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Simple changes can make a world of difference in living with dyslexia. Often this means adjusting the approach and doing things in ways that suit the dyslexic style of thinking better. More on this is detailed below. 

Firstly, however, it is useful to look at the bigger picture for dyslexia action. We see New Zealand at a crossroads, with a choice as to whether to proceed with a disability mentality that regards dyslexia as part of a problem, or embrace a solutions perspective which sees dyslexia as key creative driver.

As a problem, incorrectly addressed dyslexia can lead to disruptive classroom behaviour, alienation, anti-social behaviour, truancy, depression, suicide, drug use and crime. Overseas, a wealth of government-funded and private research has proven a high correlation between learning difficulties and behaviour problems, often culminating in crime. British, American and Swedish studies all estimate that 30-50% of prisoners are dyslexic and there is no reason to think that the New Zealand incidence would be any different.

In fact, Principal Youth Court Judge Andrew Becroft has identified a ‘route to offending’ which starts with learning difficulties. In June 2009, Judge Becroft said he was “seriously concerned as to the number of young offenders who have slipped through the ‘educational net’ because of undiagnosed learning disabilities, especially dyslexia. Overseas a pathway to eventual offending, originating from undiagnosed and unaddressed dyslexia is well-known”.

His views are in line with those of international dyslexia expert Neil Mackay, who warns many New Zealand schools unwittingly help to ‘create criminals’, starting with putting too much emphasis on reading at the expense of thinking and other core skills. You can read more about these issues in our 4D Edge webspace.

As a solution, properly addressed dyslexia can fuel highly creative thinking and produce the kind of innovation and entrepreneurship needed in an increasingly ICT led world in challenging economic times. Recognising and harnessing the talents and creative strengths of dyslexics thus has the potential to deliver powerful social and economic impacts.

Dyslexia offers the ability to perceive the world from many different perspectives, allowing visual-spatial thinking and special talents and skills to flourish in fields such as the arts, design, leadership, entrepreneurship, engineering, sciences, business and technology. UK research shows that 35% of US entrepreneurs and 20% of UK entrepreneurs are dyslexic – with Sir Richard Branson a famous example.

Entrepreneurs create jobs and wealth, both of which are important to drive economies forward. Dyslexia individuals also contribute to business growth and productivity through thinking outside the square, and enlightened employers around that world are now specifically recruiting dyslexics for the creativity and alternative thinking they bring.

US researcher Tom West, a world-renowned pioneer in the field of dyslexia and business, believes that it is time to learn from the distinctive strengths of dyslexics. He also predicts that computer visualisation technology will radically change the way we all work and think. For thousands of years, writing and reading has tended to promote the dominance of the left hemisphere of the brain, with its linear processing of words and numbers. Graphical computer technologies now permit a return to our visual roots with a balance between the hemispheres and their respective ways of thinking – presenting new opportunities for problem solving and big-picture thinking.

You can read more on Tom West’s research at our 4D Edge webspace .Famous dyslexics who have unlocked their potential include historical figures as diverse as Leonardo Da Vinci, Agatha Christie and John Lennon, and international celebrities such as actors Tom Cruise, Robin Williams, Keira Knightly, Whoopi Goldberg, entrepreneur Richard Branson, supermodel Jerry Hall and celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.

It’s hard to imagine New Zealand without the achievements of dyslexic innovators like Weta Workshop founder Richard Taylor; late maverick motorcycle designer John Britten; boxing coach and motivational speaker Billy Graham; ‘Mad Butcher’ Peter Leitch, book publisher Geoff Blackwell, tenor and motivational speaker Geoff Knight; hair designer Mike Hamel, NZ Body Art Awards creator Mem Bourke, life coach and TV presenter Sian Jaquet or Davis Dyslexia programme facilitator and former international model Kirsteen Britten, Our Inspiring New Zealanders page has more information on the achievements of these and other dyslexic individuals.



Once you’ve recognised and begun to understand the role dyslexia plays in your life or in the life of someone you know, it’s important to take action. Undoubtedly living with dyslexia can be difficult and disillusioning at times, particularly when others don’t seem to understand the way your brain is working. But you’re not alone – at least 10% of the population has dyslexia, and as we have seen, many dyslexic people throughout history have overcome difficulties with basic skills to become pioneers in their field.

Personal responsibility and empowerment are key to taking effective action, and DFNZ encourages and supports all schools, teachers, support staff, parents and dyslexic individuals to act decisively and do whatever they can to make a difference.

For those looking to support dyslexics, DFNZ has developed 4D, a potent overarching framework of websites and programmes offering help and advice for families, schools and employers. The mantra of the 4D programme is ‘notice and adjust’ – notice the way you or people around you are affected by dyslexia, and adjust your teaching/learning/instructional or managerial techniques accordingly.

Significantly, if you get it right for dyslexics, you get it right for everyone. This is because the type of personalised approaches that benefit dyslexic students, family members and employees can also produce constructive results for other non-dyslexic individuals in the same environment. In essence, equity in education and the workplace is not about treating everyone the same – one size does not fit all. Rather it is about acknowledging individual strengths and weaknesses and working with those.  


If you are personally living with dyslexia, it is important to educate the people in your life as to how it affects you on a daily basis. Read as much as you can on this website and our 4D webspaces, or ask a friend to read with/for you. Let your teachers, family and employers know that you have dyslexia, and that you are finding out as much as you can to remove it as a barrier to success. The 4D Workplace website has some specific tips on talking to your employer about dyslexia, and our DFNZ brochure is a great starting point for giving people in your life some insights on dyslexia. Click here to download it.

Tell the people in your life what works for you in terms of instruction and information, and let them know how they can do things differently. Tell them when you get bogged down, confused or stuck – the earlier the better.

Join the DFNZ mailing list or like us on facebook for the latest news and activity around dyslexia in New Zealand.

If your dyslexia is severely affecting your ability to do your job or continue your education, consider contacting one of New Zealand’s solutions and assessment providers for specialised, one-to-one help.

Remember, there are plenty of people both here and overseas who have overcome early difficulties created by dyslexia, and gone on to become leaders and innovators in their chosen field. Our Inspiring New Zealanders page will remind you of the potential that dyslexics can tap into when they draw on their creative strengths.


Our revolutionary 4D Schools programme was launched in September 2008. The programme provides hands on advice and support for New Zealand teachers, applying a ‘notice and adjust’ teaching paradigm to deliver positive classroom changes.

The 4D Schools website provides a list of participating schools: if yours is not yet one, have a read through the information on the website and download our updated 4D Schools Guide V2  to learn about some immediate changes you can make to improve educational outcomes for dyslexic students. Our new 4D Virtual Classroom project also outlines useful changes from the students’ perspective – the insiders’ guide to getting it right for Kiwi kids.


Our 4D Family site offers specific help for parents and siblings looking to make life better for dyslexic family members. It has information on how to recognise dyslexia, the impact it can have, and some easy adjustments to support children’s learning, remove stress and help family life run more smoothly. It also shares some real-life parent perspectives.


With one in ten New Zealanders affected by dyslexia, chances are that most medium to large size businesses will have one or more dyslexic employees. The 4D Workplace website has tips for employers on making the most of the ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking that dyslexic employees can provide, as well as providing solutions to common issues that can arise for dyslexic individuals in the workplace. Again, the focus is on a ‘notice and adjust’ approach – noticing where employees are having difficulty and adjusting your management style and work enviroment accordingly.

As noted above, this site also has valuable information for employees on talking to employers and colleagues about dyslexia, as well as guidance on how workplace performance can be improved.


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