What is Dyslexia and is it a Superpower?

What is Dyslexia and is it a Superpower?


Everyone has heard of dyslexia, and everyone – maybe without realising it – will know somebody who is dyslexic. Over 6 million people in the UK experience this learning difficulty; some have not yet had a diagnosis, and many will have adjusted to fit in amongst their neurotypical peers. Many dyslexics, like entrepreneur Richard Branson, actress Kiera Knightly and scientist Albert Einstein, will have used it to their advantage. If so many people are dyslexic, why do so many of us know so very little about it?

Let’s start with some clarity. What exactly is dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a genetic (to do with DNA) difference in someone’s cognitive ability to learn, process and remember information. This means it can sometimes occur across generations in a family. For me, I am blessed with a dad, brother and nephew who are dyslexic.

The British Dyslexia Association define dyslexia as, ‘a learning difficulty that primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent reading and spelling’ which occurs across all intellectual abilities and is absolutely not an indicator of poor thinking skills (more about this later!). Dyslexic individuals might also struggle with aspects of co-ordination, language, concentration and personal organisation. It is important to recognise, though, that these things are not indicators of dyslexia but more like accompanying difficulties that some people might also experience.

Dyslexic’s ‘cognitive profile’ (the way their brain works) is uniquely different to those of us who are considered neurotypical and this means that dyslexic people really do think differently. Often, they will find spelling, reading and memorising things quite challenging, but (and this is the pretty cool bit!) due to having such different cognitive profiles, they can have strengths in other areas too.

This is what is now commonly known as, the dyslexic superpower.

In 2010, the British Dyslexia Association reworked their definition of dyslexia, explaining that they now acknowledged, ‘the visual and auditory processing difficulties that some individuals with dyslexia can experience’ and that dyslexic people ‘also have strengths in other areas, such as design, problem solving, creative skills, interactive skills and oral skills.’ 

Despite this change in their definition of dyslexia being thirteen years old, many people are still completely unaware of the brilliance of the dyslexic mind. Fortunately, movements such as Made by Dyslexia have run with this newfound understanding and sought to research and highlight the positives of this neurodivergence.

According to Made by Dyslexia, 75% of dyslexic individuals are above average at a skill called visualising, which involves interacting with space, senses and physical ideas and new concepts. They have also found that 80% of dyslexic individuals are better at connecting, empathising, and influencing others.

And if you needed any further persuasion that dyslexia is quickly becoming something that is to be positively embraced, ‘Dyslexic Thinking’ has been added to the popular professional networking platform, LinkedIn, as a professional skill and to date over 10,000 people have added it to their online professional skillset profile. Modern workplaces need a range of skillsets and dyslexic individuals are seen as being able to bring a lot to the metaphorical (and now often virtual) table.

And that’s not all. New adaptive technologies are in place to support learners through school exams so that they can use their superpowers to full advantage. Adaptive technologies have thankfully improved at a faster rate than the wider understanding of this cognitive superpower, enabling dyslexic thinkers the same access to academic success as their neurotypical counterparts. And about time!

You can find out more about dyslexia from the British Dyslexia Association or join the ‘Dyslexic Thinking’ movement with Made by Dyslexia by taking their free online dyslexia training for parents and teachers.


Holly King-Mand, widely known as the nation’s favourite English teacher, taught thousands of children online during the pandemic and has become both an expert in vibrant online learning and a passionate literacy campaigner. You can find out more about Holly’s Classroom on Instagram, Facebook and at www.hollysclassroom.com