The Power of Dyslexic Thinking
Dyslexic thinking is a hot topic, especially among schools serving students with dyslexia and related language-based learning differences. It has also made a splash on LinkedIn and is now recognized, rightfully so, as a skill set. Swift School alumna Kirsten Green views dyslexia as an advantage and described it beautifully when she recalled a conversation.
“Someone once told me that the learning curve for the dyslexic brain is much like stringing lights on a Christmas tree,” she said. “You have those strings of light that turn on the instant you plug them in, and then there are also strands that require you to turn on a few light bulbs before the string of lights click on.”
What happens after the initial set of lights turn on in her analogy?
Kirsten continued: “When you finish and step back, you might notice that some strands are much brighter than others. The bright bunches make up the talents that dyslexic individuals naturally use to overcompensate for those dimmer bunches that require more attention and patience to turn on. In my experience, in addition to natural talents, the hard work and perseverance that remediation took became an advantage in the workplace.”
When discussing dyslexia, Kirsten, who is the daughter of Swift Board of Trustees member John Green, uses the word difference, not disability, and credits Swift School with helping her understand how dyslexia affected her. Kirsten enrolled at Swift School in third grade in 2005. At the time, the school occupied an old church building. Kirsten arrived after being placed in “special education” reading classes in public school, which pulled her away from her peers and singled her out.
Kirsten was quite the artist and athlete at Swift and relished being the “tomboy” of the class during her first year. She gained confidence throughout her Swift School tenure and gave kudos to her teachers for impacting her in multiple ways.
For starters, Kirsten suffered from sleep anxiety in fourth grade, which affected her behavior and social anxiety in the classroom setting.
“I will never forget the kindness of my fourth grade teacher,” she noted. “In granting permission to bring a stuffed animal to class and even call my mom as needed, she created a safe space that allowed me to continue progressing socially and academically.”
In her final year at Swift, Kirsten enjoyed having Mrs. Cherry as her teacher in a classroom that combined fifth and sixth graders. The hot topic of the school year was cursive, and although Mrs. Cherry encouraged all students to attempt it, she chose to devote her focus to each student's strengths.
Kirsten stated: “While we were still encouraged to learn the dying art of cursive, she made an effort to take notice of our individual strengths and help build confidence around the part of our Christmas tree-like dyslexia brains shined the brightest. What I remember most was receiving recognition from Mrs. Cherry for my artistic eye. She gave me the opportunity to partake in hands-on learning and be in charge of the ideas and production of her bulletin boards for each month's corresponding holiday, science, or history lesson.”
Kirsten left Swift in 2009 and transitioned schools before enrolling at Blessed Trinity Catholic High School in 2011. Following graduation from Blessed Trinity, she moved to Florida for four years at Florida State University. Today, she works as a Senior Designer for a digital advertising agency in New York City.
She believes that her dyslexia diagnosis has helped her succeed in the workplace, but she never refers to dyslexia as a disability. Instead, she chooses to shine a positive light on the brain difference.
“[I place a big] emphasis on difference,” she said. “I often explain to others that being dyslexic is not a disability but a different way of putting together and processing what is in front of you. It is my different way of thinking and creative problem-solving that makes me so good at what I do.”
Almost 15 years after the conclusion of her Swift experience, she offered an important piece of advice to Swift's current students. “Keep trying new things,” she stated. “The interests I had when I was young ebbed and flowed, but at the end of the day, I made a career out of those that continued to hold my attention throughout periods of my life.”
Click below to see how Swift School can help your child be successful academically and in life. For nearly 25 years, success with dyslexia has happened because of Swift School.