Can A Dyslexic Child Excel In STEM?

[Read this article in Malay.]


This is the second part of a write-up on dyslexia published in conjunction with Dyslexia Awareness Month of October.

Read part one: Nurturing Mental Stamina In Dyslexic Children & Youths

“Dyslexic children and youths are often told to pursue the arts, even though deep inside they might be yearning to excel in STEM,” said Dr Aida Abdul Rahman, an expert on dyslexia and inclusion at a recent one-day workshop at Hospital Permai Johor Bahru. According to Dr Aida, dyslexic children are often told, “Since you have difficulty in reading and spelling, you should become an artist, chef and such. STEM isn’t for you.” For the record, Dr Aida herself discovered that she’s dyslexic as an adult.

It is indeed a common misconception that dyslexic individuals should primarily pursue the arts and creative fields due to the challenges they may face in reading and writing. However, it’s essential to recognize that dyslexia should not limit or dictate a child’s career path, especially if they have a genuine passion for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). Dyslexic children and youths, like all individuals, have diverse talents and interests.

While it is true that some dyslexic individuals excel in creative and artistic fields, it is equally true that many possess a strong aptitude for STEM subjects. One example in Malaysia is Dr Ahmad Syahid Ahmad Fawzal a.k.a. Dr Aid Fawzal, engineer extraordinaire. Another example is MIT Professor Catherine Drennan who has spoken about dyslexia and her personal challenges growing up as a dyslexic. Interestingly, both Dr Aid Fawzal and Professor Catherine Drennan made scientific discoveries because they are dyslexic. Meaning, once the reading and writing challenges were managed, they were both able to think and come up with scientific solutions to problems in ways that were not thought about by non-dyslexics. This is known as the dyslexia advantage.

Diverse talents exist among dyslexic children and youths, waiting to be nurtured, developed, discovered. Some considerations:

Diverse Talents

Dyslexia does not affect one’s intelligence or overall cognitive abilities. Dyslexic individuals often exhibit strengths such as problem-solving skills, spatial reasoning, creativity, and a unique perspective that can be valuable in STEM disciplines.

Different Learning Styles

Dyslexic students may require different teaching methods and accommodations to succeed in STEM, but this does not mean they cannot excel. With the right support, including assistive technologies such as speech-to-text and tailored learning approaches, they can perform exceptionally well in STEM subjects.

Resilience and Determination

Dyslexic individuals often develop strong problem-solving and coping skills, as they continually navigate challenges related to reading and writing. These skills can be valuable in STEM, where perseverance and the ability to overcome obstacles are essential.

Role Models

It’s essential for dyslexic children and youths to have role models who have succeeded in STEM fields. Knowing that others have overcome similar challenges can be incredibly motivating.

Individual Choice

Ultimately, it should be the child’s choice to pursue their interests. Parents, educators, and society should support these choices and provide the necessary resources and accommodations to help them succeed.

Early Intervention

Early intervention and support in school can make a significant difference in a dyslexic child’s ability to excel in STEM. Tailored learning plans, accommodations, and understanding teachers can be instrumental in their success.

Stress The Importance of Passion

Regardless of the field, it is essential to emphasize the importance of pursuing one’s passions and interests. When a child is genuinely passionate about a subject, they are more likely to put in the effort required to excel.

To conclude, it is crucial to avoid limiting the aspirations of dyslexic children and youths based on stereotypes or assumptions. While pursuing the arts is a valid and valuable choice, it should not be imposed on them if they have a strong desire to excel in STEM fields. With the right support, accommodations, and a belief in their abilities, dyslexic individuals can thrive in STEM and any other field they are passionate about. It’s essential to empower them to follow their dreams and realize their full potential.

Read part one: Nurturing Mental Stamina In Dyslexic Children & Youths


Featured image courtesy of MART PRODUCTION

About Jamilah Samian

Jamilah has written 543 articles.

Jamilah Samian is an author and speaker.

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