Sep 022014

The cliché seems to be that dyslexics are hopeless at organization, but this is actually very far from the truth. People with dyslexic tendencies (or who are simply highly gifted- the two often overlap) are frequently capable of maintaining complicated and highly effective organizational systems; these systems simply don’t look the way non-dyslexic people tend to think organizational systems should look. In fact, genuinely poor organization on the part of a dyslexic person often results from an attempt to impose a “standard” organizational system on a dyslexic brain. If you have ever said “I just cleaned my office/room/desk/garage and now I can’t find anything” then you may know what I mean.

A functional dyslexic organizational system tends to be far more spatially oriented and multi-dimensional than the typical, one-dimensional, filing system. Do you remember that professor from college who had an office filled with stacks of books and papers that looked like an incomprehensible mess but could lay his hand on whatever he wanted instantly? If so, you have likely seen a highly functional dyslexic organizational system.

Think of a typical filing system; it uses one dimension, which might be alphabetical, chronological, etc. Now think of those graphs from Algebra with the X and Y axes; those are two dimensional. Now add a Z axis to make it three dimensional. And now, realize that a dyslexic organizational system could have even more dimensions than that. As an example, imagine the horizontal direction in an office/desk/ etc. represents function, the distance from a given point represents the frequency of use, the vertical distance away from the 3ft level represents chronology, the offset from being square to the room represents the likely importance, and sightlines represent connections between functions. To most people it will look like a huge mess even though it more highly functional, for the dyslexic, than any standard system.

Thus, be aware that the appearance of organization is not necessarily the substance. Judge your students’ organizational skills by the results rather than the resemblance to a typical filing system.

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