The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia (2012) - full transcript

Successful leaders in Business, law, and Politics reflect on their Dyslexic experiences as we follow the story of Dylan, a high school senior who is must overcome the challenges of Dyslexia to achieve his dream of getting into a competitive college. By following his journey as well as other children, we come to see how many myths and misconceptions there are about Dyslexia, and how it offers gifts as well as challenges. Recent findings in neuroscience reveal for the first time that Dyslexia is physiological challenge, and Drs. Sally and Bennett Shaywitz, top experts, explain how Dyslexia works and what the opportunities are.

-We were called on
to read out loud.

I would tremble.

I was afraid.

You couldn't hide.

Everyone was looking at you.

-The words just come
out wrong.

-I would sit at the
back of the class.

I would look at the blackboard,
and it was just

gobbledy-goop to me.

-All I knew was that I couldn't
do what other kids

were doing.

-Grades were bad.

Self-esteem started
to collapse.

I remember faking being
sick all the time.

-What I was keeping secret was
I really wasn't an A student.

-I could tell, I just wasn't
that confident.

-I sat at a table while-- during
free time while the

other kids were reading books.

I couldn't read.

-It wasn't until I got the
diagnosis that I was really--

it was like, oh, my god.

I understand it now.

[music playing]

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-I was actually looking at this
desk 'cause of all the

things I've carved into it.

And I got this star for
completing Boys' Day.

It was funny, because I think
when I did, when I find signed

up the thing for my
name, I must have

spelled my name wrong.

Because on this star for
completing Boys' Day, my name

is D-Y-A-N. So it's kind of
ironic, going to Boys' Day and

yet my name's spelled wrong on
the star certificate thing.

Kind of just sums
everything up.

KYLE (OFFSCREEN): The big early
red flags for me were--

this is really embarrassing,
because I had this whole sense

that I couldn't wait to teach
my child, because I'd been

teaching other kids.

I had every trick
in the world.

I had tricks for memorizing
math facts.

I had tricks for penmanship.

I taught every single subject.

I couldn't wait to
teach my own son.

I thought we were going to--

we were going to make history.


And boy, I got slammed
really early on.

He didn't learn to
write his name.

He didn't learn the alphabet.

His friends, who were either
younger than him or the same

age, were just sailing
right past him.

I can remember--

I think this is in fourth
grade or third grade.

Now that we were such good
readers at that point, we had

to go read to the

I basically tried
to memorize--

I think it was--

I think it was "The Cat
in the Hat," actually.

Finally, when the day came
to go and read to the

kindergarten class, sitting on
this stool being surrounded by

these little kids staring up
at you, with these cherubic

faces and these beady little
eyes, and I started and right

off the bat I was stuttering and
misplacing words, and it

was so bad.

Like halfway through, the
kindergartners were starting

to correct me.

I remember being probably as
nervous as I had been at that

point in my life.

I would work so hard, and
teachers would just think that

I'm-- that I was slacking off,
that I wasn't doing my work,

that I wasn't trying
hard enough.

I just felt like I was
constantly trying to catch up,

and it was just to no avail.

I just felt like I was never
going to be normal.

I mostly just wanted to be
normal at that point.

KYLE (OFFSCREEN): The minute we
went in for an evaluation

in first grade, I asked the
learning evaluator to look at

whether or not he
was dyslexic.

And she said, oh, no, this
is way too early.

We never diagnose for dyslexia
until third grade.

And of course now, we
know that that is

not at all the case.

In fact, the earlier the
diagnosis, the better.

I remember when Dylan heard
the name, and it

contained it for him.

It was-- all of a sudden, it
wasn't that he just had a bad

brain or a broken brain.

It was that he was dyslexic.

And it was a certain kind of
breakdown, but it didn't

affect his entire brain.

But frankly, at our school, we
were very scared of students

with his profile and really
didn't feel like we could do

right by them.

I had to tell my class that I
was going to be leaving for

the majority of the day, when
I was in fourth grade, to go

to this learning specialized

I realized it's better for
people to understand what I

have than not and be left in the
dark and be left to make

up their own conclusions.

[music playing]

Probably reading

is one of the most complex
abilities that

we as humans have.

Speaking is natural.

It's instinctive.

We know it's been around for
hundreds and hundreds of

thousands of years, and our
brains are hardwired for

spoken language.

Written language has been around
5,000 years, and our

brains are not naturally
hardwired for

writing, for reading.

-Hi, Carol.

Hi, Dr. Shaywitz.

-So we got an invitation.

I just wanted to go
over it with you.



-Sally and I became
very interested in

dyslexia quite naturally.

Sally is a developmental

I'm a child neurologist.

And the most

common problem each of us see
is learning problems.

And by far and away, dyslexia
accounts for 80% to 90% of all

learning problems.

So many people ask me,
could I be dyslexic?

And it's so common, but yet
so many people are not


So at the Yale Center for
Dyslexia and Creativity, we've

developed a small card that
we give out to people.

"You may be dyslexic if you
read slowly and with much

effort, but you're often the
one to solve the problem.

You can't spell and have messy
handwriting, but your writing

shows terrific imagination.

You have trouble remembering
dates and names, but you also

think out of the box and
grasp the big picture.

You have difficulty retrieving
and pronouncing spoken words,

but you also have an excellent
vocabulary and great ideas."

Really importantly, it lists
the weaknesses, but it also

lists the strengths.

When I first started working
with children who had

dyslexia, it was a
different world.

We didn't have the science.

And children were actually asked
to walk balance beams.

They had visual training,
all sorts of things.

Because at that time,
we didn't know,

what's the basic cause?

Why should otherwise intelligent
children have

trouble learning to read?


We're very fortunate to be
working with and interested in

this at a time when the
technology, functional brain

imaging, became possible.

So what he is looking at now is
tasks that are projected on

the screen.

The task that's most central is
looking at nonsense words

and telling us whether the
nonsense words rhyme.

We can compare and examine the
differences between groups of

people who have dyslexia
compared to groups

of people who don't.

We now understand

that there's an area of the left
side of the brain in the

back the brain that is
necessary to read


When you read automatically, it
means you don't even have

to pay attention.

You see something,
you know it.

If you're dyslexia,
you can't do that.

It's still manual.

You have to pour out so much
energy and so much attention,

it takes you longer.

-The imaging has made dyslexia
just as real as any other

medical disorder.

And the great advance is that
for the first time, we have

made a hidden disability

myths are that dyslexics

see words in reverse, that we're
using some sort of Da

Vinci code when we're
trying to read.

-Oh, you're dyslexic?

Oh, could you read backwards?

-The most annoying aspect of
it is when people equate a

learning disability with
a thinking disability.

-I don't really didn't get--
like, it doesn't go away.

And what really annoys me is
when people say, like, oh,

yeah, I had dyslexia once.


Well, yeah.

I had it.

It's gone now.

Just, no, it's not-- that's
just not how that works.

-All language is in code.

So you're writing, whether
it's Japanese, English,

German, the page is
in some code.

And you learn to look at that
code and convert it to sound

and then to meaning.


-Most people who are good
readers, it becomes a very

highly repetitious thing, and
they don't have to go through

the sounding, the grinding
away in the same

laborious way that--

you know, people who suffer with
dyslexia have to do that.

-There are symbols that they
don't seem to have any real

significance to me.

The hardest part, I think
mostly, is understanding, you

know, usually what
they sound like.

I mean, looking at a book, it
just takes so long because

there's so many letters, these
symbols, all over the page.

I skip sentences.

I get words mixed
up all the time.

I spell completely

Understanding what letter goes
where and why that letter

makes that sound
in that place?

Like, I don't understand that.

Why is it like that?

Oh, this picture was me in
first grade at Riverdale.


This picture was taken
at school.

And there are the kids reading
over there, but I couldn't

read yet, so I would just sit
at my table and draw.

[traffic noises]

we had the big sleepover at

the school for Skye.

-My first memory of the
word dyslexia--

it's so funny.


I was dating my husband Tyler,
and he had sent me this love

letter, and he misspelled
five words.

I remember turning to my mom
and saying, wow, that's so


This guy is so smart and there
are all these misspellings.

What do you think was going
on when he wrote this?

And she said, oh, he's
probably dyslexic.

He's brilliant.

He's a surgeon.

He's probably dyslexia.

The next time I heard the word
was when I was being told

Skye, my daughter,
probably had it.

SKYE (OFFSCREEN): I remember
the day when I got my first

homework packet.

And I remember, like, sitting
on the school bus, and I was

asking a friend, how
do I do this?

And I just couldn't understand
it at all.

I hated school.

I did not want to
go to school.

I just want to not
go to school.

-I would get calls from
the nurse's office

almost every other day.

They said, we have never seen
a child with so much

performance anxiety.

pretend I was sick.

I would be tired
in the morning.

'Cause when I went there, I
wouldn't understand anything.

I felt like I wasn't
learning anything.

-After the stomachaches and just
kind of, you know, trying

to figure out what
was going on, I

decided to have her tested.

When I got her tested, I was
told it was dyslexia.

I was so relieved.

It felt like going to the doctor
and being told what's

wrong with you, and it
wasn't her fault.

And I remember being so excited
to tell the school,

oh, this is good news,
this is what it is.


So we can all like--

and it was just unbelievable,
the response I got.

It was, she needs to
leave the school.

TYLER (OFFSCREEN): The hardest
thing for us to deal with was

trying to convince the school
where she was to have an

interest in her, and to make
an investment in her.

They had decided that because
of her difficulties in

reading, that she would have
difficulties in just learning


badly for Skye, and I remember

thinking, like, where
does she belong?

And how traumatic to start off
school thinking that she can't

succeed in first grade.

Sebastian, it's just--

what do you think?

-Saying the words.

-Saying the words.

-Yeah, like--

-And it being corrected
by your sister.

Maybe that's annoying.

-Yeah, that's the most
annoying thing.

was very creative, and that

was clear from a young age.

He loved Legos, and he loved
building things.

And so it was clear that
he's a bright child.

But when he started to have to
write, compose, his spelling

was just really scary.

I started to buy these
reading programs, and

I tortured my son.

Tortured him.

And we received a diagnosis
from professionals.

-I didn't know what
dyslexia was.

But then when I learned, like,
what's it all about, it wasn't

really that much a
surprise to me.

-Each individual person has
a unique experience.

And some part of it requires
that person to figure

out what they need.

And sometimes it's a challenge
to get a 12-and-1/2-year-old

to express what his needs are.

unforeseeable conflict between

having dyslexia and going to
high school was lockers.

The combination between
memorizing numbers and then

memorizing directional movement,
it was just all bad.

So I remember coming freshman
year and being so freaked out

that I couldn't open
these lockers.

I had to get my friends
to open it.

And then I'd put my stuff inside
there and not be able

to get my stuff out, and have
to go get a teacher to

unlock it for me.

Finally, for the next four
years, I just crammed

everything in my backpack.

But it kept me from embarrassing
myself at the

locker station.

And still don't know
how to use them.

No idea.

School is really hard.

I feel like if I hadn't had
parents who allowed me to

pursue the arts, and allowed me
to look at film, or allowed

me to be in sports, that kind
of thing, school would have

just been absolutely

I would have come home and felt
worthless, and I would

have had nothing to
look forward to.

But art is definitely where
I've found my safety zone.

Drawing has just been sort of
thing that I have done when I

don't understand something.

It's always been sort of the
default when my brain sort of

detaches from--

I don't get what's going on.

I better draw something.

After a while, it just sort of
became what I did most, is

just figure out, OK, so how can
I use what I like to do to

tackle something that's
hard for me?

started to go through the

college application process
and decided that he really

wanted to go to Middlebury,
frankly, I was really scared.

How does someone prove on
paper that they are an

excellent problem-solver,
out-of-the-box thinker,

excellent leader?

I knew that was going to be a
challenge because of his poor

test scores, his, for the most
part, very strong grades.

But then he would run into a
teacher who didn't understand

him and penalize him for poor
spelling or something.

I wondered if this process was
going to confirm his worst

fears about his academic

what happened is I was


My counselor got a call saying
that, you know, we believe

that, you know, Dylan's a very
qualified student, and that,

you know, he's done
well enough.

But we're afraid that he's had
too much support and that he

wouldn't be able to survive
on his own.

I'd been working so hard to
get good grades and, like,

getting to a place that
would warrant me being

able to go to college.

Having someone think that I'd
been, you know, overly

supported and that I hadn't
really owned the education

that I worked so hard
to create--

that's my worst nightmare,

who I love dearly,

never really understood
why I got extra time.

It was sort of his marker that
I had some issue that

separated me from
the other kids.

And, you know, why would he want
his daughter to be lumped

with the special kids
and extra time?

And I think that was
kind of difficult.

-My parents, I don't think, ever
really picked up on it.

And for many, many years, what
I felt was I was basically

putting one over on everybody,
that it was only because I was

willing to work extra hard.

But it didn't really mean
I was an A student.

in fifth grade, I had just

come back from one of these
evaluations, and I happened to

pick up the phone when
you're not supposed

to pick up the phone.

And the person who had diagnosed
me was talking to

both my parents and said, you
know, Allison's never going to

good with geography.

She's never going to be
good with language.

These are things that
she's just not going

to be able to do.

You know, I'll never forget.

I hung up the phone and
immediately got into

bed, and I'm not--

I'm pretty sure I, as a
fourth-grader or fifth-grader

would do, cried myself
to sleep.

study with other people, ever.

Because other people read
faster than I do.

Other people will go at a pace
that I can't keep up with.

I never wanted anybody to think
there was any issue.

actually, in some ways, really

frustrating because they
didn't-- they weren't

diagnosing me as dyslexic.

They were saying you have a
learning issue or a processing

issue or whatever.

So it wasn't even like, OK,
this is my problem.

How can I fix it?

You think that's there's
something wrong with you, or

you think that maybe you're
making it up in your head.

So it was--

OK, you don't have an issue.

You don't need to
study harder.

I didn't deserve those A's,

that it was all just one
colossal great acting job on

my part, that it got me
this far in life.

But the reality was I really
did have a disability.

-I wasn't diagnosed as dyslexic
until I was 23.

The person who diagnosed me
basically sat me down and

said, you're really smart, but
this is how you process

information and this is
why certain things are

difficult for you.

And it was just nice to hear
someone say that no, this is

what's wrong with you.

This is a way to go about
working with it, and this is

what you can do.

the one of the three

of you on the roof.

how little she is.



I was going to--

I think the word dyslexia was
comforting because it allowed

her to understand her strengths
and weaknesses.

But honestly, I also think that
it really could show her

concretely, here's your
intelligence level.

You scored very high on your--
and nobody has ever really

said that to her.

They kept focusing on what
were the deficits.

She proceeded through school,
and each year, she did get

better and better in school.

Interestingly, college was

actually a lot easier
than high school.

Because with college, you
usually only have one exam,

and it's at the end.

So I had that time
to catch up.

I had that time to become the
expert that I didn't always

get in high school.

It's like the tortoise
and the hare, right?

Why the tortoise would ever
think to race the hare--

it seems crazy, right?

But the tortoise wins.

After four years at Penn, I
went straight to Boston

University for law school.

Luckily, when a client
interviews you, they don't ask

what your reading rate is.

They don't ask what you
got on the LSATs.

They want to know how successful
you are, how good

you are at what you do.

And that's a story I, after,
you know, years of being an

attorney, could tell

Oh, hi.


-I'll just share one story with
you that I thought was so


There was a little boy who's
dyslexic, and he was crossing

the street with his dad, and
he saw lots of people


And he looked up at his dad
and said, well, you know,

those Presbyterians ought
to be more careful.

And of course, he meant

He knew what he meant, but
the wrong word came out.


The foundation of

reading is speaking.

And spoken language is made
of different sounds.

People who are dyslexic,
these sounds are not as

clear and as crisp.

So for example, if I want to say
the word "mat," I go into

my internal dictionary and I
pull out each sound, Mm, Ah,

and Tuh, put them together,
and I say the word.

I don't even know
I'm doing this.

It's quick.

It's automatic.

People who are dyslexic-- and
a lot of people don't

appreciate it-- often
have trouble pulling

out the right sounds.

Where they may stumble or speak
around the word, or just

not be glib.

And unfortunately, we often
judge people by

how glib they are.

-She's ready to wheel?

Is Dr. [inaudible]
ready to wheel?

I try to speak slowly, because
sometimes for me to get a word

out is difficult.

And I make a lot of

I'll try to keep that to a
minimum for this video.

In high school, I remember a
social studies teacher asking

me what I wanted to do.

And when I told him that I want
to become a doctor, he

kind of laughed at it.

He thought, well, it would be
lucky if I got into a college,

let alone possibly get
on to medical school.

In medical school, I realized
that I was definitely studying

different than the
other students.

The other students would be
able to read through the

material either the day before
the lecture, or they would

read it that night after.

And for me, specifically in
anatomy, I would have to read

the material once beforehand,
then listen to the lecture,

then read it again.

On, my pick-up again.

But what really hit it home was
looking at the pictures in

the anatomy text, or just
going to the body, the

cadaver, and really seeing
it on the cadaver.

And then I could picture it,
and I was able to see the

relationship between a nerve,
an artery, a vein, a muscle.

And by picturing it,
it really stuck.

I discovered that I had dyslexia
when I picked up a

book written by Sally Shaywitz
and wanted to know all about

dyslexia because my daughter
was diagnosed with it.

And that's when I realized--

you have one of those, like,
moments, an epiphany, where

this is what I've struggled
with my whole life.

Geralyn, my wife, was well aware
of what dyslexia was.

And she would always described
someone as having a learning


And I was adamant with her that
I had a learning ability.

Because despite not reading
well, I was able to get into

medical school.

And I ended up being elected
to the honor society for

medical schools.

Today, I'm an orthopedic

not all his dreams were

embraced, he was driven
by a higher calling.

This is Richard Branson, and
he's here to service you.

Every last one of you.

-That's one of the most amusing
things that took

place, was in my 50th year, I
had now created 300 companies.

We had the largest group
of public, private

companies in Europe.

And one of my directors took me
on one side at the end of a

board meeting and said, look,
Richard, erm, I have a feeling

that you don't know
the difference

between net and gross.

Please forgive me if
I'm being impolite.

And I admitted, hands up, that
I didn't know the difference

between net and gross.

So he quietly takes me out of
the boardroom, and he puts a

bit of paper down on--

on the table, and he
pencils in the sea.

And then he pencils in a net
coming out of the sea, and he

put some fish in the net, and
says, OK, so that's the profit

at the end of a year,
and there's the fish

that are in the net.

And this is your gross turnover,
the first that are

in the rest of the sea.

Wow, I got it.

I'd now got it.

So I didn't have to say, is
that good news or bad news

anymore when people
were giving me the

figures for that company.

-I've been very fortunate in
having an opportunity to try a

lot of very interesting

United States Supreme Court,
"Bush v. Gore"

during the 2000 election.

The California law that
prohibited gay and lesbian

citizens from marrying.

Successfully defended CBS in
the case brought by General

William Westmoreland.

I can remember one time, I was
representing the Department of

Justice, suing Microsoft for
anti-trust violations.

I kept referring to "lo-jin,"
as opposed to "log in,"

because you saw the L-O-G-I-N,
and "lo-jin" seemed perfectly

logical to me.

And it took a couple of days
before people sort of got the

courage to tell me that I was
totally mispronouncing kind of

a key concept.

-My handwriting is comical.

I mean, doctors write
brilliantly, with clarity.

I have long said that.

You do not want to see it.

I mean, it's-- still to this
day, I'm always embarrassed to

write a note to people.

That's kind of only my friends,
and I get it typed up

by-- thank god I have
people helping me.

-When I was about 15, I decided
I'd had enough of

school and tried to put
the world right.

I went to see my headmaster.

I told him I was going
to leave school.

And he then said, you're either
going to go to prison

our you're going to become
a billionaire.

-I always thought artists
had a different

way of solving things.

And I thought that was a pretty
cool thing to do.

So it inspired me to see, man,
if they can solve an issue

that way, why can't I solve some
issues in the business

world in a different way?

-I mean, these financial
services companies are still

talking about retirement like
it's some kind of dream.

A vineyard?

Gimme a break.

Talk to Chuck.

I just sort of

said, no fuss, no muss.

Integrate all these
things together.

-The good thing about being a
dyslexic, if you're a business

person, is that you simplify

If we launch a new financial
service company, we won't use

phrases like, you know,
"bid-offer spread," because I

have no idea what the
hell it means.

You know, we say what we mean,
which is important, and I

think that means that
the public trusts

us more as a result.

-One of the things that I
learned growing up was to

listen well and to talk
without notes.

Because I couldn't
read the notes.

And it wasn't because I thought
this was a good idea.

It was because I didn't
have any choice.

But as you older, what you find
is the ability to listen

and to talk extemporaneously.

It can be very valuable.

-One of the things you'll learn,
being dyslexic, is

you've got to learn to suck it
up, because you're going to

fail, and you're going
to fail often.

And you've got to start to
appreciate that, as they say,

that failure is a portal
of discovery.

Mistakes are a portal
of discovery.

The most successful people I
know are the ones that screwed

up the most, learned from their
mistakes, and moved

forward and got up.

-I think that dyslexia is
positively correlated with


-When people are working hard
on a particular thing, and

they're thinking about three or
four different ways to get

to the solution, I invariably
say, you know,

I think I got it.

This is where we want to be.

And other people are more
sequential in their thinking.

I intuitively sort of get there,
generally speaking,

much more quickly.

And the ability to see the
entire picture and step back

from it, and not just learn,
but think, I think the

dyslexia teaches that,
in a sense.

Because learning is hard,
it forces you to

align more on thinking.

And as you get out into the
world, it's thinking that is a

lot more prized than learning.

DYLAN (OFFSCREEN): Finally, you
know, I got a phone call

in the middle of class saying,
you know, you've been taken

off the waiting list.

I don't know.

Of course I'm a little
bit nervous about it.

And especially, I feel like also
with Middlebury, too, I

mean, I'm probably the
only kid that got,

you know, the lowest--

I'm probably the lowest
SAT-taker within the entire

population of Middlebury.

And-- and I think this means--

I had this feeling of
sort of taking a

risk on me as a student.

Like, I have a feeling that the
teacher's like, well, he

has dyslexia, you know.

So maybe, maybe this
is true, but let's

just see how he does.

And then if he does well, then
this means that kids with

dyslexia can do well in this
sort of intense academic


So I almost feel, like, an
obligation that I have to do

well so that other kids with
dyslexia can feel comfortable

in this environment.

Scary, but I'm excited for it.

Knowing what we

now know about dyslexia,
you can be the smartest

person in the world.

You can even be a Nobel

You can be very motivated and
try so hard, but you still

won't read quickly.

So what you do about that?

You give the person what's
called an accommodation.

That is not giving
you answers.

You just allow them a little
more extra time to read.

-My main problem in taking
tests is that I read the

problem wrong.

It's usually exhausting, going
into your mind when you're

trying to find a word.

The problem's probably not
going to be right.

Mix up these words.

For the rest of the test.

How long is going to take?

[interposing voices]





-People who are dyslexic would
prefer not to need extra time.

They don't like to read.

And they would rather not sit
for an extra hour or an extra

15 minutes or whatever it is.

Dyslexia robs a person
of time.

Having accommodations
returns it.

We've learned that if you're
not dyslexic and you have

extra time, you might get
a few extra points.

Or because you have more time
you need, you might go down,

because you'll change a good
answer to a bad answer.

So the only people who actually
go up substantially

are people who are dyslexic.

-Think of any suit.

the one thing that really

annoys me is when people
say, he's so smart.

He's doing better
than other kids.

You know, like challenging the
idea that he's dyslexic.

If he's doing a B+ but he can
do an A+, then he should be

supported so that he can do the
A+, because that's within

his capacity.

People struggle with that
notion, because they think

he's getting a leg up, whereas
it's actually evening the

playing field.

is not a timed test.

What matters is how well
you do the job.

And very rarely does it really
matter whether you do it in 55

minutes or 75 minutes.

People who don't understand
dyslexia say things like,

well, extra time on
tests is going to

give an unfair advantage.

Those are people who have such
a narrow view of testing that

they think that what you really
are trying to find out

is how many things have people
memorized, and how

fast can they read?

Those are just proxies.

What you really want to know
is how successful is this

person going to be in really
thinking and developing and

creating things?

Those are the kinds of things
that are really important.

And so when people talk about
fighting extra time for people

with dyslexia, they just don't
understand what the

process of life is.

-Um, let me do the end.

And see, it's not
just swimming.

It's water polo, field hockey,
you know, you name it.

I think along the way, when
things were difficult for her,

she's a very talented athlete.

She'd often say to me, well, I
may not have done well on that

test, but nobody in my class
can swim 50 breaststroke as

quickly as I can.

And that's gave her some
confidence in other areas, and


And I saw that discipline
transfer to her work habits in

school that took time
to develop.

gave me a packet on what

to do or the best way to
learn, or if you're not

learning this way, you should go
back and do it another way.

But one of the things that I've
learned in particular is

that I need flashcards.

I'm not one of those people who
can just breeze through

things and memorize a sheet.

So I made tons and tons of
flashcards for everything.

Boxes of flashcards.

I might look really silly.

People may laugh at me.

But end of the day, I'm going to
do well on the test because

I have, you know, 500 flashcards
sitting on my desk.

-I realized the only way
I can read is if I

underline or highlight.

And then I'll take what I've
read after I've highlighted or

underlined and I'll basically
do my own

"Cliff Note" versions.

I have all these binders in my
house of books I've read over

the years, my own "Cliff
Note" versions.

-I had a lot of my books on
tape, because it allowed me to

understand the story and what
the author was trying to say

without being caught up
between the wordplay.

-I would always take notes,
and then I would

take notes of my notes.

And I just kept boiling it down
until I knew it by heart.

-If you're having a meeting, and
sort of eight or ten ideas

come out of that meeting, if
you don't write it down,

you're only going to remember
one or two.

And the rest will go disappear
on the wind.

So I will write lists of
everything that's been said.

That has been invaluable in
building the Virgin empire.

-Today, when I read, I almost go
through in my mind, as I'm

reading the word, almost
spelling it out to myself as

if I were to type
on the computer.

And I sometimes even tap it
out with my feet as if I'm

playing a keyboard
with my toes.

-There you go.

-Thank you.

Have a nice day.

TYLER (OFFSCREEN): Finally, my
wife and I both thought that

the best thing for our daughter
would be to take her

out of her school.

And we got her enrolled into a
school which specializes for

kids with dyslexia.

was very difficult to put her

in a special school, I
think ultimately, it

was the biggest gift.

Skye always says that Windward
taught her how

to crack the code.

And the way she talks about
her dyslexia is Mommy, I

cracked the code.

in that school.

And within a few months of
being there, she had that

curiosity again and that
desire to learn.

-I look at where Skye is now
in her mainstream school,

which is so rigorous, and I
think that being in that real

situation gave her
such a jumpstart.

She's really stepped up to
the academic challenge.

like, eight, I would always

do, like, li-brar-y
to help me spell.

-I do that sometimes.

-Overall, sixth grade has
been a little different.

When someone called me mentally
retarded because I

can't read or because
I have dyslexia.

And you know, I didn't really
find it offensive.

I just found it actually funny
that someone would even say

that as a comeback.

You know, maybe if I was
younger, like if I was six

again, I would have, like,
gotten really upset.

But now I just find it funny
that people would even try

and, like, make a
joke out of it.

six, seven, eight.

Karate chop, one, and two.

dance so much.

Especially I love competition,
because when I'm on the stage,

I think about all the drama
I've had this year.

You know, some of my classes, I
haven't been doing well in.

And I just dance all
my feelings out.

[playing notes on piano]

TYLER (OFFSCREEN): It brings me
incredible joy just to see

her perform and not hide herself
the way I hid myself

when I was her age.

-And why was her accomplishment
so important?


-Um, well, Jessica Watson,
she sailed.

-Skye will be able to do what
she has her heart set on.

kind of kept me going, even

though, you know, it might have
taken me longer to read a

book or read a poem,
I just really loved

learning and reading.

I've really tried to become good
at things that someone

once said that I couldn't do.

person who had done Allison's

testing in fifth grade--

she lives in our town, and I ran
into her and said, guess

where Allison is?

Oh, she just graduated
University of Chicago, double

major in history
and philosophy.

I think the woman, like, you
know, practically fell over.

They were saying she
can't do music.

She shouldn't take a
foreign language.

It made it sound like her life
would be limited in some way.

And what I've been so overjoyed
and sort of letting

the breath out is to see
she got into her

first-choice college.

She gets the job she wanted.

She just takes a
little longer.

And whether it's working on
her-- as a reporter and

putting in the extra hours, and
not meeting the people at

the bar to get the good story
or write her thesis, she's

willing to do that.

finished my thesis.

In the comments that I got back,
one of my professors

laid out everything.

You set the bar at trying
to explain this really

complicated historical

It's a very original idea.

And bravo, you accomplished

After I finished, it was just
this moment of, like, wow, I

just wrote a 74-page document,
and, like, I'm

still ready to go.

You know, like, what's next?

DYLAN (OFFSCREEN): I had no idea
if I was going to be able

to do it or not.

But once I got to Middlebury,
it was actually really


They have this counselor who's
part of the CTLR, this, like,

center for something having to
do with, like, learning, and--

I don't know what the
abbreviation's actually for.

But I went and talked to this
woman there, and she said

something really interesting

She's like, well, Middlebury
accepted over, like, you know,

like 30 or 40 kids with learning
disabilities this

year in the class, so you're
definitely not alone in

dealing with this situation.

And it was really great, because
I realize that they

have kids with dyslexia.

They know exactly how
to deal with it.

They only allowed me one
semester's worth of

accommodations because by
government things or something

like that, I have to have
an updated evaluation.

You know, it has to be done.

-Have you been to the
center before?


I've never even been
to New Haven.

So this is-- this is all
a new experience.

-This is it.

DYLAN (OFFSCREEN): The purpose
of all this retesting, I'm

kind of confused about.

Because they asked that I come
and get retested here.

But I'm--

from where I'm concerned,
it's not something that

just sort goes away.

You are correct.

There is no reason.

If we're dealing in in a world
of science and reason, there's

absolutely no reason
to be retested.

And if we've learned one thing,
it's that dyslexia

doesn't go away.

There's always going
to be challenges.


-But what--

what I would hope would happen
with society is the artificial

barriers would fall.

The slow reading will
always be there.

I don't think you're ever going
to be a great speller.


-And I don't know what you're
handwriting's like, but I

don't think--

-Not great.

-I don't think--

but so what?

Dyslexia is basically
a paradox.

I like to describe it as an
island of a weakness in

getting to the sounds of words,
but surrounded by a sea

of strength in critical
thinking, in problem-solving,

in reasoning--

the kind of things you can't
teach, but it's really good if

you have them.

And people who are dyslexic
really have them.

-Every achievement that I make,
it's like, OK, well, I

was able to do that.

Let's see if I can just
go for this, too.

I was really prepared for him
to struggle when he hit his

college environment.

And the first semester, I was
really relieved to hear that

he was not only surviving,
but thriving.

But it was when he called me
to tell me that he had made

honors in his first year of
college, I literally had to

sit down on a bench, and
I started to cry.

And then I was really scared
that he was going to be able

to tell that it had moved me.

Because I wanted him to know
that I had faith in him beyond

these external measures.

He said to me, I know,
Mom, I'm on a list.

And I paused, and he said, you
know, it's good to be on a

list, especially for all those
people who believed in me and

who took a chance on me,
and now I'm on a list.

I maybe had ditched the academic
super-stardom plans

for him, but he hasn't ditched
them for himself.

family, we kind of laugh and

say, oh, we care about
the effort.

We don't care about the grade.

Because I know that
this is an arc.

School is an arc.

And life is a long time, and how
you're performing in Mrs.

Livowitz's fourth grade is
actually a really small piece

of your life.

And I think it's important for
parents to keep their eye on

the big picture.

the ironies of dyslexia is

the further along you get,
the easier it becomes.

It's the willingness to
continue, the patience to

continue, the perseverance,
that is critical

when you have dyslexia.

-Even if you feel uncomfortable
doing it, you

have to push yourself to
do whatever it takes.

-The biggest mistake that
someone could make

is think that I'm--

the only way I can get through
this is pretend like I don't

have dyslexia, and just
have to work so

hard to become normal.

That's just impossible,
because, like,

your brain is different.

But it doesn't mean that you
can't still do the things that

you want to do.

It's so important
to just own it.

Just totally own it.

So that means

there are 10 million in the
US who are dyslexic.

Every class has children who
are struggling readers.

And if we can get all the people
who care about dyslexia

to come forward and joint the
community of people who care

and want to change society's
perceptions, we could actually

make promise.

(OFFSCREEN): I think the only

reason I got into medical
school was

because I had an interview.

The fact that they've, at a very
early age, have gone over

a lot of hurdles, and they've
overcome them.

And so for admissions people,
you've already realized that

you have got kids who
are persistent.

And that persistence will take
you through a tremendous

number of things.

One in five kids

are born with it.

Comes through their DNA.

Most don't get attention.

Most go through life never
knowing, never

achieving their potential.

SKYE (OFFSCREEN): I know I will
do something that makes a

difference in this world,
whether it's finding a way to

clean the water in Africa
or discovering

a new cure to cancer--

who knows?

I can do anything.

[music playing]

-I'm Chuck Schwab.

I'm a lifelong person who
suffers from dyslexia.

-I'm David Boies, and
I'm dyslexic.

-I'm Gavin Newsom,
and I'm dyslexic.

-I'm Allison Schwartz,
and I'm dyslexic.

-I am who I am.

-My name is Leilani,
and I am dyslexic.

-My name is Jason,
and I'm dyslexic.

-Hi, my name is Georgia,
and I'm dyslexic.

-I'm Camille, and
I'm dyslexic.

Hi, I'm Jonathan, and
I'm dyslexic.

-Hi, I'm Olivia, and
I'm dyslexic.

Hi, my name is Bethany,
and I am dyslexic.

-I'm Melinda, and
I have dyslexia.

-Hi, I'm Becky, and
I have dyslexia.

-Hi, my name is [inaudible],
and I have dyslexia.

[music playing]

[music playing]