These 7 Celebrities Showcase the Importance of Dyslexia Testing
From actors to entrepreneurs, theoretical physicists and sculptors.
If a child struggles reading, teachers and guardians alike will suggest undergoing dyslexia testing. However, it wasn’t always so simple. The celebrities below faced their own struggles when it came to their own diagnoses. As famous figures in the public eye, they are more than appropriate for making young people aware of how you can utilise dyslexia to your advantage. Yet, to do that, they should test for dyslexia. Whilst you might think that dyslexia testing is akin to a typical test, which implies your results are being compared and graded. In which case, evaluation might be a more accurate description.
Either way, one thing is clear from these famous figures below.
Besides undergoing some form of dyslexia testing, they each had stable emotional support. Perhaps they didn’t, at first – given the era and their background – but their eventual support network did encourage them. Nowadays, the prevalence of dyslexia is estimated to affect 5-20% of the population. However, if you have dyslexia, your problems can go way beyond reading, writing and spelling. You might struggle with organisation. You might struggle with sequencing your thoughts or ideas; with maths or coordination. Your eyes might feel strained a lot of the time, or you might struggle to concentrate.
But you are not alone.
To find the most effective teaching strategies, an educational psychologist needs to see you. Such professionals will be able to identify the problem early via dyslexia testing. Before they do, take a look at some of the famous faces below and see whether they share any similarities with your current predicament. You might be surprised. You could well have more in common with them than you first thought!
Here are some tell-tale signs of dyslexia.
Confused by letters, numbers, words, sequences, or verbal explanations
Complains of feeling or seeing non-existent movement while reading, writing, or copying
Extremely keen sighted and observant, or lacks depth perception and peripheral vision
Poor memory for sequences, facts and information that has not been experienced
Strong sense of justice; emotionally sensitive; strives for perfection
Trouble with writing or copying; pencil grip is unusual; handwriting varies or is illegible
Looking for dyslexia testing in Australia? If so, contact Educational Assessments. We carry out cognitive assessments across Australia. These can help isolate and determine whether you or your loved one are struggling with something in particular. Our team also offer home visits to assess your needs in an environment you’re comfortable in.
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Sir Richard Branson
English entrepreneur and business magnate
Sir Richard Branson is often cited as an example of the power of the dyslexic brain when it comes to entrepreneurship. Now a billionaire entrepreneur, Branson struggled in school and dropped out at age 16. However, his childhood struggles with dyslexia saw him acquire adaptive thinking skills.
“It is time we lost the stigma around dyslexia. It is not a disadvantage; it is merely a different way of thinking.”
Having left school, Branson got to work. Yet, whilst his entrepreneurial projects started in the music industry they soon expanded into other sectors.
“Once freed from archaic schooling practices and preconceptions, my mind opened up. Out in the real world, my dyslexia became my massive advantage: it helped me to think creatively and laterally, and see solutions where others saw problems.”
Branson says dyslexia testing and what he describes as “a different way of thinking” have helped him succeed. The Virgin Group founder has launched more than 400 companies, including a record label and airline. Now, Sir Richard Branson is estimated to be worth over £3 billion.
German-born theoretical physicist
One of the most influential physicists in history – who shaped the ways we think of the world today – might have been dyslexic. Synonymous with intelligence and wit, Albert Einstein developed the laws of relativity and won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921. Yet, whilst Einstein was well known for his brilliance in maths and physics, he struggled with language difficulties. He had delayed speech and didn’t speak fluently until he was 6 years old.
“Nothing would become of the boy.” (or so his teachers believed!)
Yet, as a child and teenager, Einstein showed signs of brilliance and creativity in his interests in geometry. But Einstein had problems getting his thoughts down. Throughout the years, he described writing as being a “difficult” task in which he communicated “very badly.” This, coupled with finding the right words and reading out loud are all characteristic signs of dyslexia. However, he never received dyslexia testing.
“Words or language, as they are written or spoken, do not seem to play any role in my mechanism of thought,” he wrote to mathematician Jacques Hadamard in 1945.
Nonetheless, the scientist pressed on in his studies. So much so that his contributions to his field demonstrated a unique and novel approach to problem-solving. It was this unconventional thinking that discovered the most famous mathematical equation of all time.
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”
American actress, author comedian, political activist and television personality
Comedian, political activist, but more recently talk show host, Whoopi is one of only a handful of people to win an Oscar, a Grammy, a Tony and an Emmy. But had you met her as a kid, you wouldn’t have known she would be capable of such an impressive feat. Back then, she was named Caryn, and class bullies called her “stupid.” Yet, the multi-talented Goldberg didn’t even find out she had dyslexia until well after she dropped out of school. When Goldberg underwent dyslexia testing and discovered the reason for her difficulties stemmed from her dyslexia and not from a lack of trying, she was relieved.
“Back in the old days, they just assumed you were lazy and stupid,” Goldberg said. “The thing that crushed me more than anything was: I didn’t understand how they didn’t see I was smart, I just couldn’t figure things the way they were doing it.”
Fortunately, Goldberg’s mother had told her long before leaving school not to listen to her class bullies. Yet, whilst her mother knew something was amiss with Goldberg’s learning habits, dyslexia wasn’t as widely known back then. Without the dyslexia testing that exists today, her mother had a difficult time understanding what was making her daughter struggle.
“I think it’s less challenging now because we have some idea about it, but I think the challenge will always be: How do we see ourselves? Not as folks with a handicap, but as folks with an interesting perspective.”
Through her journey, she used dyslexia to bolster her imagination and creativity. Goldberg’s since explored films and characters that take her to other periods or even galaxies. Now, Goldberg is among a coveted group of only 20 who have received an Emmy, Grammy, Tony and Oscar award — and she thanks dyslexia for having a “large hand” in getting her where she is today.
Keira Knightley OBE
After Keira Knightley underwent dyslexia testing and was diagnosed when she was six years old, her parents used her love of acting to help motivate her to read. It was Emma Thompson’s screenplay of Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility” that helped the actress immeasurably.
“My mum got me a copy of the screenplay Emma had written,” Knightley told The Guardian. “And I was – am – dyslexic, and the way she got me over it was to say: ‘If Emma Thompson couldn’t read, she’d make sure she’d get over it, so you have to start reading because that’s what Emma Thompson would do.’”
Yet, dyslexia was both the carrot and the stick for this British-born Academy Award nominee. She was eager to please as getting good grades earned her time on stage. Behind the scenes, though, some classmates were just as eager to tease.
“It’s amazing what a child calling you stupid would do to make you read pretty quickly.”
Still, Knightley struck a deal with her parents that if she worked on her reading every day, they would agree to hire her an agent. Knightley made good on her half of the bargain, using scripts to practice reading. She was soon cast and gained widespread recognition in 2002 after co-starring in the film Bend It Like Beckham. Soon after, she achieved international fame in the Pirates of the Caribbean film series as Elizabeth Swann. Since then, she has become one of Hollywood’s highest-earning actresses.
French-based Spanish painter, ceramicist, printmaker, sculptor and theatre designer.
Pablo Picasso was one of the most prolific and creative artists of the 20th Century. Yet many believe these literal and artistic takeaways were the result of dyslexia. Although his paintings now sell for millions, he notoriously struggled with reading in school.
“Reading blind” was a term applied to Picasso as a young student and was meant to help explain his difficulties in reading.
Picasso grew up struggling to make sense of letters and numbers. Yet, he had a keen sense of space and more advanced visual-spatial ability often found in those with dyslexia.
“I paint objects as I think them, not as I see them”.
Through cubism and other works, Picasso often flipped objects around, backwards or out of order. Many considered this to be his artistic vision. But to the painter, he was showing the world the impact dyslexia had on his talent. It was his different viewpoint in life that gave him the unique perspective needed to create some of the most famous works of art in the world.
American actress, author and producer
Before Octavia Spencer was an Oscar-winning actress, she was a young girl growing up in small-town Alabama. Spencer can vividly recall how scared she was when asked to read aloud in class as a child.
“I was paralyzed with fear because I kept inverting words and dropping words. I didn’t want to be made to feel that I was not as smart as the other kids — because I know that I am a smart person.”
As time went on, the support of Spencer’s mother and her school helped her recognize other talents in herself. Talents that distinguished her from many of her classmates. Talents that eventually placed her into her school’s gifted program.
“I just remember thinking differently. I could solve puzzles quicker than the average child. I would start with the mazes at the end and go to the front and be done in – like – 30 seconds. My deductive reasoning was very important.”
In addition to becoming one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, Spencer has written two books — a fact she’s very proud of. Despite this, she is still affected by her dyslexia. However, she stresses that dyslexia shouldn’t prevent kids from pursuing their dreams.
“It doesn’t really mean that you’re not intelligent — it just means that your brain functions differently.”
Henry Winkler OBE
American actor, author, comedian, director and executive producer
On Happy Days, Henry Winkler played “The Fonz” – a role so iconic his character’s jacket now hangs in the Smithsonian Institution. Yet, whilst the actor is most known for this suave portrayal, he wasn’t always as confident as his character might have seemed. Prone to improvising on set, Winkler later confessed his struggles with reading was a big reason for going off-script.
“I learned to memorize as much as I could from any page and then improvise,” he told CBS.
During his time on Happy Days, Winkler underwent dyslexia testing and was diagnosed with dyslexia. However, as a child, not much was known about the condition. So little, in fact, that Winkler’s German-immigrant parents and strict teachers were less-than-supportive of him.
“They had an affectionate phrase for me: Dummer Hund. And for those of you who don’t understand German that means, ‘dumb dog.’ They were convinced that I was lazy, that I was not living up to my potential. Teachers said the same thing. So I was grounded most of my high school career.”
Due to his struggles with dyslexia, he didn’t read his first book until he was 31 — an experience he described as “horrible,” “humiliating,” and “scary.” As he grew into his career, Winkler said he found dyslexia also affected other key things. For example, the physical coordination needed for The Fonz’s signature habit of motorcycle cruising. However, as he grew older Winkler came into his own. Now, a new generation of fans might know him better for co-authoring the best-selling Hank Zipzer children’s series.
“I am an actor, a producer, a director,” he said. “With Lin, we have written 32 novels, and I am in the bottom 3% academically in America.”
Like Winkler, Hank struggles with learning differences but doesn’t let them get in the way of his dreams. Winkler also visits schools to talk about learning differences. To honour his educational work, the Queen of England made him an Honorary Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 2011.
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