Dyslexia should be recognised as a sign of potential, says Richard Branson

Samuel Osborne
Richard Branson, who dropped out of school at 16, says his dyslexia was 'treated as a handicap: my teachers thought I was lazy and dumb, and I couldn't keep up or fit in': Rob Kim/Getty Images

Sir Richard Branson has said dyslexia should be recognised as a sign of potential in an effort to combat the stigma around the learning difficulty.

Mr Branson, who dropped out of school at 16, said his dyslexia was "treated as a handicap: my teachers thought I was lazy and dumb, and I couldn’t keep up or fit in."

But he pointed out that Albert Einstein, Henry Ford and Steve Jobs are considered to be dyslexic.

In an article for The Sunday Times, Mr Branson wrote: ​"The reason why I think people who are dyslexic seem to do well in life, having struggled at school, is that we tend to simplify things."

A YouGov survey to be unveiled at the launch of his charity Made by Dyslexia shows just three per cent of people consider dyslexia a positive trait.

"It is time we lost the stigma around dyslexia," he wrote. "It is not a disadvantage; it is merely a different way of thinking.

"Once freed from archaic schooling practices and preconceptions, my mind opened up. Out in the real world, my dyslexia became my massive advantage: it helped me to think creatively and laterally, and see solutions where others saw problems."

He said: "To change perceptions, we must celebrate all that dyslexic people have achieved, so that young people no longer give up before they have even started.

"We must make sure every school not only has the resources necessary to identify dyslexia, but also the support necessary to champion dyslexics and enable them to thrive."

Mr Branson said he hoped his new charity would develop campaigns to explain dyslexic thinking and work with governments, business leaders and individuals to identify and inspire dyslexics.

He added: "One in 10 Britons have dyslexia: that is more than 6m people. Just imagine the difference we could make if every one of these people were encouraged to achieve their potential and strive to make their dreams a reality. It’s time to make a difference."

Earlier this year, neuroscientists discovered what appears to be a fundamental reason why some people are dyslexic.

Using MRI scans, researchers identified a "neural signature" among dyslexics, whose brains displayed lower levels of "plasticity" or ability to adapt to new information.

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