REVIEWED BY NUMBERDYSLEXIA’S EXPERT PANEL ON SEPTEMBER 08, 2022
The biggest challenge dyslexics deal with is the difficulty in reading, spelling, and writing. These skills are of primary importance to excel in academics as the school curriculum is totally dependent on them. However, this difficulty should not stop them from excelling in life because they are blessed with several other traits which neurotypical individuals are not endowed with. C
Finding a career path that aligns with their strengths is crucial for being successful in life. Many career options make great choices for people with dyslexia. Some of them are designing, sports, performing arts, hospitality, fashion, etc.
If you’re wondering if engineering can be a viable career option for people with dyslexia, go through this write-up as we are going to discuss if dyslexia and engineering blend well together and whether dyslexic individuals can consider building a career in engineering.
Is there a link between dyslexia and engineering? What do studies say?
Engineering is a field that celebrates diversity and acknowledges the strengths of different minds. To excel in engineering, you simply don’t need to be good in academics. In fact, a host of other skills are necessary to be a successful engineer.
A study named “The Value of Dyslexia” studies the different skills possessed by dyslexics. It reported that dyslexics who were a part of the study showed exceptional skills in complex problem-solving, creativity, visualization, people management, logical reasoning, critical thinking, and programming. All of these are essential for engineering.
The founder of NoticeAbility, a non-profit organization supporting dyslexic students, also agrees with these findings. While addressing the audience in his TedX talk, he pointed out that dyslexics can perform well in four vocational paths – engineering, entrepreneurship, arts, and architecture.
Can dyslexics be good engineers?
The World Economic Forum shared ten job skills that will be critical and in demand in the future. Interestingly, the most relevant skills are intellectually possessed by dyslexic individuals. These are also the key skills that employers look out for in engineers.
So, let’s see which skills make dyslexics stand out in the crowd.
1. Complex Problem-Solving Skills
Complex problem-solving skills are the most desired skill in the current and future job market. And luckily, dyslexics are born with excellent problem-solving skills. In the realms of engineering, problem-solving means finding a problem, analyzing it by breaking it down into smaller chunks, and devising a solution to fix the problem. Engineers who possess advanced problem-solving skills are in high demand. Therefore, the problem-solving skills of dyslexics can make them good candidates for engineering.
We usually consider engineers as people having high technical knowledge in their area of expertise. Though this is true, besides being good at technical know-how, engineers must also be creative. Creativity is essential to make or invent something new. It is also necessary to find new and innovative ways to make existing processes better, cheaper, or faster than before. Successful engineers with exceptional creativity are flexible thinkers who come up with innovative ideas and solutions using their knowledge and training.
As dyslexics are highly creative individuals as found in a cross-cultural study, they can make good use of it in any stream of engineering.
3. Critical Thinking Abilities
Critical thinking is the ability to analyze, synthesize and evaluate information to find the best solution to a problem. Critical thinking is important for problem-solving. Engineers face a lot of complex issues which can be dealt with by thinking critically about the subject.
As critical thinking can’t be improved overnight, the need for exceptional critical thinkers is high. Therefore, dyslexics with good critical thinking abilities have a competitive edge over other individuals.
4. Reasoning Skills
Reasoning ability is the process of logically evaluating a situation before arriving at a conclusion. Good reasoning is one of the key skills engineers must possess. However, a person’s reasoning ability is often influenced by critical thinking, experience, and emotions.
As dyslexics are good at looking at the bigger picture, they can identify trends and patterns more clearly, helping them reason better than other individuals.
5. People Management Skills
Dyslexics are good at people management. They are empathetic and compassionate with high emotional intelligence. These are great personal skills one must have in order to communicate well and connect with others. Teamwork is extremely important for engineers. They not only work with their team members but also with people from other teams to work in collaboration to get the desired result.
6. Spatial Visualization and Awareness
When neurotypical person sees a cube, they can visualize it from the same angle they have seen it. But dyslexics have strong spatial visualization skills and spatial awareness that allows them to visualize the cube from different perspectives. This skill is a unique capability of dyslexic individuals. It is a priceless possession that is highly regarded in engineering, especially in civil and mechanical engineering. An engineer requires strong spatial visualization skills to create and interpret 2D and 3D drawings. They may design bridges or machines which need high spatial intelligence to work things out.
What challenges do dyslexics face in engineering?
The main challenge dyslexic individuals face in engineering or any other field is the lack of self-esteem and self-confidence. Once a person overcomes these, other challenges become easier to handle.
While the difficulties vary according to the field of engineering a person is in, let’s talk about the challenges in software engineering as it is the most sought-after field. Dyslexia may affect a person’s ability to write effectively by bringing up constant syntax errors and typos, though these errors are nowadays automatically taken care of by the compiler. They may also need a longer time to understand a problem.
Other challenges could be time management, lower attention span, and more time required to learn things effectively.
Though there are some challenges, it does not mean that dyslexics cannot overcome them. Integrating the right strategies at the workplace can make things more manageable. Using white-boarding, syntax highlighting, choosing an Integrated Development Environment, and creating mental models to problem solve are a few ways dyslexics can work efficiently in the field of engineering.
Every person has their share of strengths and weaknesses. It doesn’t matter if a person is neurotypical or neurodivergent. What’s more important is how a person works around their shortcomings to shine through the strengths they’re blessed with.
Studies have revealed that dyslexic individuals do possess a lot of skills that are necessary to be a good engineer. The number of dyslexic engineers is estimated to be between 20% – 30%. How can we forget the contributions of many dyslexics like Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, and Steve Jobs, who have supported the development of engineering over these years?
So, don’t let your dyslexia hold you down if you think you have it in you! With the right approach and efforts, you can become a successful engineer.
- Kapoula, Z. and Vernet, M. “Dyslexia, Education and Creativity, a cross-cultural study”, in Kapoula, Z., and Vernet, M., Aesthetics, and Neuroscience, Springer 2016