Success stories: people who worked with their dyslexia

Dyslexia is a common learning difficulty that affects over 700 million people worldwide. Although it doesn’t affect intelligence, it causes problems with reading and writing. This doesn’t mean that people with dyslexia can’t function just as well as others as members of society.

You can read our interview with Edwin Ugwuodo, who has dyslexia and is a barrister at the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
There are many other famous people who have dyslexia  and have been very successful. Such people include Muhammad Ali, Whoopi Goldberg, and Octavia Spencer.


“If my mind can conceive it, and my heart can believe it—then I can achieve it.” – Muhammad Ali.

Muhammad Ali was one of the world’s greatest sporting figures. He was the world’s only three-time heavyweight boxing champion and Olympic Gold Medalist.  He had a record 56 wins to only 5 losses. After retiring from sport, he became a tireless advocate for social justice, including those with dyslexia.

Ali was dyslexic himself and had difficulty graduating high school because of his problems with reading. Ali and his wife, Lonnie, helped create a literacy program that would inspire more African American children to read.


Kids in Whoopi Goldberg’s school used to call her ‘dumb’. This was long before she was diagnosed with dyslexia and before she knew how common this learning difficulty is. Her mother, however, told her not to listen to them. She told her that she could be anything she wanted to be.

Goldberg believed her and grew up to become a comedian and talk-show host. She is now one of only about a dozen people ever to have won a Grammy, an Academy Award, an Emmy and a Tony Award. She credits dyslexia and how it made her think differently as a factor in helping her succeed.


Octavia Spencer has won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for her acting. She is also a children’s author who knows what a challenge reading can be for some kids. That’s because Spencer has dyslexia.

She vividly recalls how scared she was as a child when she had to read aloud in class: “I was paralyzed with fear because I kept inverting words and dropping words.”

However, she stresses that dyslexia shouldn’t prevent kids from pursuing their dreams, because it “doesn’t really mean that you’re not intelligent—it just means that your brain functions differently,” she said.


While dyslexia does make it more difficult for people to read and write, some of the most successful people in the world have used the fact that they think “differently” to help them achieve great success.


Photography copyright: Appreciating Beauty Photography



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