My son Sam and I are on the speaker’s bureau for the Joseph Maley Foundation (JMF) located in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Joseph Maley Foundation was established in 2008 with the mission to “serve children of all abilities.” The Foundation works to build acceptance of individuals through programs that engender compassion and respect for the diversity of life. JMF focuses its efforts on disability awareness, adaptive athletics, creating opportunities for youth leadership and service learning.
As speakers for JMF, we visit schools around central Indiana and talk to students about dyslexia. Sam does a great job sharing his story about dyslexia and ADHD. One of our favorite things at our talks is to show pictures of famous people who have dyslexia.
We hold up the pictures, kids guess who the person is (most of the time, they get them all!) and then together, we say, “….and he/she has dyslexia.”
We do this to show kids that dyslexia does not mean you cannot succeed. It just means you have to work a bit harder for your success. With early intervention, support and perseverance there is nothing a kid with dyslexia cannot do! In fact, people with dyslexia have many special gifts that help them succeed even when our education system sometimes sets them up to fail. Just look at some of these famous people with dyslexia!
Keira Knightley: Knightley of Pirates of the Caribbean fame (along with fellow dyslexic and cast mate, Orlando Bloom) has been open about her struggles with dyslexia.
Walt Disney: Does this influencial father of fantasy really need an introduction? Where would we be without Disneyworld and all the beloved characters like Mickey Mouse rought to life by the creative mind of Walt Disney?
Cher: Although Cher wasn’t diagnosed with dyslexia until she was 30 she’s always struggled with reading. But, she is has won Academy, Grammy and Emmy awards along with hitting dozens of milestones in the music business.
Richard Branson: Entrepreneur and founder of Virgin Mobile, Richard Branson has had his share of success. But due to his dyslexia he didn’t even graduate high school and dropped out at age 15. In an interview with Anderson Cooper in 2004 Branson attributes his success to dyslexia.
Tim Tebow: Quarterback Tim Tebow was diagnosed with dyslexia in elementary school. His father and older brother were already diagnosed with the learning difference, meaning that he was more likely to have the difference as well. “. . .Learning disabilities, especially dyslexia, have nothing to do with how smart or intelligent someone is,” Tebow said in a 2012 interview with USA Today.
Anderson Cooper: Cooper gets the hard hitting journalistic facts now, but it wasn’t always that easy for him. Cooper explains that with his mild dyslexia some words would appear backwards, but that didn’t stop him from reading and eventually becoming a writer and journalist.
We are proud to serve on JMF’s speaker’s bureau because we believe in their mission. It’s time to define people by their abilities, not their disabilities.