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I am a big picture thinker (visual spatial) and enjoy abstract maths. However I struggle with sequential tasks and am struggling with programming.

My bad working memory isn't helping either. I heard that good picture thinkers are good at programming in general. I just cannot figure out how to start writing a code etc.

I am extremely frustrated. Have you seen any visual spatial person who are bad at programming? Or is it just me? I feel very devastated and feel like I don't fit in anywhere.

Any tips on how I can improve? Or does my brain just not work in a logical way? My brain is always jumbled up.

If you are a programmer and are dyslexic: What are your weaknesses caused by dyslexia? Are you good at sequential tasks?

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closed as off-topic by Blrfl, Martijn Pieters, gnat, MichaelT, Giorgio Feb 18 at 22:15

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Votes to close? How is overcoming a limitation to be a better programmer career advice? –  JeffO Feb 18 at 12:17
My old boss was dyslexic and the best programmer i've met! –  Daniel Upton Feb 18 at 12:29
Have a look at flow-based programming - it represents the big picture very visually, e.g. noflojs.org (it's JavaScript unfortunately, but you will get the idea). –  Den Feb 18 at 12:48
@JeffO If this happens to get closed, you should post a Meta question about re-opening it. I think your answer here is evidence enough that the question isn't a "career advice" one, and also one that can be answered (in soft. dev. terms). –  Yannis Rizos Feb 18 at 13:30

3 Answers 3

My college degree focused on working with children with learning disabilities (Dyslexia is just one area). People who struggle with this manage to excel in many areas from programming, acting, athletics, politics etc. Because reading is more difficult, there is a tendency to focus on mathematics, but let's not confuse correlation with causation.

Programming can be a better experience not because you don't need memory or sequential skills, but most modern compilers will let you know if something is wrong. Computer languages are more literal than spoken languages (English presents many challenges.). It's not perfect, but more helpful than if you were trying creative writing although spellcheck is a benefit. My poor handwriting was saved by the computer.

What to do? Keep programming. We all develop more fluency in a language the more we use it. Practice task analysis. It doesn't have to be programming. Break down every day activities. How do you make a sandwich? Be detailed. Act like you're explaining it to a child, alien or a computer.

You may want to focus on some areas/languages that would take advantage of your visual special abilities. For databases, SQL uses more set theory than procedures. Functional languages may make more sense to your as well.

If you aren't being frustrated by programming, you aren't attempting something difficult enough. There is no getting around it. Just when you think this is easy, something will come up that will remind you, just like the rest of us, how much more you can learn.

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+1 for suggesting OP study functional languages. Given his statement about big picture and abstract math, this could be his solution. –  Robert Kerr Feb 18 at 12:36
functional might work, but the main problem for a dyslexic person is their inability to quickly and accurately see words and phrases (including code statements). I have several severely dyslexic friends, and while they're great at visualising things, reading and writing (including code) is torture for them. A programming system that uses largely visual tools rather than written code might work better, but in my experience you always end up delving into the source itself even in those tools. –  jwenting Feb 18 at 14:16
@jwenting - I agree, currently there is no way to avoid text code if you want to get into most levels of programming. More people probably get away with writing SQL with a GUI than other programming languages and like you indicated, this would catch up with them eventually. –  JeffO Feb 18 at 15:16

Being dyslexic, you have several things going for you (this from my experience with dyslexic people).

  • you are likely more precise, simply because you are forced to read everything several times before you're certain of what's written.
  • many dyslexic people are very patient (though some can be highly frustrated with themselves for their "slowness").

That said, you also have disadvantages.

  • you tend to confuse similar looking words (including words in source code...) which is bad enough when reading a newspaper, even worse when reading and writing code.
  • you are likely slower because you need more time to read and write code. (this can help as well, as it gives your brain time to think while reading, maybe).

Overall, you might have trouble keeping up with a team when doing programming work. But when and if you can find a place, you may well be a good coder, as there's nothing wrong with your thinking...

If you're spatially oriented, maybe a career as a graphics designer is more your thing. Not everyone has to be a programmer you know :)

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My 'friend' is also mildly dyslexic. He says that the directions left and right are always correct in his head but rarely so when giving directions to others. He also frequently transposes letters when spelling words.

Not such a big deal, a good IDE can be a true aid and the use of visual tools such as UML and the mind map can also be employed as cognitive aids when it comes to planning.

A study by Harrar et al (2004) on the topic of the disorder suggests that playing video games may be therapeutic. The paper is new, so it is costly to acquire unless you have an academic affiliation. You can read a summary here.

Seems ironic, but can it hurt to try?

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