Monday, 4 June 2012

Dyslexia, Dyspraxia Amblyopia and Muggles

They don't get it do they? I mean the normals, or should I say muggles.
Of course there can be many causes for dyslexia, dyspraxia and amblyopia (inherited one eye dominance) but many of you who are afflicted already know what I am going to write about.

We think differently.

It's not a gradualist thing. You can't be a little bit dyslexic. There is an absolute difference between the way you think and the way other people think.

Most of you will be struggling through life trying to figure out why you don't fit in, why everybody thinks you're a little bit strange. I couldn't figure it out either. Muggles just can't see things that are obvious.
Astonishingly, it was impossible to find any research on the subject. There is lots of research telling you how to identify dyslexia and dyspraxia, but none on why people are dyslexic or dyspraxic or why the brain rejects the other, perfectly functional eye.

I have a theory.

It's to do with the fact that we have a different cognition. We perceive the world in a different way. DDA's (I don't want to have to keep repeating that phrase) see the world in patterns not straight lines, and the muggles can't get their head around that whether they are teachers, psychologists, or medical people.

Amblyopia is the easiest to explain.

The optometrists will tell you that it's a crippling disability. That is absolute nonsense. Adolf Galland, a World War II fighter ace and general with 104 confirmed kills was amblyopic. I think most people would agree that if you can shoot down 104 aircraft in combat your eyesight is not holding you back, yet optometrists try to convince parents and children that they are functionally disabled if the other eye  doesn't work.

They never ask the fundamental, and very obvious question, why does the brain switch the other eye off.

The answer is  in 3D perception.

I didn't realise I had freaky 3-D perception until I studied geology at University. Geological mapping involves interpreting very complex two-dimensional geological maps in three dimensions. In your first year class at university you spend hours doing cross sections drawing maps and learning to visualise in 3-D. I couldn't figure out what all the fuss was about. Could everyone just see it?

At last a lecturer saw me working, picked up what I was doing, and gave me a map. I was asked to point out where was the best place to drill for oil on an anticline (a complex geological structure). I just pointed with my finger 'there'. It was as simple as that. Everyone else was studying maps, drawing cross sections and doing calculations. I could just visualise the whole thing in my head - no problem at all.

The lecturer then asked me if I was amblyopic and told me that this ability to take a 2-D object and visualise it was common, if not normal in amblyopic's.

I had the clue.

Amblyopic's turn off the other eye because they don't need it for 3-D perception. The brain has learned in childhood to convert 2-D to 3-D.

Stereo vision has its advantages. It enables you to calculate very fine changes in angle and is particularly good at detecting fine changes in angular momentum. What that means is that gives you the ability to calculate the speed of an object travelling towards you. It's not necessary for 3-D interpretation. Stereo vision also makes it difficult to estimate large changes in angle and the estimation of distance.
As a child and teenager I used to play sports and no one could figure out how I could hit the impossible shots in tennis where the ball is crossing from left to right but couldn't hit the ball was coming straight for me.

The difficult was easy and easy was difficult.

Again the optometrists will tell you that it's impossible from amblyopic to play tennis. It was not that couldn't play tennis, but rather I played in a completely different way from everybody else. Fortunately unlike many people I didn't have an optometrist to tell me that I couldn't play tennis.

The 3-D cognition fundamentally affects the way we perceive the world. Dyslexics usually have some fault in their vision, they compensate by a different cognition. A surprisingly large number of talented artists are dyslexic. They see patterns other people don't.

I also suffer from ideational dyspraxia. Again, according to the theory, I should not be able to dance. The reality is am a very good dancer - but I excel at the skill that most dancers find very difficult. I'm a confident, natural and easy improviser.

That's not the way it looked in my first dance class. I was hopeless. In fact I am still hopeless when I'm trying to learn any set routine or steps, which is how dancers are generally taught.

It wasn't that I couldn't dance, it was the people were  trying to teach me to a dance like a muggle.
Improvisation in music and dance is about seeing the patterns in the music and anticipating when they're going to change. It's a rare skill. There is a qualitative difference between people who can play by ear and those who read sheet music. They might be equally skilled in the use of a musical instrument, but there is a huge difference in how they perceive and recognise musical structure.

Of course you can be taught musical theory, but for small group of us "hearing the music" is purely intuitive process. I suspect that most talented improvisational jazz and blues musicians are dyslexic or dyspraxic in the way many visual artists are.

I'd love to hear comments on this from dyslexics and dyspraxic's :-) and from dance teachers who are baffled by those dancers who have very good musical awareness but can't follow steps.
And if you are a psychologist, I would like your input too.

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