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Jackie Stewart is a Scottish former Formula One racecar driver nicknamed “the Flying Scot”. He won three World Drivers’ Championships, and has been ranked in the top five of the greatest Formula One drivers of all time.

Jackie_Stewart_2011_British_Grand_PrixAnd he has severe dyslexia.

Stewart had dyslexia during his whole school career, though he wasn’t diagnosed until he was 41 when his own son was assessed for it. Stewart couldn’t recite the alphabet past the letter P and spent his school years in deep shame due to his low literacy. He eventually left school at 16.

He remembers one particular instance when he was asked to read aloud in front of the class.

“I looked at the page and saw nothing but a mass of indecipherable letters. Everyone seemed to regard me as a cheeky wee boy with a twinkle in my eye but, in that terrible moment, the thin veneer of confidence was stripped away. As I started to blush, I became aware of my smarter schoolmates starting to snigger. I felt trapped in a nightmare and sensed the tears welling.

“Stop playing the fool,” the teacher said, now getting angry. “You are wasting everybody’s time. Hurry up and start reading.”

“I can’t,” I mumbled.

I cannot exaggerate the pain and humiliation that I felt that day as I walked back to my place, with most of my classmates laughing out loud. Maybe it’s only something that people who also suffer from a learning disability such as dyslexia can understand.”

Stewart recalls that he used to make up false illnesses to get him out of school attendance. He found himself without many many friends and constantly bullied because of his reading difficulties. One day when he was a young teen, he decided he’d had enough of being a victim, and decided to find something he was good at and pursue it with all his might.

That “something” was cars. After a few years of competing, he shot to the top of sport where he stayed for the duration of his career.

Speaking now about dyslexia, he says: “When you’ve got dyslexia and you find something you’re good at, you put more into it than anyone else; you can’t think the way of the clever folk, so you’re always thinking out of the box.”

For more on Jackie Stewart’s amazing story, see:

Sarah Forrest is a Reading Specialist for Oxford Learning Solutions, publishers of the Easyread System. Easyread is an innovative online course for struggling learners with visual learning styles, dyslexia, weak auditory processing, and more.