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10 High-Profile Celebrities with Learning Disabilities7

By Aydrea Walden

10 High-Profile Celebrities with Learning Disabilities

School is hard enough: difficult classes, bullies, bad cafeteria food. It can be even more difficult with a learning disability – in part because unlike physical disabilities, which have very obvious symptoms, learning disabilities can be harder to identify, diagnose and treat. But kids with learning difficulties can go from being the kids who were laughed at or ignored to the people we admire, want to be, and want to be with.

Some of the most famous people in the world had a rocky start due to learning disabilities. Some admit they’re still dealing with their disabilities. But with time, patience and tenacity, these 10 high-profile celebrities learned to look beyond their challenges and discovered their talent to wow the world.

Justin Timberlake

When someone has won six Grammy Awards, two Emmys and produced a slew of hit singles, it might be hard to believe he has a hard time finishing important tasks. But that’s exactly what Justin Timberlake has said he’s dealt with for years. The singer/actor/businessman says that he suffers from both Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

Kiera Knightley

The Pirates of the Caribbean actress often plays well-to-do and upper class roles. This is ironic once you know that at age six, Knightley could neither read nor write. Long before Knightly was discovering furtive secrets of the seas with Johnny Depp, pining for true love in a Jane Austen story or corseting herself into oblivion to play an 18th century aristocrat, she was getting called “stupid” by kids at school because of her dyslexia.

Jim Carrey

It might come as no surprise that the guy who was made famous for playing wildly zany roles like Ace Ventura and The Cable Guy has ADD. But it’s not all fun and games for him. Carrey has said that though his ADD fuels his comedy, it also has its downsides. “I’m up all night walking around the living room,” Carrey has been quoted as saying. “It’s hard for me to come down from what I do.”

Tom Cruise

The couch-jumping Mr. Katie Holmes has said that through school and the production of his first few films, he was essentially a “functional illiterate” because of his dyslexia. Because he could not learn his lines by reading them, he would piece together what he could and chat up the director and producer to fill in the blanks. One of the reasons Cruise came to appreciate Scientology, in fact, was that it provided a way for him to complete his education and relearn the skills he had missed because of his disability.

Sir Richard Branson

Some people might think you’d have to be crazy to want to fly to space on your own private plane. But it’s not craziness that made Richard Branson, billionaire founder of Virgin Group, what he is today. It was dyslexia. What he lacked in the ability to take tests and make decent grades, he more than made up for in social skills and the ability to connect with people.

“Perhaps my early problems with dyslexia made me more intuitive: when someone sends me a written proposal, rather than dwelling on detailed facts and figures, I find that my imagination grasps and expands on what I read.” – Richard Branson, from Losing My Virginity: How I’ve Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way, Times Business, 1998

Read: The World’s 10 Most Successful Men That Didn’t Grow Up – #3 Richard Branson

Cher

Take a Grammy Award, add an Oscar, an Emmy, three Golden Globes, a Cannes Film Festival Award, a People’s Choice Award, a 50-year career and 100 million records sold worldwide and anyone would have trouble keeping up with those numbers. And it was numbers that gave Cher trouble in school. She suffered from a condition called dyscalculia, a learning disorder that makes it difficult for people to recognize, understand and organize mathematical information or mathematical symbols. Considering music is based in math… wow.

Woody Harrelson

Environmental activist, legalized-marijuana-supporter and member of a self-sustaining community in Hawaii, Harrelson gives off a laid-back hippie vibe. But that relaxed attitude did not come naturally as Harrelson was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) as a child. With a historic television career followed by an award-winning film career, you’d never guess.

Jay Leno

Like others on this list, the late night host and comedian says that having a learning disability inspired him to work extremely hard to prove himself. A dyslexic, Leno had a hard time making good grades in high school. Still, he found a way to get accepted into the highly-ranked Emerson College in Boston before moving on to become one of the most successful comics of all time and hold a coveted spot on a short list of legendary television talk show hosts.

Read: Jay Leno’s Big Dog Garage is a Muscle Museum and More

Vince Vaughn

The fast-talking, charming rogue who gave us great lines like, “You’re so money,” was once the one being laughed at, not with. In school, he was put in special education classes because of his dyslexia. It was there that he learned to make himself feel better by making others laugh at his jokes, not at him.

Henry Winkler

Even The Fonz’s parents made fun of him when he was a kid. Because of his dyslexia and dysgraphia (a learning disability that affects a person’s ability to write), his German parents gave him a nickname that translated into “dumb dog” in English. Winkler didn’t find out what was ‘wrong’ with him until he was in his 30s. Winkler once told a group of students in 2009: “How you learn has nothing to do with how great you are. Your job is to find out what your gift is, what your contribution will be.”

Aydrea Walden ten Bosch, a former news reporter, has also written for Nickelodeon, NBC/Universal, Hawaii Film Partners, Highlander Films, the Now Write! Screenwriting book series, Improv Olympic, The Second City Los Angeles and Disney. She regularly performs sketch and improv comedy and runs the satirical blog, The Oreo Experience, about her life and times as a super white black person.

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  • Bryan Agoncillo

    Wow, these are people who I mostly adore watching… But that’s ok we are human after all..

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  • Kazz

    This makes me so angry! How can anyone with ‘exceptionally ability’ be labeled as a ‘person with a disability’!

    I failed you! I taught you bad! I could not meet your needs! I taught you the value of money, knowledge and conformity – based on what, based on an IQ test that doesn’t teach you how to survive life. Who preaches this poppycock?

    So because I failed you I give you a label, ‘disable’, …you are inadequate, and because you have not reached my expectation you shall serve me.

    By now you have adapted well

    Hallelujah to you, if you are one of the lucky ones still left with confidence in being perfect just the way you are!

    Change the program, ‘cause the program aint working!
    Disability is not an excuse for failure, it is society who has failed the you.

    KP

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/CCEZKNZA2KHIVIUIURKVZQDMNI Woson

    wowooww

  • cgimermaid

    work ethic, screen time, good material? circumstances etc what they lacked in ability they made up for in determination

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