Wednesday, July 17, 2013


This story appeared in Mail Online and elsewhere July 13, 2013. Thought you might find it interesting. -- TGWest

Dyslexia is Britain's secret weapon in the spy war: Top codebreakers can crack complex problems because they suffer from the condition

By // Latest News | Dyslexia is Britain's secret weapon in the spy war: Top codebreakers can crack complex problems because they suffer from the condition

GCHQ bosses say those with the disorder see things in codes others do not
  • The Cheltenham-based agency has set up a dyslexia support group 
By Robert Verkaik
PUBLISHED: 18:16 EST, 13 July 2013 | UPDATED: 18:20 EST, 13 July 2013
Many of Britain’s top code-breakers and analysts are able to crack complex problems because they suffer from dyslexia, GCHQ has revealed.
A spokesman for the Government’s top-secret electronic eavesdropping station in Cheltenham said last night that some of their most talented code-breakers have difficulty in learning to read or interpreting words.
But this can actually help them crack codes, as they ‘see’ things those without the disorder do not. 
Cracking: GCHQ, whose headquarters are pictured, revealed that many of their codebreakers can crack problems because they are dyslexic
Cracking: GCHQ, whose headquarters are pictured, revealed that many of their codebreakers can crack problems because they are dyslexic
GCHQ’s army of code-breakers and code-setters play a critical role in the battle to protect Britain from cyber attacks by other states and  criminals, including terrorists.
GCHQ recently found itself at the centre of allegations by US whistleblower Edward Snowden that it had access to the online data of British citizens via US spy agencies. 
Last week MPs on the Commons Intelligence and Security Committee praised steps taken by spy chiefs to harness the skills of dyslexic code-breakers.
The threat to the UK from cyber attacks, according to the report, is at its ‘highest level ever’ and is ‘disturbing’ in its scale  and complexity.
Sufferer: Some of the world's greatest thinkers, including Albert Einstein, pictured, had dyslexia
Sufferer: Some of the world's greatest thinkers, including Albert Einstein, pictured, had dyslexia
The MPs said the Cheltenham-based agency had set up a Dyslexia and Dyspraxia Support Group, which provides ‘mentoring and practical support to individuals’.
A GCHQ spokesman said some of their most talented code-breakers were affected: ‘They are very creative but may need support, including adjustments in the workplace, such as IT tools and computer software, or [reductions] in their working hours.’
In a speech last year, Sir Iain Lobban, the director of GCHQ, said: ‘Part of my job is to attract the very best people and harness their talents, and not allow preconceptions and stereotypes to stifle innovation and agility.’
Adrian Culley, a cyber expert and former Scotland Yard computer crime detective, said: ‘Dyslexic people have the ability of seeing codes with patterns, repetitions and omissions. 
'Dyslexia may in other circumstances be regarded as negative – but most people only get to see the full jigsaw picture when it’s nearly finished while dyslexic cryptographists can see what the jigsaw puzzle looks like with just two pieces.’
Some of the world’s greatest thinkers suffered from dyslexia, including Albert Einstein.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

In Guardian, dyslexia disability or gift?

Hello all, I just saw the op/ed piece in the Guardian newspaper by Sally Gardner, June 24, 2013 (ref. posted in connection with the Arts Dyslexia Trust in the UK), "Dyslexia is not a disability--it's a gift."

There were many comments, pro and con, with many misunderstandings -- and there is much to be said in reply. I will try to deal with most of these in this blog in the near future and I will let you all know more about it here.

One issue at the top: While I am a fan of Steve Jobs and all he has done (while also being aware of his many flaws), I have never seen evidence that he is dyslexic. He was highly visual and highly creative. Many dyslexics fill this partial description, but in most respects he does not fit the dyslexic pattern based on what I have seen.

As many of you know from my books and my many talks over the years, I have made a special study of the distinctive talents among dyslexics -- and there is steadily mounting evidence that the "dyslexic advantage" is real and substantial. More on this soon.

However, of course, most of the educational system certainly is, by definition, rigged to exhibit weaknesses rather than the real strengths (which are largely misunderstood or ignored).

Best wishes to you all -- Thomas G. West, author of In the Mind's Eye and Thinking Like Einstein (and proud founding member of the ADT).