Ben Foss

James Gandolfini Speaks Out About Dyslexia

Jim always did what he said he would do. This set James Gandolfini apart from many people, especially those in Hollywood. I was lucky to know him for four years before he died far too young in the middle of last year. He shared with me stories of his mother, a lunch lady, and his father, a high school custodian—and, with his characteristic knowing grin, of his “issues that made school tough.”

Jim went on to be one of the greatest actors of his generation, and he used this platform to tell the story of the underdog. He produced a number of documentaries on wounded warriors. And in a conversation we recorded together about dyslexia and my recent book, he stood up for people who have dyslexia, ADHD and other related profiles. He believed in hard work and that you had to take a risk to be successful. These are core experiences for people in the community he talks about here.

I chose not to release this footage last year. After talking with his family recently, we decided it was time to honor Jim’s wish to tell the story. My hope is that his celebrity and commitment will carry the message to people who need to hear it.

I also hope people will see in his unwavering confidence that people who are dyslexic are entitled to equal access to education and can be the embodiment of great achievement. Groups like NCLD, Learning Ally, Eye-to-Eye, Bookshare, Decoding Dyslexia and Headstrong Nation are all lifting this banner, and you can help.

I miss Jim for so many reasons. For the loss to his family. For the hole in the center of a great network of friends. And for the friend he had become to the new Dyslexia Movement. I intend to honor his legacy by doing everything I can to tell the story of the hard working folks in our dyslexic community. If you want to get involved with this Movement, help us do what Jim said he wanted to do: End the shame associated with dyslexia and play to kids strengths.

I have found that people have a hard time believing my dyslexia when they see only the final product of my written work. These days, I generally speak to a computer and use Dragon Naturally Speaking to have it transcribed, greatly increasing my speed and accuracy when writing. For this blog, that material went through four rounds of edits, including structural, copy and proofing, further polishing the material.

Below, you will see the first paragraph of this blog written as I would write it in raw format. In this case, I listened to the text and transcribed it without the benefit of spell check or word correction now standard in most word processors. I publish it to let you see “behind the curtain” Yes, I am dyslexic for life and proud. Consider this my, and all dyslexics, native tongue.

jim always did what he said he would do. This set him apart from many peole, epsecially in hollywodd. I was luck y to knwo hi for four years before he died far too young in the middle of last year. He share with me stories of his mother, a school lunch lady, and his father, a school custodian, and with his characterisic knowing grin, if “his issues that made school tough.”