5 Sports Legends You Probably Didn't Know have a Learning Difference

Lazy. Dumb. Bad. Stupid.

If this is how your kid sees himself, it may take years to repair this damage and convince them otherwise.

Kids with Learning Differences (L.D.) are more likely to struggle socially and with their own sense of self-worth than peers who are traditional learners. 

As much as I may want my kids to strive to be unique, the truth is most kids really don't want to be different or stand out from their peers. They especially don't want to draw any attention to themselves for something like not being able to read or being unable to sit still in class.

I want my boys to understand that they're not alone. And, more importantly, I want them to recognize that many kids with learning differences grow up to be exceptional adults who accomplish amazing things.

To do that, I've looked for examples that will really resonate with them. My son Maddox loves sports and more than that, he takes comfort in knowing that some of his sports heroes had a hard time in school, just like him.

  1. Muhammad Ali. A boxing legend. The greatest of all time. Ali earned an Olympic Gold Medal and is an inductee into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Many don't know that Ali barely graduated from high school. Dyslexia made reading a tremendous challenge for him but it didn't keep him from becoming an incredible athlete. In fact, his academic struggles likely motivated his need to be excellent elsewhere.
  2. Michael Phelps. Grew up from a little boy with ADHD into the most decorated Olympian of all time. All of that extra energy came in handy while he was racing for Olympic gold, don't you think?
  3.  Pete Rose. Unfortunately for Rose, his ADHD wasn't diagnosed until later in his life. As a result, when he was a kid most people simply viewed him as a troublemaker. Impulse control issues is one of the major challenges for kids with ADHD. No one will know how things could've been different for him had his L.D. been diagnosed early on. What we do know is that he put up Hall of Fame worthy numbers during his career as a major league baseball player.
  4. Terry Bradshaw. This four-time Super Bowl Champion, has struggled with ADHD for years. His undeniable success as a football player has afforded him a platform to challenge the stigma once associated with L.D..
  5. Greg LeMond. This  three-time Tour de France Champion struggled with ADD as kid. He points out that people with ADD excel in really good ways. The physical exertion of cycling helped him focus and wine championships.

I agree with Greg LeMond. Not every kid is built to sit still in a classroom with minimal physical activity absorbing information quietly for eight hours a day.

And that's okay.

Maybe it's time to view learning differences as gifts and not disabilities. Would anyone describe any of these five sports legends as disadvantaged because of how they learn? 

I think not.