Stephen Spielberg health: Movie making saved director from ‘shame and guilt’ of disorder

West Side Story: Trailer released for Steven Spielberg recreation

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Only being diagnosed as dyslexic in 2007, the 75-year-old spoke out about his experience with the condition in 2012 during a Friends of Quinn – a programme created by the the National Centre for Learning Disabilities – interview, where he confessed that his diagnosis “explained a lot of things”. Spielberg realised that he had been dyslexic his entire life after experiencing difficulties with reading when in school, but he had kept the “tremendous mystery” all to himself.

“It basically started with just things that happen when you’re a kid in school,” Spielberg explained during the interview.

“You’re a slow reader, and in my case I was actually unable to read for at least two years. I was two years behind the rest of my class and of course I went through what everybody goes through, teasing.

“I had to go through that for a long time and so the teasing led to a lot of other problems I was having in school, but it all stemmed from the fact that I was embarrassed to stand up in front of the class and read.”

Spielberg admitted that he “always knew” that he was “a little different,” but confessed that some aspects of his childhood acted as inspiration for his later films.

The NHS explains that dyslexia is a common learning difficulty, but it can cause people to have trouble with not only reading but writing and spelling.

Like Spielberg, signs that an individual may be dyslexic usually become apparent when a child starts school and begins to focus on learning to read and write.

These can include:

  • Reading and writing very slowly
  • Confusing the order of letters in words
  • Putting letters the wrong way round (such as writing “b” instead of “d”)
  • Having poor or inconsistent spelling
  • Understanding information when told verbally, but have difficulty with information that’s written down
  • Finding it hard to carry out a sequence of directions
  • Struggling with planning and organisation.

However it is important to note that, unlike a learning disability, dyslexia doesn’t affect intelligence. Yet it is still estimated to affect up to one in every 10 people in the UK in varying different ways, and for their entire lives.

The award winning director went on to describe that one of the “worst days of [his] life” was when he was asked to stand up and read from a book in front of the entire class, something that would repeatedly happen during his time at school.

Part of the reason why the star struggled so much is due to the time and lack of awareness surrounding the learning difficulty at the time.

Spielberg admitted himself that in the 1950s, there was no programme, no books and nobody diagnosed him as dyslexic, meaning that teachers were left thinking that the reason why he was so behind other students in his class was because the star was just “lazy”.

Although holding no resentment towards the children who bullied him for struggling, Spielberg admitted that he would find a sense of escape in making films, in fact the star said that movie making “saved [him] from shame and guilt” that he unnecessarily felt.

Getting into an industry that relies heavily on reading was a drastic decision by Speilberg, but unashamedly the star confessed that he will take as long as he needs to read a script.

Instead of trying to hide his dyslexia, as he used to do when he was a child, the star said that he has been able to “overcompensate”, never feeling ashamed of how long it may take him to read a body of text.

“It takes me about two hours and 45 minutes to read what most people can read in about an hour and 10 minutes,” Speilberg continued.

“I just know I’m slow at reading but I’ve learned to adjust, I just don’t read often.”

The NHS adds that with appropriate support, there is usually no reason why a child cannot go to a mainstream school, wth plenty of techniques and support that can help your child.

These include:

  • Occasional one-to-one teaching or lessons in a small group with a specialist teacher
  • Phonics (a special learning technique that focuses on improving the ability to identify and process the smaller sounds that make up words)
  • Technology like computers and speech recognition software that may make it easier for your Child to read and write when they’re a bit older.
  • Higher education establishments such as universities also have specialist staff who can support young people with dyslexia.

Spielberg goes on to state that despite struggling, his dyslexia has helped his career. Speaking about the benefits of his dyslexia he said: “I have great comprehension in what I read because I read slowly. I retain almost everything I read, I don’t just skip over things.

“I’m able to really savour good writing because I really take my time going through a book or a script.”

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