There have been much research into possible links between dyslexia and genius and it continues to be ongoing, but it is clear that no child with dyslexia is precluded from being a genius. Leonardo da Vinci is an example. We cannot know for sure whether or not he was dyslexic, but from studying the material he left, it is certain that the letters in his notes emulate what can be a sign of dyslexia; all his letters are reversed. As we all know, this certainly didn’t stop him from having brilliant ideas. Indeed, some research argues that it may have been his dyslexic ability that was a major factor that contributed to his gift for visualizing his ideas in such detail, and recreating them in his drawings so vividly.
Autism is something that most people are unfamiliar with and unless you have encountered it yourself. It is a myriad of conditions, in which a child can also have what are known as islets of ability. These islets are very special indeed and make the rest of our ability pale into insignificance in the kinds of creativity they often display. If you are unfamiliar with the kind of things I am driving at, you may recall the film Rainman starring Dustin Hoffman, whose character had a fantastic ability in mathematics that enabled him to work out in his head the odds of winning in casino games. This kind of thing is not impossible for children or adults with autism.
From a very young age, the world-famous artist Steven Wiltshire was not only able to draw, but also produced sketches which commanded a complete understanding of perspective, architecture and dimension – a maturity in ability that otherwise can take years to develop to the degree of accuracy exhibited in his work. Tending to mix these high levels of creative ability with difficulty in being able to form empathy with others, the condition remains a perplexing one. However, research to date suggests that genius and autism are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, not all children with autism are comfortable around lots of people they are unfamiliar with, as is the scenario with a summer school programme, the children with autism I have known have handled it very well, and attended programmes voluntarily. It all depends on the individual child. So if your child does have autism, depending upon how comfortable they feel around other people, enrichment programmes are definitely worth exploring. Early childhood educational programs may also be beneficial to some degree.
It is quite clear that the guidance given here on children with special educational needs can only be general, it is not intended to be otherwise, and cannot replace a specific diagnosis of your child’s abilities. The key point to be note is that while there is much research still to be done, there are clearly some huge areas of potential overlap between what might be construed as genius and children with special educational needs.
If your child is attending a special school, find out if the school is aware of the full range of your child’s gifts that you have discovered. Parent’s evenings are the best time to do this as you, your child and teachers are all present, creating the opportunity for open and positive discussion.
Remember that teachers are there to help and advise, and are with your child five days a week. Working together you have a better chance of coming up with a winning plan for your child’s success. Are there any other factors that you need to take into consideration that may be helping or blocking your child’s performances at school, for instance, relationships with peers and teachers. Once you and your child are happy that no stone has been left unturned, and that you have worked out a good plan of action with your school, set a date to review how the plan is going and/or make any adjustments at that time.