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I’m Sorry Your Son is Stupid


I think we’ve all run into the misconceptions about dyslexia.  It’s vastly misunderstood and if you stand on a street corner and ask everyone that passes you what they know about dyslexia, you’ll get a lot of vague looks and if people provide an answer it will be, “they see the letters backwards.”

Have you seen the Made by Dyslexia video where they’re trying to steer people into a Dyslexia Sperm Bank?  It’s brilliant.  My favorite is the woman who tells them that they should be ashamed of themselves for trying to spread the learning disability.

Dyslexia was originally identified in 1887, and for the portion of the population with dyslexia (20%), the lack of knowledge about what dyslexia is, is staggering.

My son is not the only grandchild in the family with dyslexia, but when he was diagnosed my father called me and asked if this was a new fancy made up disease like gluten intolerance.  I took a deep breath and immediately understood where he was coming from and took the statement as an opportunity to educate.

I’ve shared articles and books with my parents and they follow my pages and everything I’ve written.  We discuss it’s nuances.  The biggest breakthrough in their understanding of dyslexia though has been through observation.  My son spends several weeks with them each year and the questions they’ve asked me about dyslexia based off of their observations have been fascinating.  They can “see” his dyslexia in how he thinks.  They understand that it is a language processing disorder.  They love watching his mind work and are fascinated by it.

Unfortunately, this enlightenment cannot and will not be gained by all.

I once, publicly, self-diagnosed a specific member of my family as dyslexic.  He was a computer engineer for NASA and even worked on the space shuttle.  He is the perfect example that a dyslexic can be anything they want to be and that dyslexia will never hold them back if they don’t let it.

This person had spoken to me repeatedly about how he had struggled to learn to read and spell.  His inability to spell was supported by his son through stories we shared.  When this family member was ill, before he passed away, I was charged with going through 13 years of paperwork in order to prepare the estate.  I spoke with his son, commenting on all the stories I had been told, things this man had said to me over the years and how I finally understood that his inability to spell was not at all exaggerated.  His son laughed and said, “I told you so.”

Sadly, just a few days later, this family member passed away.

My son was in PK4 at the time, and while it wouldn’t be until near the end of 1st grade that he hit the wall, he was showing classic signs of dyslexia at that time.

So we’re fast forwarding from the PK4 days to the summer months between 1st and 2nd grade.  As we traversed the road that is undergoing a dyslexia diagnosis with our son, I recall turning to my husband one day and exclaiming with certainty that this particular family member was dyslexic, that his stories and his inability to spell, it all made sense.  My husband completely agreed.

It was also during this time that another family member approached me and said that he had always believed himself to be dyslexic, but he had never been diagnosed.

As I gained understanding I could see who in the family was dyslexic.  All adults at that time, not a single one of them had been diagnosed when they were in school and they all lay on different points in the spectrum, but it was only in my son’s generation, that a diagnosis was sought and understanding was finally taking hold.

Then I went “public” with that realization and got attacked.

For all of the support I have within the family, which is absolutely amazing and so heart warming, there was one particular family member who was very displeased.

In their opinion I had crossed a line.  The exchanges were not pretty.  Things were said that cannot be taken back.  Things like (and don’t forget to spit these words out with undiluted venom), “Well, I’m sorry your son is stupid but this family member you’re mislabeling was a brilliant man!  How dare you say he was dyslexic!  You’re not a doctor!”

I’m sorry your son is stupid….

Once those six little words were out, I didn’t hear anything else.  There are few moments in my life when the treadmill that is my mind has actually shut off and all I hear is silence.  The first time it happened was when I was giving birth.  The second time was when I shattered my leg.  The only other time it has happened was when those words were said to me.

I’m sorry your son is stupid….

The first time I heard it though, mama bear came out in full force, but it wasn’t the throwing plates, smashing furniture kind of mama bear rage; it was the sweet smile, tilted head, perfectly calm kind of rage where you could pluck someone’s heart from their chest and eat it with a sterling silver knife and fork in front of their dying face while it still beats, and ask them how their day was, kind of rage.

I’m sorry your son is stupid….

The justifications given to me that day that a) my son was just plain stupid and b) that I didn’t understand dyslexia at all and c) that this family member I had “mis-labeled” as dyslexic was false, are exactly the kind of outmoded and ignorant thinking that we must overcome.  The science these days is both overwhelming and compelling.  Our dyslexic children are not stupid, not by a long shot.  Yet, people still believe this as well as many other horribly wrong things that are not beliefs, not dogma, but flat out horrible misconceptions.

And really it’s just ignorance, but this ignorance is pervasive.

I’m sorry your son is stupid….

We cannot propagate a system of shame via school or any other medium.  We must raise our dyslexics onto our shoulders and shout “Well done you!”  They are blessed with another way of thinking.  They can envision the big picture in ways others can’t.  They’re adaptive, full of ingenuity, and never meet a problem they can’t solve.

The days of thinking dyslexics are stupid are over.  History itself has proven otherwise.  But, until we truly celebrate our children, teach them the way they learn and unlock their potential, we allow, through our silence, the myth that our children are stupid to propagate.

And, that must come to an end because I know my child, as well as yours, isn’t stupid.  Not in the least.

We cannot be afraid to fight back.  We cannot be afraid to demand better for our children.  We cannot be afraid to stand in the face of outmoded beliefs, thinking, teaching methodologies, anything and demand change.  If we, the parents, don’t fight for our children, don’t force the system to improve, then it never will.

I’m sorry your son is stupid….

People may not have the courage to say something this horrible to your face, but when they tell you your child isn’t trying hard enough, is a distraction, isn’t committed to learning, isn’t getting the material, THAT PERSON IS THE PROBLEM AND YES, THEY’RE CALLING YOUR CHILD STUPID.  You cannot be afraid to fight back, to ask questions, to see evaluation scores, to understand what those evaluations mean and what they tell you about your child.

Our educational system is the problem, and it’s time to make it the solution.

No more Whole Language.  No more Balanced Literacy.  Undiluted Phonics (meaning no Balanced Literacy which is just Whole Language with a titch of Phonics mixed in) in a Structured Literacy and Multi-Sensory environment is the only way forward.


#EndTheShame #CelebrateDyslexia #EmpoweringDyslexia #UntilEveryoneCanRead

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