I receive emails and letters from people all over the globe. Some tell wonderfully joyful stories, while others tell tales of heart-breaking hardship. One email that recently found its way into my inbox had elements of both.
A mother from Maryland wrote to tell me about her child’s struggle with dyslexia. 11-year-old Collin suffers from severe dyslexic and as a result has had a tough time receiving an education that caters to his needs.
In order to help Collin learn and thrive, he had to be sent to a school specialising in behavioural problems – despite not having one. After four years he has made very little progress, and his parents are understandably disheartened. Yet despite all this, Collin – who is described as intelligent, resourceful and hardworking – continues to persevere and is determined to become a businessman like yours truly.
The email struck a chord with me, so I felt compelled to reply via video message, telling Collin to never stop believing in himself, his abilities and what he can achieve in life. I am a dyslexic, too, and it has helped me focus on the things that I’m good at. There’s no limit to our opportunities, there is no limit to what we can be. The key is just do what you love doing most and you will move from strength to strength. The world is our oyster, really.
I was humbled to receive the following video from Collin himself in response.
My dyslexia made me feel like I didn't fit in at school. I couldn't keep up, and was left convinced that I was lazy and dumb. Not seeing any benefits from remaining in education, I left school aged 16.
Back then, very few people knew what dyslexia was. And it’s sad to see that many schools are still treating it like a handicap. Dyslexia is a different way of thinking, not a disadvantage and it shouldn’t stop young people from achieving success and striving to make their dreams a reality.
Dyslexia has been a massive help for me personally; it makes me think creatively and laterally, two major factors that helped me create Virgin and build a global brand. I talked about this on the Today programme recently, and discussed the launch of Made By Dyslexia (the interview starts at 1hr 22mins).
Collin, don’t let school hold you back. Turn your attention to things that you can see the relevance in and are passionate about; if you do, not only will your brain open up, but so will your world.