Finding The Balance – sculpture and dyslexia

Roger is a positive, intelligent, happy and fun-loving 9-year-old, creative, athletic and energetic. However, he is not doing well, and his school reports say he is inattentive and disruptive in class.

The year is 1957; the family is in England. Roger attends a private school run by an eccentric principal where sport is encouraged, and Roger excels. However, academically the report card paints a different picture. Roger’s father can’t understand why, despite every opportunity, his grades, especially for reading and writing, are so low.

‘I just felt that the world didn’t make sense to me, so I must be dumb.’

This pattern continues back home in Australia, and Roger’s father concludes that the boy is stupid. So begins a struggle for Roger that results in his leaving school before Year 12 and taking up a hairdressing apprenticeship. His family thinks hairdressing is something he can do as he cuts his hair well. However, he soon escapes this tedium, teaches himself to play guitar, forms a band and lives the late 1960’s lifestyle of ‘sex, drugs and rock-and-roll.’ The music and the freedom of life on the road are exhilarating, but the drugs are a way of masking his deeply held feelings of inadequacy. His father rejects his achievements, refusing to recognise that in fact, Roger has done everything expected of him by becoming an entrepreneur, a self-made man.

‘Fear is a lack of knowledge.’

Roger, now in his forties, is still struggling to read and comprehend when he comes across the word ‘dyslexia.’ Why persist with reading when it is so difficult for him? He feels he has to understand what his problem is and dyslexic people learn to be very persistent. Finally being able to name the difficulties he has encountered with education reassure him that he is not stupid at all but has a genetic condition. The definition of dyslexia explains everything about his problems with school and adapting to the conventional world.

Now dyslexia is recognised as a learning difference. It is not a disease but an inability to convert written letters and words to their corresponding sounds and vice versa. The range of dyslexia, from mild to severe is as unique as the person affected. Those with this learning difference are still intelligent and can learn, albeit in a different way. Dyslexia Australia has estimated that about 10% of the population has some form of dyslexia. It is also gender specific with boys being up to three times more likely to have it than girls. However, those with dyslexia often have enquiring minds and are problem solvers. They think in creative ways, are often very insightful and good at comprehending new ideas. Interestingly, they have the ability to think easily in three dimensions.

Roger demonstrates his ability to think in three dimensions and to sort patterns in his head with his music and his other passion, sculpture. He assembles pieces of steel, wood or rock and balances them, locking the pieces together without mechanical intervention. He finds that his sculpture, his music, and his life incorporate improvisation as a core feature.

‘I am an improviser – I had to trust my intuition so much, it became a way of life.’

Like many with dyslexia he spent years feeling different, isolated, and with low self-esteem. He understands the direction of his life now and why intuition and improvisation are so much part of it. Intuition, as defined by Francis P. Cholle in ‘Psychology Today,’1 is a process ‘that gives us the ability to know something directly without analytic reasoning, bridging the gap between the conscious and non-conscious parts of our mind, and also between instinct and reason.’

Being dyslexic made Roger solve so many problems alone, being unable to comprehend written instructions meant his intuition lead the way. We all improvise at times, but when the written word is too obscure for you, intuition has to take over.  He explains it this way, ‘I am an improviser – I had to trust my intuition so much, it became a way of life.’

There are many famous people who are dyslexic:

  • Steven Spielberg – Film director
  •  Bill Gates – founder of Microsoft
  • Henry Winkler – Actor
  • Pablo Picasso – Painter
  • Richard Branson – Entrepreneur

Their insights and achievements are a result of being unable to fit into the conventional academic mould expected by their schooling.

Roger’s sculptures and his music are created largely through the intuitive process; finding the best fit. This balancing is a great metaphor for his life; having to rely on intuition so much because of his dyslexia and fitting into society. He is a great example of a person who has chosen to embrace the positive aspects of his difference. Without it, he would not be the person he is today.