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Slow. Retarded. Dumb. Lazy. These are some of the words that people used to describe Whoopi Goldberg when she was growing up. School was not easy for Goldberg. She suffered difficulties in learning and eventually dropped out of high school when she was 17. She was not diagnosed of dyslexia until she entered adulthood that is why she lived with all the judgement for years. She was subjected to bullying because everyone thought she was just lazy and stupid for failing school. “When I was a kid, they didn’t call it dyslexia. They called it… being slow, or you were retarded…” Goldberg recalls during an interview for Child Mind. After dropping out from school, due to her anxieties and low self-esteem, Goldberg was exposed to drugs.
Amidst all the challenges she encountered, Whoopi knew that she was more than what other people describe her to be. She knew that she was not stupid or dumb because she has a great memory. As she said, “If you read to me, I could tell you everything you read.” She is good in memorizing scripts and she always wanted to become an actor. She is creative and talented but the only problem she had was her reading. If there is one good thing that Whoopi could remember during those tough years is having a very supportive mother who understands her very well. Her mother knew that she has a special way of learning. When she dropped out at school, her mother would give her money so she could go to museums and sit in lectures to learn.
Whoopi made a name for herself in the entertainment industry and starred in different shows and plays. She became very successful in her craft and became one of the 14 entertainers to win a Grammy, Oscar, Emmy and Tony Award. She is now a host of her own talk show The View.
When asked about how her condition affected her as a person, Whoopi said it made her be introspective. “Made me more thoughtful, maybe slightly slower in how I do things because it takes me a minute sometimes to figure things out.” Whoopi learned to embrace and live with her condition and use it to succeed in her craft. She was once quoted saying, “Normal is nothing more than a cycle on a washing machine.” as it is okay to be not normal; that there is more to life even if you are not like the others.
Whoopi also shared how the role of parents and teachers are important in the journey of children with dyslexia. She is encouraging parents to be supportive of their children because as what she said, “You’re all we have”. It is important for children to know that there is someone who believes and understands them. She also shared how teachers helped and inspired her. “Teachers have always been, to me, the brightest lights in the neighbourhood. Without them, the world is so much smaller for kids.”
Whoopi is now an advocate for people with dyslexia and other learning difficulties. Along with other celebrities like Steven Spielberg, Anderson Cooper, Keira Knightley, Sir Richard Branson, and John Chambers who also suffer from learning difficulties, Whoopi became active in supporting and promoting campaigns that help students with dyslexia succeed in school.
Ehmke, R. (2016, May 4). Whoopi Goldberg Speaks Up About Dyslexia at Annual Adam Katz Memorial Conversation. Retrieved from childmind.org: https://childmind.org/blog/whoopi-goldberg-speak-up-dyslexia/