Dyslexia, Last Things, and George Washington’s Teeth


Hello from the land of coughs and colds again!  Will it ever end?

I finished The Dyslexic Advantage and am very glad I read it.

The Dyslexic Advantage: Unlocking the Hidden Potential of the Dyslexic Brain

It helped me to understand my child who struggles with reading and spelling and math facts and not constantly doodling pictures of houses but who is also incredibly insightful and creative.  I don’t know if he truly has dyslexia, but it sounds like there is a spectrum he tends towards.  The authors describe dyslexia as a set of mental trade-offs.  People who have exceptional visual-spatial skills and unusual abilities to visualize the “big picture,” whether in architecture or art or storytelling, do so at the expense of understanding and processing fine details, like phonics.  They go so far as to say that any really excellent engineer, contractor, mechanic, plumber, surgeon, entrepreneur, or even (surprisingly) novelist is almost certain to have had some difficulty learning to read as a kid.  The connection is that strong.

As I was reading the authors’ description of the strengths of dyslexics I was thinking that it sounded like the opposite of autism.  The dyslexic person’s strength is in understanding the big picture; the autistic person’s is in noticing minute details.  Sure enough, they quoted some study that showed in a certain area of the brain that corresponds to detail processing, dyslexic brains have a lot of far-reaching connections and autistic brains have a lot of tight connections.  Both dyslexia and autism are necessary extremes in human development, and the insights people with those different abilities have benefit the rest of us (although I think some people seem to have both–Einstein is one who often gets co-opted by both camps as an example!).  Those with extra abilities compensate for their strengths with certain weaknesses, so the rest of us owe them our help in overcoming their difficulties.

So, give your dyslexic child an extra dose of patience and encouragement when he is learning to read and write.  He just may design your retirement home.  Help your autistic child learn to interact socially, and he might discover some plant extract that cures Alzheimer’s.  Frustrate your child who learns or interacts differently, and you might squelch his spirit and never find out what his gift to the world would have been.

This week the kids and I listened in the car to/ read more from the book as soon as we got home: The Last Battle.

One of my children seemed worried after we finished it.  “So if I believe in God instead of Aslan, will I not get to go to Aslan’s country and have to go to heaven instead?” 🙂

And, in honor of our first president’s birthday (this Saturday Feb 22), we always pull this one out.

George Washington's Teeth

It’s really quite amazing to consider all George Washington accomplished while suffering from constant tooth pain.  This book manages to give a good history of President Washington’s life by describing all the dental difficulties he was experiencing alongside all his military and political victories.  The tooth problems were a significant part of his life (when he sat for this famous portrait, he held cotton in his mouth to mask his toothlessness)

and he apparently died from a dental infection, but the one downside of reading this book many times to our kids is that if you ask them who George Washington is they are most likely to answer, “the one who couldn’t stop eating candy almonds even though his teeth were falling out!”

More book reviews at Jessica’s!


3 thoughts on “Dyslexia, Last Things, and George Washington’s Teeth

  1. housewifespice

    I had the same thoughts re: dyslexia vs. autism. Kudos to you for finishing the whole book. I got bogged down and started skimming after a few of the different types. Now, I want candy almonds!

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