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IndyCar driver Wilson promotes dyslexia awareness

Thu., June 21, 2012

WEST ALLIS, Wis. – Justin Wilson still remembers a time when his classmates considered it laughable that he might one day grow up to become a professional race car driver.

The IndyCar Series driver had a tough time growing up in Sheffield, England, struggling to read lessons or do the writing it took to complete his school work. Only later, around age 14, would he be diagnosed with dyslexia.

“I really struggled at school,” Wilson said. “I remember one day, the teacher asking what you want to be when you grow up. And everyone went down and did their thing and it got to me: ‘I want to race cars.’ And everyone laughed. What’s wrong with you guys? And then some joker stood up, ‘Oh, you’ll never race cars. You’re too stupid.’ ”

Today, Wilson has seven career IndyCar victories, including the June 9 race at Texas Motor Speedway. His success has come despite his continued struggles with dyslexia, a reading disability that occurs when the brain does not properly recognize and process certain symbols.

When Wilson looks at a word on a page, he generally can recognize the letters at the beginning of the word and the letters at the end of it – but not the letters in the middle.

“So I still get sentences wrong. I still spell wrong. I still read things the wrong way,” Wilson said.

Once diagnosed, Wilson received specialized instruction at school. But reading remains difficult for him, even today.

While Wilson occasionally reads – mostly about racing – it’s a constant struggle.

Wilson hasn’t been hiding his condition by any means. In the short biography on his Twitter page, it says, “Dyslexic in control, tweets might not make sense.” But now Wilson plans to become more active as a spokesman for awareness of the condition, working with dyslexia advocacy groups around the world.

His message?

“You can do what you want to do and it’s not going to hold you back. There’s going to be extra work and you’ve got to find ways around it. But it’s also better when you find this earlier. More understanding for dyslexia’s definitely going to help.”

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