How old are you? Ninety-nine percent of us answer this question reflexively, without having to think.
A reporter who asked Pete this question on the phone several years ago, was stunned when Pete called to Pam and asked – “How old am I?” On other occasions, he resorts to using a calculator before answering and readily admits “I have trouble with math.”
Pete also has trouble with …reading and writing. “It all stems from a familiar learning disability that affects millions of children. The disability seems to center in the part of the brain that processes language, making it difficult for even genius-caliber children to learn the sounds that correspond to the letters of the alphabet. The simplest rules of language elude many of them. Ask for a word that rhymes with ‘cat,’ for example, and they may have no idea what the question means.
…[Pete's] first grade teacher told his parents that the boy had “a good mind,” but complained that he could not keep his mind on work. [Pete] remembers being picked on by peers in elementary school and humiliated by the staff. Teachers openly ridiculed him when he wrote letters backward or mispronounced words.”
– taken from Championing Children for Whom Reading and Learning Are Difficult by Brent Staples, New York Times
“What smacks you right in the face is that most learning-disabled children today face the same obstacles and ill-prepared teachers that Pete faced when he started kindergarten in 1951.”
The Same Story, Year After Year, Decade After Decade
Just last week Pam said, I’m upset because I just answered a question from another mom whose son is dyslexic.
- He has been held back twice.
- He’s 13 and is reading on a 2nd grade level.
- The school agreed to get technology but the teacher doesn’t know how to use it (and isn’t taking the time to figure it out).
No one is teaching this child how to read.
How many millions of people have had the same experiences as Pete who is 65? When he was in elementary school the teachers didn’t know what to do. In Pete’s case, his parents got private tutoring.
We continue to hear the same story, year after year, decade after decade, with no end in sight.