The International Dyslexia Association defines dyslexia as a learning disability that impairs a person’s ability to read, write and spell. Some dyslexics experience other symptoms such as trouble comprehending math, poor coordination or vision problems. Dyslexia is manageable and doesn’t have to hinder success in life, and this is clearly proven by the stories of famous, accomplished dyslexics who overcame their learning challenges and became household names through their achievements and talents. Here are five incredible examples.
1. Charles Schwab
With a net worth of $3 billion dollars, few people would debate Charles Schwab’s success. He graduated from Stanford with an economics degree and started what was to become one of the world’s leading brokerage and banking companies. What most people don’t know is that he is dyslexic. He struggled at Stanford and reportedly flunked English twice. When recalling his attempt to memorize passages from Chaucer, he claims that he couldn’t even get past four words. Schwab wasn’t diagnosed until the age of 40. He explains that his experience with dyslexia led him to develop other capabilities. His advice to others, including dyslexics, is to focus on what you do well and work twice as hard.
2. Steven Spielberg
Unquestionably one of the most successful directors in Hollywood, Steven Spielberg has battled dyslexia his entire life, but he didn’t gain an official diagnosis until 2007. Spielberg credits his parents’ unwavering support for his endurance through his school years and says that he never felt like a victim. He turned his dyslexia into a creative advantage by working elements of himself into his characters. Although it may take him twice as long as others to read a script, he considers it a pleasurable experience to be savoured and not just something to get through.
3. Bruce Jenner
Gold medal winner Bruce Jenner describes his dyslexia as his greatest gift. Diagnosed at a young age, Jenner felt that he needed to excel at sports to set himself apart from others. He has been an Olympian, an actor, an author and an entrepreneur. Now a motivational speaker, he spreads his positive message to dyslexic children and their parents. Jenner is also the host of the documentary “Demystifying Dyslexia,” which explains the use of modern learning techniques and tools for dyslexic students.
4. Whoopie Goldberg
Only a few people have received an Oscar, a Tony, an Emmy and a Grammy award, and Whoopie Goldberg is one of them. She has played roles in more than 150 films. Goldberg has also enjoyed success as a singer, songwriter, comedienne, talk show and radio host, political activist and author. Looking at her amazing success and popularity, it is hard to believe that as a child, she considered herself abnormally slow. She wasn’t slow; she was dyslexic. Fortunately, her strength of character and extraordinary talent helped her pull through the difficult years of her youth and fulfill her dreams. Goldberg’s big break, her role in “The Color Purple,” was given to her by fellow dyslexic Steven Spielberg.
5. Henry Winkler
Best known as “the Fonz,” his character on the show “Happy Days,” Henry Winkler boasts a 30-year successful career in acting, directing and producing. You’d never suspect that he carries memories of a childhood filled of struggle and self-doubt due to undiagnosed dyslexia. Although his desire to be an actor developed early in life, he was unable to participate in school plays because of low grades. Despite his learning difficulties, he persevered and crafted the career he dreamed of, often improvising lines or inserting his own jokes into the scripts he struggled to read. His sheer talent hid his weaknesses easily. Winkler was diagnosed with dyslexia at the age of 31. He is now the author of a series of successful children’s books in which the hero, Hank Zipzer, has dyslexia. Winkler claims that the books’ characters are often based on his own memories.
Adversity as a Tool
Given the impressive achievements of so many famous dyslexics, it’s easy to see why some people refer to their dyslexia as a gift. A condition that presents challenges also bestows excellent coping and problem-solving skills that serve as valuable adjuncts to traditional education. With increased awareness of the condition, better teaching techniques, emotional support and exposure to positive role models, today’s dyslexic children have every reason to believe they can fulfill their dreams and enjoy the best life has to offer.