Derived from the Greek words, dys, meaning poor or inadequate, and lexis, meaning words or language, dyslexia is characterised by problems processing words into meaningful information. Most people with dyslexia struggle with reading and spelling due to difficulty 'decoding' letters and words. There is no cure, but with support dyslexic people can thrive.
Can dyslexic people read?
Yes! Dyslexic people just learn differently. So, employing hearing, sight or touch to learn can help to improve reading skills. For example, listening to instructions rather than reading them, or tracing the shape of letters with a finger. Multi-sensory techniques like writing letters in sand or shaving cream can be fun for dyslexic kids, too.
What do dyslexic people see?
It's a myth that people with dyslexia see words backwards and letters and numbers reversed. Instead, they find it tough to recognise phonemes, which are the basic sounds of speech. For dyslexic people, the difficulty lies in making the connection between the sound and letter symbol for that sound, and then blending those sounds into words.
FAMOUS PEOPLE WITH DYSLEXIA
1. Keira Knightley
Diagnosed with dyslexia at six, Academy Award-nominee Keira Knightly battled the learning difficultly by painstakingly reading Emma Thompson's Oscar-winning script for the screen adaptation of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility.
"My mum who worked with her [Emma Thompson] on Sense and Sensibility got me a copy of the screenplay Emma had written.
"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'," Knightley told GQ Magazine.
Interestingly, the Pirates of the Caribbean actor's co-star Orlando Bloom was diagnosed with dyslexia at seven.
"Somewhere in me I knew that I was smart, I knew I wasn’t thick, but I was just really struggling with spelling and writing, and it was holding me back,' Bloom said.
2. Whoopi Goldberg
Despite dropping out of high school, Whoopi Goldberg's won nearly every accolade under the sun - an Emmy, Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony and she just happens to live with dyslexia.
"When I was a kid they didn’t call it dyslexia. They called it you know, you were slow, or you were retarded, or whatever. What you can never change is the effect that the words ‘dumb’ and ‘stupid’ have on young people. I knew I wasn’t stupid, and I knew I wasn’t dumb," Goldberg said.
3. Richard Branson
Billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson credits his dyslexia for his incredible success. “I almost definitely wouldn’t have left school at 15 and I wouldn’t have started a magazine or built Virgin if I had not been dyslexic,' he told Forbes.
“I was hopeless at schoolwork and people didn’t really understand dyslexia then so it was just assumed that I was not bright when it came to academic things,” Branson told Forbes. “Because I was dyslexic I became a really good delegator."
4. Henry Winkler
Best known as 'The Fonz' on TV classic Happy Days, actor Henry Winkler discovered he had dyslexia at 31 when he had his stepson tested for the learning difficulty.
"I went 'Oh my goodness, that's me,' Winkler says. "And so at 31, I found out I wasn't stupid, that I wasn't lazy — that I had something with a name," Winkler told NPR.
Now 73, Winkler has written a best-selling book series with Lin Oliver called Here's Hank about a dyslexic kid named Hank Zipzer. The books draw on Winkler's own experience with dyslexia.
5. Jennifer Aniston
Loveable Friends' actress and rom-com queen Jennifer Aniston's school career was less than successful. “I just couldn’t retain anything,” she told the Hollywood Reporter.
Aniston was diagnosed with dyslexia during a routine eye test in her 20s. "I had to read a paragraph, and they gave me a quiz, gave me 10 questions based on what I’d just read, and I think I got three right. Then they put a computer on my eyes, showing where my eyes went when I read. My eyes would jump four words and go back two words," she said.
The diagnosis answered a lot of questions. "I felt like all my childhood trauma-dies, tragedies, dramas, were explained," she said.
Other notable famous dyslexics include Apple founder Steve Jobs; authors John Irving and Agatha Christie; talk show host, The Tonight Show's Jay Leno; boxing champ Muhammad Ali; activist Erin Brockovich; basketball player Magic Johnson; actors Salma Hayek, Tom Cruise, Keanu Reeves and Jim Carrey; filmmaker Steven Spielberg, singer-songwriter John Lennon, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, Walt Disney and reality TV star Caitlin Jenner.