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Overcoming dyslexia part 1

OVERCOMER: Muhammad Ali was diagnosed with dyslexia

WHOOPI GOLDBERG, Muhammad Ali, Magic Johnson, Harry Belafonte. Iconic black figures from the world of sports and entertainment. Millions of people around the world know their life stories and can probably recall at least one fact about their successful careers.

However, what is probably less known is the one thing they all have in common, something that caused them to struggle early on their lives and, it could be argued, played a significant role in helping to shape the successful people they went on to be. They all struggled with dyslexia.

Following her unhappy school years, Goldberg eventually realised there was a reason why she often struggled to grasp anything taught in the classroom. Speaking about her dyslexia the actress said:

“The advantage of dyslexia is that my brain puts information in my head in a different way, more interestingly than if I saw like everyone else.”

Goldberg’s dream of becoming an actress kept her from giving up during difficult years of drug use, divorce, and bringing up a child on virtually no money—all before she turned 20.

The late Muhammad Ali, best known for his exceptional boxing career, once said:

"I never said I was the smartest, I said I was the greatest."

NEW OUTLOOK: Whoopi Goldberg saw the advantages of being dyslexic

The champion fighter said this because although he was a great boxer, he barely graduated high school due to his struggle with reading. Ali, who was diagnosed with dyslexia, understood how difficult it was not being able to read well and wanted to help others going through the same struggles.

He later created the Go the Distance series of books and magazines in a bid to encourage and inspire black children to read.

Basketball star Magic Johnson has recalled the pain of his struggles with dyslexia. He took summer classes in reading to catch up after his classmates gave him a hard time because of his difficulties.

"The looks, the stares, the giggles...I wanted to show everybody that I could do better and also that I could read," he recalled.

Johnson was recounted being told by a school security guard that he would "never amount to anything," and used these experiences as motivation to become successful in life.

Harry Belafonte also struggled with dyslexia but, like Johnson, was determined to succeed and never let the condition stop him from using language both in song and protest to express himself and what he stood for.

MOTIVATED: Dyslexia sufferer Magic Johnson

Dyslexia is said to affect 1 in 10 of us living in the UK, often there are varying degrees of dyslexia and people can experience a range of challenges; however people with the condition often go through life unaware which can have a significant impact on their life. Despite ongoing research and studies, dyslexia remains poorly understand as a serious condition that inhibits personal, social and economic development.

A dyslexic person may:

• Read and write very slowly

• Have poor or inconsistent spelling

• Confuse the order of letters in words

• Struggle with planning and organisation

• Find it hard to carry out a sequence of directions

• Have difficulty distinguishing their left from their right

• Put letters the wrong way round – such as writing 'b' instead of 'd'

• Understand information when told verbally, but have difficulty with information that is written down.

Unfortunately many children go through school oblivious of their learning difference and end-up being labelled as disruptive or lazy, as a consequence which results in them leaving education with poor results and even poorer self-esteem believing that they aren’t able to achieve. But by getting assessed as early as possible, suffers with the condition can find ways to cope as well as excel with their hidden learning disability.

Getting screened

Get assessed for dyslexia can be a huge pill to swallow, but through early intervention and support, individuals can achieve their potential.

All assessments vary in length, requirements and effectiveness, but in order to get an accurate diagnosis it is recommended that an assessment is first completed with a specialist who may then refer you to an educational psychologist for a more in-depth assessment. This assessment can be accessed in educational establishment through a school, college or universities student support service or in the workplace through occupational health.

Part 2 of this piece will be published tomorrow at 4pm GMT.

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