A young person with dyslexia can be successful with just about any career he chooses. In many cases, even compensation strategies used to cope with continuing reading difficulties turn out to be an asset.
David Boies, a trial lawyer known for his exceptional courtroom skills, attributes his prodigious memory in part to reading difficulties — he learned to rely on memory of testimony he heard or of law books he read, so as to avoid the need to read or re-read written material. Many actors with dyslexia report similar experiences with memorizing their lines: they simply don't want to have to read the script a second time, so they get it right on the first try.
Of course, there are some careers that present greater barriers than others for a young person with dyslexia. One reason that so many individuals with dyslexia end up leading their own businesses may be that they didn't do so well working for someone else; it helps to be in a managerial position where a secretary or administrative assistant can take care of typing, proofreading, and filing. But it's hard to get to be the boss without working one's way up; that is one reason that a college degree is particularly useful to your child.
A survey of 300 self-made millionaires found that 40 percent had been diagnosed with dyslexia. A larger survey of 5,000 millionaires found that more than half reported early struggles in school. Some highly successful business leaders with dyslexia are Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Enterprises; investment banker Charles Schwab; Cisco CEO John Chambers; Craig McCaw, who pioneered the cellular industry; and Paul Orfalea, founder of Kinko's.
Generally, young people with dyslexia tend to do better with jobs that allow them to express creativity through their work, such as working as a graphic artist. This includes writing, such as television writer Steven Cannell; of course professional writers have editors available to proofread their work, if they haven't yet mastered the nuances of spelling and punctuation. Many youngsters do well with jobs involving sales, relying on their interpersonal skills.
The key to success is to mesh interests with natural abilities. Many teens are quite proficient with computers and will do well in computer-related fields; but it would be difficult for a person who did not have a natural aptitude for computer work. If your teen plans to defer college, it may be helpful for him to work with a vocational or career counselor for ideas about where to start looking for work or training when he finishes high school. Many youngsters will find their own way, led by their own interests, with long-term employment evolving from a high school job or volunteer position.
General George C. Patton apparently had dyslexia and did not learn to read until age 12. He went on to lead a distinguished military career, becoming one of the most effective Army field commanders during World War II.
Keep in mind that making the transition from childhood to adult employment is difficult for many youngsters, and your child may explore many options before he finds his niche. Your child's imaginative approach and divergent learning style may lead him to take an unorthodox path, but as he moves into adulthood what he needs most from you is your faith, encouragement, and support.
Recognize that success in many endeavors depends far more on social skills and personal qualities such as persistence and resilience than on the academic skills so important to school success, and your now-grown child will do best in areas that excite his passions. Encourage your child to follow his dreams — in the end, you may find yourself pleasantly surprised, or perhaps astounded, by how much your once-struggling child is able to accomplish in his adult life.