Dorothy van den Honert: Teaching Donald

PITTSFIELD — A couple of months ago the TV displayed a document hand-written by Donald Trump that made me gasp. It was so full of spelling and punctuation mistakes that were typical only of a dyslexic writer, that I instantly saw what was causing his other behavioral oddities.

Thirty-three years of teaching dyslectic students has made me an expert in identifying the problem. But what made me add to Trump's English language errors were his well-known other characteristics — tweeting, hatred of reading, an outsized ego that makes him brag that he is ALWAYS right, and insistence on personal loyalty. He clearly tweets to minimize the necessity of spelling, using correct grammar or writing complete sentences. (Does he maybe dictate the tweets to someone with the excuse that it is faster that way?) And his insistence on loyalty and being right could be leftovers from the embarrassment he felt as a child with a demanding father — a kid who had been expected to excel in school but couldn't spell or read.

Of course I didn't know any of this history when he was running for president. I just didn't like his attitude toward women and sex, and his obvious lack of the information that a president should have — American history, English literature, European history, economics, psychology and history, history and more history. If you don't know of other people's mistakes, you can't avoid repeating them, and if you really think you are always right, you will not succeed. There is no way I could ever vote for a candidate for an office more important than dog catcher who hates to read or displays an over-sized ego that prevents him from recognizing his own inadequacies.

Stigma attached

However it is not entirely Trump's fault that he doesn't want to be labeled dyslectic, because to this day the average person, having no idea what causes it, assumes that a person who can't read or spell well must be slow. Even many neurologists who should know better, still don't know what the oddity in the brain causes language and numerical problems

I can't understand this, because the New York Times once ran a page with an entire column listing the names of well-known dyslectic people who were not just well-known, but famous. (Included was a particularly well-known one named E=instein!) I was grateful and happy that the New York Times did this because, while I have never had any Einsteins in my class, I have had plenty of smart students and now I finally had something respectable to refer to.

Bridge unaligned

It is embarrassing when you don't know an answer in class, so the first thing I did with a struggling new student was get out a chart of the brain, show him where his language-processing area is, where the bridge is in the middle, how the right eye sends it information to the left hemisphere, the left to the right through the bridge. Each chunk of the brain has its own specialty.

Then I explained that the two hemispheres did different things, and they each sent their own information across to the other side so the whole brain knew what was going on. But if you are dyslectic, that bridge is slightly out of whack so that one side is slower getting information across it than the other (by a mere 100 milligrams per second!)

You can't change the bridge, but you can arrange your lessons so that you only send them to the language-processing area in the left hemisphere without using the bridge! This way the area gets no late, out-of-sync input to screw things up.

The cost? The price of the cardboard backing on a legal pad. The instructions? Call me at 413-442-2687. Or go to your library and take out the little book called "Disarming Dyslexia with Enhanced Lateralization."

Oh, and the next time somebody wants to have Trump given a medical exam, be sure it is done by a neurologist.          

Dorothy van den Honert is an occasional Eagle contributor.


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