jennifer aniston
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Jennifer Aniston

Who knew one of America’s best TV Friends has dyslexia? Aniston herself didn’t know until she was in her 20s. She says finding out explained why it was so hard to read back in school and why she chose the role of class clown over teacher’s pet. The diagnosis answered a lot of questions. "I felt like all my childhood trauma-dies, tragedies, dramas, were explained," she told The Hollywood Reporter.

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steven spielberg
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Steven Spielberg

This movie mogul has had his own close encounter with dyslexia, though he didn’t know until he was 60 that he had the disorder. Bullied as a kid, he struggled through school and dropped out of college in 1968. Since then, the famed filmmaker has fought back using the big screen. The Goonies, a cult classic he co-wrote and produced, reflects Spielberg’s teen years as a self-proclaimed “nerd” and “outsider.”

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whoopi goldberg
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Whoopi Goldberg

You wouldn’t have known this outspoken co-host of The View  if you’d met her as a kid. Back then, she was named Caryn, and class bullies called her “stupid.” The multi-talented Goldberg didn’t even find out she had dyslexia until well after she dropped out of school. She’s since earned tons of honors, including one of the rarest combinations of all: an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony Award.

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henry winkler
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Henry Winkler

Best known as “The Fonz” on Happy Days, this actor-turned-author was always one to improvise on the set. Winkler confesses his trouble reading was a big reason for going off-script. He says dyslexia also taught him kindness. You can see that when he talks about Hank Zipzer, “world’s greatest underachiever” and the main character in the children’s books he’s written about dyslexia.

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muhammad ali
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Muhammad Ali

The legendary heavyweight boxing champ may have been able to “float like a butterfly” and “sting like a bee,” but he could barely read. Dyslexia was one of Ali’s first fights. And he proved to be a brilliant wordsmith, quoted around the world. He said, "A man who has no imagination has no wings."

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richard branson
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Richard Branson

The head of his high school predicted this British entrepreneur would end up in prison or become a millionaire. Try billionaire, with a “b,” many times over. Branson says dyslexia 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 recording label and airline. He’s also been knighted by Queen Elizabeth.

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john irving
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John Irving

Wrestling is as much a theme in this author’s life as it is in his novels. Dyslexia has also been a main character. When words were too hard, Irving took to the gym in high school. Wrestling carried him to college, where the writing bug took hold. Since then, book titles have been his claim to fame.

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jay leno
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Jay Leno

The comedian and former host of The Tonight Show says there wasn’t really a name for dyslexia when he was in high school -- everyone just told him to smarten up. It all turned around when a creative writing teacher suggested he put some of the funny stories he was always telling on paper. “That was the first time in my life I really focused on something,” Leno told 60 Minutes.

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danny glover
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Danny Glover

This leading man didn’t get the acting bug until his late 20s, and he didn’t know he was dyslexic until he was 30. Not having a diagnosis back then he felt “unworthy to learn.” But Glover found an escape in acting, which, he says, “gave me a way of expressing some of that inner life that was raging inside of me.”

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keira knightley
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Keira Knightley

Dyslexia was both the carrot and the stick for this British-born Academy Award nominee. Getting good grades earned her time on stage, so she was eager to please. 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,” Knightley recalls. She says dyslexia has made her the actress she is today.

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dyslexia illustration
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Tough to Diagnose

Dyslexia, a learning disorder characterized by difficulty reading, is fairly common. Even so, it was not largely understood until the late 20th century. Even today it can be hard for doctors to diagnose. There are evidence-based treatments which are effective, even for adults with the condition. Given what we know now, many famous people may have had dyslexia, including Leonardo da Vinci, Saint Teresa, Napoleon, Winston Churchill, Carl Jung, Albert Einstein, and Thomas Edison.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 02/15/2017 Reviewed by Sabrina Felson, MD on February 15, 2017

IMAGES PROVIDED BY:

  1. Getty Images - Jon Kopaloff
  2. Getty Images - Jeff Kravitz
  3. Getty Images - Michael Kovac
  4. Getty Images - Michael Buckner
  5. Getty Images - John W. McDonough
  6. Getty Images – Bloomberg
  7. Getty Images - Paul Marotta
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  9. Getty Images - Francois Durand
  10. Getty Images - Tiffany Rose
  11. Getty Images - Gary Waters

SOURCES:

Good Morning America: “Jennifer Aniston Reveals 20-Year Battle With Dyslexia.”

The Hollywood Reporter: “Jennifer Aniston Reveals Struggles With Dyslexia, Anger; Shrugs Off Oscar Snub.”

Friends of Quinn: “Exclusive Video Interview: Steven Spielberg on his Dyslexia.”

IMDB: “The Goonies: Cast And Crew.”

Friends of Quinn: “Founder Quinn Bradlee talks Dyslexia with Whoopi Goldberg.”

The Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity: “Whoopi Goldberg, Comedian, and Award-Winning Actress.”

Chicago Tribune: “'Dyslexia Taught Me Kindness,’ Henry Winkler Says.”

CBS News: “Muhammad Ali’s New Fight: Literacy.”

Entrepreneur: “Richard Branson on Turning a Disadvantage to Your Advantage.”

The Washington Post: “Richard Branson and the Dyslexia Advantage.”

University of New Hampshire Magazine Online: “On Becoming John Irving.”

CBS News: “How Jay Leno Dealt With Dyslexia in High School.”

Ability Magazine: “Actor and Activist, Danny Glover.”

Legacy Educational Resources: “Character Education Articles: Famous People With Dyslexia and Other Learning Disabilities.”

Blakely, G. Black Americans of Achievement: Danny Glover, Chelsea House Publications, 2001.

BBC Radio 4: “Keira Knightley.”

Marshall, A. The Everything Parent’s Guide to Children With Dyslexia, Adams Media, 2004.

Guardiola, J. Anuario de Psicologia/The UB Journal of Psychology, 2001.

Reviewed by Sabrina Felson, MD on February 15, 2017

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

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