by Kimberly Blaker
Freelance Family Writer
Connecticut Parent, July 2017
“In the course of childhood and adolescence, school experiences play an important role in the development of self-perceptions and can have powerful and long-term effects on a child’s self-esteem,” say experts Batya Elbaum, Ph.D. and Sharon Vaughn, Ph.D. “Individuals with learning disabilities (LD),” they point out, “are especially vulnerable to low self-concept. . . . and it is clear that students with LD often experience academic challenges that can drain self-esteem.”
For that reason, it’s good for children with learning disabilities (LD) or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD) to know many successful and famous people with learning disabilities overcame these obstacles. Encourage your child by sharing these famous people with learning disabilities or ADHD.
Famous People with Learning Disabilities or ADHD
Hans Christian Anderson is known around the world for his many fairy tales including The Ugly Duckling, The Red Shoes, and The Emperor’s New Clothes. He struggled with math because of dyscalculia, yet had a talent for writing fairy tales that was extraordinaire.
Ann Bancroft earned national recognition for exploring the Arctic and Antarctic. Regardless of struggles with a learning disability and AD/HD in her youth, she became the first woman to successfully complete these incredible expeditions resulting in several awards including inductee into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.
Ludwig van Beethoven is one the world’s greatest musicians of all time. It’s believed that he had both AD/HD and dyslexia. His disabilities didn’t hurt his ability to compose music, however. During his life, he wrote major orchestral pieces, piano sonatas, symphonies, and even an opera.
Cher is a highly successful singer and actress and another success story of famous people with learning disabilities. She struggled in school and eventually dropped out because of dyslexia, dyscalculia, and AD/HD, of which she was unaware until the age of 30. Her stardom came from box office hit movies as well as producing several solo albums.
Agatha Christie had a phenomenal writing career. In spite of having dyslexia, she wrote many romance novels under a pseudonym and 66 detective novels under her real name. More than 100,000,000 of her books have been sold throughout the world in more languages than the works of Shakespeare.
Tom Cruise’s outstanding success as an actor has made him one of the biggest names in Hollywood. Today, he is unable to read because of severe dyslexia but successfully memorizes his lines with the assistance of a coach. Some of his numerous box office hits include Rain Man and Mission: Impossible.
Charles Darwin is highly regarded for his two books on natural selection, known as the theory of evolution. He was completely disinterested in school as a child, received poor grades, and was often absorbed in his thoughts, and therefore, is suspected to have had AD/HD. His travels around the globe collecting and studying plant and animal species led to his discoveries.
Thomas Edison is perhaps the most famous inventor of all time. When he was young, his curiosity and practical jokes frequently got him into trouble. No one would have fathomed at that time that one day he would be considered one of the many famous people with learning disabilities. Today, he would likely be diagnosed with AD/HD. His many inventions included the telephone, the phonograph, an alkaline battery, and the light bulb, with over 1,000 patents for inventions in all.
Albert Einstein was a mathematical genius. He didn’t learn to talk until he was three and it is suggested by some that he struggled with dyscalculia, dysgraphia, dyslexia, and
word finding. He won the Nobel Prize for his quantum theory and is most renowned for his theory of relativity. As a humanitarian, he also worked toward justice and peace.
Danny Glover is a box office success. He was unable to read or write when he graduated from high school because of dyslexia, which went unrecognized until into his adult life. Lethal Weapon and The Color Purple are a couple of major hits in which he starred. He also has received an honorary doctorate from San Francisco State University.
Tracy Gold is known to many as Carol Seaver from the television series Growing Pains. She struggled in school with attention problems and processing information and was eventually diagnosed with AD/HD. In 1995, she was awarded the part of a woman with AD/HD in the movie Sleep, Baby, Sleep.
Whoopie Goldberg became an instant star when she debuted in The Color Purple. Her high energy, stemming from AD/HD, led
her to begin performing on stage at the age of 8. She has won the Golden Globe for best actress and was even nominated for an Oscar. She lives by her advice: “No matter what you do…just give it your best shot!”
Earvin “Magic” Johnson’s awesome talent helped the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team to win five championships. His difficulties with reading and AD/HD didn’t keep him from making a name for himself. He won seven Most Valuable Player awards during his career, among many other achievements.
Greg Louganis is considered by many “the greatest diver of all time.” He struggled with reading in school and was unaware he had dyslexia until college. He has achieved several Olympic gold medals, 47 national championship titles, and numerous other recognitions, including that of five-time world champion.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is one of the greatest composers of all time. His single-mindedness is likely to have been caused by AD/HD. He composed numerous symphonies including operas, piano concertos, violin sonatas, string quartets, and symphonies totaling over 600 works.
Isaac Newton became a famous mathematician and natural philosopher. As a boy, he daydreamed and did poorly on his schoolwork, but his single-mindedness soared him to the top of his class when he strove to academically surpass the school bully. He is most remembered for his work in the area of gravitation.
Louis Pasteur is known as one of the world’s greatest scientists. Regardless of having dysgraphia and dyslexia, he made important contributions by discovering how germs cause disease as well as discovering vaccines. A center for the study of disease was founded in his name, called the Pasteur Institute.
Charles Schwab founded Charles Schwab & Company, a discount brokerage that is now the leader in online trading. He has dyslexia and still finds reading unbearable but has excelled through the assistance of computers and dictation. He and his wife, Helen, founded The Schwab Foundation for Learning to educate teachers and parents on how to help children with learning difficulties.
Mark Twain is perhaps America’s best-known satirist. As a boy, his adventurous ways that are believed to have been caused by AD/HD, frequently got him into trouble and even danger. His way with words led him into journalism eventually authoring the American classics, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Werner Von Braun developed the Saturn rocket and pioneered the space shuttle concept. He struggled in math and, having AD/HD, often daydreamed during class of someday flying to other planets. His daydreams came close to reality when he later became a rocket engineer. He led the team that sent the first U.S. artificial satellite into orbit.
George Washington is known as “the Father of Our Country” because of his strong character and leadership qualities. He always struggled with spelling and his use of grammar. However, it didn’t keep him from leading the Continental Army in the American
Revolution—or from becoming the first president of the United States.
Robin Williams was one of America’s best-loved comedian-actors. His hyperactivity, resulting from AD/HD, worked to his advantage leading to parts in 27 movies during the 1990s alone. Mrs. Doubtfire and Jumanji are a couple of his major hits.
This is just a small selection of famous people with learning disabilities. Check out this list of more learning disabled celebrities.
Kimberly Blaker is a freelance writer for family and lifestyle magazines.