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"L" Is for "Dyslexia"

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— 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 somebody with horrendous dyslexia who is functionally illiterate, all the way to people who can read just fine, but turn a few 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), sometimes used in order to spell rude words — if spelling something incorrectly a dyslexic wouldn't necessarily form recognizable words at all. 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.


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  • Parodied in the English dub of Ghost Stories, where Satsuki's …odd brother Keiichirou is mocked in many ways.
    Satsuki: Have you done your homework yet? Oh wait, you're dyslexic. Done your yet homework have? You? You I'm answer! Hey! Talking me to!

    Comic Books 
  • An Archie story in Archie at Riverdale High 98 (August '84) gave Moose Mason dyslexia as an explanation for why he did so poorly in school. Archie had begun backing off on the constant dumbhead gags for Moose in the late 70s-early 80s. In "The Eyes Have It", following a relatively simple assignment with a number of steps to be copied off the board, Moose's paper looks hopelessly jumbled... because that's what he saw. Tests with a specialist reveal he's dyslexic.
  • 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.
  • In the Pathfinder comics, Valeros the fighter is shown having trouble reading as a child. When his grandmother gets frustrated with him for being unable to properly read a line, he protests that "the letters jiggle".

    Comic Strips 
  • In Safe Havens Dave is discovered to have dyslexia. A good portion of comics set during high school focus on Dave working hard to improve his reading, especially since he needs a good SAT score to qualify for a basketball scholarship, the only way he'd attend the same school as his love interest Samantha. Ironically, he ends up being able to read Italian better than English (though living for five years in Florence helped).

  • 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).

    Film — Live-Action 
  • 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.
  • Summer School's dyslexic character is Denise. She's initially a defensive Sassy Black Woman , until her condition is discovered.

  • 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.
    • Then there's DAM: Mothers Against Dyslexia.
  • Dyslexics of the world untie!
  • So a Dyslexic Man walks into a Bra...
  • I have sex daily... I mean dyslexia.
  • I put the sexy in dyslexia! (beat) Wait..
  • Two dyslexics rob a bank. One of them shouts "Air in the hands motherholders! This is a fuck-up!"
  • Is it considered blasphemy if a dyslexic heretic claims to be a dog?
  • They said I'd never be good at poetry because I'm dyslexic, but so far I've made 3 jugs and a vase.

  • 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.
  • In Worm, Kid Win has dyscalculia, which is compounded by his ADHD a very common comorbidity. However his power is being a Gadgeteer Genius, which results in him having trouble doing some of the most basic tasks his power requires.
  • This kicks off the plot of Clive King's Me and My Million — the 11-year-old protagonist is dyslexic, and this leads him into trouble when he catches the number 14 bus rather than the number 41. Later on he further confuses matters by going to number 66 rather than number 99.

    Live-Action TV 

In General:

  • 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.


  • 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.
  • In the Broad City episode "Rat Pack," a dyslexic delivery man delivers a gift basket to Ilana at 215 10th Street when he was supposed to deliver it to 210 15th Street.
  • 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.
  • Degrassi: The Next Generation:
    • Rare dyscalculia example: Liberty van Sandt was dyscalculic, and needed extra help 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.
  • Doctor Who: "The Hungry Earth" has Elliott Northover, in a rather mild example of a Very Special Episode. His dyslexia has little impact on the plot, with him drawing a map of the area to help with surveillance, and he's extremely attached to his audiobooks.
  • 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 presenter 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!’).
  • Frasier: Frasier accepts Bulldog's suggestion to let his then-girlfriend take a bit part in a radio play. She's not available for rehearsal and Bulldog naturally waits until minutes before the play is due to go out live to tell Frasier she's dyslexic. Frasier dismisses any concern, as she only has one line: "Look out, he's got a gun!" Cue the actual broadcast:
    "Look out, he's got a nug!"
  • Game of Thrones: Jaime Lannister 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. If you listen closely enough in "You Win or You Die", Jaime has a slight bit of trouble reading Ned Stark's letter to Tywin summoning him to court; he pauses at certain words and sounds out every syllable as a child would, an interesting and realistic contrast to his spoken eloquence. In his letter to Doran, he misspells "nieces" as "neices". As he points out to Locke, he learned a lot of fancy words during those sessions with his father, but it doesn't mean reading's necessarily easy, and he also points out to Olenna that his father had always said he was a slow learner.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Sam is also stated to be dyslexic, but it's never explored in-universe.
  • Although Hank Zipzer is a comedy, Hank's dyslexia is treated seriously (although Hank himself makes jokes about it). Rather, the show demonstrates how many of Hank's problems are the result of his condition, and the refusal of others to accommodate it. However, much humour is derived from Hank's attempts to overcompensate for the condition, and the bizarrely inventive ways he tries to negotiate round it.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • On Marcus Welby, M.D., 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.
  • 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."
    Frankie Boyle: At the same time - the same time - we bring out a podcast for the deaf.
    • 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.
  • The [adult swim] series Newsreaders gives us this memorable line:
    Reagan Biscayne: Coming up later, Dyslexic Zombies, and why you should be afraid if your name is "BRIAN".
  • "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".
  • 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 intellectually-disabled 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.
  • 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.
  • 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".
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Star Trek: Discovery reveals that Spock is dyslexic, which he inherited from his mother. As it happens, this allows him to comprehend the visions he receives from the Red Angel.
  • 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." [1]
    • In another skit: "We'll be right back with the dyslexic presentation of Bitty Bitty Chang Chang after these messages!"
  • The Suite Life of Zack and Cody: Bob, as revealed in his debut appearance.

  • 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 diagnosed 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."

    Pro Wrestling 

  • 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.

    Stand Up Comedy 
  • 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'."


    Video Games 
  • 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). Turns out his mind is hard-wired for tracking plant growth, among other eco-friendly gardening skills.
    • 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.
    • Note that the guy that does this also does Safe Havens listed above. Bill Holbrook is fond of this trope.
  • 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."
  • Played for Drama in Alfie when it turns out Marco is not-quite illiterate, but has definite difficulty with letters and numbers. Unfortunately, as a merchant's son it's treated akin to his being mentally-retarded (that, and since Marco doesn't want to be a merchant), leading to their being on bad terms with each other.

    Web Original 
  • 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.
  • Greg Haiste on The John Dredge Nothing To Do With Anything Show has some attacks of this: Once when asked to read the closing credits and another time when helping to present What's on in Leighton Buzzard. Also, when he gets angry, he sometimes starts to attempt spelling out words, with dubious results:
    Greg: You'd better write me into something soon, or there'll be trouble! T R U I B L S F - trouble!
  • In JourneyQuest, dyslexia turns out to be a strength for bumbling wizard Perf. When casting a spell from writing, he manages to perfectly invert it ("retrocast"), which is otherwise quite difficult.

    Western Animation 
  • Rubberbandman from Static Shock was shown to be dyslexic, which was a problem when he had to read 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.
    • He winds up saving the day by using an actual dyslexic coping mechanism. While he couldn't read it due to the pressure he was under, he could still count how many letters there were in the word. And counterclockwise is longer than clockwise!
  • An episode of Family Guy shows a movie theater for dyslexics, with a marquee promoting Chevy Chase in "Feltch".
  • Steve Smith from American Dad!.
    • It even works to his benefit. In "Black Mystery Month" , while looking at a message written in blood which says "In the elf condom", he instantly rearranges it into an actual clue "find the monocle".
    Yes! My Selective Dyslexia finally pays off!
  • 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.
  • George and Mr. Haney from Arthur have dyslexia. However, most of the episode where we find this out is shown from George's perspective, and he keeps drifting into Imagine Spots, as if he has ADHD.
  • In one episode of Futurama, Zapp Brannigan claims to have "sexlexia", a "very sexy learning disorder".

Alternative Title(s): Lysdexia, Hollywood Dyslexia


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