Dyslexia Generally Misunderstood, Viewed With Prejudice

If someone didn’t tell you that so and so was dyslexic, you would never know it.

If someone didn’t tell you that so and so was dyslexic, you would never know it

Dyslexia is my ballpark. As a professor of English for 27 years I have worked with many dyslexic students. Because they’re slow readers, they are often thought not to be very bright. Not so. They can be brilliant and articulate. If someone didn’t tell you that so and so was dyslexic, you would never know it.

I cite some cases:

A father in California was recently arrested by a prosecutor and charged with trying to bribe his son’s way into a university. The father paid 50,000 dollars to an admission’s expert to offer his son admissions’ tutoring. The prosecutor charged that this 50,000 dollars was a bribe to get his son into college by either altering the son’s ACT test score after the test or having someone else take the test in the son’s place. The son had scored on the test a 34, which is the 99th percentile — extremely high. The prosecutor believed that a dyslexic kid could not possibly score that high without cheating. But after the son’s so-called cheating was made public, he retook the ACT test — and scored 33, which is the 98th percentile. The family suffered mightily for this public injustice.

I had a college student in my English class who was very sharp, outspoken, and articulate. He wrote a brilliant paper, which I asked him to read to the class. He hesitated, saying that he had dyslexia and didn’t know if he could read the paper out loud. I asked him to read it anyway for two reasons: the class could witness an excellent example of a student paper, and the student could feel success in writing a good paper.

He read it to the class, and wanted to. But he read slowly, often stammering over his own words. He told me that the day he read the paper, he did so at home out loud about tend times. He still stammered in reading it in class. I implored him to continue going to college because he was a bright, articulate student. He told me he would.

I live in California. There are famous people who have dyslexia, unknown to the public. One is Gov. Gavin Newsom. Another is famous investor Charles Schwab. A Hollywood movie star, Fonzie, called The Fonz, has it. I asked him to give a lecture to my audience. He did, and it was seamless. He didn’t read his paper, because that would have been difficult. Instead, he put a small single note on a note card, would glance at the note and improvise from there. His memory was brilliant.

I was chief of staff to Chief Justice Warren Burger. His son was dyslexic, but you wouldn’t know it from listening to him.

I have a friend who is a Federal Circuit judge. Her son is dyslexic, but he is a brilliant thinker and speaker. You would never suspect he’s dyslexic. He sounds as though he went to Harvard.

When I was a vice president at a small private college, parents approached me about getting their dyslexic son admitted. He was bright; I tried. But the college said no, because they didn’t know how to teach a dyslexic student. Because of his slowness in reading (but not understanding), I responded:

Just give him more time to read an assignment or take a test.

So, if you know a dyslexic kid, be careful: he or she might box your ears off in a debate.

If readers of Italics Magazine want to send me their own examples of dyslexia, please do. I seek them.

Do you have a story about dyslexia for Mr. Trowbridge? Send us an e-mail at editorial@italicsmag.com

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