8 women who’ve made life better for kids who learn and think differently

Every day, women make a big impact for kids who learn and think differently. They’re mothers, grandmothers, teachers, doctors, and more. We celebrate all of these women, including the eight featured here. Through advocacy, science, and more, they’ve improved the lives of kids. Get inspired by these dynamic women.

Simone Biles

In 2016, hackers published the confidential medical records of Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles. Composed as ever, the gymnast replied by saying that having and taking ADHD medication is “nothing to be ashamed of.” Her brave response was an inspiration to many.

Biles continues to use her platform to raise awareness and to encourage kids who struggle with ADHD. Watch as Biles shares more inspiring words, including that ADHD can be a “superpower,” not a problem.

Carrie Rozelle

Carrie Rozelle’s son had such severe that she once told the New York Times she felt every day was going to be a “hurricane.” “Because he couldn’t read, he developed emotional problems,” she said.

Inspired by her son, Rozelle spent her life advocating for and raising awareness about learning disabilities. In 1977, she founded the National Center for Learning Disabilities, one of the first national organizations in the field. Rozelle’s husband was Pete Rozelle, former commissioner of the National Football League.

Sonia Sotomayor

Sonia Sotomayor is best-known as a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. But she was also the trial judge on a landmark case for dyslexia: Bartlett v. New York Board of Law Examiners.

Marilyn Bartlett filed a lawsuit after being denied for her dyslexia on the bar exam. Sotomayor ruled in favor of Bartlett under the . Explaining her ruling, Sotomayor wrote: “For those of us for whom words sing, sentences paint pictures, and paragraphs create panoramic views of the world, the inability to identify and process words with ease would be crippling.”

Anna Gillingham

Orton–Gillingham was the first teaching approach specifically designed to help struggling readers. And many consider it to be a game-changer for kids with dyslexia. Today—decades later—many reading programs include Orton–Gillingham (OG) ideas.

The woman behind OG, Anna Gillingham, was an educator, psychologist, and world traveler. She partnered with Dr. Samuel Orton to create the approach, which uses sight, hearing, touch, and movement to help students connect language with letters and words. Since then, multisensory instruction has been a cornerstone of teaching kids who learn and think differently.

Photo Courtesy Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College (PA 142)

Holly Robinson Peete

Actress Holly Robinson Peete is mom to a daughter with ADHD. She also has a son with autism. With her Keep Momming campaign, Peete encourages mothers and daughters to develop deeper relationships with each other. She also offers tips for navigating the challenges of ADHD in girls.

“It’s heartbreaking to hear that moms are often at a loss for how to manage their daughters’ symptoms. So, when sharing what I’ve learned about girls and ADHD with people, I make it personal,” Peete wrote in a blog post.

Sally Shaywitz

Few people have done more to spread knowledge about the science of dyslexia than Dr. Sally Shaywitz. A doctor and neuroscientist, Shaywitz has spent the last 30-plus years researching dyslexia and reading challenges. She was one of the first to use fMRI technology to scan the brains of kids with dyslexia. And her book Overcoming Dyslexia is considered a groundbreaking classic in the field.

Today, Shaywitz continues her work to raise awareness. She is co-founder and co-director of the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity. She was appointed by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama to serve on the National Board of the Institute for Education Services. And she’s testified before the Senate many times to advocate for students who struggle with reading.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

In 1993, Ruth Bader Ginsburg became the second woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. She is known for her advocacy for gender equality and education. Ginsburg weighed in heavily on the Supreme Court’s 2017 Endrew F. case. This important decision ruled that must be set up to help kids with disabilities make progress in school. A minimal educational benefit isn’t enough.

Carol Moseley Braun

Carol Moseley Braun was the first African American woman elected to the U.S. Senate. She also has dyslexia. Growing up, she struggled to be recognized by her teachers at an all-white school. Moseley Braun uses her platform to speak out against stigma. She hopes today’s students who learn and think differently don’t have to experience what she felt. “We need to encourage these kids to believe in themselves, because if they are taught to, they will,” she’s said.


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