The Gift of Dyslexia

Mr J Hipkin, Head of SfL at Felsted

‘Young and Dyslexic? You’ve got it going on’ is an autobiographical article written by the poet Benjamin Zephaniah.  Students at Felsted study this article as part of the GCSE English syllabus and are encouraged to muse on Zephaniah’s circuitous journey from his school days through to his appointment as Professor of Poetry at Brunel University and beyond.

Zephaniah learns to turn dyslexia to his advantage, realising that he sees the world more creatively, reflecting that ‘we are the architects, we are the designers’. He thinks in pictures rather than words and is able to conjure up powerful poems and stories that fascinate his readers with their originality and insight. 

A common thread between Zephaniah, Richard Branson and Jamie Oliver is the diagnosis of dyslexia. Branson sees dyslexia as a gift and explains how it helps in the outside world as he ‘can see things clearer than other people’. 

Oliver says that dyslexia enables him to see problems differently and that ‘sometimes, when it requires a load of stuff to be done, I just do it. It’s like I’m a massive, 10-tonne boulder rolling down the hill’. Ronald Davis, author of ‘The Gift of Dyslexia’, believes that dyslexia provides greater awareness of the environment, engenders greater curiosity and allows heightened intuition and insight.

Zephaniah concludes by encouraging dyslexic students to ‘use it to your advantage’. What would dyslexics Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci and Thomas Edison have said on the matter I wonder?