Celebrities with Dyslexia Who Made It Big

Steven Spielberg joins Tom Cruise and more who have dyslexia.

ByABC News
September 27, 2012, 11:14 AM

Sept. 28, 2012— -- intro: As many as 15 percent of the world's population exhibits some of the symptoms of dyslexia, according to the International Dyslexia Association, and not surprisingly, a great number of them are famous.

Steven Spielberg is the latest celebrity to come forward with his struggle with the learning disability.

"It's extremely inspiring for youngsters who struggle with dyslexia to see people like Steven Spielberg, who not only succeed but succeed well," Dr. Stefani Hines, an expert in the disorder at Beaumont Hospitals in Royal Oaks, Mich., told ABCNews.com.

Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability that makes it difficult to turn printed words into sound, Hines said. It primarily shows up in reading, and includes slow or inaccurate reading as well as trouble with pronunciation and comprehension.

It has nothing to do with intelligence, however. A lot of dyslexics, like Apple founder Steve Jobs, are highly intelligent, even gifted.

"We're learning that individuals with dyslexia tend to have strengths in other areas, in creativity and imagination. They think outside the box," Hines said.

Spielberg dealt with his dyslexia, which he says was not diagnosed until five years ago, by making movies.

"Making movies was my great escape, it was how I could get away from all that," he says in a video for the website Friends of Quinn. "Movies really helped me, kind of saved me from shame, from guilt, from putting it on myself...when it wasn't my burden."

Spielberg, who grew up in the 1950s before dyslexia was even a diagnosis, was mislabeled by teachers as "lazy." Today, there's more awareness and more help for people with dyslexia, including oral readers, books on CD and voice recognition software, to help people manage the lifelong condition more effectively.

Click through to see other celebrities who have done extremely well despite their dyslexia.

quicklist: 1title: Henry Winklertext: As one of television's most iconic characters, The Fonz on "Happy Days," Henry Winkler often ad-libbed his lines because he couldn't make sense of the scripts. Coined the class dunce in school, he wasn't diagnosed with dyslexia until he was 31. Now, he's helping other kids with the disorder as the author of a series of books about a dyslexic fourth grader named Hank Zipzer. media: 17339348

quicklist: 2title: Tom Cruisetext: In 2003, blockbuster star Tom Cruise told People magazine he left high school a "functional illiterate." "When I was about 7 years old, I had been labeled dyslexic," he said. "I'd try to concentrate on what I was reading, then I'd get to the end of the page and have very little memory of anything I'd read. I would go blank, feel anxious, nervous, bored, frustrated, dumb." Cruise said he got through school and the early years of his career by "sheer will" before learning about Scientology's Study Technology in 1986. Cruise credits Study Technology with helping him overcome dyslexia, and as a founding board member of Hollywood Education and Literacy Project, he's responsible for bringing the technique to students nationwide.media: 17339016

quicklist: 3title: Keira Knightleytext: Keira Knightley battled her dyslexia in order to get her first agent. The "Pirates of the Caribbean" actress told the UK's Daily Mail in 2003 that she was so keen on following her parents into acting that she struck a deal with them, promising to study every day if they allowed her to get an agent. "I was diagnosed when I was 6," she said. "I worked hard to get the better of it and by the time I got to secondary school, it was much better. I can read and write - badly - but I'm fine reading scripts."media: 17339447

quicklist: 4title: Orlando Bloomtext: Another British actor, Orlando Bloom, struggled with dyslexia and the stigma it carries. "It was a struggle. It was a lot of work," Bloom told an audience at Rockefeller University in New York City during a lecture series on dyslexia in 2010. "I had to work three times as hard to get two-thirds of the way. I was frustrated with that learning disability. It makes you feel stupid." Bloom said he was relieved to learn that in addition to having the disorder, he had a high IQ score and realized he wasn't dumb.media: 17339314

quicklist: 5title: Patrick Dempseytext: Patrick Dempsey plays "McDreamy" on "Grey's Anatomy," but his childhood was anything but. He wasn't diagnosed with dyslexic until he was 12 years old. But the man who plays neurosurgeon Dr. Derek Shepherd on the hit ABC series told Barbara Walters in 2006 that "it's made me who I am today." "It's given me a perspective of -- you have to keep working," Dempsey told Walters. "I have never given up." Even today, the actor said he still struggles with reading scripts. "I think that's when I get the most insecure … it's very hard for me to read it off the page," he said. "I need to memorize it, in order to go on."media: 17339251

quicklist: 6title: Whoopi Goldbergtext: Like Spielberg, comedian and "The View" co-host Whoopi Goldberg didn't learn she had dyslexia until she was an adult. "When I was a kid they didn't call it dyslexia. They called it ... you know, you were slow, or you were retarded, or whatever," she told the Academy of Achievement in 2005. She said she learned how to manage her disorder with the help of a man who showed her how to coordinate the letters she saw to "something called an A, or a B, or a C, or a D, and that was pretty cool."media: 17339457

quicklist: 7title: Chertext: In July 2012, Cher revealed on Twitter that she has dyslexia and made no apologies: "ITS TRUE IM DYSLEXIC & some of u have a problem following me !I am who i am! Dyslexia is no joke ! If i had Some1 twt 4 me whats the point" She followed that up with, "Dyslexia SORE spot 4 me ! school was hell !Said I was lazy Told her I'm mostly kind patient but she could xxx my other Cheek !" media: 17339139