The 4D Edge

  Neil MacKay Workshop Video Links

4D | For Dyslexia – which also stands for 4 Difference and 4 Diversity – extends the common perception of three dimensions and likens the fourth dimension to a dyslexic/atypical way of thinking that can bring creative gifts.

It embraces a new thinking paradigm, celebrating the kind of creative strengths that will increasingly power up and drive success in a changing and progressively more ICT-led world. From an education perspective, the new teaching paradigm delivers a 4D Edge, celebrating difference and diversity and equipping these students for an exciting future. For dyslexic thinkers who can harness their talents, the brave new world is their world. From this perspective, atypical thinking can become an asset because it can drive extraordinary, out-of-the box solutions.

We know only too well that incorrectly addressed dyslexia can lead to disruptive classroom behaviour and all sorts of social dysfunction – and there is a significant body of international research on this. Neil Mackay also has a powerful take on this, identifying nine steps to ‘creating a criminal’ that schools often unwittingly follow. In New Zealand,  past Principal Youth Court Judge Andrew Becroft has also expressed concern about links between learning difficulties and offending.

Click here to learn more on both of these.

On the flip side, however, the positive strategies and accommodations that drive the new teaching paradigm can empower students to reach new heights. Ultimately, we are working with a vision where dyslexia can become a key driver for creative thinking and produce the kind of innovation and entrepreneurship needed in an ICT-led world, as well as in challenging economic times. Conservative estimates are that one in ten New Zealanders has dyslexia, including 70,000 schoolchildren, so there is huge potential to be harnessed. Click here for more on the population incidence of dyslexia.

Excitingly, the leading edge of international research on dyslexia is focused on the creativity and strengths that this atypical way of thinking can offer. US researcher Tom West is a pioneer in this field, and his area of interest is the special talents of dyslexics. West believes that creative dyslexic individuals may be able to act as “engines for economic development”.

He says that it is time to learn from the distinctive strengths of dyslexics and study how these are important for education and work in a world of radical economic and technological change. Interestingly, West’s views are also perfectly in tune with the key competences of New Zealand’s new National Curriculum.

West predicts that computer visualization 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.

With the rapid spread of less costly but powerful computers, humanity is now at the beginning of a major transition, moving from an old world based mainly on words and numbers to a new world where high-level work in all fields will eventually involve insights based on the display and manipulation of complex information using moving computer images. Graphical computer technologies now permit a return to our visual roots with a new balance between the hemispheres and their respective ways of thinking – presenting new opportunities for problem solving and big-picture thinking.


US expert Sally Shaywitz identifies a range of strengths for dyslexics in higher level thinking processes, high learning capacity, exceptional empathy, and noticeable excellence when focused on highly specialised areas from medicine and law through to public policy, architecture and science. Reflecting these strengths, dyslexics are often high level conceptualizers who manifest “out-of-the-box thinking” and are frequently the ones who provide new insights. For more on this click here.

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. For more on this research click here.

Dyslexic individuals also contribute to business growth and productivity through thinking outside the square, and enlightened employers around the world are now specifically recruiting dyslexics for the creativity and alternative thinking they bring. Check out our 4D Workplace for more on this.

Overall, the 4D Edge offers incredible possibilities for the future, and for ensuring dyslexic students are able to harness their talents to participate to the fullest. This type of 4D thinking, which drives the new teaching paradigm, is also reflected in the Dyslexia Foundation’s revolutionary 4D | 4 Dyslexia programme for schools, which provides guidance on creating a positive learning environment. It includes a comprehensive resource of simple things teachers can do to achieve this, from reviewing seating layouts through to use of new technology.

Back to top

©Copyright Dyslexia Foundation of New Zealand. All rights reserved.
Content may be reproduced with permission of DFNZ, contact