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Doctors flip view of dyslexia

When most people think of the word “dyslexia,” they think of someone who writes letters backward, said Bainbridge Island mom Charlotte Rovelstad.

“Typically, as a parent, you realize your child is not progressing as expected in reading, writing or math, and that’s your entryway into dyslexia,” she said.

That was the case for her when her bright child came home from school discouraged and falling behind.

Rovelstad embarked on a mission to educate herself about dyslexia and in so doing came upon the work of Dr. Brock Eide, and Dr. Fernette Eide.

The Seattle-based doctors, authors of “The Dyslexic Advantage” and “The Mislabeled Child,” cite brain research that turns the common stereotype about dyslexia on its head.

Those who fall under the category of dyslexic are not slow or dumb, they say, but have unique brain structure and organization that processes information in a completely different way than the general population.

The Eides are active members of the International Dyslexia Association and Learning Disabilities Association and serve as board members for SENG (Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted).

The Bainbridge-based Gifts and Challenges Parent Network, the brainchild of Rovelstad and Sally Kidder Davis, invited the Eides to speak at IslandWood. From 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday,

March 21, the Eides will share their findings which are based on scientific studies of the brain, interviews with successful dyslexics and innovative teachers.

In preparation for the talk, Rovelstad put together a display, first in the Bainbridge Public Library’s foyer and now at Eagle Harbor Book Co., that features images of famous people whose dyslexia may not be as well-known. Several presidents, innovators such Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison, and entertainers such as Henry Winkler, Tom Cruise and Whoopi Goldberg, all had trouble in school but went on to establish careers that capitalized on the qualities they possessed.

The Eides outline four strength profiles that categorize the ways in which dyslexic brains process information.

Some are particularly adept at spatial reasoning, others are strong at interconnected reasoning, others connect the dots with narrative reasoning and some reason well when the facts will evolve over time.

“It’s daring to say ‘what if,’” Rovelstad said.

In this case, “What if dyslexia is not a disability but also an advantage?”

“We’re not saying that to have trouble reading early on is not a problem,” Rovelstad said. “But we need to hold two ideas: One is that there are challenges and also that there are advantages to it [having dyslexia].”

Rovelstad’s concern is that mislabeling the way 20 percent of people process information as a pathology can be harmful to their development.

“We are damaging the self-esteem of kids who are our future,” she said. “We’re not understanding what they have to offer.”

Tickets can be purchased in advance through Eventbrite (http://giftsandchallenges.eventbrite.com), at Eagle Harbor Book Co. or at the door. Ticket prices are $10, $30 (with a copy of the book), $35 (with a copy of the audio book) or $15 at the door.

For more information, contact Rovelstad at 206-947-8769 or email giftsand challenges@gmail.com.

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