Prominent dyslexics contribute to book aimed at breaking the taboo

Prominent dyslexics contribute to book aimed at breaking the taboo
Guillemette Faure and the book cover. Credit:

What do Leonardo da Vinci, Steven Spielberg and Richard Branson all have in common? All three suffered from dyslexia. This language disorder, known to influence spelling and reading, may provide its sufferers with many challenges in life but has shown to have qualities that benefit people in the world of work.

In her book "Dys et célèbres, Comment la dyslexie peut faire plus fort," – translated as 'Dyslexia and the famous, How dyslexia can do more' – the French journalist Guillemette Faure, herself the mother of a dyslexic daughter, details 24 portraits of personalities who have suffered from language disorders, including actors, politicians and Nobel laureates in chemistry.

The word dyslexia, a language disorder belonging to the DYS family (with dysorthography and dysgraphia), is used to refer to difficulties related to reading or writing. This disorder should not be reduced to an inversion of letters, reading and spelling problems. It's more complicated. There are nuances. For example, Belgian actor Stéphane De Groodt can't explain a cooking recipe. He has trouble understanding the rules of a card game.

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Some have problems with memorisation, for others, it is a strength. For example, Erin Brockovich, who inspired the film of the same name, can memorise the numbers written on a sheet of paper after a single reading.

For a long time, dyslexics were seen as people in difficulty. At school, you have to know how to read and write. Spotting visual cues, being creative or intuitive is not quantified. Dyslexics’ strength comes from the fact that they circumvent difficulty.

There is a fashionable discourse, the English call it "the gift of dyslexia." According to an American study, 35% of entrepreneurs are dyslexic. Though dyslexia still offers its own obstacles. As fellow journalist Thomas Legrand says in the preface to Guillemette Faure’s book, there are difficult and painful stages.

Highlighting the strengths

In the 24 portraits in Faure’s book, there is either an alignment of good stars or parents who were present. They encouraged the person with dyslexia in what they knew what to do rather than obsessing over what they couldn’t do.

There are also parts for other key adults to play in their lives. For example, Jacques Dubochet, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, was helped by one of his teachers to build a telescope. For him, dyslexia allows him to see things differently and therefore to discover new things.

French actor Franck Gastambide said his parents were ashamed to go to meetings with his teachers. His activity as a dog and animal trainer revealed to him not only that he could do things but that he also did them better than others.

Many more people are now talking about their experiences with dyslexia and those in prominent positions are using their voices to encourage others to persevere, which Guillemette Faure reveals is one of the reasons many agreed to have their stories documented in her book — to break the taboo.

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