Are Dyslexics More Entrepreneurial?by Viatcheslav Wlassoff, PhD | June 20, 2018
Dyslexia is rather common: it is estimated that around 5-10% of individuals are dyslexic. Despite an apparent disability, some are famous, like Tom Cruise or Richard Branson. Obviously, they do not suffer from a lack of intelligence and are, in fact, quite successful in the business world. So what is going on in their brains? Are they developing some compensatory mechanisms that help them to do things better?
Epidemiological research studies indicate that dyslexics develop coping strategies to compensate for their weaknesses, which helps them in later life. The resilience that they acquire while in school often helps them to be more successful in developing a business, in being an entrepreneur.
Statistics show that there are twice more dyslexics among entrepreneurs when compared to the general population. However, dyslexics are uncommon in higher management. They also tend to have a different business management style. Thus, they do better in startups and are better at handling particular types of businesses.
Dyslexia is usually first identified when a child goes to school and struggles with scrambled text. Dyslexic children have difficulty in reading texts, interpreting them, and explaining the meaning of the text to others, even though they can be very intelligent otherwise. Dyslexia often results in poor academic performance, undue pressure, and psychological trauma. Each dyslexic child needs to learn to cope with these challenges.
Although dyslexic children are as intelligent as their peers at school, they are often labeled as less capable. Children with dyslexia are often targets of bullying in school. Poor self-image at school often leads to worsening of self-esteem in many of these kids. As helping dyslexic children is not easy, they are often left to themselves.
What’s going on in the dyslexic brain? Neurological basis of dyslexia
As a common disorder, dyslexia is the subject of multiple studies. Researchers agree that those living with dyslexia may have differences in the brain relative to non-dyslexic children, and these differences are the subject of intense clinical research. The recent explosion in brain imaging technology is helping us gain a deeper understanding of the matter.
The neurological theory of dyslexia is one of the earliest. The theory was proposed about a century ago when British physicians Morgan and Hinshelwood described dyslexia as a “visual word blindness.”
The study of adults living with brain trauma in the left parietal region demonstrated that many of these people develop reading difficulties. They find it challenging to process the optical image of letters. Thus, the early theory was that those with dyslexia have developmental defects in the parietal region of the brain.
Left parietal involvement was also somewhat confirmed during pathological examination of the brains of those who died at an earlier age and were known to be dyslexic.
Another important theory focuses on delayed brain lateralization in dyslexia. It is thought that some people have weak or insufficient brain lateralization that hinders the understanding of languages. This theory was the subject of multiple studies in the second half of last century.
The latest research into the neurophysiology of those living with dyslexia seems to indicate that dyslexia is phonological in nature: dyslexics have difficulty in manipulating the phoneme parts of speech. It is possible that there are developmental issues in the visual tract or other visual mechanisms in the brain may be contributing to the difficulty.
Apart from defects in a specific subsystem of the vision pathway, researchers think that there are other brain developmental issues involved as well. It is entirely possible that people with dyslexia have temporal processing impairment, and therefore they are not able to process information fast enough. Thus, dyslexia is considered the result of multi-system deficits
Dyslexia is probably the result of deficits in the brain at multiple levels. There is an impaired phoneme discrimination resulting in difficulty in understanding spelling. Visual perceptual impairment leads to further worsening of word recognition, and phonological awareness impairment causes speech disturbances. In the center of all this is delayed temporal processing. The end result is delayed speech development, difficulties in reading and comprehending texts, and poor academic performance.
What makes a dyslexic a successful person?
From Leonardo da Vinci to Einstein, children with learning disabilities prove that there is a limited link between disability and intelligence. Children with dyslexia are at least equally intelligent to non-dyslexic children.
The higher success of individuals with dyslexia in certain professions is probably the result of resilience or compensatory mechanisms that they cultivate during the school days to overcome their difficulties.
Some of these kids may develop better skills for interacting with others. They may focus more on specific arts or sciences. Many of them may not concentrate on studies and instead start doing business at an early age. This means that they can be found in any profession, and in the long run they are equally successful.
The compensatory mechanisms developed at a young age may provide an edge over others in specific areas when the children grow up. Even though dyslexics may score poorly in school, they may outscore other children in practical life since they spend more time perfecting their verbal skills.
As an entrepreneur, dyslexics are known to be good at delegating tasks, they are excellent mentors, and they are often creative. All of these qualities usually make them more successful entrepreneurs, though they may not be that good in roles where there is less space for creativity.
Achieving success with dyslexia is perhaps about learning different skills, mastering different approaches to solving the tasks, and developing strategies to compensate for certain limitations.
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Locke, R., Scallan, S., Mann, R., & Alexander, G. (2015) Clinicians with dyslexia: a systematic review of effects and strategies. The Clinical Teacher, 12(6), 394–398. 10.1111/tct.12331
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Logan, J. (2018) Analysis of the incidence of dyslexia in entrepreneurs and its implications.
Toffalini, E., Pezzuti, L., & Cornoldi, C. (2017) Einstein and dyslexia: Is giftedness more frequent in children with a specific learning disorder than in typically developing children? Intelligence, 62, 175–179. 10.1016/j.intell.2017.04.006
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