Over 40 million people in American suffer from dyslexia. Dyslexia is defined as a language-based disability that affects a person’s “ability to read, write, spell and pronounce words.” It is found in varying degrees from mild to severe. Most dyslexic people see letters and numbers backward from how they actually are.
Sufferers of dyslexia often report feeling dumb as children. Their school performance is not good and they are often bullied by their peers. On the bright side, many dyslexics compensate for their disability in other ways and go on to achieve great things. They are motivated by the desire to prove to their family, friends and public that they are indeed not dumb.
Whoopi Goldberg is an example of someone who struggled with learning and was labeled as “dumb” and “retarded” as she was growing up. She has said that “all the paperwork” indicated she was retarded. She didn’t believe she was stupid, but the struggle with this learning disability caused her to drop out of school at age 17.
After dropping out of school, Goldberg spent several years doing drugs and living on welfare. She then realized she simply did not want to be labeled retarded her whole life and began her quest for success. She was an adult when she finally discovered her learning problems were due to dyslexia.
Fortunately for Goldberg, she had a mother who told her that she wasn’t stupid and could grow up to be and do anything she wanted. She herself realized she couldn’t be stupid because, as she says, “If you read to me, I could tell you everything you read.” She says she still likes to be read to. Her mother’s attitude, coupled with her own determination, took her off welfare and drugs and drove her to succeed.
Goldberg decided to defy those who claimed she “couldn’t and shouldn’t, and won’t” and has become one of the most successful female entertainers ever. She has won all four major acting and music awards, including an Oscar, Tony, Emmy and Grammy. Only 12 other people can claim that distinction. She has written several books, including two children’s books. She is a UNICEF goodwill Ambassador, four-time Oscar program hostess and was presented with the Mark Twain Award for American Humor.
As for those who bullied her with disparaging comments as she was struggling in school to learn, she actually credits them with giving her the motivation to become the success that she is. She was committed to proving she was not “dumb” and says those comments “went into making me the sum total of what I became, and what I’ve become.”