What Is Dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a learning disorder that specifically affects a person’s ability to work with words, whether that means reading, writing, spelling, speaking, or comprehending what they’ve read.
What Do Dyslexic People See When They Read?
While dyslexic people all have some degree of difficulty with reading, they experience it in many different ways. Some people see words in reverse order, backwards, or outright completely out of order. Others might be able to see individual letters, but can’t put them together in a word or pronounce them. What makes it interesting is that dyslexic people are able to see images and non-verbal objects normally.
To get a better idea, you can check out this simulation of what some kinds of dyslexia look like.
Can Dyslexic People Read?
Dyslexia comes in a variety of forms. In general, most dyslexic people can read, but they’ll struggle with it.
Are Dyslexic People Smart?
They certainly can be! Despite their limited ability to read, people with dyslexia have otherwise unaffected intelligence. Dyslexia isn’t an intellectual disability; it’s a learning disability.
How Common Is Dyslexia?
Dyslexia afflicts between 3 and 7 percent of the population, and an even greater proportion may have milder symptoms of it.
Celebrities With Dyslexia
10. Richard Branson - The Billionaire Eccentric
Eccentric billionaire Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, has never shied away from talking about his dyslexia. He’s even said that the condition made him who he is, attributing his ability to delegate tasks and think out of the box to the struggles he faced with dyslexia. In an interview with Forbes, he said, “I will try things that are seemingly impossible and then try to make that impossibility possible. That may come from my dyslexia.”
9. Walt Disney - The Children’s Storyteller
It’s fascinating to learn that Walt Disney, a master storyteller and founder of a great entertainment empire, may have been dyslexic. He’d dropped out of high school and had been rejected from the army when he first started working in animation, and he later started his own studio.
8. Jennifer Aniston - The Rom-Com Queen
From Friends to Bruce Almighty, Jennifer Aniston’s onscreen career is remarkable. She’s been on Forbes Top-Earning Actresses list for 17 consecutive years and has a net worth of over $200 million. All of this has happened despite a late dyslexia diagnosis in her 20s. “Now I had this great discovery. I felt like all of my childhood trauma-dies, tragedies, dramas were explained,” she told Hollywood Reporter in an interview about her life after the diagnosis.
7. Tom Cruise - The Action Hero
Tom Cruise is one of the most bankable actors in Hollywood. His films have grossed over $8.2 billion worldwide, and he continues to churn out action-packed masterpieces like Edge of Tomorrow and the Mission Impossible films. He was able to achieve all of this even in spite of his dyslexia. Talking about his childhood experiences with dyslexia he said, “I would go blank, feel anxious, nervous, bored, frustrated, dumb. I would get angry. My legs would actually hurt when I was studying.”
6. Henry Winkler - The Fonz
The Fonz. Gene Cousineau on Barry. Multiple Daytime and Primetime Emmy awards. Henry Winkler’s television life is certainly a charmed one, which is in sharp contrast to his early life where he felt “stupid” and was often blamed for being lazy. When he finally learned at the age of 31 that he had dyslexia, it was a relief: “...I found out I wasn't stupid, that I wasn't lazy — that I had something with a name.”
5. Jay Leno - The Master Talk Show Host
Talk-show host Jay Leno is known for his charming on-screen persona which has ultimately landed him a spot in the Television Hall of Fame. What’s interesting to note, is that this success might not be despite his dyslexia, but actually because of it. In an interview with CNBC, Leno said, “My mother always said to me, since I was dyslexic, ‘You’re going to have to work twice as hard as the other kids to get the same thing.’ I said, ‘OK. That seems fair.’ And I did work twice as hard to get the same thing.” His work ethic definitely paid off!
4. Jim Carrey - The Funny Man
Jim Carrey has warmed hearts and evoked laughter in a massive roster of emotional films, two of which brought him Golden Globes. It’s a great outcome for a man who had a hard time in school due to undiagnosed dyslexia.
3. John Irving - Bestselling Author
Writer John Irving has written a variety of bestselling novels, many of which have made their way to the silver screen. He even took home the 1999 Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. All of this happened despite his teachers calling him ‘lazy’ and ‘stupid’ while he grew up. But his dyslexia wasn’t so much a crutch as it was a tool to help him in his writing.
“One reason I have confidence in writing the kind of novels I write is that I have confidence in my stamina to go over something again and again no matter how difficult it is—whether it is for the fourth or fifth or eighth time. It’s an ability to push myself and not be lazy. This is something that I would ascribe to the difficulties I had to overcome at an early age.”
2. Steven Spielberg - A Master Filmmaker
Steven Spielberg has created some of the finest films of the modern era, and has shown himself to be a master of uplifting storytelling often told through a child’s eyes. His childhood wasn’t as happy as E.T. or The Goonies, though—Spielberg was bullied as a child, learned how to read two years late, and dropped out of university. “I never felt like a victim,” he told disability advocate Quinn Bradlee. “Movies kind of saved me from shame…from putting it on myself, from making it my burden when it wasn’t.” He didn’t know that he had dyslexia until he was in his 50s!
1. Whoopi Goldberg - The Legendary Performer
Whoopi Goldberg is one of the few people who’ve achieved EGOT status – she has won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony Award, all for individual performances. She’s one of the greatest performers of our time, yet she was called stupid as a child, and was diagnosed with dyslexia after dropping out of school. However, she believes that the condition actually helped her with her work: “The advantage of dyslexia is that my brain puts information in my head in a different way.”
These famous dyslexics have overcome their disabilities and have even harnessed them to improve their lives and achieve success. They’re shining beacons of hope for anyone who suffers from dyslexia or other disabilities, showing that they don’t have to be defined by what holds them back.