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Stephanie Ruhle has a message for dyslexic students: 'Hang on. Life awaits'

The MSNBC anchor only realized she was dyslexic when her son was diagnosed.

MSNBC's Stephanie Ruhle opened up about her challenges with dyslexia in a recent Instagram post — which she wrote as a way to communicate with her teenage son — and it has been resonating with readers. She discusses the post in a recent visit with Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb.

"Many, many of us think, 'I'm not a student. I'm gonna give up,'" Ruhle says. "And I'm just saying, 'Hang on. Life awaits.'" 

Ruhle, who was diagnosed with dyslexia just 10 years ago when her oldest son received the same diagnosis, found herself on an airplane struggling to read the same book she brings on every flight. Thinking of her son, who struggles in school, Ruhle composed the post, hoping that her son would read it.

"This message is for any dyslexic out there hating school right now," she wrote. "I totally get it. School sucks. Paying attention is impossible. No matter how many times you read the words on the page, they don't seem to interact with your brain ... I promise school eventually ends & when it does calculus & physics need not be in your next chapter. And the real world cannot wait for you to unleash your awesomeness."

She signed the post as a "fellow dyslexic." 

Ruhle describes her oldest son as a “confident, outgoing kid,” who had a hard time learning how to read. Eventually his younger brother surpassed him in reading. Finally, "one amazing teacher" suggested that he seek additional help.

"When they told me he was dyslexic, I thought, 'This is everything I have,'" Ruhle shares about realizing that she's dyslexic, too.

Growing up dyslexic

"People actually thought I was a super reader when I was little, because I can memorize words. I have a great memory," Ruhle says, noting that she could recite poems and stories as young as age 3. She even entered school early.

Once stories became longer and more complex in first and second grade, however, Ruhle began bargaining with her teachers for extra-credit projects and presentations to make up for any lack of academic achievement.

"I always thought, 'I don't love pages. I love people. I'm not a student. I can't wait for work,'" she says.

Ruhle started working in banking doing research, but she didn't feel "smart" enough for research, so she moved to sales. But she still thought she lacked the "fundamentals" she needed for that job. Essentially, because she didn't know she was dyslexic, Ruhle had trouble finding the right strategies to overcome the challenges in each environment.

Working around obstacles

Ruhle says that working at TODAY was her most difficult job because "You're covering 15 different stories in 10 minutes, going from here to here. I can't do that," she says.

Hoda jumps in, "Our job is reading the script and reading that prompter. I watched you prepare when you do segments. You always have index cards. You always have a Sharpie. And I always see you kind of talking to yourself."

"My lifeline. Right here," Ruhle says, holding up her index cards and Sharpie. "I don't have reading comprehension for anything. But I can take a dense subject and make an outline, and a shorter outline, and a shorter outline. And then that prompter for me is not a roadmap. It's just a safety net."

"That's obviously a sign of intelligence that you really have to understand this material," Savannah says. "It's not some just shallow reading of something. You ingest it. What if you do have to study up for an interview?"

"We're talking through it all the time. And I'm curious, right? All of us end up in these industries because we're storytellers and we love people. And so that's how I'm breaking things down," says Ruhle.

Learning together

Ruhle often shares learning strategies with her son.

"I'm saying, 'Guess what? We're going to get these note cards. You're going to advocate for yourself rather than be that kid who's behaving badly in the back of the classroom. Let's get a planner and let's get ahead of this game because the world cannot wait to meet you,'" she says.

Ruhle also gives parents watching at home a pep talk: "Get that planner for your kids. Go through their schedule so it's not Sunday night and their back's against the wall and then they maybe are cheating or looking for those Cliff's notes. Get them ahead of the game on Friday."