Jamie Oliver’s Dyslexia
As the world’s wealthiest chef and author of almost 20 books, it may be surprising to learn that Jamie Oliver finished his first book at the ripe old age of 38. Having been diagnosed with dyslexia as a child, it’s true that Oliver has had to overcome a variety of challenges in his life. But blaming his inattentiveness rather than his disability for putting off this achievement, Oliver may soon become both an avid reader and an inspirational example for the millions of people who have lived with this condition since birth.
Of course successful dyslexics are nothing new in terms of world history. Alexander Graham Bell, Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs and George Washington were all dyslexic. In fact, dyslexia’s prevalence in the general population is believed to be anywhere between 5 and 10 percent. And despite the fact scientists believe they’ve identified the genes responsible for dyslexia, there is no known way to correct the underlying disorder.
While you may have heard of dyslexia, you may not know all that it entails. Dyslexic people struggle to learn to read fluently and understand accurately regardless of how intelligent they are. These difficulties include decreased auditory short-term memory, language skills, phonological decoding, and trouble completing simple mathematics from memory. While adults with dyslexia can read well, they usually read slower and perform worse on spelling tests. And many believe that being dyslexic carries a negative social stigma and adds to this burden.
Those who suffer from dyslexia and thrive regardless of it often have an optimistic point of view regarding their differently abled abilities. But handling dyslexia isn’t only about positive thinking. The counter-intuitive side to learning disorders is that they can have positive side effects too. Those who have to work hard to learn to do simple tasks that come naturally to the rest of us may develop an intense focus, determination, and drive that may put them on the path to success. And Jamie Oliver seems to be a first rate example of precisely that.
Of course it helps that Oliver’s profession as a celebrity chef doesn’t demand that be capable of writing an academic essay or reading Dickens so long as he can read a recipe, convert metrics, and adapt recipe ratios. And because we live in an age of modern technology, built-in spelling checkers, calculators, and the like are available to help overcome many of the more superficial aspects of the disorder that he may face in day to day life. Regardless, having come forward to the public to speak about his condition, we should praise Oliver for helping to reduce the stigmatism and embarrassment of living with a learning disorder.