Teaching Fish to Climb Trees

“Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid”
—Albert Einstein

Dear young dyslexic,

Einstein said it far better than I could. Most of us spend our lives like that fish trying to climb a tree and feeling stupid.

I believe the solution to this dilemma is to find our strengths and passions and follow them. Two gifted colleagues, Brock and Fernette Eide (DyslexicAdvantage.org) have spent many years studying the advantages of being dyslexic. As a group we consistently excel in a number of areas. Most of us do not have all of these strengths, so it's important to find your unique pattern.

The Eides have found four unique types of intelligence in which dyslexics excel. They refer to these advantages as MIND strengths.

Material ReasoningThe M stands for Material Reasoning. Material Reasoning is the ability to use visual-spatial relationships in three-dimensional space. Simply put, it is the ability to visualize and manipulate three-dimensional objects in one's mind. This is why so many dyslexics are excellent artists, architects, and engineers.


Interconnected ReasoningThe I stands for Interconnected Reasoning. This is the ability to see how different things and concepts are related to each other. It allows most people to see how things are similar. However for the dyslexic, it often allows them to see unique and undiscovered relationships between diverse concepts. I believe this is one of the keys to creativity.


Narrative ReasoningThe N is Narrative Reasoning. It allows dyslexics to construct a connected series of mental scenes to recall the past, explain the present, or predict the future. In other words, we use stories to understand our world. This helps explain why there are so many gifted authors who are dyslexic. Who would've thunk? Also it allows many dyslexics to remember complex information by putting it into a story. I believe this is partly the reason I can remember thousands of songs but can't remember more than three phone numbers. Somehow songs have always suggested stories to me and while I'm singing them, I'm imagining the story.


Dynamic ReasoningThe D represents Dynamic Reasoning. This type of intelligence is harder to explain. It is the ability to accurately predict past or future states from complex data. In other words, it helps us make real-world predictions based on our observations. It takes many forms. Dyslexic geologists can look at present formations of rocks and visualize what they look like 100 years ago or what they will look like in the thousand years. Many dyslexic entrepreneurs can collect a relatively small amount of information about a business and predict future problems and opportunities.

All in all, these are a remarkable set of abilities. However, you have to understand them and stop trying to climb trees. For the next couple of weeks, stop looking at the things you can't do and observe what you enjoy doing and what seems to come easy. See if these tasks fit into the MIND strengths.

Be well and make a bit of noise,

Dr. Michael Ryan

Dr. Michael Ryan