many students complained of difficulty in remembering names, appointments, telephone numbers and directions. What I needed to discover was the extent of the difficulty, and its nature. To do this I had to win the student‘s confidence. I frequently found gaining such confidence could involve tolerating a great deal of anger and resentment, which since the original perpetrators was not present, was inevitably directed at me. Anger and resentment was even present when student had been diagnosed as children at first, I was bewildered by this. Then further discreet questioning made it clear that although
  • 177. 164 Jane Graves the child had been told they were dyslexic, no attempt had been made to find out what they understood by this term or to put in place support. With adults, the situation was slightly different. I assumed that crass explanations, such as ‗There is something wrong with your brain‘ were outdated. As dyslexia was hardly understood back then, it was hardly surprising that post-diagnosis explanations were a little crude or vague. But I had a rude awakening when in 2003 when one of my psychotherapy patients was referred by her tutor to the specialist dyslexia tutor for an assessment, and was told that ‗there was something wrong with the way her brain worked‘. No doubt, this explanation was not intended to be offensive, but it seemed to me to be an unfortunate beginning for a professional referral. Even more startling was that this happened in a distinguished London Art and Design College with a high reputation for its provision for dyslexic students. (I am happy to say it was not Central Saint Martin‘s!) The young woman was four years into her therapy and was able to accept this with a wry laugh. I had suspected that she might be dyslexic from the first I met her, but there were other more pressing psychodynamic concerns. Knowing that there was dyslexia provision at the college where she was studying for an MA in art therapy, I felt no anxiety by my approach. When she had first arrived on my doorstep four years earlier she had been in a very fragile state emotionally and I think that had she been told then that ‗there was something wrong with her brain‘ it may have had a disastrous effect on her. MANY STRATEGIES EXIST TO ASSIST THE DYSLEXIC STUDENT. THEY DO NOT ALL WORK? I doubt the efficacy of being sent away to boarding school. One young man turned up at my open session and said ‗I went to a specialist dyslexic boarding school and I never want to see another specialist dyslexia tutor again.‘ He would come and sit in on my open session and as he was there, gathered I wasn‘t doing too badly. He came for help with his MA dissertation, as his computer spell-checker had let him down. Spell-checker only work when words are misspelled and will not highlight if a word is correctly spelt word, but nonsense in the meaning of the sentence. For example, I recently wrote ‗replied‘ for ‗relied‘. A trivial example but it made nonsense of my text. I should perhaps add that the advice to use a dictionary is seldom helpful. Many dyslexic students do not know the alphabet, they may also not know the days of the week, the months of the year nor feel able to cope with the twentyfour hour clock. Due of their sequencing problems, they may find it hard to use the library, as they may be reluctant to tell library staff they do not know their alphabet or cannot understand the filing system. I have not yet been able to discover a solution to the library problem. As an aside, I should perhaps say I have in writing this chapter, I used the grammatically incorrect ‗they‘ as opposed to struggling with her/him etc. This affords me the opportunity to question one assumption – that more boys than girls are dyslexic. What I did find was the girls who turned up had seldom been tested as children. Possibly, at the time I was helping students, it was seen as less important for girls to do well academically, or alternatively the girls had internalised the abuse they had experienced. I simply do not know.
  • 178. Approaching Dyslexia Sideways – Is it a Blessing or a Curse? 165 I had little time to reflect. As a specialist dyslexia tutor ‗the doing the business‘ had become ‗my business‘. To illustrate this, I shall expand on the look/cover/say approach to teaching spelling which I learnt at the LLU: It does not depend on learning rules. Students must choose the words they want to learn. Do not try to learn too many words. Groups those words together which have a similar pattern e.g. please/ ease/ or sound/round/found. Discuss with students what will be the easiest way for them to recall the spellings. Break words up into bits. Mark them with highlighter pens. Cover the word. Speak the word aloud. Write it down. Check whether it is correct. This straightforward approach led to further refinements and insights into my understanding of dyslexia. For example, I found using deliberate changes in my tone of voice I could induce the wrong response. When I asked a student whether the word was correct in a tentative tone of voice, they would tend to say ‗no‘ even if it were perfectly correct. It made me realise how little confidence they had in their own judgement. It is vital to keep tricky oppositions like their/there a long way apart. An old-fashioned teaching approach would tend to juxtapose them to emphasise the difference, but dyslexic students would find this very confusing. Words must be taught using similar sounds and visual patterns. For example, ‗there‘ goes with here/sphere, but other words that sound the same such as wear/tear have different vowel content. ‗Their‘ goes with weir (although it is pronounced differently), but not with beer nor sheer, nor even ‗hair‘ which has ‗a‘ instead of ‗e‘. In other words, it was not as simple as I had initially hoped! In dealing with spelling, or any other aspect of dyslexia, there were two lessons I learnt. Firstly, it was always best to make the student the active partner in the relationship with the tutor. Secondly, make use of multi-sensory approaches - this became even more important when it comes to writing essays. Students were terrified of writing even a page, would want to leave it to the last minute, and then because they were in a state of panic they would be much paralysed. Failure became their norm. There were, I discovered, two types of difficulty when it came to writing. Some dyslexic students ‗perseverate‘ - once on a point they cannot get off it. With such students, it is best to encourage them to write their hearts out, and then print it out. Then use highlighter pens to identify the main topics (no more than four) cut them up and glue together all the bits of the same colour. Then last re-write the bits of the same colour to make more sense. I must admit that this idea came from a mature student. It was time consuming and involved much glue and crawling round the floor. I crawled with them, held the glue pot, and in general facilitated the process. It was even more important strategy when it came to students writing major written works or dissertations. However, once the first essay has been
  • 179. 166 Jane Graves written, I found students were more willing to come to me for help, because they were feeling more confident with the process. The other type of student were what I called ‗rabbit-shitters‘. The sentences emerged as coagulated little lumps, which were endlessly repeated. They needed help in learning to expand their ideas, rather than endlessly repeating them. So getting them to talk about their ideas whilst you expand them into proper sentences, then join the sentences together, finally you can then give them what had been written and say ‗You did this‘. Both types originate from the primary difficulty of poor short-term memory, which dogs the dyslexic‘s life. Dyslexics simply cannot remember what they have written before, or often what they have said - their word recall is weak. In addition, their vocabularies are often insufficient to express the sophistication of their thinking. Tutors may add to the student‘s frustration by simplifying what they are trying to say - it is at this point that patience is vital. The tutor may be conscious that ‗time‘s winged chariot‘ is hurrying near, but the student must feel for that moment that time is endless. This is asking a great deal from the tutor – but as with all students it pays off dividends in the end, in the shape of a more confident and independent student. This patience, though difficult to practice, is essential because of the extreme sophisticated ideas that originate from dyslexic students. Poor vocabulary means they cannot explain their thoughts in alternative words. When the tension escalates, and the frustrated student starts to repeat the same thing repeatedly more insistently, and the frustrated tutor, as a result, assumes the student‘s thinking is much cruder than it is. Anybody who has had dealings with a small not very articulate child will understand the feeling. This problem with poor vocabulary is compounded by their failure to appreciate and respond to the formal demands of different genres of writing. Students often wrote essays for me as if they were private correspondence, written only for my eyes. One student included a long quote from Theodore Adorno. At the end, she generously commented ‗Well done, Theodore!‘ This was unusual but it was evidence of appreciation and interest, so I chuckled wryly to myself – but let it stand. Another tutor asked the Foundation students to write an appreciation of an exhibition they had been to. His intention, I assume, was to get them to analyse the paintings, or the selection of paintings, or something of that ilk. This is not an easy task for any student, let alone a Foundation student. One young woman, who had been diagnosed as dyslexic by the LLU did exactly what she been asked. She had been asked to a private view of a Pre-Raphaelite exhibition. She described the people talking to each other whilst, as she put it, ‗The pictures calmly waited‘. The tutor was appalled, and made an aggressive list of points she should have addressed. The girl was bewildered, the LLU thought he should be sacked and I, called in to sort out the conflict, enjoyed the essay but not the bun fight. In the event the tutor apologised profusely, but I was not sure, he had any idea what he had done wrong. Many of the difficulties that dyslexic students experience mirror the ageing process. As one student said to me poignantly ‗Jane, it has made me old before my time‘ - now I am old myself I feel the full force of his argument. Students with severe auditory difficulties, for example, could not pick out individual voices from the general buzz of conversation, thus they often became more reclusive than they wished to be. In some cases, the difficulty could make student life well nigh impossible especially when it was compounded with poor sequencing skills. Nor was this difficulty confined to the cultural studies department - noisy studios could affect students work. Thus
  • 180. Approaching Dyslexia Sideways – Is it a Blessing or a Curse? 167 many students in shared households often had to wait until late at night to find a quiet enough time for them to work at home. I have emphasised auditory problems because they are often much more difficult to observe than the visual-motor ones that are assumed to be the hallmark of dyslexia. This is very true when it comes to writing. If a student spells the word ‗hero‘ as ‗hirrow‘; ‗essay‘ as E.S; ‗neighour‘ as ‗naber‘, after a while one can get the hang of this. However, the oddity of auditory writing is very off putting and confusing. For example, ‗gril‘ for ‗girl‘; ‗seas‘ for ‗cease‘ ‗disgust‘ for ‗disgust‘ will make nonsense of a student‘s text. I am obviously stating the worst-case scenario as a corrective for the underestimation of the problems, and the failure to appreciate the courage and persistence of the students who managed to arrive at the college at all. In my ten years as a specialist dyslexia tutor, BA tutors seldom anticipated encountering a dyslexic student. Often a tutor‘s first encounter is with a student‘s dyslexia was through the essay – or more accurately the failure to write one. Their response is not infrequently to suggest the student should do more reading. The reverse is probably the truth – do less in order to do more. Students were often so afraid of reading that they tended to go for it at a running jump with their eyes tight shut. They would clutch a big book, take it with them on the tube, and reread the first page endlessly convinced that something was going in. It was not – only the illusion was improved not the knowledge! I therefore searched around for suitable short texts, or texts with diagrams, graphic aids and summaries. Before you start to read, try asking yourself ‗What do I know about this subject already?‘ ‗What do I hope to find in it?‘. This proved to be an advantage not just for the students who came to me for a dyslexia assessment, but for all of those I taught. For my MA cultural studies programme I set about tracking down suitable texts, photocopying, and distributing them through the lectures and the studios. Mentioning the studio brings me up short with another aside, the students who suffered when they were required to read aloud. This happened not infrequently in the theatre department when many directors thought play readings were the best way to introduce students to the text. This was fine – as long as only those who volunteered to read did the actual reading. Moreover, there was a habit in the studio to give out a brief for a project, give the students a few minutes to read it and then ask for responses. For the dyslexic student this was impossible. Indeed many students found this difficult. I have made the same mistake myself, forgetting that I had a familiarity with the text that the students could not have because I had written it! To them it was news; to me it was old hat. It was also assumed that whereas cultural studies essays were a nightmare for students, the studio report was easy. Much of course depends on how the technical staff presents the material, which will inform the studio report. Do they give out written material to the students before they start to present it? Do they give space for reflection before students ask questions? All these take time and energy, but they are essential in order for a student to function effectively. One student who was trying to describe a tape dispenser said ‗the mode of entry is not easy‘. I had to ask him to bring me the tape dispenser so we could work out together a more efficient way of describing it, and that in turn would help him to redesign it. I do not know how far my experience differed from that of other tutors in other colleges, whether there are more dyslexic students in art/design colleges or whether this approach
  • 181. 168 Jane Graves would work equally well elsewhere. (It would require a very complex piece of research to investigate this.) I certainly found my teaching at Central Saint Martin‘s was much improved by treating all students as dyslexic – and sometimes staff too. . Gradually some of my colleagues started to read the notices and would occasionally ‗trickle‘ into my office. A tutor told me an amusing story about how she solved her difficulty in map reading. When she was the navigator rather than the driver, she would place the map on the dashboard in the direction in which the car was travelling. This avoided all the difficulties of thinking in terms of N/S E/W. The four points of the compass is a schematic approach, which seemed to completely confuse many of my dyslexic students – especially those students who could map read perfectly but could not orientate the map to the environment. The reverse could also be true. Some students turned out to have a perfect sense of direction but could not use a map at all. They trusted their feet – but not their heads! Students and staff had sometimes developed excellent survival strategies. Many of the students I saw had trouble in filling in forms. Therefore, they would say, for example ‗I can‘t fill in this form myself – I‘m afraid I‘ve forgotten my spectacles.‘ If the other person would not play ball, then the alternative would be to say ‗Oh I‘ll take it away and fill it in at home‘. Then of course get somebody else to do it for you. Appointments were a far more intractable problem. A black board fixed on the front door could help in some cases. A wall calendar might be useful if you remembered to look at it – unlikely I suspect. Your poor short-term memory would not remind you to do that. You might even ignore the blackboard on the door! The Good News I tripped over the good news by accident. An MA student revealed to me in conversation his extraordinary visual memory. He had come to me for a dyslexia assessment and I had been surprised because, having read his essay I knew he had no difficulty in writing. ‗But you see‘ he said ‗I can‘t read‘ I gave him the standard text I always used for testing writing. He could not read because he did not have a dominant eye. His eyes wondered all over the shop as he struggled. Whilst I brooded over this revelation, he said ‗I didn‘t want to be an industrial designer. I wanted to be an art historian but you can‘t be an art historian if you can‘t read‘ – which is indeed the case. He then told me about his amazing visual memory. He could retain every visual image he had ever seen. I might have doubted this but I knew others who had this same skill – although not always associated with dyslexia. The brain has two hemispheres, which are joined together by a bundle of nerves called the corpus collusum, which is not fully developed until about the age of ten so the material from one sphere to the other cannot be communicated before then. The main language centre is on the left side of the brain and is associated with right-handedness. A much smaller language centre is on the right side of the brain and is associated with left-handedness. Let us develop this a little further and you find the left hemisphere is auditory, sequential, logical, and orderly. It is associated with right-handedness. It responds positively to similarity. We live in a left-brain culture and this kind of thinking is perceived as evidence of rationality and reasonableness, the most desirable qualities apparently. On the other hand, the right hemisphere is visual and holistic. Right-brain dominance is associated with left-handedness. The right brain sees the word rather than the trees.
  • 182. Approaching Dyslexia Sideways – Is it a Blessing or a Curse? 169 It perceives similarity in difference. Overall, one could say it works entirely through a spontaneous methodology of free association. I think my struggle to find out whether my students were right or left-handed indirectly, at least, proved fruitful. It certainly led to some strange answers. One young man said ‗Oh I‘m right-handed but I saw of course with my left hand‘. One Irish girl from a family of twelve children declared she was definitely right-handed but then came back a week later and said she had changed hands and it seemed to make no difference. Such hemispherical dominance seemed to be common in the students I saw. This means they did not have consistent dominance of eye/ear/ hand/leg, and this may be associated with superior visualspatial ability. But what is Visual-Spatial Ability? Visual-spatial ability is the capacity: to see every side of a problem at the same time and beyond as well as upside down. the ability to change view-points in one‘s mind the ability to judge visual information as a whole to assess the balance of all elements in the picture presented to assess all possible directions including those outside the visual field. to include everything and make an equal emphasis on all parts rather than exclude anything as irrelevant the capacity to convert a mistake into an asset These are the words of Sue Parkinson from the Arts Dyslexia Trust. I could not have formulated this is as clearly myself because as a cultural studies lecturer I was not directly involved in studio teaching, nor am I a practitioner as Sue herself had been. However, in the last ten years of my time at the college I was increasingly involved in the studio. My cultural studies teaching, my studio involvement and my dyslexia work came to reinforce each other, and I could comprehend and respond to the force of Sue‘s words. During this period, I radically changed my diagnostic assessment sheet more than once. I began with asking for the standard information about educational history and then passed on to the more cheerful bit about difficulties and suggestions which might prove useful such as putting a tinted plastic sheet over a page to stabilise the text. I found students often preferred short lines like the Bible. One young woman was assumed as deeply religious because she frequently read the Bible because of the short lines. I learnt from the students and passed the good news on, not because I thought it would always work but I thought it worthwhile trying. In July 1995, I wrote a Case Study, which looked at how the experience of dyslexia varied within the different departments. As my dyslexia work became more accepted, more new students came for a chat, which was often illuminating. I remember one from fashion journalism who said he had solved the pattern-cutting problem. (Many fashion students had problems in this area.) Rather than thinking in terms of moving from two dimensions to three, he would imagine the garment on the human being cut it out and lay it down. I passed this succulent piece of information not only to students but also to a fashion tutor (herself dyslexic) and she found it transformed her teaching.
  • 183. 170 Jane Graves I was, I think on the verge of discovering visual-spatial ability for my myself, asking them, for example, if they could understand ideas intuitively they could not explain in words. However, it was the Art/design /dyslexia conference on July 5th 1996, which proved the final revelation to me. The morning lectures included a talk by the Stage Designer, John Gunter. Stimulated by the lectures he had heard he threw away his prepared script and came out as a fully-fledged dyslexic. Everything in his history suddenly fell into place, in particular the difficulties with reading and writing, which had prevented him from reading medicine. He found his ‗home‘ in theatre design, with incredible, startling and highly successful results. Nevertheless, the most fascinating revelation to me was that he saw the whole design in complete form from the very beginning. The only way he could read a play was more or less to learn it by heart, and then the whole design complete and absolute in every detail arrived in his head. On one occasion, he was commissioned to create a set for an Italian opera. When the director of the opera arrived, he asked to see the preparatory drawings to which John replied ‗There aren‘t any‘. ‗Then how‘ demanded the outraged director ‗do I know it‘s your work?‘ This amusing tale filled was for me a moment of enlightenment, that made many other thoughts possible. In their design work, as much as in their written work, students needed to grip hold of the first ideas, and record them in whatever form they like. If they worked systematically through a load of preparatory work, they lost track of where they were. I still have a vivid memory of a student who walked into my office with two plastic bags and dumped them both of my desk. ‗You sort that lot out‘ she said and walked out. I began to integrate many other authoritative voices, for example that of Dr. Margaret Newton who told me ‗Dyslexia is not a deficiency but an alternative mode of cognition which is associated with visual-spatial ability‘. In her view, visual-ability is to be found in the skills of architects, engineers, and computer programmers. One could I think add builders/ plumbers and no doubt many other skilled manual workers, who need to hold an image in their minds of the task they are performing in order to approach it. Gould (1965) writes of a certain fellow scientist. ‗McClintock does not follow the style of logical and sequential and sequential reasoning often taken as a canonical mode of reasoning in science. She works by a kind of global intuitive insight. If she is stuck on a problem … [she] will take a long walk or sit down in the woods and try to think of something else, utterly confident that a solution will come to her ‗in extenso‘…I happen to work in the same way…I never scored particularly well on so-called objective tests of intelligence because they stress logical reasoning and do not capture this style of simultaneous integration of many pieces into a single structure. I have emphasised this phrase because I personally find it so powerful. What is also significant about this is that although writing is a linear structure it can be informed by visual-spatial ability. To write a novel one must be able to hold the edifice in one‘s mind, and I find myself find, whether I am writing a novel or an academic paper I have to write the last paragraph first to confirm my grasp of the whole. There are writers, such as Muriel Spark who wrote the whole book in her mind, before she wrote it out in long hand without revision or correction. This is beyond my ability but not my comprehension. I frequently found my dyslexic students were what one might describe as reluctant poets. Their tendency to turning abstraction into concrete images can be seen as a strength or a weakness. They gave to ideas ‗a local habitation and a name‘. However, they were not very happy with this inadvertent ability. The hardest job in teaching them was to get them to value their own individual style of thinking, whether it was in the studio or in cultural studies.
  • 184. Approaching Dyslexia Sideways – Is it a Blessing or a Curse? 171 Conversely, there can be a dangerous tendency to assume that if you are not dyslexic you are not creative. This is simply not true. I have taught art/design students who were dyslexic but who were not particularly creative. In addition, I know practicing artists and designers who are as confident and competent in reading and writing as they are in their studio practice. CONCLUSION Having deliberately adopted a rambling style, my conclusions are inevitably evasive and elusive. However, to return to the original question – is dyslexia a blessing or a curse? I doubt whether anybody wants to be dyslexic for the simply reason it makes life very hard work, both for the dyslexic student and for their teachers. It is also very hard to pin down. Dyslexic assessments, whether they are done by specialist dyslexia tutors or educational psychologists have a hard time trying to prove whether a student is dyslexic or not. I think this is because they are so many grey areas. Like many people who feel they have a problem they want clarity. Have I or have I not got it? But in all honesty, I doubt whether there are such clear answers – just more questions. The best the specialist tutor can do is to try to assist the student in trying to convert the difficulties they experience into assets. I had two favourite slogans. Firstly, play to your strengths and not your weaknesses. In an educational system which tends to do exactly the reverse, students have been conditioned to ignore their strengths. Effort and concentration can be the enemy of achievement. Therefore, my second favourite slogan was Relax into work. About 1933 Walter Benjamin wrote 'the process of assimilation …takes places in depth …requiring a state of relaxation ….which is becoming rarer and rarer' (Benjamin, 1973, p. 90). If it were rare then, it does not need much imagination to see that time to relax is now almost non-existent. Standing and staring, and even boredom are central to the creative process – using the term creativity to mean reflection, turning thoughts and ideas round in one‘s mind and falling into a state of reverie. So I am increasingly unsure to what extent dyslexia is as much a response to society as a condition in its own right. I sometimes wonder whether teaching American Sign Language as a second language from the very first would empower dyslexics as much as it does the deaf. It is tactile, visual and allows for a wider range of expression than seems to be possible in conventional speech, with flash backs, facial expressions and an extraordinary grace and elegance. It is very close to the multi-sensory approach, which seems to be the most effective way of teaching dyslexic students, and I strongly suspect many others. Dyslexics do not learn through rules but through concrete, often visual examples. I suspect many people learn best this way. Certainly, I found this was the best method for teaching my students. There is good reason to think that ‗lucky‘ dyslexic students end up in art/design colleges. The ‗unlucky‘ fail helplessly in jobs, which require the systematic skills, the time-keeping ability which is notoriously chaotic in these students. Even worse is the drift towards prison, which seems to be the result for so many. There are plenty of people in prisons, who have abilities, but have been hampered by their incapacity to deal with the requirements of dull jobs, which make use of their abilities – just as they played the role of the naughty child at school.
  • 185. 172 Jane Graves Therefore, my conclusion would have to be something like this. ‗Dyslexia is an umbrella term with a wide range of symptoms. It does not go away. It includes a range of difficulties and varies in severity. There are many borderline cases. Although dyslexic thinking may have certain advantages, dyslexics are heavily penalised in our current educational and social system, which recognises their deficiencies but seldom their abilities. Once their confidence has been restored, however, they often made remarkable progress. This hardly does justice to the riches my dyslexic students brought to me. They taught me how to teach, and I owe them an inestimable blessing. Many of my students thought I showed marked signs of dyslexia e.g. filling in forms, poor handwriting, weak sequential skills, numerical difficulties etc. Perhaps they were right. Maybe you would never become a specialist dyslexia tutor if you had not a little touch of dyslexia, enough to feed your sense of empathy. On the other hand, whereas many of my students felt unease with symbolism, preferring to think with their hands, as a writer, I loved turning the metaphoric into the concrete – and vice versa. Again, whereas many of my students were uneasy with reading and writing, I love reading and writing. However, such oppositions are naïve, impossible and confusing. The only point of certainty for me at least is there is a dyslexic learning style, one that should be highly valued. In writing this paper, I feel I have not succeeded in allowing the students voices to come through mine as clearly as I would have wished. In addition, perhaps the only apology I can offer for my intrusiveness is now to fall silent. BIBLIOGRAPHY Benjamin, W. (1973). Illuminations An urchin in the storm Fontana Press p.90 (The story teller). Gould, S.J. (1965). An urchin in the storm Penguin Books Ltd. P.1965 (Triumph of a Naturalist). Vinegrad, M. (1994). A revised adult dyslexia checklist. Educare 48: 21-4.
  • 186. In: Dyslexia and Creativity Investigations from Differing… ISBN: 978-1-61668-552-2 Author: Neil Alexander-Passe ©2010 Nova Science Publishers, Inc. Chapter 12 HOW DO PRACTICING CREATIVE VISUAL ARTISTS, WHO ARE DYSLEXIC, APPROACH THINKING AND LEARNING IN THE PROCESS OF THEIR WORK? Katherine Hewlett Head of the Educational Liaison and Development, University of Westminster, (UK) Katherine Hewlett has worked at the University of Westminster since 1990. Her expertise is in development work particularly in a partnership context. She has managed local, regional and national projects that improve access to Higher Education for potential students. She studied at the Royal College of Art and has a Masters in Architectural Glass Design. For six years, following the RCA, she set up and developed several high profile projects within an interior glass design setting, such as a major project at the Ritz Hotel Paris. Katherine has lectured in three-dimensional design both at degree and postgraduate level and recently has been a visiting lecturer to the National College of Art and Design in Dublin. Currently she heads up the Educational Liaison and Development team at the University of Westminster, and project manages the HEFCE funded National Aim higher projectAchieve Ability: breaking barriers to HE for students with specific learning difficulties. She is also undertaking PhD research at Norwich School of Art and Design to investigate the question - How does Dyslexia impact on the process of creativity in the visual arts? INTRODUCTION This chapter gives an insight to the thinking approaches of dyslexic visual and aural artists through a series of four short case studies. It will briefly investigate how the life experiences for Dyslexic artists can impact on the process of creativity. What are the lessons learnt from the thinking and learning approaches of people with Dyslexia? What is the value of this way of learning to mainstream education?
  • 187. 174 Katherine Hewlett DISCUSSION Dyslexic learners have always been part of the mainstream higher education system and we know through the Higher Education Statistical Agency (HESA) returns that they have primarily settled in courses that are vocational and practical. The nature of these courses tend to be applied in learning approach and thus enable the Dyslexic learner to actively engage with learning through a range of action based experiences. These experiences can enable the production of work through a cyclical process of reflection, critical analysis, action based production - reflection, critical analysis and action based production (Hewlett, 2006). Evidence drawn from HESA (2009) has shown that a very high percentage of Dyslexic learners enter the arts for many reasons. Arts courses (and other more practice based courses) have the flexibility to ensure individualised learning and recognize the dyslexic learner approach to course study. For example there is more contact teaching, require multiple skills of problem solving, team work, verbal communication, visual imagination and lateral thinking. These are implicit skills for the Dyslexic learners, who tend to approach learning in a way that is more global. Dyslexics are particularly expert at developing learning strategies that complement their learning styles (Hewlett, 2006). They look at whole situations (holistic) rather than parts (top-down processing) and deal with the overview - the broader picture, the whole before focusing on the parts (Steffert, 1999). They absorb information from multiple reference points simultaneously, often in a random order, which sometimes leading to highly innovative thinking - they are the global learners. The National curriculum describes Art and Design as a subject area that stimulates creativity and imagination (Department of Education and Science, 1992). ‗If pupils are to become visually perceptive, then they will need to: visualize ideas, develop the ability to look at something afresh, work from direct experience, memory and imagination, develop the ability to form judgments, talk about ideas and feelings provoked by what is observed, remembered and imagined‘ (Page C2 Art, para 1.2). My first thought is this, if the architects of the National Curriculum can make such comments about a way of learning in secondary education, then why can‘t this approach transfer to other subject areas? It involves the development of practical understanding of ideas and concepts. As a background to the UK education system it would be useful to note that Dyslexia can be hard to identify (Pollak, 2005), and learner assessments often take place late in the academic life of students. These learners amount to 70% of all disabled students in Higher Education (HESA, 2009). They tend to all be assessed as being dyslexic, when it is likely that 30% of the 70% are also dyspraxic or dyscalculia as well. Despite inconsistencies with assessment procedures, there has been a rise in students with SpLDs entering Higher Education. Data from the National Disability Team (2005) shows a ten fold increase over a period of ten years: in 1994 there were 5,000 students, but by 2003 there were 50,000. Are these problem students or gifted learners? Increasingly they are seen as gifted learners. These students often have the ability to problem solve at the highest level - they are lateral thinkers with excellent verbal communication skills. Many are motivated and very focused on set tasks or objectives. (Hewlett, 2006).
  • 188. How do Practicing Creative Visual Artists, who are Dyslexic, Approach Thinking… 175 Far from lacking intelligence, to have achieved to this point often means that they have shown unusual determination, hard work and imaginative coping mechanisms. Thus dyslexics are often highly talented, but encounter barriers to education through traditional study methods at school, preventing some students from achieving their full potential. DEVELOPMENTAL SKILLS The study supporting the ‗Framework for understanding Dyslexia‘ (DES, 2004), demonstrates that people with dyslexia often have great strengths, such as: Creativity in problem-solving, art and music Excellent visual skills, sometimes including an ability to think in 3 dimensions Determination and perseverance Ability to see the bigger picture Practical skills Resourceful and ingenious strategies for coping with their difficulties Analytical and problem solving skills Excellent speaking skills Good social skills The learning process can include: Making personal and meaningful connections to secure long term memory. Remembering patterns rather than sequences Remember landmarks rather than directions Thinking holistically (all at once) than step by step. Gaining literacy through personal interest in the subject matter Learn by experience, not by being told Grant‘s (2001) conference paper ‗That‘s the Way I think‘ - Dyslexia and Creativity, suggested that Dyslexics are not necessarily more creative, but their information processing deficits mean that they are more tolerant of ambiguity, which enables them to be more accepting of unusual juxtapositions of information and ideas. Due to multiple cognitive deficits, they have a limit on the number of ideas they can hold in conscious auditory thought. Ideas slip in and out in what can be a random manner resulting in often chaotic experiences, as an ongoing brainstorming session. Grant suggests that, in addition, there are often high levels of abstract reasoning functioning at a faster rate then incoming visual information. He suggests that the limited capacity of auditory working memory may also force a reliance on other sensory memories such as visual, tactile, auditory, kinaesthetic, thus the Dyslexic is therefore creative presenting verbal ideas in different ways. The randomness of going off in tangents might be a positive factor in reaching creative solutions – which could be termed ‗dyslexic creativity‘. The following short case studies give a snapshot of dyslexic-influenced learning that can producing an unconventional ways of seeing.
  • 189. 176 Katherine Hewlett Case Study 1: Professional Photographer At school John, avoided anything difficult, and languages were top of his list to avoid. He could visualise words, but shapes and linking sounds made no sense. His overriding learning method was understanding through questioning. His preferred way of learning was to get lots of guidance, yet he knew that once he overloaded, his brain switched off and he just could not hear any more. John‘s creativity was unique to him, as he perceived it as something physical. Space was important, more so than the influence of people. People were only perceived as useful if they added narrative through differences in scale. The ‗Urban space‘ was also fascinating to John, and he made notes through his photography process - mapping out his days to record events and situations. He also knew that such memories would fade very quickly due to his short-term memory. He needed information to be absorbed, so he utilisied visual references to recall information. As he had so many writing difficulties he was allowed to submit a visual thesis for his degree course, and his supervisors considered his creative process detailed in this thesis (a pictorial set of materials) innovative - juxtaposing images at random to create surreal space. Case Study 2: Animator and Lecturer Paula came from a loving home, where her father could not read nor write and her mother supported both Paula and her father‘s difficulties. As her father was 3D spatially aware, he built houses for a living. Paula went to special reading school yet it was only through discussion with her mother about learning styles, that she found a way of learning that suited her difficulties and harnessed her strengths. Through discussion Paula managed to make loads of notes and this added to her understanding of difficult topics. Through this method she was able to orally discuss projects and then was able to formulate opinions, at this point she was able to undertake the required task. As an adult, Paula‘s arts practice relates to the way she learns and how she perceives the world. She uses story boards to animate her ideas, to define characters, and to develop narrative. Paula uses visualization to navigate her world, gathering as much information as possible - ‗I am a detective‘ drawing out key points. Creativity to Paula is the ability to think laterally and then apply such thinking to her art. Case Study 3: Fine Artist and Outreach Worker When I met Kevin, he talked a great deal about his work. He wanted to describe every painting, making reference to key moments in his life. It was as though Kevin gained meaning and context reflecting his life experiences, through his own work - art practice and then reflecting on the meaning. Much of his work was about identity and trying to resolve problems or issues - moments were portrayals of his emotion. To Kevin, his artwork was about giving people space for what they wanted to say about the world. Kevin was impulsive, subversive and used ingenuity into his work. Kevin noted ‗I can not disentangle my character from being dyslexic. I had low expectations, and felt like an outsider‘. For a majority of his
  • 190. How do Practicing Creative Visual Artists, who are Dyslexic, Approach Thinking… 177 childhood and youth he had no real regard for himself, as someone who could not articulate, yet had a clear vision of who he was and what he wanted to do. At one point, he said that he could not deal with several stimuli in particular situations - much of his imagery was about isolation. Out of all the people interviewed, Kevin spent the most time managing his Dyslexia and Dyspraxia. He needed structure, made lists, double checked everything and tried to find balance in his life. When he relaxed he still felt things could go wrong, however he was most relaxed doing his art work than anything else in his life. Case Study 4: Installation Artist ‗My dyslexia is a bag of bricks - I feel different‘. Stella works with music and installations, and she perceives her installations showcase the causes she is passionate about. She talked very fast in her interview, as though she was running out of time and had to cram so much into every moment. Stella said that she would sing as she talked to enable her to think. She said her artistic process was based on observation and then performance, thus she did a lot of role play. This helped her to embed information ‗to get into the body of something, to get movement, to use voices, as it helps me to open up my receptors to learning‘. To Stella creativity was about difference, exploration and building relationships through concepts - making links to her emotions. Her way of coping was through sound needing constant noise to give her space to reflect, but at one point she said that all this reflection was exhausting. Stella then said she found London difficult as she was always having minor accidents there due to her difficulties understanding the space surrounding her (spatial awareness) - such information would take time to process. As she registered environments, she processed the actions required for her to operate within that particular space. CONCLUSION On reflection, these case studies had several threads running through them. There was a consistent reference to space and the ownership of space. Many interviewees mentioned the physical side of artistic practice, with a doing action that would bring about ideas in their ever developing process. Much of the process was reflective, which revealed the consequences of what they learnt and the need to make sense of the environment they had inhabited. For example, David used his photographs and Stella needed sound to help her connect thoughts. A pattern emerged of ‗practice-reflection-practice-reflection‘. Frequent visualizing was used to make sense of the world, so it could be concluded that dyslexics are drawn ways of working that suit their processing needs. By extensively using such a strategy, their practice became fine tuned to form creativity and conceptual thought. To several in this study, creativity was ‗the ability to laterally think and apply to this to their process, and to build relationships and concepts‘. It was a way of navigating the world, and was integral to their artistic practice. As suggested by Grant (2001), the limited capacity of auditory working memory may force a reliance on other sensory memories, such as visual, tactile, auditory, and kinesthetic.
  • 191. 178 Katherine Hewlett Dyslexics can be creative by working with their strengths, presenting ideas in a variety of ways and developing many intelligences that inform the process of creative working e.g. emotional intelligence. (Kincheloe, Steinberg and Villaverde, 1999). By using emotional intelligence, artists can make strong and important emotional links with life experiences, and place emotional understanding within context and meaning to help them make even more sense of the world they inhabit. BIBLIOGRAPHY Department of Education and Science (1995). Art in the National Curriculum, HMSO: London. Department of Education and Science (2004). Framework for understanding Dyslexia, HMSO: London. Grant, D. (2001). That‘s the Way I think- Dyslexia and Creativity. Paper presented at the 5th BDA International Conference, York. Hewlett, K. (2006) AchieveAbility Final report to HEFCE. Higher Education Statistics Agency (2009). Performance indicators in higher education in the UK 2007/08. Retrieved August 2009. Kincheloe, J.L; Steinberg, S.R.; and Villaverde, L.E. (1999). Rethinking Intelligence, Routledge. National Disability Team (2005). Aspiration Raising and Transition of Disabled Students Report. Retrieved August 2009. Pollak, D. (2005). Dyslexia, The Self and Higher Education. Trentham Books. Steffert, B. (1999). Visual and Spatial Ability and Dyslexia. St Martins College of Art & Design: London.
  • 193. In: Dyslexia and Creativity Investigations from Differing… ISBN: 978-1-61668-552-2 Author: Neil Alexander-Passe ©2010 Nova Science Publishers, Inc. Chapter 13 THE SCIENCE OF CREATIVITY: NEUROAESTHETICS Beverley Steffert Chartered Psychologist, (UK) The author has a clinic in Cambridge specialising in specific learning difficulties and perceptual difficulties. In addition to working with clients she remains actively involved in academic research. She acts as Consultant Psychologist to the Dyslexia Institute and is a lecturer in brain-behaviour relationships at London University. She is EEG Spectrum trained in neurofeedback, an accredited EEG Spectrum Instructor, member of the British Psychological Society and the International Society for Neuronal Regulation. She sits on the training & certification committee of the Society of Applied Neuroscience. She is also Chairperson of the Arts Dyslexia Trust (ADT), which encourages, instigates, and engages in research into the cause and nature of this connection between dyslexia and good visual-spatial faculties which can lead to exceptional ability and achievement in the arts and sciences (most noticeably, perhaps, in the visual arts). The ADT also aims to provide an advisory service for all those concerned with the above questions, most particularly in the field of education. The Trust also offers practical help to students and adults in their training and careers. PRECIS Creativity is process and a product of the human brain, which has evolved to deal with inconstancies around us. Animals experience pleasure when they see, hear, feel or do things that have ensured survival in the past so have inbuilt instincts to recognise food, a potential mate or a safe place. This concept is built on by the emerging field of Neuroaesthetics, which describes the brain‘s ability to recognise shape, form, colour, illumination and movement and how it is built on by great artists to produce art that gives us a similar pleasure - or in their terms, a peak-shift in the brain. Both the animal‘s fixed action pattern and the human‘s ―peak shift‖ are mediated by the chemistry of reward, Dopamine.
  • 194. 182 Beverley Steffert Given that artistic ability is modulated by many different aspects of the human brain (some emphasise form, others colour and so on) there are individual differences to which one aspect of brain functioning is enhanced or inhibited in different people. The emphasis in this chapter is on the aspects of the brain and its pathways that have already been implicated in Dyslexia, such as right and left hemisphere differences originally suggested by Geschwind and Levitsky (1968) to be a trade-off. Better right hemisphere skills mean more creativity at the cost of linguistic skills. Over the years this has been refined with more specific conceptualisation and better brain imaging techniques. Connections between brain areas have been delineated, visual pathways and eye movements identified as different between Dyslexics and non-Dyslexics, suggesting the trade off for good visual skills is less good language skills. But perhaps the better question is, even if there were some sort of special enhancement does that necessarily mean a decrement in literacy. As there are visual thinkers who are not Dyslexic, one might ask, if we do find strong evidence for excellent visual plus spatial skills in the Dyslexic (and there are some Dyslexics who do not have good visual/spatial skills), how does that relate to creativity. There are several types of creativity. Visual spatial ability is clearly important in sculpture, balance and proportion in drawing in the visual arts, probably in dancing, maybe music, but what about drama, poetry and literature? There are plenty of good Dyslexic actors and writers. And West (1991) describes the biographies of creative and innovative scientists, who clearly think visually and use metaphors to study scientific processes, but have probably never painted an exceptional art work. No doubt West would say that there are underlying core visual skills that can be used creatively no matter what field the Dyslexic pursues but if the sine qua non of Dyslexia is visual and/or spatial superiority, then it is hard to account for the good Dyslexic writers from A.A. Gill to Hans Christian Anderson. The final question then is are we misled by excellence. As many Dyslexics do show wonderful visual and spatial skills, should we look for an analogous extra something in the brain to account for that? But perhaps we should be doing the opposite – looking for what inhibits creativity. There is some evidence from brain injury and imaging that the frontal lobe and particular brain cell arrangements are the arbiters of creative ideas – which is the extent that individuals can consciously process their creativity. This is an attractive idea since the implication is that if creativity is within, then we can all learn to bring our own creativity out. The inhibition idea parallels the history of ideas and science– if reality doesn‘t fit current theories, a new radical hypothesis is put forward, the established hierarchy ridicule it, inhibit it, but finally the weight of evidence forces the established practitioners to give up and look at the evidence differently. There is a general eureka moment, after which the eminent say, well we knew it all along! However we can still make a special case for Dyslexic creativity – after all. If reading is difficult, you have to tolerate ambiguity, suspend judgement until all the data is in (i.e. is it this word or that word, the Dyslexic doesn‘t know until he/she gets to the end of the sentence to see if it makes sense). When there are enough words decoded to see a pattern the Dyslexic goes beyond the immediate information to hypothesise the meaning. Tolerance of ambiguity as the brain seeks to evoke several perceptions and solutions simultaneously, suspension of reality as constituents of the information are rearranged into a new pattern, the perception of gaps in received wisdom are all elements of creativity and a Dyslexic child experiences such gaps throughout their education.
  • 195. The Science of Creativity: Neuroaesthetics 183 THE CONCEPT OF NEUROAESTHETICS Creativity is an expression of neurological function. Artists organize their sensory, perceptual, conceptual, and emotional images into their chosen medium - be it a composition of form, colour, light, patterns or movement. In the visual arts, creativity does not only spring from the brain of the creator, but also of the viewer. Perhaps Matisse said it best when he said that the active, creative process in art was looking at it. This is the basis of a new Science of Art – or Neuroaesthetics. This chapter investigates the extent to which the brain is differently organised among people, allowing both artistic talent and personal preference. This should include the artistic skills found in Dyslexic and Autistic individuals, two quite different styles, characterized by a top-down, multi-dimensional overview on the one hand and the bottom up approach, on the other, with it‘s basic sensory representations, in detailed and accurate form. Of course creativity is not limited to Art, but this chapter seeks to explain the Dyslexic artist, and summarize the evidence for a long held suspicion that artistic talent emerges out of deficits in the speech and language network. Eventually all brain-based differences might reflect their particular art form and perhaps, one day, we could talk about Dysaesthethics! Actually, we do, but we call the particular form of creativity so remarked on in Dyslexics, Visuo-spatial ability. But to start, the brain has many levels of analysis. Electrochemical energy snakes through the brain carried on fibres, activating networks of cells that stimulate memory consciousness and creativity, first ideas to insight, then selection of the best idea to the innovative ―eureka‖ moment. This creative process is consistent, whether you are a chimp working out how to use sticks and boxes to get out-of-reach bananas or a human pondering on an unsolved problem. And it can be applied to Art, the quintessential creative process. Evolution has given animals the drive to seek knowledge about the characteristic properties of the world – the constant, non-changing, permanent properties that we can rely on. But unlike animals, humans have a brain that easily acquires information about the world, just as easily can forget it when we no longer need it. Animals are burdened by instincts that allow them to react appropriately without having to learn – great when you have to recognise danger quickly (an eagle‘s wing or a poisonous berry), but counterproductive when the situation changes or some nefarious ethologist comes along and manipulates the environment. This is what an ethologist called Tinbergen found when he was on field trips in the Norwegian fiords. Herring Gull chicks would peck at the red spot on their mother‘s beak which encouraged the mother-bird to regurgitate food which the chicks ate. So he tried various tricks on the chicks, finding that they would peck at anything red, be it on a cardboard cut-out or a rag waved across their visual field. Long yellow beak like shapes with 3 red stripes were also arousing to the chicks, which led Ramachandran (1999) to say that if herring gulls had an art gallery it would be hung with pictures of red stripes and long yellow shapes! In other words their adaptation to the environment was guided by a template – one that triggered a fixed action pattern every time they encountered their mother. In their bird world that combination of red and shape means mother. This and other such experiments like replacing some eggs with bigger stone ones which birds tried to hatch in preference to their own real but smaller ones, led to the idea of super-stimuli. The more exaggerated the salient
  • 196. 184 Beverley Steffert features of the template, the more vigorously the fixed action pattern of neuronal recognition would be called out. But are humans so entranced by their ‗whispers within‘? We no longer have to hunt or compete for a safe place to bring up babies so our brains and behaviour are freer from the confines of evolutionary history. What the oyster‘s great, great, great grandmother knew is still useful to the oyster today. But most of human ancestral knowledge is redundant to today‘s humans. We have developed a rapidly changing technology to overcome the basic problems of life, eating, sleeping and mating. That means a different sort of information processing – one that can manipulate the environment from inventing the wheel to the internet. Nevertheless we are still using the same physiology to do so. Thus there are few instincts, apart from survival and sex that humans respond to in this culturally tailored world. But these few are powerful. Consider the effect of the shape of the perfect hip to waist ratio in a bikini clad young woman on the surrounding male population. Or other oestrogen mediated aspects of the female form. Then look at sculptures of fertility goddesses or Barbie dolls; surely super-stimuli analogous to red spots in the bird world? Then look at our media, fashion and advertising industry – where the functional is turned into an art form, from our fig leaf days to Alexander McQueen‘s clothes. The discovery of the fixed action pattern for which Lorenz and Tinbergen got a Nobel Prize for their analogous to Ramachandran‘s (2009) ‗peak shift‘ - explained as the appreciation that comes from experiencing a great work of art. There is good physiological evidence for it. An amusing example he gave in the Reith lectures is giving a rat a piece of cheese every time it discriminates a square from a rectangle. Very soon it means that the rat starts looking forward to and liking the rectangle. Its brain is activated by anticipation of reward. Squares are treated with cold disdain and mean nothing to it. But the longer and narrower the rectangle becomes, the more the rat prefers it. Ramachandran imagines it is thinking, ‗Wow, the mother of all rectangles‘ as it runs gleefully towards it. This is because animals and humans do what they are reinforced for. What we are reinforced has originally been programmed by our evolutionary history. Whatever was good for survival was linked to our reward system, run by the electrochemistry of pleasure - Endorphins and Dopamine. Exciting rats with rectangles and cheese was actually done as an experiment into super-stimuli as a prelude to measuring human response to particular forms in Art. With associated activity in the reward pathways of the brain when certain shapes, forms, colours, contours and motion stimulate specific neurons devoted to recognizing them. These are the basis of the ‗essence‘ the artist searches for to paint, draw or sculpt, the ideal forms that symbolize the subject. As Paul Klee (Ecologicalart, 2009) said ‗Art does not render the visible, but renders visible‘. Thus the concept of ‗peak shift‘ was born – and refers to the frissant we experience when salient features are exaggerated, such as in caricatures. But it goes much further than that. Neuroaesthetists believe that the neurons of the visual system are specialized to perceive certain features of the visual field, which respond when a particular piece of Art stimulates their job requirement. So we are hard wired to prefer certain shapes, patterns and contours. For example the rectangles of Mondrian or the colours of Cesanne or Monet - they arouse, disturb and/or inspire the viewer. These neural formations are open to experience and are shaped in childhood. As with any sensory system, deprivation atrophies it while practice enhances it. Of course, detractors point to changing perceptions of beauty in Art, the cultural and historical preferences that are evident. But aesthetic theories about Art are fleshed out by
  • 197. The Science of Creativity: Neuroaesthetics 185 knowledge of biological basis of Art, and the visual system that creates and appreciates it. Culture is driven into existence by the evolving brain. Our mental processes are reflected in Art from 2-D representational to the symbolic, abstract, non-figurative art of the last century. Of all the senses with which we perceive the world, vision is the most powerful. Of the entire number of nerve fibres entering the brain from all the senses, one third is from the eyes. Primates have evolved a visual acuity, stereopsis, eye-hand co-ordination and eye control which are ideally suited to an environment possessing colour, detail, depth and panorama. Humans also have a curiosity motivation, we seek to continually change our visual environment, thus we change our wallpaper and curtains long before they become threadbare and hang representations of the visual world on our walls. So vision is our most efficient and fastest mechanism for getting knowledge of the world and some kinds of knowledge can only be gained through the eyes. Then we use movement to act on that knowledge. Although vision is not the only sense, it is the one most applicable to the Visual Arts. It has evolved over millions of years, not for the reward of cheese, but for the detection of fruit or edible leaves and moving prey or predators. It provides in a fraction of a second the form, colour, motion, depth, contour, distance, interaction and direction of things important to our survival, in precise spatial and temporal dimensions. It recognises an object from a single view and unites many different views into a unity (without the perceptual confusion of a cubist painting).This implies too many neurobiologists that vision is organised into parallel modular systems and perhaps aesthetics too. There are many visual aesthetic senses, each tied to the activity of a specialised visual system; the spatial skill of the artist using multidimensions and perspective, the fine detail of still life. The colours of the impressionists, and the forms of Mondrian and so on. Different emphasis on one system versus another makes the difference between the Cubists and the Impressionists – or the Dyslexic Artistic, the Autistic Artist or the Attention Deficit Artist. Thus our visual world enables us to categorise and select from the vast and ever changing information reaching our senses, necessary to identify constant essential properties, built into our physiology by evolution. Accurate detection of shape, movement, colour, were all necessary for survival and are essential properties in our visual system capturing our attention, even though we no longer have to select the best berries or keep an eye out for marauding tigers. It is not a simple process. The eye may only be likened to a camera as far as light striking the retina through a contracting pupil goes. But from then on memory, belief, desire and plausibility help to interpret the pattern on the retina, which is why people often differ over what they see. The old adage ‗believing is seeing‘ is as true as ‗seeing is believing‘. Other senses help out of course – a small inflection in the voice can alter the sense of the words and even make the difference between being judged pleasant, aggressive, and arrogant or naïve – among many possible reactions to the visual form of a person. But language is a relatively recent evolutionary acquisition and is yet to catch up with the visual system in its power to abstract equal value in knowledge.
  • 198. 186 Beverley Steffert TALENTS AND DEFICITS IN DYSLEXIA This idea of an imbalance in talents and deficits has a long history from Geschwind and Levitsky‘s (1968) suppositions that the language areas in the left hemisphere were smaller and less active in Dyslexics. That the consequence was developed right hemisphere areas and consequent extra ability in right hemisphere mediated subjects, such as Music, Art, Higher Maths and some sports. He also noted correlates such as left-handedness and autoimmune problems. Thus dyslexia was characterized in terms of asymmetrical lateralization or rather abnormal symmetry, since the normal pattern for humans is a larger left than right hemisphere because we have developed language. More recently (Chura, Lombardo, Ashwin, Auyeung, Chakrabarti, Bullmore, and Baron-Cohen, 2009) have refined this hypothesis and found that fetal testosterone (of course more available in the male foetus, which may explain the higher rate of Dyslexia among males) causes an asymmetrical and rightward shift via the connections of the corpus callosum that project to the parietal and superior temporal areas. This would be consistent with lack of the normal lateralization of function in the language regions of the left hemisphere (parietal to temporal), with consequent non-language functions being more available. The development of artistic talents in the midst of language disability is observed in the lives of such creative people like Leonardo da Vinci and Albert Einstein (who didn‘t talk until 3 and always had word-retrieval problems), and who were most probably affected with some degree of Dyslexia. Hypothesised to be due to developmental delays in the dominant hemisphere and while this is not a scientific sample, makes additional links between creativity, left hemisphere deficits and right hemisphere ability. Certainly Einstein‘s brain has been reported to be smaller (at least the neuron to glia ratio) in the language area of the left frontal lobe and the parietal, but the parietal lobes were 15% wider than normal. The delay in the development of left hemisphere functions most likely ‗disinhibits‘ the non-dominant parietal lobe to unmask talents, artistic or otherwise, in some such individuals. Diseases affecting the brain such as Aphasia add to the case. Primary Progressive Aphasia is a neurodegenerative condition that slowly erodes speech and language functions. Many of these patients develop new artistic or musical abilities or at least superior visual spatial cognition as their left perisylvian area (above the temporal lobe, dividing the frontal and parietal lobe) and frontotemporal areas degenerate, with attendant slowing of speech, word-retrieval problems and grammatical inaccuracies as a result. Conversely visual artistic skills are often lost when the back of the brain is damaged, specifically the occipital and parietal lobes. These posterior regions are associated with perceptual imagery and integration. This would all suggest that children with literacy problems should be encouraged to develop their hidden talents to full capacity, rather than be subjected to overemphasis on reading, writing and arithmetic – the coded symbol operations, we call reading, writing and arithmetic, with the consequence loss of self-esteem and dislike of school learning (Riddick, 1996; Alexander-Passe, 2010). A differentiated curriculum with a later start to reading combined with recognition of creative potential and capacity for abstraction may prevent many blighted lives. This is the position of The Arts Dyslexia Trust, a charity set up in the U.K. to help Dyslexic artists develop their talents. As both conceptualisation and measuring equipment became more sophisticated specific patterns emerged. Years of designating right brain versus left brain typologies with the right
  • 199. The Science of Creativity: Neuroaesthetics 187 generally held to be the creative repository, we now have a more subtle understanding of the contribution of each to a holistic perception. Whether the detail and discriminative analysis of the left is paid more attention to, than the right‘s perception of meaning, depends on the situation and the person. Due to our evolutionary past, emotionally driven decisions, from the right hemisphere and linked to the anterior cingulate, were necessary for survival. Who to trust, approach or avoid were ‗gut feelings‘ that allowed for rapid action in a social group but our present environment needs more the ability to analyse, manipulate and record. According to some commentators, Western society exemplifies a cultural shift to the left hemisphere which is bad news for the planet as consumption and use of natural resources with no understanding of their real value, is the consequence. This may be no more than a metaphor but it does parallel differences following right or left hemisphere damage in an individual. Being able to switch or select attention to one or other mode as the situation demands means that practice over time can alter the fluency of these ‗switching pathways‘ in the Corpus Callosum. Millions of neurons fire in unison to the most fleeting perception, thought or memory and the old adage and Hebbian theory, ‗what fires together, wires together‘ makes sure that new connections are made as old ones fade away. A recently discovered phenomenon – the periphery to centre ratio in vision goes a long way to refining the explanation of the Dyslexic learning style (Schneps, Rose, and Fischer, 2007). Given the difference in the functional and anatomical characteristics of the visual field, as outlined above, these researchers found that people vary in their ability to make use of the information in the centre or the peripheral field of vision. The peripheral field is organized to combine widely separated features of the visual world and is rapid, so doesn‘t need large working memory resources. Thus the demands on working memory are reduced whereas central vision processing requires more working memory. Attention is also differentially drawn with less attention needed to perform a task using central vision than peripheral vision. Central vision acts like blinkers on a horse, screening out everything in the peripheral field. Other research has showed that when there are distractions visual search is more efficient when centre vision is used, which may explain the visual overload that Dyslexics experience. Many Dyslexics can read text that is well spaced but not the same text in a version ‗cluttered‘ with extraneous figures or letters. The different systems suggest a trade-off between attention and working memory which affects how people perform when doing sequential tasks versus simultaneous, pattern seeking ones. Although a bias to either central or peripheral vision, it is not necessarily always neurological because it can be affected by lighting, early reading and visuo/motor experience, eye disease or drug use among other possibilities. Early researchers showed that Dyslexics tended to be better at identifying letters in their peripheral vision than in their central vision compared to normal readers. Other researchers criticised the original methodology but later research has confirmed a bias to peripheral vision in Dyslexics using kinetic and static perimetry to judge the distance at which Dyslexics could see letters and colours in their peripheral vision. Various measures relating to peripheral vision (impossible figures, contextual cueing) have been used in this investigation with dyslexics; however the results have been inconsistent (Everatt, Steffert and Smythe, 1999; von Karolyi, Winner, Gray and Sherman, 2003; Winner, von Karoly and Malinsky, 2000). Overall the evidence linking Dyslexia to biases in peripheral vision, which is related to impairment in reading, developed as evidence of consequent ability in Dyslexia, to detect anomalies in the peripheral field. Brain imaging studies also show that peripheral bias is related to ability to make visual comparisons in
  • 200. 188 Beverley Steffert figures including symmetry and similarity judgments while a central bias is more to do with sequential search. Lorusso, Facoetti, Pesenti, Cattaneo, Molteni, Geiger (2004) go further to support differences in the visual field between Dyslexic and normal readers, pertaining to an eye movement asymmetry, so that it is only on the right side of the point of fixation that the Dyslexic is biased. This would certainly interfere with efficient visual scanning and researchers suggest that there is a different type of attention between the ‗broadening to the right visual field‘ of the Dyslexics. A more diffused and broader attentional focus due to the interaction of the magnocelluar pathways with the right parietal lobes, mediates spatial orienting and focusing of attention. Certainly we know that there are interconnections between a part of the parietal lobe and the frontal eyefields, because electrical stimulation of that part induces lateral eye movements. This all dovetails into a long history of research from Galaburda and Livingstone (1993) finding abnormalities in the magnocellular pathways that structured the lateral geniculate nucleus - the first analysis of visual information from the retina. Incidentally Galaburda and others also found abnormalities in the part of the LGN that discriminates rapid speech sounds. Although the methods to determine magnocellular involvement have not escaped criticism, there now seems to be a general consensus that despite some conflicting ideas and results, the consequence of the deficit is a difficulty in perceiving rapid changes in auditory and visual thresholds (Witton, Talcott, Hansen, Richardson, Griffiths, Rees, Stein, Green, 1998) and therefore in retaining sequences of non-meaningful auditory and visual stimuli in short-term working memory (Slaghuis and Ryan, 2006). This describes the Dyslexic difficulties observed at the coal face, even phonological difficulties (the accepted cause of Dyslexia), which were usually thought of as a separate factor. However, the aim of the visual researchers was the same perennial problem of Dyslexia and Art research – the how, why and if, of compensating talents in visual-spatial domains of the Dyslexic. While a bias to peripheral vision affecting type of attentional resources can explain at least some part of the difference between sequential versus holistic perceptual styles, the involvement of the right parietal lobe via the inputs from the magnocellular system in an (as yet) speculative way, is probably not enough to claim it is the basis of creativity, even though spatial ability may be increased. THE NEUROLOGY OF VISUAL ARTS The difference between Dyslexic and non-Dyslexic artists starts with the pattern on the retina. Despite its small size, the centre of the retina is the slave of fine detail whiles the periphery each side is less ‗picky‘. This is where outline is perceived in a blurred way, but sufficiently detailed enough to recognise the object or person. The centre and periphery are organised for very different needs, a detailed search versus a rapid discrimination of the whole scene, respectively. The cones and rods in the retina are specialised to pick up these two different aspects of the visual field and lead to small and large cells that eventually make up a ‗what‘ (ventral) pathway that relays detail and colour from central vision, a ‗where‘ (or dorsal) pathway that identifies position, movement and contrast, mostly from peripheral vision and also a ‗how‘ pathway that guides visuo/motor skills in a task. The physiological differences in the retina are reflected throughout the visual cortex and brain stem, so detail and outline can be considered as complementary and important visual systems, divvying up
  • 201. The Science of Creativity: Neuroaesthetics 189 their work load before combining the scene into a unified visual percept. Differing levels of strengths and weaknesses in the activity of these pathways are implicated in several syndromes, not only Dyslexia but Williams Syndrome, Capgras syndrome, Alzheimers Disease as well. This is a metaphorical and grossly simplified account of the complexity of angle, degree and illumination that visual cells respond to, but this chapter is not for physiologists. It serves to underpin reasons for Dyslexics learning style; the visual spatial learner ability to grasp complex concepts rapidly and to see patterns in information that enables them to solve problems holistically. As the steps towards these solutions can‘t easily be explained in a verbal or step by step manner, the visual-spatial Dyslexic is often thought to be guessing or using some strange kind of intuition, if not, downright cheating. The trade-off of course, is sequential, time based information – the Dyslexic‘s ability to sum up the data rapidly, deserts them when the information requires logical and repetitive organization. We look then to functional areas in the brain for more answers. Visual pathways are embedded in a hierarchy of functional areas – each with their own job. Bizzarely, the interpretation of the pattern on the retina is analysed in the back of the head - the visual cortex. Much metabolic activity happens between the eyes and the visual cortex (blood, oxygen and glucose flow sparking off electro-chemical signals that carries information through these specialised cells). And there are many relay stations in the cortex, each with their own independent factory for analysing visual signals. The length of time it takes to perceive form, colour or motion is different by 60 to 80 milliseconds, with colour being perceived first, then form and then motion. The primary visual area (known as V1-5) activates first (indeed destruction to this area will cause blindness) but the neural code for colour is not perceived until V4 is active. V3 cells are particularly responsive to form so damage here means not being able to recognise some objects and in the case of an artist omitting essential details or adding in detail incorrectly in his drawings, despite being able to perspective and shadows. V5 is activated when the person is looking at a moving scene, and Zeki (1999) notes the interesting fact that two dominant figures in Kinetic Art (art in which motion is displayed) Jean Tinguely and Alexander Calder, mostly used black and white, thus downplaying their V4 or colour module. Mondrian too, did not emphasise colour beyond making form more ‗formlike‘. He kept his colours pure and finally reduced to only using red, yellow and blue in his art. Sandbloom (1992) comments that when Mondrain occasionally mixed white and black into a pleasing grey, he had the impression that Mondrain felt that this was a daring compromise! V5 was one of the first areas to show both specialization and differences among people, for instance Dyslexics, who don‘t show a normal degree of activation when looking at a moving object (Eden, Vanmeter, Rumsey, Maisog, Woods, and Zeffiro, 1996). The cells in V5 respond to motion, particularly if it is going in one direction (like a predator or prey would), but not when colour information is carried on the optic fibes or when the object is stationary. When the V5 area is severely damaged, people become akinetopic. This means they can‘t see objects when they move, so crossing the road is dangerous. A car that seemed stationary will, in their perception suddenly run them down. Of course they would not appreciate kinetic art either! A further test of this theory might be to find a kinetic artist who is Dyslexic, which seems unlikely. When people of normal visual perception look at Calder‘s mobiles the V5 area springs into activity. Colour vision is a monumental subject and involves the perception of wavelengths of light and the intensity of light reflected from the surface being viewed. Here, the subtle change of a colour in twilight as compared to bright sunshine
  • 202. 190 Beverley Steffert is interpreted or a changing form due to background context. Certain cells in V4 have peak sensitivities at different parts of the visible spectrum although there are interesting examples of people who are blind but who can ‗see‘ with colour. This suggests wider involvement, at least overlapping some of V1. Similarly the motion pathway traverses some of V1 and V2 with differential damage leading to differential problems in motion detection. But damage to V4 leads to achromatopsia – a disturbance of colour perception, sometimes as severe as not discriminating any colour or not being able to do so consistently, but more often an inability to discriminate one wavelength, short, medium or long from another. V4 is in an interesting part of the brain – the fusiform gyrus, which is activated by forms of a certain kind, one of these kinds being facial recognition. Paintings and drawings of people almost always have the facial features dominating because that carries the most information about the person‘s motivations, psychology, stage of life etc. We use the 70 odd facial muscles that alter subtly to convey any state between welcome approach to hostile retreat or aggression. The brain obviously agrees since it devotes so much processing power to the face, as opposed to, say the torso, which is actually bigger. Damage or destruction of this area causes a person not recognise by sight someone they may have lived with all their lives, or to do so by other means. This is known as prosopagnosia and one imagines that painting or appreciating portraits of people would be beyond someone with severe damage here. If the damage also involves the nearby areas, it is not just familiar faces that are lost it are all facial expression. It is also one of the areas (with the amygdala) implicated in Autism, which then affects cortical areas mediating social perception. The vision pathways sweep through visual areas, in a top-down way, activated by attention. They collect and analyse visual information passing it onto other functional areas for refining. The visual cortex areas referred above are in the Occipital lobe and have the central role in vision but damage to areas outside the visual cortex, the Parietal or Temporal lobes, this can result in a visual ‗neglect‘ where one part of the visual field is simply not perceived and the affected person may draw only half of the object in front of them, usually either the left half or the right half, as if the competing visual stimuli in the opposite visual field was not able to activate awareness. Damage to early components of visual processing cause different problems later up the hierarchy. Early vision defects in form and colour have been described above, but damage to intermediate vision results in an inability to group visual elements, one of the essential components of artistic expression and the basis of holistic thinking. The affected person is overwhelmed by all the visual information and cannot organise it meaningfully. Damage to later vision usually means inability to maintain attention to an object or form or the relationship of objects to each other. Or if they can, they find it hard to attach meaning to it. They may describe the shape perfectly but be unable to say it is a golfball, used to play a game with 18 holes in which the ball must be sunk. Sometimes the consequence of damage or inefficiency in one area may mean extra attention or enhancement of another, such as in the now famous Nadia, who at three years old could draw perfect horses and roosters that most adults couldn‘t execute with such precision and detail, despite her profound developmental and learning difficulties. But her visual spatial ability, mediated by the right parietal area was intact so all her attention was concentrated on this. But what of enhancement? Multiple neural networks with different tuning sensitivities combine fragments and detail into a 3-D form that gives artists the ability to represent multi-
  • 203. The Science of Creativity: Neuroaesthetics 191 dimensional space on a flat piece of paper. Precise timing and coordination is involved here and the ability to adjust activation levels between the left and right hemispheres when novel information has to be processed is essential for efficient information processing. This may be where we find another difference that might answer the question of whether Dyslexics have better spatial ability. After all Einstein‘s brain was shown to have enhanced parietal lobes, particularly on the right side of his brain. Much of his childhood suggests that he would have been classified as Dyslexic had he been at school today (West, 1991). Another part of the parietal lobe is important for reading and Hari, Renvall and Tanskanen (2001) have shown that although left parietal areas are more likely to be involved in Dyslexia. Hypofunctionning of one part of the Parietal cortex is associated in the adult male Dyslexic. They studied with various kinds of attention problems as well as timing problems concerning the development of phonological awareness, the single most important factor in learning to read, and it was compromised. Given the clues from Einstein‘s brain it is not surprising to find that gifted adolescents (particularly in Maths) show increased amplitude in higher brain wave frequencies, in the right parietal lobe when doing mental rotation (a test of 3D ability) as well as other visual tests, such as matching circles to arcs. In Hari et al. (2001), a small study of 3-D ability was measured by mental rotation tasks, indicating that those males had superior 3-D skills and that the surface area of the parietal lobe was larger compared to females. This is associated with the higher levels of testosterone in males, which in developmental research is suggested to have a role in earlier development of the right hemisphere, rather than the left. Apart from the fact that more males are Dyslexic than females, this study only emphasizes an expected right parietal lobe size increase in Dyslexia which should correlate with 3-D superiority. However, to date this has not been done with large enough samples and controls to really answer the question. Do Dyslexics have better spatial ability than non-Dyslexics? It might be easier to answer the implication of this question – i.e. does the hypothesized spatial ability mean that Dyslexics are more creative than non-Dyslexics. There is an abundant anecdotal evidence for that at least (West, 19991). So to turn to the last question – are there better ways of looking for: 1) visual-spatial talents and 2) if we can measure it better, is it more likely to be found in a Dyslexic population and 3) even if found is this the basis of creativity? After all having good spatial ability might only mean you can pack a suitcase more efficiently than most. CREATIVITY While the right parietal lobe helps to integrate multi-sensory perception, so that colours sound, touch and space are integrated in innovative ways the frontal cortex has an inhibitory role. Censoring all bizarre associations like a strict school teacher who demands logical reasoning and none of that fantasy stuff. Actually this is why play is so important to creativity, from early make-believe to brain storming with balloons in boardrooms. Maybe creativity is not in an extra special addition to the brain; maybe it is inhibiting the sensible school teacher in our brain? The frontal lobe that corrects, matches to reality, predicts consequences and generally takes the fun out of life with all it‘s shoulds and should nots! After all artists, poets and composers have famously used alcohol to release the inhibitions they felt prevented them from giving free reign to their imagination. Narcotics has a well
  • 204. 192 Beverley Steffert known history from Coleridge to de Quincey and Mescalin by the painter Michaux. The halluncinations of Schizophrenia have been built on most famously by Dada, who was hospitalizied for his psychosis. Another famous sufferer, the poet Holderlin, uses metaphors that don‘t follow any conventional logic but can yield a linguistic richness that heightens the expressive capacity of his poetry. Van Gogh‘s work during his manic stage of his bi-polar illness was thought, like the composer Schumann to be his most creative time, and many, many people who suffer from manic-depression agree, even if they can‘t reach the creative levels of Schumman. There is yet another card in the brain‘s box of creative tricks - chemistry. The neural code set off by sensory stimuli is powered by electro-chemistry and there are some dozens of chemicals (called neurotransmitters) waiting to be called on at every junction between the billions of brain cells that react to the things we see, hear, smell, taste or feel. Dopamine is one of the neuro-chemicals in the brain that helps transmit messages. A complex system involving different levels of synthesis, uptake and transport between the neurons in various areas of the brain. Disturbed levels can result in moods, motor and motivation problems. It is also associated with creativity; through it‘s interactions in the frontal lobes which control executive functions. Executive control allows for the inhibition of a learned response, in favour of one more appropriate given the context. Research indicates that fewer dopamine receptors in the brain, particularly the frontal lobes, correlates with an individual's preference for and response to novelty, decision-making speed, risk-taking and the extent to which a person is spontaneous and unconstrained by rules and regulations. While not the perfect recipe for creativity, this description certainly contains major elements of a creative mind-set and there is an optimum balance between inhibiting and allowing novel associations in thoughts and images to surface. One person‘s hallucination can be another‘s artistic inspiration! Interestingly, given the visual research mentioned above that suggests that Dyslexics have biased visual processes; it is interesting to note that multiple dopamine-dependent physiological mechanisms result in an increased signal flow through cone circuits with a diminution of signal flow through rod circuits. As noted before, the rods project to the magnocellular pathways that are compromised in many Dyslexics. Dopamine neurons appear early in development, become functional in advance of the onset of vision and begin to die with aging. Some diseases affecting photoreceptor function also diminish day/night differences in dopamine release and turnover. Stordy (1995) suggested that dark adaptation is poor in Dyslexic adults. A reduction in retinal dopamine, as occurs in patients with Parkinson‘s, results in reduced visual contrast sensitivity. The same problem Dyslexic children face when learning to read which is probably a reflection of the more global perception of Dyslexics. A perfect example of the creative side-effects of frontal lobe inhibition is described by a doctor who was treating a chemistry and mathematics teacher for frontotemporal dementia. The connections over time atrophied and disintegrated which allowed the posterior regions to take over. Dr Miller was able to chart the course of the disease using brain imaging and could establish that as the patient lost speech and other abilities, her brain reorganised and the right sided connections in the back of the brain which are usually inhibited by the frontal lobes, thickened. This correlated with her sudden ability to use visual-spatial skills and she gave up science and took up art, drawing and painting from 9am to 5pm in her home studio. She painted a visual representation of Ravel‘s Bolero, which was ironic since unbeknown to
  • 205. The Science of Creativity: Neuroaesthetics 193 her, Ravel suffered from the same disease. According to Dr Miller, Ravel composed Bolero as he began showing signs of the disease, making many spelling errors in musical scores and letters. In his opinion, Ravel‘s Bolero is an exercise in compulsivity, structure and preservation, building without a key change until the 326th bar before accelerating into a collapsing finale. The painting encapsulates this perfectly using rectangles and colours as visual metaphors. But this is not the only example of patients with Frontal Temporal Damage who as a result of it become more creative than they have ever been, even in non-artists. Documented examples indicate giftedness in landscape design, piano playing, painting and many other creative arts for this combination of preserved parietal and atrophied frontal neural connections. A powerful demonstration of the benefits of inhibiting top-down perceptions was through incapacitating part of the left temporal lobe with Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), by Synder (2009). This can temporarily knock out the part of the brain that controls a function or another part of the body. There are now hundreds of researchers building up a map of what the brain controls with the TMS, which is seen as more accurate than trying to estimate loss from the decrement that various injuries and diseases might cause – never a perfect science, since there are so many other variables. As one might predict from the above study, people who were unable to access their left temporal lobe were better able to draw, i.e. use their right temporal lobe as well as not being hampered by inhibitory circuits. Snyder believes that the inhibition of raw sensory data has evolved to allow us to form concepts and make decisions more quickly. But creativity might be just stopping that process in order to gain access to another level of perceptual processing. So should we be queuing up at the creativity clinic for an operation to disconnect the frontal and temporal lobe inhibitors? Probably best just to strengthen those connections with play, to balance the educational emphasis on the reading, writing and arithmetic, which will develop the left hemisphere language circuits instead. Play that involves pretend, such as making a horse out of a broom rather than just climbing on a beautifully modelled horse that leaves nothing to the child‘s imagination. An old study on Dolphins claimed that when the Dolphin was reinforced for ‗something different‘ – not just the same old trick it learned before, it startled the animal researchers with twists, loops and turns they had never seen before. If some right hemisphere functions are related to creativity it is at its best level of problem-solving when uncertainty and unfamiliarity are present. (Goel, Tierney, Sheesley, Bartolo, Vartanian, and Grafman, 2007) We rarely have enough information to make a perfect decision and have to operate on a probability quotient aided by subjective imagination and intuitive. Thus the right prefrontal cortex is activated and any damage here gives inflexibility, detrimental to creativity or even good decisions. Thus there are many interactions between neurochemistry, brain areas and functions, motor skills, memory, attention and personality that need to be taken into account in creativity. Casanova (2005) has an explanation for the extremes of sensory processing versus that characterizes Autism and Dyslexia. It is called minicolumnopathy. Minicolumns are defined as the smallest processing units in the brain and are just little columns of cortical cells that interact with each other through the white matter of the brain, by oscillations at certain frequencies, or brain waves, higher for short range connections (Beta range) and lower for longer connections (Alpha range). Mini-columns arise in embryonic development, and their width is largely genetically determined. They decrease with age, like
  • 206. 194 Beverley Steffert most of the good things of life, which tells scientists that these are working units, rather than individual neurons. The images produced by magnetic and diffusion tensor resonance (a method for identifying the white matter fibres that facilitate communication in the brain, including the mini-columns) look rather like those beaded curtains that were hip in the 1960‘s, but as time goes on the beads drop off and there are big gaps in the curtain and the aged brain. Disruption of these ensembles is implicated in many types of cognitive and neurological impairment such as in Schizophrenia (Buldyrev, Cruz, Gomez-Isla, GomezTortosa, Havlin, Le, Stanley, Urbanc, and Hyman, 2000) but could also be the basis of synaesthesia (Mottron, Dawson, and Soulières, 2009), is sometimes defined as a neurological condition, but it is not listed in the DSM-IV (American Psychiatric Association, 1994) as it often does not interfere with normal daily functioning. Most synesthetes report such experiences as neutral, or even pleasant. Rather, like colour blindness or perfect pitch, synesthesia is a difference in perceptual experience and the term ‗neurological‘ simply reflects the brain basis of this perceptual difference (Sagiv and Lynn, 2005). In autistic brains these mini-columns are even smaller, thinner and closer together, in order to do a better job of letting raw sensory information flood through the senses and into consciousness. The result of this team work of connections is the inhibition of inhibitory networks. Thus Autistics have an enhanced perceptual functioning across all sensory domains, auditory, olfactory and tactile which can be uncomfortable. Noises are too loud, clothes too scratchy, and the complexity of a person overwhelms their decoding ability, the ‗intense world hypothesis‘. Perception of the world is therefore fragmented, but the attention an autistic is able to bring to bear on one small aspect of the world can enhance memory and give the hyper motivation one needs to excel that subject. If that subject is wide enough (drawing buildings, memorising calendars etc.) savant skills can emerge, but too narrow interest can lead to compulsive wheel spinning or watching the same video thousands of times. Savants show extraordinary islands of talents in an otherwise incapacitated mind – most notably, in Autism. The artwork of savants such as the now famous Patrick, who as a child could draw buildings with perfect accuracy and precision after a glance, was originally criticised as being too representational – nothing better than a good photograph. But as Patrick grew and painted thousands of pictures his art developed and he now exhibits some abstract paintings, again reinforcing the possibility of attention and practices being able enhance creativity. In Dyslexia, there are also differences in minicolumns, but the opposite of Autism. While there are fewer minicolumns, they are much wider. The reduction of mini-columns is correlated to the volume of white matter and longer range connections – thus accounting for the less detailed representation and greater ability to generalise concepts and perceive patterns multi-dimensionally. This wider perspective is a trade-off between the speed and detail of the local network and the generality of the Dyslexic pattern with its longer range, and more global network. This dichotomy is due to the relatively fixed volume of processing units in the cortex so the number and range of connections can either be dense or sparse. The sparser connections will have a longer range but will take longer to connect, but on the other hand fewer connections means a less detailed representation of information. Again we see processing patterns preserved in hierarchical fashion from the very first perception of sensory information to the last concept that is the final result. The longer fibre connectivity in the brains of dyslexics could account for a greater capacity for ‗seeing‘ the patterns that are linked to visionary thinking, but also slower development, in school learning. The creative
  • 207. The Science of Creativity: Neuroaesthetics 195 potential is not drawn on until the Dyslexic can take up subjects requiring visuo-spatial skills, such as Architecture, Design, Logistics, and Navigation etc. Now for the final question. If Dyslexics have a superior level of visual-spatial does that make them more creative? It is the prefrontal cortex which integrates already highly processed information to enable still higher cognitive functions, such as abstract thinking, cognitive flexibility, and selfreflexive consciousness. Working memory, temporal integration and sustained, directed attention sub-serve these higher order capacities – all necessary for creativity. The ability to direct attention to the right combination of elements to solve a problem is a prerequisite to creativity since it involves cognitive flexibility. It needs the ability to break conventional or obvious patterns of thinking, to adopt new rules and think abstractly to form new concepts. Novel combinations of stored knowledge come from the temporal, occipital and parietal lobes while the prefrontal elaborates that creatively. Dietrich (2004) perceives the prefrontal cortex to be a ‗search engine‘ that can pull task-relevant information from long term storage in the temporal, occipital and parietal lobes, temporarily representing it in working memory, while the prefrontal reorders it into new combinations. Attention systems are downgraded during this process and accounts for the hypofrontality. One could imagine a person who has excellent temporal, occipital and parietally based knowledge, but whose prefrontal cortex is less structured for flexibility and cannot therefore use that knowledge creatively. Thus optimum levels of creativity require both domain specific knowledge and prefrontal insight capacity. LETTING THE MIND WANDER Hypofrontality is a hallmark of all altered states of conscious - from dreaming, hypnosis, meditation, drug-induced states, endurance running and simple daydreaming (Dietrich, 2004) as well as insight in solving problems (Bhattacharya, 2009). Slightly different aspects of the frontal lobes are affected according to the altered state, and in the creative process, attentional resources are used to exert inhibitory control over ideas that don‘t seem sensible. This disengages all other cognitive capacities of the prefrontal cortex, accounting for the transient lowered hypofrontality or lowered activity measured. Of course controlled directed creativity has different neurological mechanisms to spontaneous creative. Often quoted examples are in the Sciences (the benzene ring, relativity etc) describing the creative insight occurring during a state of relaxation or dreaming – with little attention to the problem solved. But there are plenty of other examples showing that creativity is the result of deliberate and methodological trial and error problem-solving. Thus there seem to be at least two types of creativity. Nevertheless, spontaneous or directed, attention is a taxing task and cannot be maintained indefinitely. Thus the brain appears to be a parallel processor with substantial amounts of information being processed below conscious perception. This makes creativity a bit of a hit and miss process. Knowledge that surfaces while the frontal attentional system does not control the content of consciousness, would result in a mental state in which knowing occurs without intentional reasoning. Actually this describes the experience of many Dyslexics who suddenly realize they know something but don‘t know how they arrived at the answer or solution.
  • 208. 196 Beverley Steffert To summarise, neurological differences in Dyslexics are present before the child starts to learn to read, starting with the way sensory information is processed through the brain from the minicolumns with their longer projections (psychologically distant thoughts spur creativity) to the right shift bias in eye movements. Slower perception of fast speech sounds, mistiming of motor movements, and the faster developmental of spatial skills and right parietal functioning. But top-down and bottom-up processes work in a feedback loop with other influences, such as attention which can alter the final product. The Dyslexic by virtue of the deficits in language areas has enhanced several aspects of brain functioning, all of which lead to a more global, multi-dimensional, pattern-seeking perspective that they bring to bear on learning and problem-solving. This domain specific talent has to be refined and manipulated by the higher cognitive functions contained in the pre-frontal lobes, to produce a creativity in Art and Science or in thinking and reasoning‘ Dyslexics who have had years of trying to read accurately, have developed the prefrontal elements that enable them to make use of their visual-spatial adaptations. In weighing up the evidence to decide which word making sense of the sentences, the Dyslexic (who often needs to read each sentence several times to get an accurate meaning) has developed par excellence, cognitive flexibility – the final finishing touch in developing their creativity. The answer to our question, ‗are Dyslexics more creative?‘ Is yes, in that wider mini-columns are the basis of visual-spatial ability but they also need cognitive flexibility to make creative use of that visual-spatial ability. The extent that they persevere in reading, tolerate ambiguity, suspend judgement until the final word is read, may be the extent to which they develop their prefrontal cortex creativity. Every cloud has a silver lining! BIBLIOGRAPHY Alexander-Passe, N. (2010). Dyslexia and Depression: The Hidden Sorrow. New York: Nova Science Publishers. American Psychiatric Association (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. DSM-IV (4th. Ed.). Washington, DC: Author Bhattacharya, J. (2009). Increase of universality in human brain during mental imagery from visual perception. PLoS ONE, 4(1): e4121 (11 pages). Casanova, M.(2005). Neocortical Modularity and the cell minicolumn. Nova Biomedical Books, NY Chura, L.R.; Lombardo, M.V.; Ashwin, E.; Auyeung, B.; Chakrabarti, B.; Bullmore, E.T.; Baron-Cohen, S. (2009). Organizational effects of fetal testosterone on human corpus callosum size and asymmetry. Psychoneuroendocrinology. On line prior to print. Dietrich, A. (2004). The cognitive neuroscience of creativity. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review. 11 (6) 1011-1026 Ecologicalart (2009). Paul Klee (1879-1940). Retreived 25th November 2009. Eden, G.F.; Vanmeter, J.W.; Rumsey, J.M.; Maisog, J.M.A.; Woods, R.P.; & Zeffiro, T.A.. (1996). Abnormal Processing in of Visual Motion in Dyslexia revealed by functional brain imaging" Nature, 382; 66-9.
  • 209. The Science of Creativity: Neuroaesthetics 197 Everatt, J., Steffert, B., & Smythe, I. (1999). An eye for the Unusual: Creative Thinking in Dyslexics. Dyslexia, 5, 28-49. Galaburda, A and Livingstone M. (1993). Evidence for a magnocellular defect in developmental dyslexia. ANN NY Acad Sci, 682;70-82. Geschwind, N., & Levitsky, W. (1968). Human brain: Left-right asymmetries in temporal speech region. Science, 161, 188-7. Goel, V., Tierney, M., Sheesley, L., Bartolo, A., Vartanian, O., & Grafman, J. (2007). Hemispheric Specialization in Human Prefrontal Cortex for Resolving Certain and Uncertain Inferences. Cerebral Cortex, Vol. 17, 2245-2250. Hari, R.; Renvall, H.; and Tanskanen, T. (2001). Left Minineglect in Dyslexic Adults. Brain, 124, 7: 1373-1380, July. Lorusso, M.L.; Facoetti, A.; Pesenti, S.; Cattaneo, C.; Molteni, M.; Geiger, G. (2004). Wider recognition in peripheral vision common to different subtypes of dyslexia. Vision Research, vol. 44, 2413-2424, 2004. Mottron, L.; Dawson, M.; Soulières, I. (2009). Enhanced perception in savant syndrome: patterns, structure and creativity. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B.364, 1385–1391. Ramachandran, V.S. (1999). The Science of Art; a neurological theory of aesthetic experience. Journal Consciousness studies, Vol June/July. Riddick, B. (1996). Living with dyslexia: The social and emotional consequences of specific learning difficulties. London: Routledge. Sagiv, N. and Lynn C (2005). Synesthesia: perspectives from cognitive neuroscience. Oxford: Oxford University Press Sandblom, P. (1992) .Creativity and Disease. Marion Boyars, N.Y.London Schneps, M. H. ; Rose, L. T. ;& Fischer, K. W . ( 2007 ). Visual learning and the brain: Implications for dyslexia . Mind, Brain, and Education , 1 , 128 – 139 . Slaghuis, W. and Ryan, J. (2006). Directional Motion Contrast sensitivity in developmental Dyslexia‖ Vision Research, vol 46, issue 20, Oct 2006 Snyder A (2009). Explaining and inducing savant skills: privileged access to lower level, less-processed information. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 364 (1522): 1399–405. Stordy, B.J. (1995). Benefit of docosahexaenoic acid supplements to dark adaptation in dyslexics. Lancet 1995; 346:385 (letter). Von Karolyi, C., Winner, E., Gray, W., & Sherman, G. F. (2003). Dyslexia linked to talent: global visual-spatial ability. Brain Language, June, 85(3), 427-31. West, T. (1991). In the Minds Eye: Visual Thinkers, Gifted people with learning difficulties, Computer Images, and the ironies of creativity. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books. Winner, E., von Karolyi, C., & Malinsky, D. (2000). Dyslexia and Visual-Spatial Talents: No Clear Link. Boston College: Perspectives, Spring. Witton, C.; Talcott, J.B.; Hansen, P.C.; Richardson, A.J.; Griffiths, T.D.; Rees, A.; Stein, J.F.; Green, G.G.R. (1998). Sensitivity to dynamic auditory and visual stimuli predicts nonword reading ability in both dyslexics and controls Current Biology 8, 791-797. Zeki, S. (1999). Inner Vision; an exploration of art and the brain. Oxford Univ. Press.
  • 210. 198 Beverley Steffert OTHER REFERENCES Arts Dyslexia Trust (2009). Anderson P. (2009). Creativity linked to Dopamine Agonists in PD. 13th International Congress of Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders: Abstract Mo-163. Presented June 8, 2009. Baron-Cohen, S.; Ashwin, E.; Ashwin, C.; Tavassoli, T.; and Chakrabarti, B. (2009). Talent in autism: hyper-systemizing, hyper-attention to detail and sensory hypersensitivity. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 2009 364, 1377-1383. Buldyrev, S.V.; Cruz, L.; Gomez-Isla, T.; Gomez-Tortosa, E.; Havlin, S.; Le, R.; Stanley, H.E.; Urbanc, B.; and Hyman, B.T. (2000). Description of microcolumnar ensembles in association cortex and their disruption in Alzheimer and Lewy body dementias. Proc Natl Acad Sci. 2000;97(10):5039–5043 Buxhoeveden, D. and Casanova, M. (2002). The minicolumn hypothesis in Neuroscience. Brain, 125. 935-951. El Zehiry, N.; Casanova, M.; Hassan, H.; and Farag, A. (2006). Effect of minicolumnar disturbance on dyslexic brains: an MRI study Proceedings of International Symposium on Biomedical Imaging, Arlington, Virginia, April 2006, pp. 1336-1339. Galaburda, A.M.; LeMay, M.; Kemper,T.L.; and Geschwind, N. (1978). Right-left asymmetrics in the brain‖ Science, Vol 199, Issue 4331, 852-856. Livingston, M. (2002). Vision and Art: The Biology of Seeing. New York: Harry N Abrams.. Mendez, M. (2004). Dementia as a window to the Neurology of Art. Medical Hypotheses, Vol 63, issue 1, 2004, p1-7. Seeley, W.W.; Matthews, B. R.; Crawford, R. K.; Gorno-Tempini, M.L.; Foti, D.; Mackenzie, I. R.; Miller, B. L. (2007). Unravelling Bolero; progressive aphasia, transmodal creativity and the right posterior neocortex. Brain, Dec.5th, 2007. Suussman A. (2007). Mental Illness and Creativity. Stanford Journal of Neuroscience, Vol 1, Issue 1, Fall Vartanian, O. and Goel, V. (2004). Neuroanatomical correlates of aesthetic preference for paintings. NeuroReport, Vol. 15, No. 5, pp. 893-897. Witkovsky, P. (2004). Dopamine and retinal function. Documenta Ophthalmologica, 108, (1), 17-40. Witton, C.; Talcott, J.B.; Hansen, P.C.; Richardson, A.J.; Griffiths, T.D.;Rees, A; Stein, J.F.† and Green, G.G.R. (1998). Sensitivity to dynamic auditory & visual stimuli predicts nonword reading ability in both Dyslexic and normal readers. Current Biology, 8:791797
  • 211. In: Dyslexia and Creativity Investigations from Differing… ISBN: 978-1-61668-552-2 Author: Neil Alexander-Passe ©2010 Nova Science Publishers, Inc. Chapter 14 SO NEAR THE DISCOVERY: ON NOT FALLING BACK INTO OLD AND PRECONCEIVED NOTIONS Thomas G. West Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia, (USA) Author of In the Mind‘s Eye (1991 and 1997) and Thinking Like Einstein (2004). A second edition of In the Mind‘s Eye was released September 4, 2009 with a new Introduction from Oliver Sacks, MD. The book has had 15 printings, been selected as one of the ―best of the best‖ for the year by the American Library Association and has been translated into both Japanese (1994) and Chinese (2004). In connection with In the Mind's Eye and his second book, Thinking Like Einstein, West has been invited to give talks for scientific, medical, art, design, computer and business groups in the U.S. and overseas, including groups in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Hong Kong, Taiwan and eleven European countries. He is now working on a third book on highly talented dyslexics, visual thinkers and the rise of computer graphics technologies. When I think of creativity in the sciences, I often think of the perceptive observations Michael Faraday, made long ago. It is not hard for me to imagine that it was a chilly Friday night, December 5, 1845, when under gaslight at the Royal Institution, on Albemarle Street (as it remains today), just a short distance from Piccadilly Circus, in a truly Dickensian London, that he dipped his pen in the ink well in his lap desk and addressed a brief reply to his old friend: ―Many thanks, my dear Wheatstone, for your note. I have in consequence seen Bequerel's paper, and added a note at the first opening of my paper. It is astonishing to think how he could have been so near the discovery of the great principle and fact, and yet so entirely miss them both, and fall back into old and preconceived notions.‖ (Quoted in Jones, 1870, p. 214). Not falling back into old and preconceived notions. Sometimes a very hard thing to do. More than 160 years later, Faraday‘s brief observation focuses our attention to the core of an essential problem of creativity, especially creativity in the sciences - one that is as important today as it was in Faraday‘s time.
  • 212. 200 Beverley Steffert It is a commonplace in the history of creativity, especially creativity in the sciences, that very often, when things are not going well and a really new solution is wanted -- or indeed, when a really new synthesis is badly needed - the essential data and observations are out in the open for all to see, yet most (or all) of the leading experts cannot perceive the emerging new pattern. Their heads are filled with the old patterns that have dominated the thinking of the well-established professionals of their era. It seems that an important part of the special role of visual thinking dyslexics is to see past the old notions - to see what others do not see or cannot see - to make the discoveries that were initially elusive, then obvious to all. ALL THE PIECES IN HAND: LORD KELVIN Long ago, when I was first researching the extraordinary accomplishments and the striking mutual rapport of Michael Faraday, James Clerk Maxwell and Albert Einstein I became aware of an important scientist who, while enormously successful and famous in his own time, was in many ways entirely different from these three, indeed, in some ways a perfect opposite. Such a scientist is (William Thomson) Lord Kelvin, who for all his brilliance, was known as one who had ―all the pieces in hand,‖ but was not able to ―put them together.‖ In perfect contrast to the three I had been researching, Lord Kelvin was decidedly of lesser importance. This was not apparent in his lifetime - during which everyone thought he was the genius of the age. Indeed, Lord Kelvin was generally considered to be one of the greatest of British physicists of the 19th century. He was a contemporary of James Clerk Maxwell. Indeed, their families mingled in the same circles when they were growing up in Edinburgh. While Maxwell had been considered a bright student (after a slow start), he was nothing like the brilliant star that Lord Kelvin had been as a youth. Unlike Maxwell, Kelvin had been an early achiever, "a true Wunderkind " (Tolstoy, Maxwell, 1981, p. 22). He was a classic child prodigy - reading at two, attending and actively participating in his father's university mathematics lectures at ten, matriculating at university himself at twelve (MacDonald, Faraday, 1964, pp. 105-106). He is best known, and forever memorialized, by the temperature scale that uses his name, "zero degrees Kelvin," the scale that defines absolute zero (the temperature where all molecular motion stops, 273 degrees below zero Celsius). He was at the apex of the scientific establishment of his time. He was given a life peerage by Queen Victoria in 1892, in his 68th year, hence "Lord Kelvin."1 According to one biographer, ―all over the world he came ultimately to be recognized as the greatest living 1 Much of this material has appeared previously, in different form, in In the Mind‘s Eye, second edition, September 2009, Prometheus Books. Lord Kelvin's full title and a concise summary of his contributions to science is provided in The New Encyclopedia Britannica (Vol. 22, 15th edition, p. 503 ff.): "William Thompson, who was knighted in 1866 and was raised to the peerage in 1892 (as Baron Kelvin of Largs) in recognition of his work in engineering and physics, was foremost among the small group of British scientists who helped to lay the foundations of modern physics. His contributions to science included a major role in the development of the second law of thermodynamics; the absolute temperature scale (measured in kelvins); the dynamical theory of heat; the mathematical analysis of electricity and magnetism, including the basic ideas for the electromagnetic theory of light; the geophysical determination of the age of the Earth; and fundamental work in hydrodynamics. His theoretical work on submarine telegraphy and his inventions for use on submarine cables aided Britain in capturing a preeminent place in world communications during the 19th century."
  • 213. The Science of Creativity: Neuroaesthetics 201 scientific authority in almost all branches of physics. Every existing learned society sought to make him a Fellow. . . .‖12 His contemporaries thought he was on a par with Sir Isaac Newton. He was buried at Westminster Abbey with full honors, near Newton's grave. This is in sharp contrast to Faraday, who insisted on the "simplest" burial possible, and to Maxwell, whose monumental achievements were not to be fully realized until many years after his untimely death at the age of 48. ―But for William Thomson, who lived to the ripe old age of eighty-three, every honor that a scientist might hope for was showered on him, and the whole country seemed to mourn when he died on December 17, 1907.‖ 23 Yet, in spite of his considerable scientific and professional achievements, the passage of time has shown that Kelvin's reputation has continuously decreased rather than increased - in contrast to those of Faraday and Maxwell, whose reputations continue to grow in stature more than a century after their passing. Time has shown that Kelvin's work, while recognized as full of major achievements, is, in comparison with the greatest, still decidedly of lesser rank. He was "an extraordinarily influential figure in his time, and in some ways a paradigm of conventional, established scientific leadership."34 However, today's historians of science observe, "despite the enormous range of his achievements, Kelvin did not quite attain the intellectual pinnacles that [Faraday and Maxwell] reached." 45 Consequently, it is not unimportant that this is the same Lord Kelvin who said, in an oftquoted passage, ―when you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it. But when you cannot - your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind.‖ 56 Since Kelvin's position reflects the reverence of his time for quantification (still popularly regarded as the heart and soul of conventional contemporary science), it would appear to be appropriate to take a closer look at Kelvin as an instructive contrast to the creative dyslexics, late bloomers, and visual thinkers of mixed abilities who are our primary interest. Lord Kelvin was a major figure and he dramatically affected his own age, but he clearly fell short of having the enduring vision that can shine undimmed through more than a hundred tumultuous years of scientific revolution. Perhaps, if we consider Kelvin's work with some care, we may be able to gauge some of the strengths and weaknesses of his way of thought (in comparison with others) - relying as he does on the apparent certainty of numbers, to the exclusion of other important modes of observation and thought. Kelvin may, in fact, be a good example of a deeper truth lying under our conventional ideas of science. Sometimes creative dyslexics come to discover the unexpected strengths embedded deep beneath long-lamented areas of weakness. In contrast, the impressive abilities of thinkers like Kelvin may sometimes hide profound and fundamental weaknesses - deep limitations on their ability to observe and understand what they are seeing. (It is also useful to have some historical distance, allowing us to see clearly long-term effects and consequences.) Ironically, Kelvin's early and continuing successes may have been, in time, one of his main sources of weakness. Perhaps, he was so certain about his many facts and little truths what he had learned, accurately repeated, and then instilled in others - that the larger truths 2 Gray, Kelvin, 1908 (1973), p. 299. 3 MacDonald, Faraday, 1964, p. 103 4 Thomas, "Humanities," Thoughts, 1984, p. 143. 5 MacDonald, Faraday, Maxwell and Kelvin, 1964, p. 104. 6 Kelvin, quoted in Thomas, "Humanities," Thoughts, 1984, pp. 143-144.
  • 214. 202 Beverley Steffert sometimes escaped him completely. (We should ask who among our contemporaries is like a modern day Kelvin - brilliant in every way - but completely missing the point, especially when some truly major issue is at hand? How much time and effort are wasted today because our scientific institutions are guided by highly successful scientists who share the deep limitations and timidity of conception exhibited by Lord Kelvin?) Kelvin's experience is just the opposite of the experience of our extraordinarily creative visual thinkers with dyslexic traits and mixed abilities - those who have learned early, through painful experience, how unreliable one's senses may be, how error-prone the memory, how misleading the flights of imagination, how clumsy the actions or speech -- and how badly one needs to use one's wit and some form of reliable test (or experiment) to verify continually one's sense of reality. Certainty breeds certainty and may be unfriendly to really original observations and ideas. But for those who are most familiar with uncertainty, the notion of complete and reliable knowledge is foreign indeed. Kelvin was a brilliant scientist. His achievements were considerable and should not be underrated. But he made many errors. He was "certain" of many things. He "proved" that man could not fly: ―In 1900 Samuel Pierpont Langley delivered a lecture at the Royal Institution on the possibilities of flight by manned aircraft. At the end of the lecture Kelvin strode to the blackboard to demolish the arguments of Langley and demonstrate that manned flight by a vehicle heavier than air would be physically impossible.‖ 67 Relying on the limited knowledge of his day, Kelvin computed an age for the sun so short that it was thought to disprove Darwin's theories. Of course, Kelvin then knew nothing of the nuclear processes that drive the sun. While his calculations, presumably, were exactly correct and his theories well established and widely believed, his conclusions could not have been more wrong. In the words of medical essayist Lewis Thomas, MD: ―. . . the problem at hand was the age of the earth and the solar system. Using what was then known about the sources of energy and the loss of energy from the physics of that day, he calculated that neither the earth nor the sun were older than several hundred million years. This caused a considerable stir in biological and geological circles, especially among the evolutionists. Darwin himself was distressed by the numbers; the time was much too short for the theory of evolution. Kelvin's figures were described by Darwin as one of his ‗sorest troubles.‘ ‖ 78 Kelvin complained that he could not comprehend Maxwell's revolutionary theories on electromagnetism, and so he was certain they must be wrong. He dismissed Maxwell's theory because he could not reconcile it with his own long-held views. Andrew Gray, Kelvin's biographer in 1908, explains (somewhat apologetically): ―For Lord Kelvin adopted the elastic solid theory of propagation of light as ‗the only tenable foundation for the wave theory of light in the present state of our knowledge,‘ and dismissed the electromagnetic theory (his words were spoken in 1884, it is to be remembered) with the statement of his strong view that an electric displacement perpendicular to the line of propagation, accompanied by a magnetic disturbance at right angles to both, is inadmissible.‖ 89 The narrowness of Kelvin's view seemed to carry over into other areas of his life. He well knew how to reap the benefits of his position as a successful electrical engineer. In contrast to 7 Howard, "Rayleigh," in Springs, 1983, p. 184. Thomas, Thoughts, 1984, p. 144. 9 Gray, Kelvin, 1908, p. 255. 8
  • 215. The Science of Creativity: Neuroaesthetics 203 many of the creative dyslexic visionaries we are considering, he directed so much attention to these matters that he gives the impression of being comparatively small-minded. He was very interested in protecting his patent rights, and so he kept meticulous notes on the arrivals and departures of ships using his navigational equipment: ―. . . [He] had become a prosperous electrical engineer by industry and hard work and by a careful eye to money matters. Although Kelvin published prodigiously on a wide variety of scientific topics, he was also very quick to patent and protect his rights on any practical inventions. Kelvin held the basic patent on the gyro-compass used on all of the modern ocean liners of his day, and he kept careful notes on the arrival and departure of every vessel … to be sure his royalties were properly paid.‖ 910 He was often quick to criticize other scientists. Easily incensed, he could show hot temper and resentful anger: ―Kelvin could be irascible in ‗putting down‘ his fellow scientists. . . .‖ 1011 At the boundaries of new scientific knowledge, Kelvin's vision also seemed limited. Sometimes, as we noted before, he had all the information in front of him that other more perceptive and creative scientists had but he failed to see the revolutionary patterns that were emerging. In discussing Maxwell's use of Faraday's ideas, one scientific historian pointed out: ―Thomson had all the pieces in hand, but he never put them together. It is intriguing that Thomson, who in society appeared so self-confident, had for all his brilliance a streak of intellectual timidity, while Maxwell, who struck people on first meeting as shy and hesitant, met the scientific issues head on.‖ 1112 Kelvin was especially proud of his early accomplishments, suggesting that serious students of science would need to be more like him - to show similar early knowledge of Greek, mathematics and other subjects. He seemed too sure of himself and of what he knew to learn from conflicting evidence in nature. In perfect contrast to those we have been discussing, Kelvin admitted as an old man that he had learned nothing new.1213 Lord Kelvin and the Limits of Numbers Kelvin was certain. He loved numbers and rigor and precision. However, as medical essayist Lewis Thomas explains: ―. . . Kelvin may have had things exactly the wrong way round. The task of converting words into numbers is the hardest of all, the last task rather than the first to be done, and it can be done only when you have learned, beforehand, a great deal about the observations themselves. You can, to be sure, achieve a very deep understanding of 10 Howard, "Rayleigh," in Springs, 1983, p. 184. Howard, "Rayleigh," in Springs, 1983, p. 184. 12 Everitt, "Maxwell's," in Springs, 1983, p.127. Everitt's comment is partly based on the assumption that there is a relationship between intellectual timidity and social timidity. This is a widely-held view. However, in this case we could argue that Maxwell's apparent social timidity was probably based on his difficulty with verbal communication alone--and therefore, from one point of view, quite appropriate from his life experience. His intellectual life, on the other hand, having no such incessant impediment, would have no comparable experience, so timidity would be an unlikely result. A reversal of this sort of situation could exist with those who are mainly verbally proficient. Like Kelvin, they might often develop an unfounded self-confidence or arrogance, based mainly on their proficiency--without the deep understanding sometimes found among some of those who are mainly visually proficient, but verbally inept in comparison. (Of course, there is a long tradition of comparable observations in many settings. Traditionally, the wise man has little to say, while the foolish man never stops talking.) 13 Gray, Kelvin, 1908, p. 255. 11
  • 216. 204 Beverley Steffert nature by quantitative measurement, but you must know what you are talking about before you can begin applying the numbers for making predictions.‖ 1314 (It is of little use to measure accurately and to quantify and to do elaborate statistical analysis on the amounts of ―phlogiston‖ in different materials if you do not yet understand the role of oxygen in combustion - if you do not yet understand that ―phlogiston‖ does not really exist. How often, today, are our researchers following in a similar path?) Dr. Lewis Thomas continues: ―There have been other examples, since those days, of the folly of using numbers and calculations uncritically. Kelvin's own strong conviction that science could not be genuine science without measuring things was catching. People in other fields of endeavor, hankering to turn their disciplines into exact sciences, beset by what has since been called ‗physics envy,‘ set about converting whatever they knew into numbers and thence into equations with predictive pretensions. We have it with us still, in economics, sociology, psychology, history, even, I fear, in English-literature criticism and linguistics, and it frequently works, if it works at all, with indifferent success. The risks of untoward social consequences in work of this kind are considerable. It is as important - and as hard - to learn when to use mathematics as how to use it and this matter should remain high on the agenda of consideration for education in the social and behavioral sciences.‖ 1415 Thomas does not want to be mistaken. Mathematics is, of course, highly useful when it fits. But it does not always fit: ―There is no doubt about it: measurement works when the instruments work, and when you have a fairly clear idea of what it is that is being measured, and when you know what to do with the numbers when they tumble out. The system for gaining information and comprehension about nature works so well, indeed, that it carries another hazard: the risk of convincing yourself that you know everything. Kelvin himself fell into this trap toward the end of the century. . . . He stated, in a summary of the achievements of 19th-century physics, that it was an almost completed science; virtually everything that needed knowing about the material universe had been learned; there were still a few loose ends to be tidied up, but this would be done within the next several years.‖ 1516 Of course, Kelvin was wrong. The next few years brought not the final missing pieces but, instead, the first steps of a series of revolutions that were to reverberate throughout the 20th century and into the 21st century. The case of Kelvin is instructive. We may well ask how he could be so brilliant (so very young), so confident and self-assured, so successful, so famous, so admired -- and yet be, so often, so very wrong? Perhaps we need to see that it is useless to count and to calculate until one has learned to empty one's head of preconceptions and see - really see - what nature is teaching. Then, perhaps, one may construct an intuitive conception, possibly an entirely original image, such as Faraday's lines of force, on which to base one's mathematics. Perhaps we should see that we cannot calculate usefully until we have a reasonable idea of what, in fact, it is that we are calculating. (In the first decade of the 21st century, we still have the same problem. Too many professionals in too many fields still confuse counting and calculation and the use of certain conventional research methods with real science and real discovery.) 14 Thomas, Thoughts, 1984, p. 144. Thomas, Thoughts, 1984, p. 145. 16 Thomas, Thoughts, 1984, p. 146. 15
  • 217. The Science of Creativity: Neuroaesthetics 205 (The paleontologist Jack Horner, as we shall see below, emphasizes that he and his students have made discoveries because they did what all the experts and professional literature said was impossible. Horner focuses on observation, saying we must learn to read the book of nature with fresh eyes unclouded by reading too many papers. In this, he thinks dyslexics often have a distinct advantage.) Perhaps, then, it is of some considerable value to learn early in one's life to be distrustful (as dyslexics do) - to be distrustful even of one's own perception of the world, of the slippery numbers or flowing letters that can bend and twist, change and transform themselves, confusing and misleading. Perhaps it is of some value to learn that sometimes, when most needed, the memory trace will not be there - to learn that one cannot always be sure that the right words will come out. For those working at the boundaries of established knowledge, perhaps it is better to be aware, as Faraday did, that one must cultivate a measure of distrust, relying on some outside, objective test of reality -- something one can rely on that is beyond what one has been taught - an ―anchor‖ such as Faraday's rigorous and unrelenting experimentation. One may retain trust in one's own hunches and intuitions (in so far as they can be supported by experience), but more, one must remain sensitive, like Faraday, to some self-correcting and self-revealing mechanism - and not, like Kelvin, keep one's mind closed to really new conceptions that these revelations demand. One needs to be less aware of what one knows and more aware of what is being revealed by nature and your own careful observations. The fundamental tendency to doubt and be distrustful often comes naturally to our visualthinking dyslexics (who sometimes may possess too-powerful imaginations), but may be quite out of character for those who were fortunate enough to be able to learn -- quickly, early and with assurance - what is already "known." To always be certain of knowing the right answer. To be able to articulate it quickly and precisely. To know exactly what the teacher wants. The resulting self-assurance may be unassailable - so long as reality continues to confirm the knowledge that one was taught in one's youth. But when the old system begins to break down, when a whole new layer of truth is beginning to unfold, then perhaps fate favors those who have learned, at times painfully, more of doubt than of assurance -- those who have been forced to learn an essential form of doubt and distrust from the earliest times. As Faraday noted: ―All [are] sure in their days except the most wise. . . . He is the wisest philosopher who holds his theory with some doubt. . . .‖1617 AMAZING SHORTCOMINGS, AMAZING GIFTS The connection between dyslexia and creativity is also strikingly apparent in the history of a number of modern scientists. Some years ago, William J. Dreyer, Ph.D., a molecular biologist from the California Institute of Technology telephoned me. A self-diagnosed dyslexic, Bill Dreyer was never one to read many books, but he did read my book In the Mind‘s Eye. When he telephoned me, he explained: ―Your book describes the way I think. This is my life. The next time you come to LA area, let‘s talk. I want to tell you my story.‖1718 17 Faraday, in Jones, Life & Letters, 1870, p. 179. [Corrected endnote] Personal communication, William J. Dreyer, August 1995. Quotation given is actually a paraphrase of the initial contact. 18
  • 218. 206 Beverley Steffert This contact led to many visits, many discussions, some recorded conversations and a longterm friendship. Dreyer recorded his story in a series of interviews: ―I knew I was different in the way that I thought, but I didn‘t realize why I was so dumb at spelling . . . and rote memory and arithmetic. . . . The first time I realized how different . . . brains could be . . . was when I bumped into Jim Olds at a dinner party back in the late sixties. Jim . . . was a professor here [at Caltech] . . . famous for his pleasure center work. . . . A speaker talked about the way we think and compared it to holography. Jim was across the table from me. I said, ‗Oh, yes. When I‘m inventing an instrument or whatever, I see it in my head and I rotate it and try it out and move the gears. If it doesn‘t work, I rebuild it in my head.‘ And he looked at me and said, ‗I don‘t see a thing in my head with my eyes closed.‘ We spent the rest of the evening . . . trying to figure out how two professors -- both obviously gifted people at Caltech in the Biology Division - could possibly think at all, because we were so different. So then I took this up with Roger Sperry [Nobel Laureate and near lab neighbor] and I realized that I had some amazing shortcomings as well as some amazing gifts.‖ This passage is excerpted from the Dreyer interviews in Caltech‘s oral history project, initiated to collect, over several days, the stories of the institution‘s most notable scientists.1819 In the interviews, Dreyer repeatedly refers to the importance of his dyslexia and his visualization abilities in doing his science and in yielding his most important scientific discoveries. Indeed, in the first pages of the interview series, Dreyer refers to the importance of his reading of In the Mind‘s Eye as a great help in understanding his own mind. It is significant that in recent years Dreyer has been increasingly recognized as one of the major innovators in the early days of the biotech revolution that is now washing over all of us. In September 2007, one of his inventions was placed in the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Washington, D.C. - the first gas-phase automated protein sequencer, which he patented in 1977. The sign over the machine on exhibit reads: ―The Automated Gas-Phase Protein Sequencer: William J. Dreyer and the Creation of a New Technology.‖ Dreyer developed new ways of thinking about molecular biology. With his powerful visual imagination, he could somehow see the molecules interacting with each other. Sometimes he was almost entirely alone. He (with his colleague J. Claude Bennett) advanced new ideas based on new data about how genes recombine themselves to create the immune system. These ideas turned out to be 12 years ahead of their time. Most did not like this new theory because it conflicted with the conventional beliefs held by most expects in the field at the time. ―It was so counter to the dogma of the time that nobody believed it,‖ his widow, 19 California Institute of Technology, Oral History Project, session one, tape 1, side1, interview of February 18, 1999 with Shirley K. Cohen, published by Caltech Archives 2005. (Available as PDF at Dreyer‘s high interest in his own visual thinking is evident in his first introductory remarks at the beginning of the five days of interviews: ―I was just at UCLA two days ago with people studying brain imaging. . . . They tended to want a uniform brain, with everyone having the same anatomy and thinking the same way. That isn‘t at all true; it‘s amazing how different people can be. And in particular the book that I loaned to you--In the Mind‘s Eye by Thomas G. West--is about the only one I‘ve ever seen that deals with the subject of people who have extreme visual imagery in the way they think. I wanted to preface all of this [set of interviews] with this little story, because . . . it has a profound implication.‖ The story that is quoted at the beginning of this Epilogue immediately follows Dreyer‘s introductory statement. (It happens that the Jim Olds mentioned here is the father of another Jim Olds who is the current director of the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia. Roger Sperry, also mentioned in this quotation, was Caltech Hixon Professor of Psychobiology 1954-1984. Sperry was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1981.)
  • 219. The Science of Creativity: Neuroaesthetics 207 Janet Dreyer, explained to me. Dreyer‘s approach also used a form of scientific investigation (peptide mapping) with which most immunologists were then unfamiliar. ―Knowing what we know now pretty much any biologist would look at Bill‘s data and say that is what it has to mean. But few could understand it then,‖ she noted. However, gradually, they all learned to think the way Dreyer thought. Then, it was obvious that Dreyer (and Bennett) had to be right. TO SEE WHAT OTHERS CANNOT SEE In his earlier school days, Dreyer had the usual difficulties experienced by dyslexics who are also very bright. But in time, in college and graduate school he began to find roles that that made use of his strengths while he learned to get help in his areas of weakness. He joined a study group. The others in the group all took careful notes in the lectures. He took no notes. He just sat there while he listened and observed carefully. Then after the lecture, they provided him with the detailed data, and he told them what it all meant. ―He was giving the big picture and all the major concepts…‖ explained Janet Dreyer. Eventually, surviving a major life-threatening illness made him realize it was time to refocus his life - and then his fascination with the laboratory work began to draw him in. Soon, the young Bill Dreyer became a star in the laboratory. While in graduate school in Seattle, Washington state, and while working at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, he could tell his professors and colleagues which were the best experiments to do. Somehow he knew how to proceed and where to go in this brand new field of study that came to be known as protein chemistry. His professors and section heads would write the grants, get the funding and write the papers for him based on his ideas and observations. ―The money just came. Because he was doing good work, grants would just be there for him,‖ observed Janet Dreyer. He was happy at NIH but eventually (after a previous Caltech offer had been refused) in 1963 Caltech persuaded Dreyer to come to Pasadena as a full professor at the age of 33. Clearly, the value of his pioneering work was being recognized. However, later, because of the further development of his heretical ideas, William Dreyer could not get funding from academic or foundation sources for inventing his new instruments. His department head would get irate phone calls from professors from other institutions complaining about Dreyer‘s publications and talks. He gave many talks at the time, making many attendees angry, although others could see the importance of his innovative observations. ―He was on the lecture circuit then and he [gave these talks] a lot.‖ Of course, these were not really unproven theories, explained his widow Janet. She pointed out that Dreyer was sure of his ground because he had the data to prove the veracity of his ideas. ―It was not merely a hypothesis in that paper, it was real data.‖ However, it was data in a form so new and so alien that almost everyone in the field could not understand what he was talking about. In time, these professors, and all their students, came to see, much later, that William Dreyer had been right all along.1920 Because he could not get funding from the usual sources, Dreyer went to private companies to manufacture his instruments - something quite unusual and discouraged at the 20 Janet Roman Dreyer, Ph.D., molecular biologist, second wife and widow of William J. Dreyer. Based on interview with Thomas G. West, June 28, 2005.
  • 220. 208 Beverley Steffert time but now wildly popular among universities hoping for a share of large royalty payments. Seeing the potential for his inventions (and their scientific impact) but having a hatred of administration and corporate politics, Dreyer came to be, as he told me, the ―idea man‖ for seven new biotech companies (including Applied Biosystems) and bought himself a highaltitude, pressurized, small airplane with some of the proceeds. Years later, when Susumu Tonegawa was awarded a Nobel Prize (Physiology or Medicine, 1987) for work he had done in Switzerland, his innovative sequencing work proved (through experiments that were illegal in the US at the time) that Dreyer and his colleague had been correct in their predictions many years earlier.2021 ANOTHER GENERATION: LEARNING BY DOING Later in his life, Dreyer taught molecular biology to his dyslexic grandson who was clever with computers but was having a very hard time in high school. Employing the grandson as a kind of apprentice, Dreyer would start each work day (using a form of applied just-in-time learning) saying something like: ―I want you to write this little search program for me today but first let me explain the biology you need to know to do this task.‖ In time, working with Dreyer, the grandson skipped the latter part of high school, most of college, all of graduate school and is now doing advanced ―post-doc‖ level work writing computer programs, doing advanced programming developing databases, graphic user interfaces (GUIs), and other tools. He also uses sophisticated scientific information visualization techniques to help link various human traits to sections of the genetic code. In doing this work, he notes that he uses his ―visual thinking ability to design the architecture of the programs . . . visualizing the components in his head, trying it out and fixing what doesn‘t work, before I write the code -- much like my grandfather. . . .‖ He is not only doing high level work; some argue that the grandson is in fact working at the leading edge - in recent years co-authoring peer-reviewed journal articles.2122 Indeed, one of the grandson‘s work colleagues only got his own Ph.D. degree (and a required publication) because the grandson was able to write a tutorial and GUI that helped a the member of the colleague‘s required publication review committee better understand the significance of the advanced work done by the colleague.2223 21 Tauber and Podolsky, Generation of Diversity, 1997, p. 207. In the words of Tauber and Podolsky, this page: ―This experiment marked the point of no return for the domination of the antibody diversity question by nucleotide studies: it was Susumu Tonegawa‘s final proof of the Dreyer-Bennett V-C translocation hypothesis through the use of restriction enzymes.‖ 22 Brandon King‘s papers: ―Mining gene‖ By Roden JC, King BW, Trout D, Mortazavi A, Wold BJ, Hart CE. BMC Bioinformatics. 2006 Apr 7, vol. 7, p. 194. ―A mathematical and computational framework for quantitative comparison and integration‖ By Hart CE, Sharenbroich L, Bornstein BJ, Trout D, King B, Mjolsness E, Wold BJ. Nucleic Acids Research. 2005 May 10, vol. 33(8). pp. 2580-94. Print 2005. 23 Multiple conversations with William Dreyer, Janet Dreyer and Brandon King, 2001-2004. Additional clarifications and further details were provided by Brandon King via email, March 23, 2009. This additional material, supporting the summary descriptions provided in the main text, is provided here in full, with some light editing of the informal email text: ―Hi Tom, Thank you for forwarding to this to me. I did get a chance to review part of it and wanted to mention a few clarifications. One minor one is that while I have done visualization software, it is less than 20 percent, maybe even 10 percent of the work that I do and have done. I am [mostly] doing advanced programming developing databases/GUIs/tools [for] solving leading edge problems ([in] all of which I use my visual thinking ability to design the architecture of the programs), but
  • 221. The Science of Creativity: Neuroaesthetics 209 Dreyer died of cancer in the spring of 2004. One of the enduring passions of his later work had been to try to understand the relationship between dyslexia, visual thinking and the high levels of creativity he had experienced in his own life and work. He had participated in a small conference on visualization technologies and dyslexia held at the National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland, flying east with Janet in his own plane.2324 Years afterward, as his health declined, Janet eventually sent out news to friends that he had stopped eating and was nearing the end. I read the email at an internet cafe in Dublin, Ireland, where I had been giving talks for the Irish Dyslexia Association. I immediately phoned Bill from our hotel and to my surprise we had a long conversation, our last. Shortly afterward, I traveled back home to Washington, DC, and then on to Pasadena, arriving the day before he died. He was then unable to talk, but I assured him that I would continue the work that he thought so important. My second book, Thinking Like Einstein, is dedicated to: ―William J. Dreyer, 1928-2004, molecular biologist, strong visual thinker, prescient inventor, instrument maker, who loved to fly high to see what others could not see, frequently alone.‖ many programs do not involve advanced visualization techniques. Handling the massive amount of data and tracking information about the data (meta data), requires a lot of software infrastructure that does not yet exist. Building the visualization tools that I would like to see requires this software infrastructure to be built in order to be able to pull all the right pieces together. While advanced visualization is one of my goals, like my grandfather, I've discovered the need to develop new infrastructure (tools/software) before building more advanced visualization techniques. So to summarize: I'm working on leading edge stuff, much of which has been the non-visual software infrastructure (which I build by visualizing the components in my head, trying it out and fixing what doesn't work, before I write the code - much like my grandfather), but instead of turning gears in my head to build a new physical machine, I am designing, building and tweaking software infrastructure in my head. Also, when it comes to the story of the Ph.D student, I feel it's important to correct this one. . . . What happened is that each Ph.D. student needs to [have a] publication in a scientific journal in order to receive their Ph.D. When he submitted his paper to the journal for review it was rejected because the reviewers couldn't understand the significance of the software (visualization + infrastructure) and how it was leading to some pretty amazing conclusions. What I did next was [that] I wrote a GUI (Graphical User Interface) that combined the infrastructure and visualization - which previously required that: (1) you know how to program in the Python programming language and (2) could understand and use the clustering and visualization tools [provided] within Python -- into a simple tool. This tool allows the user to load the data, do the clustering of the data, and visualize and compare the data using the advanced visualization tools the Ph.D. student had written (all from an easy to use interface with no programming experience needed). I then took the data from the Ph.D. student‘s paper and wrote a tutorial showing how to use the GUI to load and analyze the data much like the Ph.D. student had done. The paper was resubmitted for a second review -- this time with my name on it as well - which mentioned the GUI and tutorial in the paper. Upon [the second] review, one of the reviewers . . . changed their mind and said yes. [The reviewer] mentioned . . . [that] using the GUI and the tutorial gave [them] a better understanding of what the Ph.D. student had accomplished. [It] . . . was hard to understand the significance without being able to use the tools. Since I was able to bridge that gap for the reviewers, the paper was accepted and published. I got my first publication, and the Ph.D. student (who did amazingly advanced work, by the way, which is why the reviewers had trouble with it) got the publication he needed in order to meet the publication requirement for getting his Ph.D. That's pretty much it for clarification. Thanks again, Tom, for sending this along.‖ 24 ―Visualization Research Agenda Meeting‖ held February 15-16, 2000. This meeting, organized by the National Library of Medicine was intended to develop a research agenda on the impact of visualization technologies and possible implications for visual thinkers and dyslexics. New computer graphic and information visualization technologies are seen as an emerging force in redefining the abilities required to do high level work in many fields - and as a unifying force across the traditional boundaries between science, medicine, art, history, geography and culture. Participants included: Donald Lindberg, Director of the National Library of Medicine; Alvy Ray Smith, Pixar and Microsoft; Jock Mackinlay, Xerox PARC; Gordon Sherman, Harvard Medical School; Guinevere Eden, Georgetown University, James Olds, Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study, George Mason University; and William J. Dreyer, California Institute of Technology, among others from NIH institutes, commercial and academic institutions.
  • 222. 210 Beverley Steffert MAGNIFICENTLY ILL-ADAPTED ENGINES OF DISCOVERY The story of the life of William Dreyer and his grandson, Brandon King, brings into sharp focus the considerable advantages, in the right setting, of the dyslexic kind of brain -- at least of certain variations within the great diversity of dyslexic brains. (Of course, this story also strongly suggests what sometimes might be possible employing non-traditional educational approaches such as apprenticeship or home schooling.) We can see that this kind of brain - seemingly so magnificently ill-adapted to conventional education - can be a powerful engine of insight, innovation and original discovery. This kind of brain may cause many problems in early schooling but it may also, sometimes, raise some individuals rapidly to the top of a new field of knowledge -- the leading edge of the leading edge - pushing forward way beyond the many who have been conventionally successful students but who find it hard to conceive of anything really new or really important. Perhaps they cannot learn to see with fresh, unclouded eyes. Perhaps they cannot learn to see through to the novel, unexpected solution because they have learned too well exactly what the teacher wanted them to learn, what was in the literature, what was expected on the conventional test. They cannot easily unlearn what they have been taught. (One high-achieving researcher at NIH, with three professional degrees, in law, medicine and pharmacology, once admitted to me - to my amazement - that he was aware of his own limitations, constrained beneath a kind of glass ceiling. He was aware that in spite of all his academic accomplishments, he ―was not dyslexic enough‖ to do really original, creative and important work - as he had seen in his dyslexic colleagues.)2425 With stories such as these, we can begin to understand that these visual-thinking dyslexics do indeed see the world differently. They think differently. They are not like nondyslexics. They are not like each other. Often, they seem to ―see things that others do not see.‖ (I have been surprised at how this same phrase - with almost exactly the same words reoccurs with striking frequency in many different and unconnected settings.) Yet these same individuals have great difficulty with things that are easy for almost everyone else - especially at the lower levels of education. In schools, they are constantly tested on what they are not good at -- almost by definition. Why are they never tested, we should ask, in the areas where they have enormous talent and can make major contributions in their later life and work? Can teachers and school psychologists and test designers believe that this is possible? I hope that some of the stories offered here (and in my books) have created and will continue to create a new vision of what is possible. But I believe this new vision may also require the development of new tests and measures -- ones quite different from conventional academic measures - but perhaps ones that are better suited to the new realities of life and work, suited for the visual-thinking dyslexics but also suited for many non-dyslexics as well. At a recent conference, in Santa Barbara, California, I met a child and adolescent psychiatrist who said he had been using In the Mind‘s Eye as a diagnostic tool for years. He explained that he had given his clients something like 40 or 50 copies so far. He asked them to highlight in yellow all those traits that were like themselves and cross out all those that were unlike themselves. I said, ―Oh you mean the list at the end of the book.‖ He said, ―Oh no, I use the whole book - it is much more useful than the usual tests and measures. They 25 Personal communication, R.S., March 2000.
  • 223. The Science of Creativity: Neuroaesthetics 211 are all devised by linear thinkers for linear thinkers.‖ Afterward, it occurred to me that the whole book indeed could readily serve as a rambling catalogue of traits. I also realized that it would not hurt that these clients would be forced to see in themselves traits shared by important persons who accomplished a great deal, sometimes in spite of their difficulties but more often because of their difficulties and their very different ways of thinking.2526 To succeed with such extremely mixed abilities, as these individuals often do, one needs to have a deep reservoir of confidence and fortitude to carry on in spite of the judgments of others that you are, in fact, really slow and lazy and stupid. To maintain the required drive, determination and sense of mission in the face of almost constant early failure and humiliation is often nothing short of miraculous. It would appear that only a comparatively small number survive these early days with enough confidence and drive to press on, against all odds, to find success in some area of special knowledge, deep understanding and passionate interest. I come to be increasingly aware that much of my own research and writing has been part of an attempt to understand the nature of this kind of success and the remarkable individuals who seem able to find their way around so many obstacles, seeking areas where they are at home with their work, often performing at very high levels of proficiency and productivity. I have come to believe that those of us who are trying to understand and to help dyslexics (along with others more or less like them) must come to see that conventional academic remediation is only part of the job - and not the most interesting or important part. We need to seek ways to help dyslexics find and develop their own talents, large or small, so that they cannot be beaten down - hiding their talents along with their disabilities. I, for one, believe that one of the best ways - perhaps the only really effective way - to do this is to study the lives and work of highly successful dyslexics (in some detail and in all their great diversity) to allow other dyslexics to see what can be done as well as showing how it can be done. BABY DINOSAURS AND ANCIENT RED BLOOD CELLS Somewhat similar to the story of Bill Dreyer is the story of John R. (Jack) Horner (briefly mentioned earlier) -- an example of a highly successful dyslexic with minimal traditional academic skills but maximum productivity in his field of scientific research. Horner flunked out of the University of Montana seven times, requiring special letters for reinstatement. However, after he had established himself, ―his brilliant synthesis of evidence . . . forced paleontologists to revise their ideas about dinosaur behavior, physiology, and evolution.‖ Horner never earned an undergraduate degree or graduate degree. But now he is a professor with many graduate students, an honorary degree and pages and pages of honors. He failed ―just about all his science courses, and never [completed] his undergraduate work.‖ Although he had great difficulty with his course work, it is clear that at a deeper level he was continuously learning - absorbing the knowledge needed to understand and then revolutionize a field. As Horner tells the story, his difficult beginnings helped him to be a risk taker. ―‗Back in the days when I was growing up, nobody knew what dyslexia was. . . . So everybody thought you were lazy or stupid or both. And I didn't think I was, but I wasn't sure. I had a lot of drive, 26 Personal communication, S. M., Santa Barbara DARC conference, January 31, 2009. (Quotations paraphased.)
  • 224. 212 Beverley Steffert and if somebody told me I was stupid, that usually helped - it really helped me take a lot more risks. For someone that everybody thinks is going to grow up to pump gas, you can take all the risks you want. Because if you fail, it doesn't matter.‘ ‖ 2627 But the risks paid off. According to the curator of the museum of vertebrate paleontology at the University of California at Berkeley: ―A lot of people have tended to underestimate Jack because he hasn't come through the traditional academic route. But he is, without question, one of the two or three most important people in the world today studying dinosaurs.‖ Horner is able to see things differently and he observes things others do not see. For example, he believes that it is really of little interest to find the fossil bones of a large adult dinosaur. What he is interested in finding are fossils of many dinosaurs of many sizes, in their environment, in order to understand the life of the animals and the way they interacted with other animals and plants in that environment. Horner is known not only for his markedly different way of looking at things, but also his unusual ability to see, in the field, the tiny fossil bones of baby dinosaurs that other experts cannot find. According to another researcher: ―He has a gift. . . . He can see things the rest of us don't see.‖ 2728 Horner is especially worth noting because, in spite of his persistent academic failures, he came eventually to be acknowledged as one who has transformed some of the fundamental thinking in his field. His story forces us to reconsider in a deep fashion what is really important in one‘s work and what is not. Horner proved to have extraordinary difficulties with things that are largely peripheral to his discipline (reading, composition, test taking), but also proved to be unusually gifted in those things that lie at the heart of his discipline (being unusually observant while searching for fossil bones in the field, being able to interpret the surprising patterns that emerge, being able to visualize easily changes to terrain and ecology over very long periods of time, thinking his way beyond and around his associates, seeing ways of using new technologies, developing innovative and persuasive arguments based on looking at the fossil evidence in very different ways). Now Horner says he tries to teach his students ―to think like a dyslexic‖ because that is where the ―good stuff‖ comes from -- learning to read the book of nature with careful personal observations and fresh insight without being distracted by the theories of others. He says the rest is ―just memorization.‖ One of Horner‘s students, dyslexic herself, recently made discoveries thought ―impossible‖ - finding red blood cells and flexible blood vessels inside a 65 million-year-old fossil bone. Horner points out that this discovery was never made before because ―all the books in the world‖ would say that it could not be done. He notes that it is easy for dyslexics ―to think outside the box‖ because ―they have never been in the box.‖2829 We need to see the truth of Horner‘s observation that dyslexia is ―certainly not something that needs to be fixed, or cured, or suppressed!‖ Indeed, we need to see that, as Jack says (in a recent article), ―maybe it‘s time for a revolution‖ - or at least (from a separate interview) ―it may be time to start something.‖ 2930 27 McDonald, "The Iconoclastic Fossil Hunter," cover article, The Chronicle of Higher Education, November 16, 1994. [Corrected note.] 28 McDonald, ―Fossil,‖ Chronicle, 1994. [Corrected note.] 29 Horner and Gorman, How to Build a Dinosaur, 2009. 30 West, ―Time to Get Serious,‖ IDA Perspectives, 2008.
  • 225. The Science of Creativity: Neuroaesthetics 213 TIME TO START SOMETHING, THE SMARTEST LAD The links between dyslexia and talent have a long history. In the first description of developmental reading disability in the English language medical literature, in 1896, it was noted that one student could not learn to read in spite of ―laborious and persistent training.‖ However, his headmaster observed that this student ―would be the smartest lad in the school if the instruction were entirely oral.‖3031 From the time of the earliest researchers (in the 1890s) until Samuel Torrey Orton (in the 1920s) and Norman Geschwind (in the 1980s), the central puzzle of dyslexia has always been the linkage of high ability in some areas with remarkable and unexpected difficulties and disabilities in other areas. For more than a century we have recognized this pattern, but have generally focused on only one aspect. With the best of intentions, we have learned much about how to fix the problems that dyslexics experience but we have done almost nothing to develop a deeper understanding of the varied and hard-to-measure talents that many dyslexics clearly do possess, especially their often reported predisposition to higher levels of creativity. Highly successful dyslexics nearly always say that their accomplishments and special ways of seeing come directly from their dyslexia - not in spite of their dyslexia, as is sometimes argued. We should take them at their word and give credence to what they say. Most professionals in the field agree that talents are important, but eventually they almost always come to focus exclusively on the serious business of reading and academic remediation alone. I believe these needs to change. THE OTHER HALF OF THE JOB I believe the time has come to be serious about trying to understand the talents of dyslexics - to do the other half of the job. Accordingly, I believe that it is time to think about building a bold and ambitious plan of action (within universities, creative technology companies, research institutes, private foundations and appropriate government agencies) that will focus primarily on talent. The major intent of these initiatives would be: To build a program with its primary focus on understanding and developing the strengths and talents that dyslexics have - rather than mainly focusing on areas of remarkable weakness. As one successful dyslexic says, ―use what you‘ve got.‖ In doing this, we would be supplying the missing half of what dyslexics need for life and work - about aspects of their lives that are not yet well understood but should be. To build a bold program that would, in time, be as large as all current academic remediation programs in effort, resources and impact on the lives of dyslexic children and adults -- including funding, research, training and development of best practices. It took over 100 years for us to arrive at our current position. Now that we know the importance of what we are doing and what is still urgently needed, we should plan to deliver substantial results in, say, about one tenth of that time, that is, perhaps 10 or perhaps 15 years. As a dyslexic myself, I feel a growing sense of personal responsibility to dyslexics as a group. I feel the need to substantially change the course of what we are trying to do within the 31 Morgan, ―Word Blindness,‖ 1896, p. 1378.
  • 226. 214 Beverley Steffert field. I feel we need to seriously embrace a radical change now or there will be no change at all -- allowing additional generations of dyslexics to suffer needlessly - wasting distinctive talents that are greatly needed by the society and the economy at large - as we enter an age of great uncertainty on many fronts. We should recognize that we badly need the big picture thinking and creative original insights that seem to be the signature contributions of the most successful dyslexics. (It is a paradox, among many paradoxes, but it may be that those who would appear, initially, to need the most help are, in time, those most likely to be able to help the most.) Much good has been done over the years, but we have been doing only half the job. A small group of researchers and practitioners have been talking about talents for years. But almost nothing has happened. Indeed, on the whole, in most aspects, it has gotten worse. In the late 1980s, talents and strengths were often discussed at national and international dyslexia conferences - especially by the old timers who had been in the field for decades. But in recent times, almost everyone has been focusing almost exclusively on reading and related academic skills - without any attention to other skills of real value, especially those that are not taught or tested in conventional schools. OLD IDEAS, NEW TECHNOLOGIES Talent is fundamental to the perspectives provided by Samuel Torrey Orton and Norman Geschwind. But most researchers and practitioners have focused on remediation -- on fixing problems - not developing new understandings of special and hard to measure talents. This is especially true of talents that seem (on the surface) to have nothing to do with school and conventional academics - but, in fact, may have everything to do with success in life and, sometimes, very high-level work. While all agree that talents are important, usually almost nothing has been done. And of course, there has been virtually no funding for research of this kind. I believe we need to find a way change this. In my view, we need to reassess what we are doing in the dyslexia field so that at each step of the way we are helping dyslexic children and adults see themselves as capable and valuable -- rather than as wounded, broken, needing to be fixed. As we have learned, sometimes the best intentions can lead to obvious problems - along with missed opportunities. In my talks and writings, I have always advocated a focus on the special talents seen among dyslexics. Through examination of a number individual cases, I have tried to understand and communicate how these special talents are linked to dyslexia - and how we can help dyslexic children and adults to lead better lives by learning from the lives of highly successful dyslexics. The areas of weakness are now well understood. But when we look at high success in a variety of creative areas - entrepreneurial business, artistic creation, technological design or scientific discovery - we see that we need to find ways to focus on what it is that that the dyslexic brain is doing much better than those around them. I do not think we know this yet. How do we identify it? How do we measure it? How do we develop it once identified? One thing seems clear, it is quite different from reading books, listening to lectures and memorizing long lists of names, numbers and facts.
  • 227. The Science of Creativity: Neuroaesthetics 215 We do not yet understand it - but I suspect it has something to do with, as we have seen, having a global view, seeing the big picture, having strikingly unusual or unexpected insights, being able to build complex mental models, being able to look over the horizon to see things that others do not see because of an ability to think in ways that others do not think, observing patterns in nature and human institutions that others do not see or cannot see. These are not easy things to measure or understand. But we have whole families of new tools and technologies to help us do the job - many of them visual and graphical in orientation and therefore well suited to the kinds of strengths we are seeking to understand. We just have to be convinced that it is an important job to do. To date, apparently, almost no one has believed this. As Albert Galaburda pointed out years ago, the brain research done in the 1980s could have been done some 40 or 50 years earlier - if only it had been thought important to look at the wiring and microscopic structure of the brain. Orton had lamented, in his day, the same lack of interest in the structure of the brain. The psychoanalytic and then behavioral approaches that dominated for decades cared nothing for the brain‘s structure. TIME TO GET SERIOUS ABOUT THE TALENTS OF DYSLEXICS I think that we (researchers and practitioners, adult dyslexics and family members) need to start dyslexic-centered programs - as if the talents of dyslexics really did matter. We must not be mainly school-centered, or tradition centered, as we are now. Many professionals continue to believe that traditional academics will always dominate and drive all other sources of knowledge and understanding. But many things are changing in fundamental ways. It is time for all of us to completely rethink what we should be doing in schools and colleges to prepare students for today‘s global economy. Often our thinking is imprisoned by our deeply held but out-dated assumptions about what is essential for success in education and work and life. (It should not be underestimated how difficult it is for practically-minded professionals in the field to really believe that proficiency in these new technologies is rapidly becoming much more important than traditional academic skills; and that one does not depend on the other.) In late 2008, at a meeting of high-level educators talking about the future of US education, a colleague observed with dismay that it was like listening to General Motors and the rest of Detroit talking about the future of the US auto industry. Sometimes the conventional experts, for all their education, experience and high positions, have no idea of what is needed and how to proceed in a time of major change. The best of the old will remain but much is to be discovered or rediscovered anew. Sometimes, the alternative path may be clearer to those who have been forced to deal, in one way or another, with unusual forms of high intelligence and unusual forms of high academic disability - in a rapidly and deeply changing technological and economic context.3132 Careful investigation of the life and work and accomplishments of highly successful dyslexics - where creative insight and innovation are more important than book knowledge may show us how wrong we can be using conventional perspectives. Technological change is 32 National Academy of Education conference, ―Education Policy in Transition: Public Forum,‖ November 18. 2008. Observation by C.O.
  • 228. 216 Beverley Steffert redefining the kinds of things that need to be learned - trends often completely ignored by conventional educational debates (or are dealt with in the most superficial manner). Many dyslexics excel at high market value creative and entrepreneurial skills while they often fail in low market value school-based clerical and memorization skills. To the amazement and consternation of conventional teachers and school psychologists, some dyslexics excel at very high-level mathematics when they still have not mastered ―basic‖ mathematics. Some brains seem designed to do the high level work while the elementary is stubbornly problematic. For some, transforming conventional expectations is routine. It is growing increasingly apparent that we need a serious and systematic study of highly varied but distinctive talents among dyslexics. Probably, we will need whole new families of tests and measures based on new assumptions and employing advanced and sophisticated technologies. These tests and measures should be helpful to all students (in time) - but it seems that the consideration of highly successful dyslexics may serve us best by forcing us to think differently about what is really important. In the early days of neurology, they thought the left hemisphere of the brain was the important one (the ―major hemisphere‖). It was believed to be the seat of reason and it could talk. The right hemisphere (the ―minor hemisphere‖) was seen as merely a low level vestige of our early evolution. It did not seem to be very rational and it (mostly) could not talk. Now we know that if the right hemisphere is not functioning well, it is far more disabling than if the left were not functioning well. Sometimes, our conventional assumptions overwhelm our powers of observation - so that important distinctions are completely misunderstood from the outset. AN ENGINE OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT -- CREATIVE DYSLEXICS Doing this new work, we will have to deeply reconsider what we think we know about intelligence, talent, ability and creativity. We will also need to note relevant trends in other fields. For example, we need to look to the growing awareness in business and economic development literature of the high value of innovative and entrepreneurial skills - the same skills that a great many dyslexics seem to exhibit. As, for example, in the writings of Richard Florida, The Rise of the Creative Class and The Flight of the Creative Class we can see how insights from city planning, local economic development and the making of the three Lord of the Rings films can reshape our ideas about who is really generating new wealth in the economy and where. Florida‘s book The Flight of the Creative Class begins with his description of his visit with Peter Jackson - who was describing his efforts, working with Richard Taylor of Weta Workshop and others, to build through the three Lord of the Rings films a core group of highly creative people in Wellington, New Zealand. This is just the sort of effort that Florida had come to endorse, noting that city planners and others concerned with economic development have come to learn that to build up local and regional economies, it is not enough to build industrial parks, shopping malls and sports stadiums. Rather, one needs to provide the conditions to attract highly creative people and, in turn, these will attract other
  • 229. The Science of Creativity: Neuroaesthetics 217 creative people and build new companies and businesses.3233 Consequently, since many of these highly creative people are likely to be dyslexic, it may not be a stretch to speak of ―creative dyslexics as an engine of economic development.‖ A recent experience is instructive. In August of 2008, I attended the computer graphics conference (ACM-SIGGRAPH) in Los Angeles as I have done for many years. Among the companies and products I have been interested in lately is Massive Software from Auckland, New Zealand. Massive is a computer program that allows film makers to animate, more or less independently (with simple menus and sliders), individual behavior among thousands and thousands of figures on the screen - as in the Lord of the Rings battle scenes or in certain beer commercials. I visited the Massive hotel suite (they were not on the exhibits floor this time) having just heard a technical panel discussion about how Massive Software had been used by Pixar, Digital Domain and other major computer graphics companies in their own recent projects (such as the Disney-Pixar film Wall-E). Also, I had long been interested in the history of Massive and its association with the Lord of the Rings films - with a view to possibly using some of this material in a future book. On entering the hotel suite, I briefly described who I was and what my books are about. At the outset, I was surprised and delighted to discover a very high level of interest in my research by virtually all the Massive staff I had contact with that afternoon. Eventually, we had dinner together and exchanged many stories of extremely talented and creative dyslexics working in the computer graphics field in many different parts of the world. This experience underscored for me what I had long known - that some (or many) of those who are creating the new technologies and valued products around the world - are just the ones who are often suffering the most in current conventional educational systems. It is becoming clearer to me that we need to rethink what we are trying to do in education and what our unspoken and unexamined assumptions are. We need to use the newest technologies to prepare our students for the realities of modern markets - and in so doing tap into talents that have rarely been noticed or developed before. Accordingly, we need to understand the ways creative dyslexics are creating high-value products and services in a new world economy that often has little to do with conventional academic skills. DISCOVERING WHERE DYSLEXICS THRIVE We need to move beyond fixing problems. Rather, we need to discover where dyslexics thrive. To do this, we need to push forward in several directions. As we develop new assessment tools beyond conventional measures (most of which we should honestly admit are built upon a 19th century set of desirable skills), doubtless we will need to use new technologies, new insights and new perspectives to measure capabilities not possible to measure before. It is possible, even likely, that we will come to measure things we thought unimportant previously. Hopefully, we will come to understand surprising results, such as the great relative speed dyslexics could accurately recognize certain patterns before non-dyslexics -- especially when the dyslexics are often much slower at many other, more traditional, tasks. We need to develop mentor programs targeted to dyslexics of several different types. We need to find funding or enthusiastic outlets for documentary films, graphic novels, 33 See Richard Florida website, ―Creative Class.‖ (
  • 230. 218 Beverley Steffert dramas, children‘s books and other informal and visual media that will communicate these insights and perceptions to a larger audience - always moving past the usual concern with problems and remediation - to reveal the reality of high-level talent and unexpected potential. I believe we need to develop a range of scholarships designed for talented dyslexics -- not to compensate for low performance - but to take advantage of idiosyncratic high performance, that is, to bring out high levels of hidden talent. We need to establish special grants for highly gifted individuals who exhibit great talent but also have areas of weakness or disability that would normally result in their exclusion from conventional forms of higher education and career development. We need to assess the institutional changes required so that dyslexics with markedly mixed talents (and others more or less like them) can still work well within established larger institutional structures. We need systematic studies of how this works and does not work. We should begin to recruit to our organizations, creative workers who understand nonconventional areas of technology and talent and use them in their own work every day. We need to design research, education programs and conferences that will be of interest to those working in these fields - those working in fields where dyslexics often thrive - such as designers, film makers, engineers, architects, artists, craftsmen, technicians, scientists, computer graphic artists and specialists in scientific information visualization - those who process and communicate information visually and graphically (using the most advanced technologies) rather than the printed words and numbers that are central to traditional education. We will need to do outreach to occupational groups that include many dyslexics, groups that have learned to fully appreciate the kinds of special talents that many dyslexics have -talents that are seen as especially useful within these groups. (Some have estimated that more than 50 percent of computer graphics artists are dyslexic, while the most talented and creative groups may near 100 percent dyslexic.) Talks and workshops need to be provided for these groups at their own professional conferences and meetings (as well as selected dyslexia meetings). An example of recent developments in links between dyslexia and certain occupations is a study conducted (with National Science Foundation support) by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. As they have noted on their website: ―Could people with dyslexia be predisposed to science? The Laboratory for Visual Learning [at the Center for Astrophysics] is investigating a hypothesis that people with dyslexia, because of differences in neurology, may be predisposed to certain forms of visual processing that are useful in science. We are currently carrying out research to test this hypothesis, specifically looking at how dyslexia affects abilities of astronomers to analyze image-processed data.‖3334 The Harvard-Smithsonian research program could be just the beginning of a whole series of unexpected downstream consequences based on the continuously unfolding computer and Internet revolution. Some of these consequences may have no overt connection with dyslexia but could, in backwards fashion, play to the visual thinking strengths that a great many dyslexics exhibit. In another example, a program called ―Galaxy Zoo‖ is now providing an Internet platform for non-professionals to use their visual talents and capabilities to survey 34 Harvard dyslexia study. See:
  • 231. The Science of Creativity: Neuroaesthetics 219 thousands of newly discovered galaxies and categorize them for later investigation by professional astronomers.3435 In an even more exciting example, a new Internet program called ―Foldit‖ involves understanding and predicting the patterns of folding in proteins - the enormously large and complex molecules that are essential for all life. The interaction of each particular type of protein with its environment is largely determined by the way it rolls itself up or folds itself to take up less space, exposing only part of itself as an outside surface to interact with the outside world (and making pockets within its folds to allow certain chemical reactions to proceed without contact with water which has been squeezed out of the pocket). These days, it not hard to know the exact elements and atoms that make up each protein molecule. But it can be very difficult indeed to figure out how a certain type of protein will fold itself according to certain known physical rules - different parts of the molecule attracting and repelling parts of itself as if it were covered with tiny magnets. The scientists involved in this research realized that computers could not do the job of modeling the folding because it is too complex and would take hundreds of years even with modern super-fast computers. Accordingly, they have devised an online game so that hundreds or thousands of non-professional players might use their human intuition and threedimensional thinking skills to figure out how best to fold the protein according to the given physical rules. The designers hope that the game will help to solve certain scientific puzzles and perhaps lead to new drugs to cure certain diseases. The players are given scores for their achievements. It is intended that their names will be listed in the scientific papers that are produced - and even share in scientific awards such as the Nobel Prize, they say. Of course, the game designers are mainly interested in making discoveries - figuring out how different proteins are most likely to fold themselves. (They also plan to study how people solve the folding problems.) However, when I first heard of the game, I immediately thought that this could be a wonderful test to measure extremely high 3D visualization talent of the kinds we have observed in many dyslexics (and perhaps measure it on a global basis, broadly - and very cheaply!). The game designers and program managers suggest that the field is wide open. One says: ―I imagine there‘s a 12-year-old in Indonesia who can see all this in their head.‖ They say nothing about visually-talented dyslexics, but they are clearly on a similar path. They say that they hope to find ―protein-folding prodigies‖ and they expect to find a different kind of person who will thrive in this new scientific environment.3536 I would not be surprised if they were to discover, in time, that many of their top players could be found to be among the highly creative, 3D visualizing dyslexics that we have been discussing. (Recall that Bill Dreyer at Caltech could see the molecules and instrument parts in his imagination, in his mind‘s eye.) Perhaps, in time, their game could be modified in such a way as to provide an excellent test for these high-level 3D visualization skills. This approach may also be especially valuable because there may be no upper limit as in conventional human-designed tests and measures. In contrast, these tests, based on endlessly complex patterns in nature, rather than puzzles devised by psychologists, could permit the 35 Galaxy Zoo. See: Hannah Hickey, ―Game‘s High Score Could Win the Nobel Prize,‖ Press release, University of Washington, May 8, 2008, p. 2. 36
  • 232. 220 Beverley Steffert identification of high levels of creativity, talent and capability impossible to measure before.3637 The astronomical surveys and the protein folding game may be just the beginning. There might be a long series of new tasks and areas of research where highly visual and highly creative dyslexics (and others more or less like them) will thrive and prosper. As we have observed before, brains that seem ill adapted to one technological context can be superlatively well adapted to a very different technological context. Of course, this is what deep neurological diversity is all about. The child who has struggled the most with conventional academic skills may be perfectly adapted to lead the way with these new and powerful computer visualization technologies. We just need an educational establishment (as well as individuals and families) capable of recognizing and adjusting to such major shifts in what is wanted and what is needed, as our economy and culture change in dramatic ways. In so doing, we may come to see clearly for the first time - and we may hope not to continue our fall back into old and preconceived notions. BIBLIOGRAPHY California Institute of Technology (2005). Interview with William J. Dreyer, February 18, 1999, Caltech Oral History Project, published by Caltech Archives 2005, available as PDF at Everitt, C. W. F. (1983). "Maxwell's Scientific Creativity" in Springs of Scientific Creativity: Essays on Founders of Modern Science. Edited by Rutherford Aris, H. Ted Davis and Roger H. Stuewer. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Florida, R. (2002). The Rise of the Creative Class. New York: Basic Books. Florida, R. (2005). The Flight of the Creative Class: The New Global Competition for Talent. New York: Harper Business. Gray, A. (1973). Lord Kelvin: An Account of His Scientific Life and Work. London: English Men of Science Series, 1908. [Original publisher not given.] (Reprinted, New York: Chelsea Publishing Company, 1973.) Horner, J. and Gorman, J. (2009). How to Build a Dinosaur: Extinction Doesn‘t Have to Be Forever. New York, New York: Dutton. Howard, D. (1987). "Reading Without Letters," in The Cognitive Neuropsychology of Language. Edited by M. Coltheart, R. Job and G. Sartori. London: Lawrence Erlbaum and Associates. Howard, F. (1987). Wilbur and Orville: A Biography of the Wright Brothers. New York: Ballantine Books. Jones, B. (1870). The Life and Letters of Faraday. Volumes I & II. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott and Co. MacDonald, D. K. C. (1964). Faraday, Maxwell and Kelvin. New York; Anchor Books, Doubleday & Company, Inc. McDonald, K. A. (1994). ―The Iconoclastic Fossil Hunter.‖ The Chronicle of Higher Education, Nov. 16, 1994, pp. A9-A17. (Cover Interview.) 37 See:
  • 233.