Famous People with Learning Difficulties

Many learning difficulties such as dyslexia and ADHD still have a lot of stigma attached to them.

Children who are diagnosed with one or several of these conditions can find themselves struggling at school, unable to focus on work, and often misunderstood.

It’s not uncommon for them to feel like everything in front of them is an obstacle, and success at school and a career can seem a long way away.

Creating a display of famous people with learning difficulties is a great way to show the entire class how special educational needs (SEN) are not a barrier to achieving great things. We’ve included some examples below.


There are a huge number of actors and celebrities who have been diagnosed with dyslexia, some at an early age and others later in life.

Keira Knightley was diagnosed at the age of 6 after showing signs of struggling to read, but she credits the condition with making her tougher and encouraging her to work harder to achieve her goals. Other celebrities with dyslexia include:

  • Tom Cruise and Orlando Bloom, who both overcame difficulties with literacy at school
  • Jamie Oliver shot to fame with his cooking books despite not finishing reading a single book until he was 38
  • Whoopi Goldberg, who is one of only a handful of people to win an Oscar, a Grammy, an Emmy and a Tony award, despite being labelled ‘slow’ when she was younger.

(credit: Joe Sear/Shutterstock.com)


Richard Branson has written publicly about his battle with dyslexia during his school days, but he has also lived with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) which saw him struggling to concentrate in the classroom.

In spite, or perhaps because of this learning difficulty, he and many other entrepreneurs have thrived by putting the energy and creativity associated with ADHD to good use.

Always moving around and rapidly changing thoughts – common traits of ADHD – have helped Will.i.am to achieve great success as a singer and producer. He believes the popular songs he writes are a direct result of his ADHD.

(credit: Helga Esteb/Shutterstock.com)


Daniel Radcliffe hasn’t let dyspraxia, the developmental coordination disorder, stop him from flying around on broomsticks and becoming one of the most successful young actors in history.

Despite suffering at school and finding it extremely hard to complete simple activities like tying his own shoelaces, Daniel has not let the condition get in his way.

(credit: Lev Radin/Shutterstock)


Whilst you might not consider actors to have trouble with speaking their lines, a number of high profile stars have suffered with stutters and speech impediments since they were young.

  • Samuel L Jackson began acting as a form of therapy for his stammer
  • Bruce Willis suffered from a severe stutter throughout his childhood and teenage years
  • Rowan Atkinson, famous for his Mr Bean sketches, struggled with a speech impediment as a child, particularly the letter B.

(credit: vipflash/Shutterstock.com)

Achieving success with learning difficulties

As well as the conditions listed above, Asperger’s Syndrome hasn’t stopped Susan Boyle from becoming a multi-millionaire singer, and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder has never hindered David Beckham’s rise to success both on and off the pitch.

It’s clear that an SEN diagnosis doesn’t have to be any kind of barrier to doing what you want to do and being extremely successful at it.

There are many other famous people we haven’t listed here. If you add any more names to a classroom display about learning difficulties, we’d love to hear about them!