TV Tropes Needs Your Help
View Kickstarter Project
Big things are happening on TV Tropes! New admins, new designs, fewer ads, mobile versions, beta testing opportunities, thematic discovery engine, fun trope tools and toys, and much more - Learn how to help here
and discuss here
L Is for Dyslexia
"DYLSEXICS OF THE WORLD, UNTIE!"
— An old joke
Dyslexia is one of many types of learning difficulties. There are many types of these difficulties and just about everyone has one to some extent or another. With dyslexia, the learning difficulty may range from a person with horrendous dyslexia who is functionally illiterate, to someone who is just fairly bad at reading and writing. In some instances, you'll find dyslexics who are actually okay at reading and writing — or excellent readers who only turn letters around when they write. Actually, "dyslexia" and the related condition "dysmetria" describe a wide range of cognitive problems, including things such as difficulty understanding directions, reading maps, and/or doing logical puzzles.
In comedy, it's usually portrayed as jumbled, hilariously misspelled words (see the trope picture). In drama and televised series, it's sometimes the focus of a Very Special Episode
If you have further interest on the subject or want to know how to portray dyslexia more accurately, check out our Useful Notes
page on Dyslexia
. Compare Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!
, for media's treatment of ADD/ADHD.
open/close all folders
- An Archie story gave Moose Mason dyslexia as an explanation for why he did so poorly in school.
- Cassandra Cain, aka Batgirl III is dyslexic. Considering her upbringing, this may be a rare case of acquired dyslexia since the parts of her brain that would normally be used for reading, writing and speaking were instead focused towards combat by her father.
- On the other side of the pond, Jubilee of the X-Men has dyscalculia.
- Sara in Teen Titans Go! is dyslexic.
- In Doom Patrol, a big Government Conspiracy inflicts this on a whistleblower who's writing (or, rather, trying to write) an exposé. All his typewritten pages contain gibberish.
- Surprisingly averted in the Glee fanfiction series The Symphony Verse, where Kurt and Blaine bond over their shared irritation with fellow student D.Marshall in an online literature class they are both taking, who comes to conclusions and make statements that make them wonder whether she even reads the books they discuss in the class. Much later, Blaine finds out that his new friend DiDi is, in fact, D.Marshall, and that she has reading comprehension issues due to mild dyslexia. No scrambled letters in sight, just a slight difficulty understanding and analyzing written information. Naturally, Kurt and Blaine are torn between laughing in astonishment that they've actually managed to get to know D.Marshall, and feeling bad because they used to make fun of her (even if she never knew that they did).
- In the first scene of The Naked Gun 33 1/3, Frank Drebin is reading a newpaper with the headline: "Dyslexia For Cure Found".
- The younger sister Maggie from In Her Shoes is shown to have a terrible employment history and fails a screen test that involves reading from a teleprompter. She is dyslexic. But practice in reading slowly with a former (blind) English Professor helps. (In the book, sitting in a library and reading slowly at her own pace also helped).
- The Australian crime movie The Hard Word featured a criminal nicknamed Tarzan. A P.O.V. shot established that Tarzan reads words as if they're spelled backwards. During the big caper, one of the crooks must key a 4-digit security code that's written on a piece of paper. Tarzan insists on doing this job, so he reads the number with its digits reversed, and he mis-keys it accordingly. In real life, if a dyslexic consistently perceived alphanumerics in reverse order (rather than randomly mixed) he would never notice: if a dyslexic's brain consistently perceived the word "cat" as "tac", he would eventually recognize that "tac" is pronounced "cat". Actual dyslexia doesn't work that way.
- The Bollywood movie ''Taare Zameen Par is a brilliant example of raising awareness of the issue of dyslexia on-screen.
- A dyslexic devil worshipper sold his soul to Santa.
- Meanwhile, the dyslexic agnostic wonders if there really is a dog.
- What does DNA stand for? National Dyslexia Association.
- Dyslexics of the world untie!
- So a Dyslexic Man walks into a Bra...
- I have sex daily... I mean dyslexia.
- In the Percy Jackson and the Olympians book series, basically all the half bloods have this. The reason given is that their minds are hardwired to read ancient greek, so forcing them to read anything else mixes them up. The author based this on his son's dyslexia, so it's portrayed more realistically than most examples.
- Roald Dahl's book The Vicar Of Nibbleswicke handled a Vicar with 'verbal dyslexia', meaning he said words backwards.
- Averted in Anne Fine's book How To Write Really Badly - the titular bad writer is dyslexic, but all it means is that he has to use a sheet to spell words and has really abysmal handwriting.
- Helen in Sixth Grade Can Really Kill You has a learning disability that's never specified as dyslexia, though she does seem to have trouble with phonics. While she has some mishaps with "b" and "d" and "p" and "q", she says it's because she can't remember which letter faces which way.
- Lucretia in Bystander was diagnosed with Dyslexia by someone that didn't realize her real problem was that print pages and computer displays weren't made for someone with thermal and electrical vision. She goes along with it as part of her Obfuscating Stupidity SOP and has never herself bothered to actually research Dyslexia, or at least she pretends she hasn't. She actually reads very well when temperatures aren't fluctuating too much and she has a paper book to read rather than a computer or other electrical device.
- Anna from Pony Pals suffers from dyslexia (and dyscalculia, although the term is never mentioned: her reading and math difficulties are just lumped together as dyslexia, presumably for simplicity's sake). In the beginning of the series, her parents think she just doesn't try hard enough and threaten punishment, until she meets a dyslexic adult who recognizes her symptoms.
- The Dutch childrens book 'Ga jij maar op de gang' (go stand in the corridor) by Jaques Vriends, is about a boy who has Dyslexia. Because the writer is Dyslectic himself, the depiction of Dyslexia is done quite well.
- Jack McClure from the series of the same name by Eric Van Lustbader for the most part averts this. He ran away from home when he was a teenager due to the verbal abuse he went through from his father as a result of his disability, but despite the difficulties he has ready he has an excellent sense of space and a photographic memory, and he can (verbally) learn new languages very quickly. While his dyslexia occasionally manifests as scrambled letters there's much more to it than that.
- Will Trent in Karin Slaughter's book Triptych has dyslexia and can barely read. This is rather unfortunate, as he is a police detective, and he spends a great deal of time hiding this from his superiors.
- Matt Parkman on Heroes has horrible dyslexia to the point that he is functionally illiterate. His having never heard of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which he could have invoked to take alternative promotion exams, is probably related to another condition. When his FBI sort-of-partner arranges for him to take the alternative exam, he's clearly surprised at the notion.
- Theo on The Cosby Show. While it was an interesting character move to reverse his established characterization of "just being stupid", the portrayal was fairly hamfisted, and it is implied that his condition is entirely cured by a pair of glasses. This was inspired by Cosby's late son, Ennis, who actually WAS diagnosed with dyslexia.
- Common in Very Special Episodes that doesn't involve drugs, child molestation, or gambling.
- One such special ep in Step by Step had J.T. struggle with dyslexia.
- The movie Summer School had such a scene, where one of the students in Remedial English is discovered to have undiagnosed dyslexia.
- "Bunny" Warren from Porridge is severely dyslexic, and indeed illiterate. He blames his condition for his incarceration.
Fletcher: Oh, here it comes, the sob story.
Warren: No, Fletch, it's true. I couldn't read the sign.
Fletcher: What sign?
Warren: The one saying "Warning, Burglar alarm".
- Michael DeLuise's character on seaQuest DSV claims to be dyslexic, and very nearly puts the wrong disarming code into a mine attached to the submarine, before he's ordered to read the number backwards, and realizes that, "the seven goes on the outside".
- So Weird: Molly is mildly dyslexic, though she has somehow avoided mentioning this to her 17-year-old son. When, for the viewer's benefit, she explains what dyslexia is (since her son, Replacement Goldfish daughter, and two college-age friends of the family have never heard of the disorder) she explicitly says that it means that you sometimes see letters out of order. Curiously, the "artistic" representation of it that we see is not letters out of order, but simply replaced by random characters.
- Black Hole High: We learn that Vaughn has dyslexia when the mysterious phenomenon of the week causes him to switch bodies with Lucas. Vaughn is startled to find it suddenly easy to read, while Lucas is confused when he suddenly finds random letters written backwards. While it's an interesting realization that dyslexia, being a result of "the way the brain is wired" remains with the body (This may be more "accurate", though we are assessing the accuracy of the results of two people swapping bodies), it's the fact that he sees letters backwards that tips Lucas off to the nature of Vaughn's problem.
- A boy on the Brazilian tv show Malhação hard a hard time reading; one of the characters explained he was "dyslexic" after asking him to make a mark on the right side of a piece of paper and the boy marked the left side.
- Scrubs falls right into this trope with a one-time joke, despite its usual precision:
Dr. Kelso: Maybe next time you should try a lawyer who didn't need 3 tries to pass the bar exam!
Ted: I have stress-induced dyslexia and you know that Dr... Oslek.
- Degrassi The Next Generation:
- Rare dyscalculia example: Liberty van Sandt was dyscalculic, and needed extra help in math from her math teacher. Unfortunately, this led to a rumor being spread that she was being sexually abused by him, due to the extra time they spent together.
- Joey Jeremiah is diagnosed with dysgraphia in the original series after repeating the eighth grade and not doing terribly well in the ninth.
- Anya is dyslexic.
- Charlie on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is either dyslexic or just illiterate; it's hard to tell. At times, his writing reads like Engrish. For example:
Taked baby. Meet at later bar, night or day sometime.
- The Quantum Leap episode Jimmy, where Sam leaps into a dock worker with Down Syndrome. Another of the workers has a severe hatred of Jimmy even beyond the usual prejudice of the time, and it turns out to be because he's dyslexic and can't read, and thus feels like the retarded but literate Jimmy is actually smarter than him. It uses the "jumbled up words" explanation, though you can fanwank that Sam was trying to not sound too smart while inhabiting such a person.
- On episode eleven of series seven on Mock the Week the Headliners round had the initials "E.R.W.C" Andy Parsons suggested that it was just "Crew" from the newspaper "Dyslexics Weekly".
Dara Ó Briain:
"Who would go: 'Dragons
, I've got a brilliant plan: a newspaper for dyslexics. Ahh
. You just print any letters in any order and they'll just interpret it anyway- whatever way they feel like. Good news, bad news: they decide.'"
- The episode afterwards, the headliner was "O.C.S.W". Parsons said it was the return of the same paper and it just said "COWS" - Dara commented how amusing it was that a newspaper felt the need to bring attention to cows in the dyslexic community.
Dara Ó Briain: "Because the cow is the natural predator of the dyslexic."
- Before the 2006 elections in Israel, Israeli satire programme Eretz Nehederet made a sketch in which the fictional ‘Dyslexia Party’ made an ad for themselves, with a presentor reading statements off a page pretty poorly (‘From now on, we will let anyone screw us over!... Sorry!... We will not let anyone screw us over!’). They started singing a song about the harsh life of dyslects (‘We want to finish tests before dark... To watch films even without a dub... We hate how the waiter gets andgry when we order Bolognese sapta... Vote for the dyclests!’).
- Max and George in The George Lopez Show
- Portrayed rather realistically. George went his entire life without knowing he was dyslexic. It's explained in the show that whenever he had a hard time reading, he'd ask someone else to do it for him. It was only when Max was diagnosed that he discovered this. It's treated pretty well on the show, but is still the point of a few jokes. One involved searching for a specific street number, and being unable to remember or recognize it.
- Max had a rough time in school, needing extra time and help on his work. Everyone expects him to fail the 5th grade, but he works hard and is overjoyed when he graduates.
- CeCe in Shake It Up, as revealed in the episode "Add It Up". Doubles as Actor Allusion; Bella Thorne is Dyslexic as well.
- Bruce Jenner used to show up on various television series to talk about what dyslexia really is. In the 1985 Silver Spoons episode "Trouble With Words", he meets nine-year-old Alfonso, an excellent dancer whose father thinks is simply neglecting schoolwork. Alfonso stays up all night sweating over a book report on Moby-Dick which compares the conflict between man and whale to "the fight between dab and doog". Jenner pounces on it and gives the father an education.
- Played for Laughs - as are most things - on Whose Line Is It Anyway?, to excuse Ryan's verbal stumble in the film noir game. "What he didn't was...or know was, or was know, was that...I was dyslexic." 
- In another skit: "We'll be right back with the dyslexic presentation of Bitty Bitty Chang Chang after these messages!"
- Jaime Lannister in Game of Thrones is described as "reversing the letters in his head," but because the series takes place in a world similar to the middle ages, he went undiagnosed. His father Tywin recalls spending four hours a day forcing Jaime to learn, and says that Jaime hated him for it for a long time.
- Glee subverts this trope by portraying Ryder Lynn's dyslexia very realistically. He has phonic dyslexia as he can read words he already learned but he can't sound out new ones and mirrored words baffle him.
- Casey in Home and Away was diagnosed with dyslexia when his teacher noticed some word jumbling in an assignment. At various times it's pointed out that Casey knows the material but can't write it down coherently, and that he needs extra help with reading and comprehension. he's also shown highlighting his notes in different colours to help with revision; one colour for themes, one for quotes, one for references to characters, etc.
- On Marcus Welby, MD, the teenage patient of the week is being berated at the breakfast table for his bad report card. He becomes increasingly upset before finally yelling, "I'm sorry!" and running out the sliding glass door. Um, through the sliding glass door. He'd thought it opened the other way, and had cut himself badly on the glass. In taking him to the doctor for his injuries, guess what the family discovers he has.
- A cartoon in Dragon magazine many years ago showed a magic-user reading his newly-acquired magic scroll. It began, ?This is a scroll of learning disability. As you read, yol will smolwy become confused by thr printed wertz??
- The MAD parody of Jewel's poetry book includes a poem about being diasgnosed with dyslexia, which ends:
There's only one thing I still can't quite understand
On page 4 of the doctor's report
Right after it says "dyslexia"
Why does it say "Also, your cisum skcus
- The song Dyslexics are Teople Poo makes use of this trope in a Stephen Lynch way (hilariously offensive and insensitive).
- Pinkard and Bowden's "Longasing Song" is a comedic ditty about a man who has dyslexia, "but I damn give a don't."
- Adventures in Odyssey featured an episode were Oscar was revealed to have dyslexia as he had a great deal of trouble reading but was not completely illiterate.
- The Onion makes fun of this in this radio story.
Scand Up Tomedy
- Jasper Carrott had a comedy routine on the subject (largely the popular misconception version...)
Carrott: I once did a routine about dyslexics, and...the letters I got... "Dor Jaspor Pargit, leave us exiliads alone, you winker!"
- Eddie Izzard is actually dyslexic. Or "partially dyslexic", as he puts it.
"I always thought I'm dyslexic but then met somebody who is more dyslexic than me. Since then I always say I'm only partially dyslexic, because other dyslexics would go 'Hey, you're not dyslexic!'. There's a lot of rivalry in the dyslexic department. 'Rivalry' with three 'V's'."
- The classic dyslexic joke goes like this:
So, this dyslexic man walks into a bra...
- Pepper is implied to be this in LEGO Island. Characters mention Pepper's poor spelling and reading skills. Pepper himself admits it as well. There is also a sign next to The Brickster's jail cell that reads NO PIZZA unless the player is playing as Pepper, then it reads NO PIZAZ.
- Kevin & Kell:
- Rudy has dystracksia, so he has trouble reading tracks — a big problem for a predator (Rudy is a fox/wolf hybrid).
- According to Kevin's mother Dorothy (a rabbit), this is also a problem for prey. Dorothy also has dystracksia, which forced her to find her own food/water/shelter rather than following tracks left by other rabbits. On the bright side for her, she was never part of a herd that got "thinned" by predators.
- Terinu's race, the Ferin, are all functionally dyslexic. This is considered a feature, not a defect, by their creator, since they're a slave race.
- Double Subversion in this xkcd strip.
- Butch of Chopping Block has recurrent problems with this. Among other things, when he tried to kill the Dixie Chicks, he accidentally slaughtered a more risque performance by "Chix With Dicks."
- In the Whateley Universe, Tennyo has dyscalculia and is in a special math class. But she's abnormally good at biology.
- Retarded Animal Babies, episode one is probably one Trope Namer for this. "D is for Lysdexia!" The fact that the loading screen says "IQ: 100" and by the time it's done loading says "IQ: 40" doesn't help.
- Rubberbandman from Static Shock was shown to be dyslexic, which was a problem when he had to follow instructions to keep the MacGuffin from blowing up. The short at the end of the episode unfortunately said that the part about reading backwards was actually true.
- An episode of Family Guy shows a movie theater for dyslexics, with a marquee promoting Chevy Chase in "Feltch".
- Steve Smith from American Dad!.
- Referenced (and Played for Laughs) in Metalocalypse, as Skwisgaar states that he has "music dyslex-kia", meaning it's impossible for him to read sheet music and that he just hits whatever notes when playing guitar. It works for him, though. Moments later, the rest of the band admits that's what they do too
- Herbert and George from Arthur have dyslexia.
- George S Patton was dyslexic and mastered the courses at West Point by having a Battle Butler read strategy books to him.
- Samuel R. Delany, in an essay in Writer's Digest, said that he is dyslexic, and pointed out that there were earlier societies (such as the Vikings) in which it was possible to be dyslexic and not notice.
- Terry Goodkind, surprisingly enough. He was an amateur painter before publishing his first book.
- Too many examples to list. The Other Wiki has a few.
- King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden admitted publicly that he was dyslectic in 1997, something that had been suspected by journalists for many years. He did for example misspell his name when signing his accession document and at one point wrote his name as "Cal Gustf". A common nickname for him in Sweden is "Knugen" after he misspelled Kungen (the king).
- His daughter, Crown Princess Victoria, is also dyslectic.
- Tom Cruise believes his dyslexia was cured by Scientology.
- John de Lancie (you might know him as Q from Star Trek) was so horribly dyslexic he had trouble reading scripts. that's why he became so brilliant at improvisation and comedy.
- There are actually quite a lot of people who suffered dyslexia as children, but managed to overcome it in some form. These people might be able to read and write, but not pros at it, while some people quite enjoy it, but will persist in having difficulty learning new words or new (Latin-based) languages.
- There is also a theory that many children were dyslexic because they were left-handed, but forced to write with their right hand.
- Doug Walker doesn't have dyslexia but may have have some short of spelling disorder that he once couldn't even spell his last name right. Fans are all too willing to point out every single spelling error he makes, but thankfully he can make fun of himself for it.
- Subverted in one commentary: Doug points out that "penguin" is spelled wrong in a caption, and asks his brother why he didn't point it out because "I'm dyslexic as hell". It was spelled right.
- Doug's friend Jason in the review of adventure time ocean fear said he(Jason not Doug) has Dyslexia.
- It's only theory but Albert Einstein, legendary physicist.
- Eddie Izzard has mentioned that part of the reason his shows tend to ramble is that he doesn't fully script or rehearse them due to difficulties with dyslexia. He has also been known to have it Played for Laughs in his standup routines.
- Some types of dyslexia are related to Irlen Syndrome, in which the brain doesn't properly pick up signals from the eyes, tries to readjust, and things can look scrambled or "floating around" as a result.