Steven Spielberg Discusses his Dyslexia with Quinn Bradlee

Quinn Bradlee, a fascinating young man and worthy of interest in and of himself, interviewed filmmaker and director Steven Spielberg about learning disabilities, dyslexia, teasing, and the ways to cope.

Watch the video here.

It turns out that Mr. Speilberg was diagnosed with his lifelong dyslexia about five years ago. In spite of being one of Hollywood’s most well-respected and universally acclaimed filmmakers, he didn’t learn to read until two years after most of his classmates. He struggled with all of the expected things within school, notably reading and spelling, and in this interview, is very candid about the teasing that came with the territory of not fitting in.

For me, it’s a great, relaxed and candid interview done by this young man Quinn, who’s had his own struggles with dyslexia and other medical conditions.

Well-worth listening to and watching the entire 10 minute plus video.

Some comments by Steven Spielberg to listen for:
“I never felt like a victim…Movies saved me from shame. It was my great escape.”

“I wish I’d been diagnosed earlier.”

About reading: “It will take me about two hours and forty-five minutes to read something that would take another person an hour and ten minutes. But …I read often…with great comprehension because I take my time.”

Spielberg’s advice to young people with dyslexia or other learning disabilities: “It’s more common than you think. …You’re not alone. There are ways to deal with it…You can dart between the raindrops to get to where you want to go.” (love that one)

About Sanford

Learning Disabilities specialist and Educational Consultant
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8 Responses to Steven Spielberg Discusses his Dyslexia with Quinn Bradlee

  1. Richard says:

    This is great Sandy, thanks for posting it.

    I’m guessing Spielberg also had issues being an orthodox Jew and no doubt his dyslexia made Hebrew school yet another reading pressure on him.

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steven_Spielberg

    One thing he’s not quite right about although it’s regional so he’s sort of right for California: in the 1950s there was knowledge of Dyslexia, mostly on the East Coast and if you remember, Anna Gillingham was still doing workshops during that time (Orton had died in the late ’40s). My first reading teacher at Fieldston Lower School was a student of hers. So, in the 1950s through early ’60s there were a growing number of places doing Orton/Gillingham remedial reading instruction. My guess is, California, where Spielberg went to junior high and high school was late to get into the phonics game.

    By the time I got to Los Angeles in 1963 in the 6th grade there was no special ed in public schools but there were a few reading tutors who knew about intensive phonics. I didn’t work with any but we heard about them.

    The point that Spielberg makes about taking more time (taking his time) is crucial: although not everyone with dyslexia or attention problems can get the kind of comprehension and fluency he gets by taking more time, I know if I slow down my comprehension goes up. If we read more automatically no doubt we could improve the speed some but as long as there’s no time pressure who cares?

    Again, thanks for posting this, my guess is many will find it inspirational.

  2. Sanford says:

    Richard, thanks. I absolutely knew you’d ‘resonate with the part of his finding the gift in slowing down his reading. You and I have talked before about this. I would say that many people whether they have a reading problem or not, would benefit from slowing down their reading speed. His point that taking his time allows him to really hear the voice of the writer is right on.

    I don’t know the guy, but he seems to have a balance or relative peace about him (3 billion net worth might do that), and love that he spoke to the “victim mentality” without any preaching.

    Frankly i often have mixed feelings when another celebrity with dyslexia is carted out as something inspirational. This time I loved it.

  3. Richard says:

    I agree on the mixed feelings part Sandy but neither Spielberg nor Quinn milked that piece of the story. Certainly bullying is a big topic these days and many of us with LD have been bullied, but Spielberg no doubt had enough parental support, and the structure of his religion to fall back on (not such a bad thing) so that whatever bullying he received didn’t wipe him out but seems instead to have helped push him toward film.

    I think many people who have gone into the arts took that path because it was a path of less resistance. I don’t mean to demean (I’m an artist too), just that the arts have more tolerance for “weirdos” than other academic areas.

    I’d love to see another interview with Spielberg that gets into what part his religion has played in his life and in this struggle. My guess is it’s done him a lot of good. By the way, he was a member of a temple in LA that my mother belonged to (Dustin Hoffman too) and she got to meet them both. Very nice men (to her).

  4. ellen says:

    Can’t wait to share this with Cam, as Spielberg is one of his heroes. He too loves the arts, maybe in part because its an alternative way to get his creativity across that he may otherwise struggle to do in written form. I guess his diagnosis in fifth grade was ‘late’ too, but he’s doing great in middle school (yes, I wrote ‘great’) because he has plenty of LD resources available to him, as well as additional, caring staff who can better work with him in small group settings. Public school, my tax dollars at (good) work. 😀

  5. Sanford says:

    “Certainly bullying is a big topic these days and many of us with LD have been bullied, but Spielberg no doubt had enough parental support, and the structure of his religion to fall back on (not such a bad thing) so that whatever bullying he received didn’t wipe him out but seems instead to have helped push him toward film.”

    It would be great to explore why or how did Steven develop his resilience. I’m sure his parents and upbringing helped. As for his religion, I’m not sure. The abuse I withstood as a kid growing up in Brooklyn (from the local schoolyard toughs, because of religion) certainly steeled me.

    ” think many people who have gone into the arts took that path because it was a path of less resistance. I don’t mean to demean (I’m an artist too), just that the arts have more tolerance for “weirdos” than other academic areas.”

    Agreed. I do have to say though, and in contrast; due to the hundreds of kids/people with dyslexia I’ve worked with over the years, I think it’s more than only a path of lesser resistance (certainly being an artist is not easy). I don’t agree with the notion that being dyslexic automatically means you have particular strengths. I do think people have such cognitive variety and oftentimes weakness in one area seems balanced with a strength in another area. I mean that in the sense of seemingly in-borne capacities. I had no way of proving that and I realize that it’s an interaction of environment and psychology that influences genetic blueprints and potential. Of course the job of teachers and life itself is about discovering and nurturing many ways of “being smart.”

  6. Sanford says:

    Ellen,
    Of course, super glad that Cam’s having such a good year. I’m amazed (in a bad way) to read about some of the, shall we say, less than supportive things your kids encountered in the French country public schools.

    The thing about “lateness of diagnosis” is in my experience, this: Statistically and research-wise, “lateness” is “bad” or at least less good than earlier intervention. The biggest thing is that little kids still react pretty positively to interventions. Plus, there’s a lot less to undo…so it’s more of preventative work that feels more like what it is, a teaching adjustment.

    Having said all that, every kid is different. Different parents, different psyche, etc. Some kids aren’t ready for a variety of reasons, to really make use of support. Of course, it’s our job to find the right delivery. So, perhaps Cam is primed and ready to take off. Sure sounds that way.

    I know you know all this.

    Glad this interview will be a cool one for Cam. And thanks for writing in.

  7. cyrine says:

    I definitely appreciate Dyslexics who gives confidence and has positive viewpoints. Being Dyslexic doesn’t mean that you should stay inside your shell and always think differently. Guidance from parents and utilizing tools to learn creatively is what they need; and that’s Steven Spielberg did. He is really an inspiration to people who has reading difficulties.

  8. Sanford says:

    Cyrine,

    Thanks.

    I appreciate anyone who helps bring out confidence in others. As you say, staying in a shell is not a good thing (unless it’s really unsafe out there), and Spielberg is certainly an example of someone who was a misfit in the eyes of his childhood society at large; he struggled to read, was not athletic and his being Jewish was not a ticket to acceptance either.

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