HOMEPAGE www.danieljvance.com

By Daniel J. Vance

Recently I wrote about 60-year-old Dr. Jack Horner of Bozeman, Montana, who as a world famous paleontologist has been the technical adviser for Steve Spielberg's Jurassic Park films and inspiration for the movie's lead character, Dr. Alan Grant.

Horner has dyslexia, which the International Dyslexia Association has defined as a “specific learning disability that is neurological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding.” It affects more than ten percent of Americans.

Horner doesn't have a college degree except for an honorary doctorate he received from the University of Montana, where as a student he flunked seven straight quarters due to his dyslexia.

In the mid-'70s in Montana, Horner discovered a new dinosaur species and was the first person in North America to find a dinosaur egg. Now he's curator of paleontology at the Museum of the Rockies, which has the world's largest Tyrannosaurus rex collection.

Horner said in a telephone interview, “This is the way I explain dyslexia: most people that read fast can scan whole paragraphs or sentences. But dyslexic people read word by word by word, trying to figure out each, and then get to the end of the sentence to figure out what was said. Reading for me takes a long time.”

In his line of work, he often sees having dyslexia as an advantage.

“I know I do a lot of things better than people that read fast,” he said. “For instance, I am very good at synthesizing, which means I can take ideas from different places, put them together and come up with whole new ideas. I have an easy time seeing the big picture and not getting lost in detail, because I really don't have the details (due to not reading much.)”

He said that dyslexia also has forced him to become more hands-on. “For instance, I work with fossils,” he added. “Rather than reading about a fossil and knowing what everyone else knows, I tend to go get my own information. I think that's an advantage. A lot of people that read a lot know what everyone has said. But they don't have their own ideas.”

Horner strongly suggested that parents and teachers should give children with dyslexia more than ample time to complete reading assignments to help them learn.

For more, see danieljvance.com or www.museumoftherockies.org [This column made possible by a grant from Blue Valley Sod, www.bluevalleysod.com]