Dyslexia Does Not Define Success (Part 1)

Oxford dictionary defines dyslexia as “A general term for disorders that involve difficulty in learning to read or interpret words, letters, and other symbols, but that do not affect general intelligence.”

With this stated, and knowing dyslexia does NOT affect general intelligence, there still seems to be this common belief out there that, when someone struggles with reading in school, they simply won’t go far in life. Many are even led to believe that if they just tried harder, they would easily be able to read. I do believe that everyone can learn to read. It does, however, need to be approached in the specific manner that works for the individual. I do NOT believe any individual gets behind in reading because of a lack of motivation for learning to read.

This post is part of a 3-part series discussing people that I find to be incredibly inspirational. Each of these individuals have had huge struggles with reading in their younger years. Some still do, yet they each went on to achieve tremendous success. I hope you are also inspired by these individuals and come to also believe that a lack of success in school does not have to mean a lack of success in life!

Successful People with Dyslexia

Steven Spielberg:

Steven Spielberg dyslexia

Yes, the famous Hollywood filmmaker Steven Spielberg was diagnosed with dyslexia in 2007 at the age of 60. He was at least 2 years behind the rest of his class in reading as a child. He admits to writing The Goonies because he himself “was a member of the Goon Squad.” A few other Spielberg movies include E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Jaws, Saving Private Ryan, and Lincoln.

Spielberg admits that he dreaded going to school. He feared that he would be called on to read in front of the class. Some of his teachers believed he was just lazy, but this definitely was not the case! If you wish to check out a video interview in which Spielberg talks about this, you can watch him being interviewed by Quinn Bradlee, another individual diagnosed with learning differences, here.

Catherine Drennan, MIT Professor:

strands of dna Catherine Drennan dyslexia

Catherine Drennan was diagnosed with dyslexia between the first and second grade. At the time, her parents were told to prepare themselves because she likely wouldn’t graduate from high school with the severity of her dyslexia. Drennan went on to read in a way that worked for her, her second time through 6th grade.

Catherine has memorized shapes of words and reads words by shape. She now uses her dyslexia as a strength in her career as a biology and chemistry professor at MIT. I encourage you to watch this video if you are interested in hearing Catherine talk about her dyslexia and how she eventually learned to read and overcome. Catherine also wrote the foreword for the book Dyslexia is My Superpower (Most of the Time).

Les Brown, Radio DJ, Author and Motivational Speaker:

dj microphone - Les Brown labelled "mentally retarded"

While I don’t believe dyslexia has been an official diagnosis for Les Brown, he does discuss having been diagnosed as “mentally retarded” and staying in that category throughout his middle and high school years. Les also discusses overcoming and having had his life changed by the words of a high school teacher. The teacher reinforced to Brown that “Someone’s opinion of you does not have to become your reality!”

I highly recommend watching this video in which Les Brown talks about overcoming and achieving all he knows today. It is truly inspirational for anyone, regardless of whether or not you’ve ever experienced challenges with learning!

Les Brown has also authored a few books. They are Live Your Dreams, Laws of Success: 12 Laws that Turn Dreams Into Reality and It’s Not Over Until You Win: How to Become the Person You Always Wanted to Be No Matter What the Obstacle.

Jamie Oliver, British Chef:

Jamie Oliver restaurant sign - dyslexia

In school, Jamie Oliver was part of a special education class with only 5 students due to his dyslexia. I believe it is fair to say that he did not allow this to hold him back in any way.

My favorite quote from Jamie is “There’s different types of intelligence and everyone has the ability to be brilliant.”

If you are interested in hearing Jamie Oliver speak about his dyslexia and his strengths, please watch this video. Another quote from the video is, “You could be good at something very simple and turn it into a life’s work that you enjoy, that makes you want to get out of bed with a spark in your eye.”

Jamie Oliver has written a number of cookbooks, including 5 Ingredients: Quick and Easy Food, Jamie’s Food Revolution: Rediscover How to Cook Simple, Delicious, Affordable Meals and Jamie Oliver’s Meals in Minutes: A Revolutionary Approach to Cooking Good Food Fast.

In Summary

I hope you find these individuals as inspiring as I do! Each has achieved and overcome a lot in life despite difficulties with reading! If you enjoyed this post, please be sure to also check out Part 2 and Part 3 where I share even more individuals with dyslexia who have not let the diagnosis or struggles with reading hold them back.

Do You Have a Struggling Reader in Your Life?

If you have a struggling reader in your life and would like to know more about what may be at the root of the reading struggle so you can better help your child work through it, please watch the video I’ve created here. The video costs is free for anyone to watch. There is a paid offer at the end of it, but it isn’t a requirement. Either way, there is a lot of valuable information within the video, such as separating various types of dyslexia and breaking down characteristics of each.

Dyslexia Does Not Define Success

Has dyslexia impacted your life in any way? Please share by commenting below or email me at contact@sherrymlee.com.

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    1. Thank you so much for reading it! I definitely believe it is time to change the stigma around people with dyslexia. 🙂

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