A handful of celebrities have spoken out about their experiences with various learning disabilities in hopes of helping others follow the same path.
Keira Knightley once spoke about being diagnosed with dyslexia as a child. “Dyslexia is like a brick wall… it’s very hard to look past it,” she told the BBC in 2012, adding that acting helped her cope because she had no choice but to read her lines. She also said that having such a disability “doesn’t mean you’re stupid” but that you “work differently”. Steven Spielberg struggled with the same illness as a child and was bullied by his peers. Luckily he had films as an outlet. “Movies have really helped me, kind of saved me from shame, from guilt, from doing it to myself,” he told ABC News. “I think making films was my big escape, so I was able to get away from all of that.”
What some may not know is that Chris Rock has also been diagnosed with a learning disability. But unlike Knightley and Spielberg, he didn’t find out until he was an adult.
Chris Rock has been diagnosed with a nonverbal learning disorder
It wasn’t until 2020 that Chris Rock learned he had been diagnosed with Nonverbal Learning Disorder (NVLD). Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Rock explained he underwent multiple cognitive tests that led to doctors diagnosing him with the condition. He explained that he finds it difficult to understand non-verbal signals, which makes it difficult to relate to people since 80% of communication is non-verbal. “And all I understand is the words,” he told the publication.
Rock also shared that his condition has served him well in his career. “All of these things are really great for joking — they’re just not great for one-on-one relationships,” he said. Rock added that he used to downplay the way others treated him because of his fame. “I’ve always just thought of it as famous. Every time someone reacted negatively to me, I thought, ‘Anyway, they’re reacting to something that has to do with who they think I am. ‘ Now I realize it was me. I was a lot of that. “
But his main problem with such a disorder is how it affects his relationships. “Even with my family, women I’ve dated — it’s always been a little off,” he told Extra.
Chris Rock has learned how to deal with NVLD
Since discovering he has a nonverbal learning disorder, Chris Rock has found resources to help him in his everyday life. “The diagnosis put me in a position [where] I have doctors, I have certain medications and things that help me deal with it,” he told Extra. “Everything is easier once you get a diagnosis.”
In an appearance on The View, Rock explained that having access to these tools has resulted in a change in his overall behavior. “I used to have a squirrel-like energy … You can’t sneak up on a squirrel, it’s always alert, it’s scared all the time,” he said. “And that’s gone. I’m much more relaxed now.”
It was also through therapy that he realized he was not alone. “We live in this world where everyone wants to be so homemade,” he told Extra. “And what happens is that we shut ourselves off from people, we don’t ask for help for a lot of things that we need help with.” However, these days Rock seeks help from two therapists and participates in group therapy – all of which have helped him to learn that “if you can talk to people…everything gets better”.