Richard Branson Knows From Personal Experience That People With Dyslexia Can Do Great Things

"It is merely a different way of thinking."

Richard Branson wants the world to know that people with dyslexia don't have to be held back by it, and he's proof.

The English entrepreneur is launching a charity called Made By Dyslexia, which seeks "to help the world properly understand and support dyslexia," a learning disorder that affects 1 in 10 people. Branson promotes the organization in a new essay for the U.K.'s Sunday Times, in which he shares his own experience with dyslexia and points out that many other major innovators throughout history also had the disorder — including Steve Jobs, Henry Ford, and Albert Einstein.

"This probably comes as a surprise to many people, as for far too long dyslexia has been perceived as a disadvantage," Branson writes. He reveals that his own teachers thought he was "lazy and dumb" as he struggled to understand various subjects in school.


Branson cites a survey from YouGov which found that only 3 percent of people saw dyslexia as a positive trait, and points out a correlation between dyslexia and other issues such as substance abuse and teen suicide. Branson wants to end the stigma, and encourages others to see dyslexia not as a handicap, but rather as "merely a different way of thinking" that can actually prove beneficial outside the classroom.

"The reason why I think people who are dyslexic seem to do well in life, having struggled at school, is that we tend to simplify things," he writes. He is critical of current methods used to measure children's success, which have long involved "remembering and regurgitating lots of facts and figures, and getting them on paper quickly for exams." This doesn't reflect the skills needed to be successful in adult life, he argues.

"Once freed from archaic schooling practices and preconceptions, my mind opened up," Branson writes. "Out in the real world, my dyslexia became my massive advantage: it helped me to think creatively and laterally, and see solutions where others saw problems."

It seems Branson isn't alone. A 2007 study, for example, found that more than a third of entrepreneurs were dyslexic.

"We must make sure every school not only has the resources necessary to identify dyslexia, but also the support necessary to champion dyslexics and enable them to thrive," Branson writes.

One testament to the positive impact of this approach is actress Octavia Spencer, who earlier this year spoke in praise of the teachers who supported her and helped her flourish, even as she remembers "thinking differently" from other kids. "I was a dyslexic child and am a dyslexic adult; that doesn't really mean that you're not intelligent — it just means that your brain functions differently," she said.

You can learn more about Richard Branson's organization on the Made By Dyslexia website.

(H/T: Mashable)


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