Philip Schultz is a winner of the Pulitzer Prize for poetry and the author of the forthcoming memoir “My Dyslexia.”
I was well into middle age when one of my children, then in the second grade, was found to be dyslexic. I had never known the name for it, but I recognized immediately that the symptoms were also mine. When I was his age I’d already all but given up on myself.
Repeating third grade at a new school, after having been asked to leave my old one for hitting kids who made fun of my perceived stupidity, I was placed in the “dummy class.” There were three of us, separated from our classmates at a table in the corner of the room.
One day, the teacher, who seldom spoke to us since it was understood that most of what she taught was beyond the reach of our intelligence, placed books in our hands and whispered that we should sit there quietly “pretending to read.” The principal was coming.
It was not the most outlandish thing she might’ve said, given how little was known about learning disabilities in the early 1950s, and how little training a teacher in the poorest section of Rochester would have received. And her request seemed reasonable to me.
I couldn’t tie my shoes, tell time or left from right, or recreate musical notes or words. I not only couldn’t read but often couldn’t hear or understand what was being said to me — by the time I’d processed the beginning of a sentence, the teacher was well on her way through a second or third.
When I did have something to say I couldn’t find the words with which to say it, or if I could, forgot how to pronounce them.
My situation then seemed hopeless; I had no idea what a learning disability was, or that it had nothing to do with intelligence. Being asked to pretend I wasn’t as stupid as I feared made perfect sense. Only in recollection does the pain of such a moment make itself felt.
Read more of this article here: With Dyslexia, Words Failed Me and Then Saved Me