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Dynamic Dyslexics: Leonardo da Vinci

In an effort to help our dyslexic students realize that dyslexia is not just a condition with deficits to overcome, but also comes with many strengths and gifts, we are beginning to profile a series of very successful dyslexic thinkers. Luckily there are many to choose from. We will start with one of the oldest suspected dyslexics in history. The genius, and master of many disciplines, Leonardo da Vinci.

We begin with Leonardo da Vinci. No one can prove that da Vinci was in fact dyslexic. But many things that are known about him, his way of thinking and dyslexia do seem to correlate. Experts on dyslexia like Maryanne Wolf believe that da Vinci was a dyslexic thinker. In an interview with the Smithsonian channel, she says “as a researcher working with hundreds of children and adults with dyslexia, I am convinced that Leonardo da Vinci was dyslexic.” Watch the video below to find out more.

Often when the word dyslexia is spoken, people will automatically think of the deficits that characterize this brain difference, and as we all know it does indeed come with challenges with reading and spelling. But the many gifts that more often than not accompany the dyslexic condition are impressive and deserve more attention.

We know that Leonardo da Vinci was gifted in many ways. A brilliant inventor, scientist, painter, sculptor, architect, mechanical engineer, naturalist, and all around visionary, his innovative thinking led to many theories and many of them have been proven useful centuries later, even when they were not consideredviable or useful while he was still alive. For instance, da Vinci had the idea for the first helicopter, the first diving suit, the first parachute, the first machine gun, he even designed the first workable pair of scissors! Many of his visionary thoughts and predictions were proven to be sound only many years after da Vinci’s death.

This “out of the box” type of thinking is one of the many gifts of the dyslexic mind, which thinks a bit differently due to its unique wiring, and the process of thinking that happens in these special brains occurs through different pathways than in the typical brain. This can give our dyslexic thinkers an advantage in foreseeing how things may work from a different perspective. Evidence of this type of thinking can pop up in the classroom as a dyslexic thinker may be “seeing” a different, often faster or more creative way around a problem than his or her peers and coming up with answers that at first may seem off topic, or they are unable to explain how they got to their answer, when in fact they simply took a different route in their thinking to get to their conclusion.

For more information on the many advantages of having a dyslexic mind, read the book “Dyslexic Advantage” by Brock and Fernette Eide. In their book, the Eides’ termed one of the dyslexic advantages “interconnected reasoning”. This is the ability to perceive or recognize relationships across disciplines. Da Vinci exhibited this gift throughout his life’s work and this unique way of thinking is what gave him the ability to recognize obscure connections and predict unexpected outcomes.

The most obvious use of interconnected reasoning by da Vinci is evident in his work in science and art. Da Vinci had an insatiable curiosity about nature and the way things worked. He conducted many experiments and even dissected several human bodies to learn about anatomy! He used the knowledge that he acquired from his observations and experiments to make his artwork more realistic.

Regardless of if da Vinci was truly dyslexic or not, It is clear that he had a unique mind that made him exceptional. His life’s work could be an incredible inspiration for our dyslexic thinkers!


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