Famous people with dyslexia – success stories to inspire
salma hayek, keira knightley and tom cruise are some of hollywood’s brightest stars, and they have dyslexia. Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking, Leonardo da Vinci, and Pablo Picasso had some of the greatest minds and talents in history, and they were dyslexics.
Successful entrepreneurs like Richard Branson and Steve Jobs used their dyslexic brains to create multi-million dollar companies, and George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and JFK made an indelible mark on history as Presidents of the United States of America, regardless of their spelling ability.
No matter where you go in the world, you will find people with dyslexia who have achieved success, despite experiencing early difficulties with reading and writing.
That’s because dyslexia is not a disability, but a different way of processing language in the brain. it also comes with positives, such as increased creativity, the ability to see the big picture, and the ease of pulling together material from different subject areas, which translates into sharp problem-solving skills.
For many students, famous Hollywood stars walking the red carpet or political leaders on the penny and dollar bill are not the first numbers that come to mind when they consider dyslexia.
That’s why teaching a lesson about famous people with dyslexia is a great way to promote awareness of specific learning differences in the classroom. it’s also an effective approach to motivating students struggling with dyslexia.
Learn more about supporting students and building positive self-esteem, strengths associated with dyslexia, and motivational quotes about dyslexia in these posts. For tips on how to present a lesson about famous figures who struggle with reading, see the activities section below.
more on dyslexia
It is estimated that 1 in 10 people have dyslexia, a specific learning difference that can cause problems breaking spoken language into its parts, which in turn affects reading and spelling skills. it follows that ten percent of famous artists, athletes, and political leaders will also experience language difficulties, even if their dyslexia is not the focus.
No two people with dyslexia are alike, and symptoms can vary greatly in severity. When dyslexia is mild, a student may simply need to work harder than their peers to acquire decoding and encoding skills. in severe cases, reading and spelling can be completely disrupted if strategic interventions and appropriate accommodations are not implemented. dyslexia is not a disease and dyslexic people are not less intelligent than others. they just handle language differently. Unfortunately, public education is not always prepared to serve dyslexic students. When a child starts school, he or she will learn to read. however, at a certain point, the focus in school shifts from learning to read to reading to learn.
If dyslexia gets in the way of language comprehension and production, it can have a huge impact on learning and performance and cause an intelligent and enthusiastic student to experience feelings of low self-esteem and low confidence. actress keira knightley often talks about being 5 years old and proudly reading books in front of her class at school. she assumed that she was the first of her group of her from her elementary school, until she was given a book that had not been read to her and she realized that she had memorized her words and could not read anything.
The more students learn about successful people who share experiences they can relate to, the more likely they are to see their learning difference in a more positive light. Knightley also talks about learning to read using movie scripts given to her by her parents with the promise that if she could read them, she could audition for the part.
Historical figures with dyslexia
einstein was a nobel prize winning theoretical physicist who developed the theory of relativity and the famous equation e=mc2. Einstein was well known for his brilliance in math and physics, but he also had difficulties with language, leading some people to suggest that he might have had dyslexia. he had an extreme speech delay and did not speak fluently until he was 6 years old. Einstein also had trouble expressing his thoughts, regaining language, and reading aloud, all hallmarks of dyslexia. His contributions to the field demonstrated his unique and novel approach to problem solving, which is one of the strengths associated with dyslexia.
washington was the first president of the united states and was also thought to be dyslexic. he was told that he had problems with written language, including an inconsistent approach to spelling in his personal documents; in one example he wrote ‘clothes’ for ‘clothes’. he too made grammatical errors and generally had difficulty expressing himself in writing. It is worth noting that Washington is not the only US president. uu. who is suspected of having dyslexia. thomas jefferson, abraham lincoln and jfk are also on the list!
leonardo da vinci
This Mona Lisa Renaissance engineer, mathematician, architect, inventor, and painter often wrote in an inverse mirror image. he also had inconsistent spelling in his notes, which some people have suggested points to dyslexia. Additionally, da Vinci was a creative genius and original thinker of the highest caliber, qualities commonly associated with dyslexia.
Picasso, the famous Spanish artist and sculptor whose paintings now sell for millions and millions, notoriously struggled with reading in school. it was said that he had difficulty seeing letters properly and could not read. however, he also had a keen sense of space, and more advanced visuospatial ability is often found in dyslexia.
celebrities with dyslexia
tom cruise, the famous actor from mission impossible speaks openly about the struggles he experienced due to his dyslexia. Cruise claims that he was functionally illiterate when he graduated from high school and even had trouble reading scripts early in his career. He has said that his dyslexia was something he felt he had to hide at school but has since learned to accept and overcome thanks to strategic interventions.
keira knightley, the actress famous for her role in the pirates of the caribbean movies, pride & Prejudice and Atonement has spoken extensively to the media about her difficulties learning to read. She was diagnosed with dyslexia when she was six years old and it is said that she first practiced reading with the sense and sensibility script. jamie oliver, the British chef whose cookbooks, cooking shows and restaurants are loved around the world, was diagnosed with dyslexia at a young age and had to overcome many challenges in learning to read. He now actively talks about his own experiences and the positive traits he associates with dyslexia, including his creative talents and his keen business sense.
whoopi goldberg, the comedian and star of movies like sister act and jumpin’ jack flash has dyslexia. she also has an oscar award, a grammy and an emmy! Because she didn’t find out that she was dyslexic until later in her life, whoopi spent her early years thinking that she wasn’t good at school.
john lennon, the lead singer of the beatles and author of some of the most famous songs ever broadcast on the radio, had dyslexia. he struggled with reading and spelling in school, but did well in subjects where he could express his creativity. gwen stefani, undoubtedly the former lead singer turned independent artist, designer and choreographer, has dyslexia and earned a bachelor of art in college despite the difficulties she experienced with reading and writing. writing. The singer-songwriter jewel has also been very open about her insecurities about poor performance in school due to learning difficulties.
richard branson is often cited as an example of the power of the dyslexic brain when it comes to entrepreneurship. Branson is the CEO of Virgin. Another famous figure who has attributed some of his success to dyslexia is Academy Award-winning director Steven Spielberg.
Salma Hayek is a Mexican-American actress who has starred in films such as Desperado and Frida. she was diagnosed with dyslexia in childhood and she has spoken about the difficulties of coming to the united states and having to master english as a dyslexic student. Ella Hayek has made an interesting comment that she may take longer to read the scripts than her co-stars, but she only needs to read them once to understand them.
orlando bloom has dyslexia and is not the only member of the hobbit cast to struggle with reading. liv tyler also has dyslexia, as does his father, musician aerosmith stephen tyler.
noel gallagher, one of the lead singers of the british alternative rock band oasis, struggled with mild dyslexia as a child, which he discusses in his autobiography. he found the spelling particularly difficult.
Jennifer Aniston is a celebrity who was not diagnosed with dyslexia until later in life. she has spoken about the difficulty she had in remembering facts and how this slowed down her learning and made her think that she was “bad” at school and “not smart”. a paragraph while the doctors observed her fixations with an eye-tracker.
steve jobs, the founder of apple had both dyslexia and giftedness. this is more common than you might think and describes people who experience difficulty learning to read and spell, but also perform high on intelligence tests. Read more about giftedness in this article.
dyslexia can co-exist with other specific learning differences, such as attention deficit disorder or motor skills difficulties, and it’s not the only problem affecting famous celebrities. Harry Potter star David Radcliffe struggles with dyspraxia, and Justin Timberlake, Serena Williams and Justin Bieber have ADHD. Learn more about attention disorders and self-esteem.
5 activities for students
Choose a Celebrity and Prepare a Poster Presentation Have students select a famous person with dyslexia and present about their life. if you have a large class, you can also give them the opportunity to expand the list first. encourage students to choose someone they feel they can relate to, whether it be because of their athletic and/or creative ability, the impact dyslexia has had on their lives, or the movies they have acted in. ask students to learn five facts about that person and make a short oral presentation, accompanied by a poster board with pictures that represent different aspects of the person’s life and character.
discuss the qualities that the people on the list share put the name of a famous person on the board and draw a circle around it. As a group, list that individual’s character traits as bubbles coming out of the main circle. then see if you can add more people, connecting them based on things they have in common. for example, you may find that creativity, persistence in the face of difficulty, or trying new ways to approach a problem are things that actors, mathematicians, and artists have in common. you can use this to start a conversation about the strengths that come with dyslexia.
create a sample of inspirational quotes ask students to google interviews conducted by the people on the list. these can be in the form of videos or radio clips or they can be written quotes from newspaper articles. type and print citations. Then cut and paste onto brightly colored paper to create a display of quote tiles that represent different perspectives on dyslexia. You can also have students provide an illustration to accompany the quotes. putting this in the hallway or other high traffic space at school is a great way to promote dyslexia awareness.
play make a table in word in which you put the person’s name in one column and a brief description of their life in another. print them out and cut them out and then put them in an envelope. have students work in groups to match the person to the description by arranging the papers on their desk. You can also play charades where everyone has to represent a famous person from the list and the class has to guess who they are. a third game is to add more celebrity names and famous figures to the list. Include some who have dyslexia and some who don’t, and then ask students to guess who they think the people with dyslexia are.
make connections have students choose three names from a hat and then decide which of the famous people they selected they feel they have the most in common with. students should then chat with their neighbor and discuss why they chose certain celebrities over others and come back together as a larger group to share something relatable about the individual’s story.
You can do these activities with small groups where all students have dyslexia or in mixed classes to promote awareness and understanding of dyslexia in the school community. When working one-on-one with a student, consider developing an imaginary interview script that gives them the opportunity to act like a famous person and explain dyslexia in their own words. this can help provide perspective and give the student an opportunity to explore dyslexia-related thoughts and emotions in a safe space.
touch reading and spelling
For students struggling with dyslexia, one of the most important factors in helping them reach their full potential is providing opportunities for success. touch-type read and spell is a multisensory touch-type writing program designed for dyslexic learners. Not only does it teach typing skills in a dyslexia-friendly way, it also builds confidence and self-esteem as well as literacy skills.
In this way, students can take advantage of computer adaptations in the classroom and improve spelling and reading skills. Being dyslexia friendly, it is highly effective for others who experience a wide range of learning difficulties and differences.
typing transforms spelling into a series of keystrokes. The TTRs course also uses an Orton-Gillingham-based approach to guide users through a phonics program, carefully hidden within structured typing exercises.
Learn more about the benefits of touch typing for students with dyslexia.