Dav Pilkey sees ADHD and dyslexia as his superpowers

Learn why Dav Pilkey thinks ADHD and dyslexia can be strengths. Watch a video about the author. And learn about other celebrities who see learning differences as superpowers.

Dav Pilkey says ADHD and dyslexia are his superpowers. The creator of Captain Underpants and Dog Man told Understood that his ADHD “helped me to write stories that were not boring, and my dyslexia helped me too. It helped me to choose my words very, very carefully.” 

“I think one of the reasons why Captain Underpants has resonated with so many children is because of the two boys that star in the books, George and Harold,” Pilkey told Reading Rockets, an Understood founding partner. “They’re always using their imagination…. That’s kind of an attainable superpower that we can all have.”

As a child, Pilkey’s hyperactivity often got him in trouble at school. “My teacher would just point to the classroom door and say, ‘Mr. Pilkey, out!,’ and I’d have to go sit out in the hallway.” But he used that time to work on his drawing and storytelling. He created Captain Underpants and Dog Man in second grade.

Video: Dav Pilkey on growing up with ADHD and dyslexia

Watch this Reading Rockets video to learn more about Pilkey’s experiences growing up with ADHD and dyslexia.

How other celebrities see their differences as strengths

There are so many adults who are thriving because they learn and think differently — not in spite of these differences. Here are three examples of people who see their differences as strengths:

  • Director Steve McQueen says his dyslexia has helped fuel his creativity. “Image and sound,” he says, “were much more heightened because my oral reading wasn’t as good.”

  • Actor Bex Taylor-Klaus says their brain has “different wiring,” but “it’s not faulty. It’s special. It makes me who I am. It gives me my drive. It gives me my passion.”

  • Gymnast Simone Biles was diagnosed with ADHD when she was 9. She knows the important role adults play in shaping the way kids think about their differences: “If you make it seem like a problem, then they think they have a problem. But if you make it just seem a little bit different, and be like ‘It’s OK to be different,’ then that’s how they’ll process it.”

How to help kids find their strengths

When kids are struggling in school, they may have a tough time identifying strengths or superpowers. These tips and activities can help:


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