Goliath: Billy Bob Thornton stars in trailer for final season
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When asked what the best piece of advice he has ever been given was, Thornton replied: “Johnny Cash told me one time, ‘If you know you have it, if you know you know something, don’t listen to anybody.'” Having kept true to this advice throughout his career, Thornton was able to overcome the difficulties he faced as a child, going on to be nominated three times for an Academy Award.
Speaking about his dyslexia becoming a driving force for his career and overcoming the trauma of being known as a “moron” in school, Thornton explained how he learned to overcome his difficulty with reading scripts.
He shared: “I was severely dyslexic, so I was just kind of known around school as a moron. Nobody really encouraged me.
“Dyslexia drives you, because you’re trying to overcome this thing. They’ve found that a lot of people with dyslexia and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), which I also have, are high achievers in things like the arts, or writing, or whatever, because you compensate in other ways.
“I think my biggest strength was ignorance. I just didn’t know any better. I always thought, ‘Tomorrow’s the day.’”
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Like many others who have dyslexia, Thornton explained that his experience in school was negative because teachers thought he was “lazy”.
“When I was growing up, they just thought I was slow. Teachers thought I was lazy. I never wanted to be anything that school taught me… I was only in drama because there were girls in there,” he said.
However, being in drama club, Thornton soon realised his passion for writing and performance, which spurred him to relocate to Los Angeles. Still unaware of his dyslexia, it wasn’t until he was an adult that he was told by medical professionals, after he found it “hard to sit still and read a book”.
By this point, dyslexia wasn’t the only thing Thornton was grappling with as he also started to develop numerous phobias, such as antique furniture, and OCD. On this, Thornton shared: “My phobias have been greatly exaggerated.
“I don’t mind a chair. I can go as far back as you want with Asia or Mexico. It’s that French/English/Scottish old mildew stuff. Old dusty heavy drapes and big tables with lions’ heads carved in it. Stuff that kings were around.
“That’s the stuff I can’t be around. It was too big to be functional. It creeps me out.”
Today, Thornton’s health problems remain, but he has learnt how to deal with them as best he can. In fact, a lot of his characters and films are inspired by the people and things he’s had to overcome in his life. One of which was a documentary titled Dislecksia, a movie about growing up as a dyslexic in today’s world.
In addition, Thornton has given insight into how he uses the technique of oral regurgitation – listening and then repeating words and sentences until they are memorised – to learn lines for his projects.
Giving advice to his younger self, Thornton finished by saying: “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me. I’d say, really follow that.”
It is estimated that around 10 percent of the UK population have dyslexia, with one in six adults having the reading age of an 11-year-old.
Dyslexia is defined by the British Dyslexia Association as a neurological difference, which can have an impact during education, in the workplace and in everyday life. Everyone’s dyslexia is different and can range from mild to severe, also co-existing with other learning difficulties.
Like Thornton mentioned, individuals with dyslexia show many strengths in areas such as reasoning and in visual and creative fields, but may struggle with reading, writing and spelling.
Signs of dyslexia usually become apparent when a child starts school and begins to focus more on learning how to read and write. For example, a person with dyslexia may:
- Read and write very slowly
- Confuse the order of letters in words
- Be confused by letters that look similar and write letters the wrong way round (such as “b” and “d”)
- Have poor or inconsistent spelling
- Understand information when told verbally, but have difficulty with information that’s written down
- Find it hard to carry out a sequence of directions
- Struggle with planning and organisation.
For those who may be unaware they are dyslexic until they reach adulthood, there are a “cluster of indicators” which if spotted should be investigated further.
The British Dyslexia Association states that these indicators can include the following:
- Confuse visually similar words such as cat and cot
- Spell erratically
- Find it hard to scan or skim text
- Read/write slowly
- Need to re-read paragraphs to understand them
- Find it hard to listen and maintain focus
- Find it hard to concentrate if there are distractions
- Feel sensations of mental overload/switching off
- Have difficulty telling left from right
- Avoid certain types of work or study
- Find some tasks really easy but unexpectedly challenged by others
- Have poor self-esteem, especially if dyslexic difficulties have not been identified in earlier life.
Some individuals with dyslexia, in any stage of life, may find that they need extra support. Techniques that may support a child can include occasional one-to-one teaching or lessons. Employers can also make reasonable adjustments in the workplace to help individuals with dyslexia such as allowing extra time for certain tasks.
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