Thomas Edison once said, “My teachers say I’m addled . . . my father thought I was stupid, and I almost decided I must be a dunce.” You see Thomas Edison was dyslexic and so he struggled in school. His mother pulled him out of school at the age of six when a teacher sent home a note that said, “He is too stupid to learn.” Edison went on to become one of the world’s greatest scientists. He held 1,093 patents and changed the world with his discovery of the light bulb. I often wonder if he would have been so successful if he had remained in school and become convinced that he was stupid. He himself said that he had almost decided that he was a dunce.
I also wonder how many dyslexic kids never reach their potentials because they become discouraged in school. They struggle to learn to read and often struggle to memorize their math facts. I am dyslexic and I am one of those kids. I had trouble learning to read and I also struggled to learn math facts. In third grade, my teacher kept a chart on the wall with the names of the kids that could do 30 math facts in a minute. I am pretty sure that I was still working on addition when everyone else was doing multiplication and division. In fact, I don’t think I ever got my name on the wall and everyone knew it. Unfortunately, this practice sends a message to those kids that struggle that they aren’t smart enough.
These kids not only struggle every day but they often aren’t offered opportunities in areas in which they would excel because they aren’t considered smart enough or they are pulled out of those classes so that they can work on reading. I love science but it wasn’t offered in my elementary school as a class for everyone; instead, it was offered as enrichment. There was a group that met for “Enrichment” but someone like me was never offered that opportunity. Someone that didn’t get their name on the wall for memorizing math facts certainly wasn’t going to be asked to come to “Enrichment.” They seemed to have so much fun doing science-type activities. I wonder if Thomas Edison would have made it through school still wanting to be a great scientist if he had experienced all of these unspoken messages. Would he have chosen to pursue his dream? We need to be concerned that we have kids like Thomas Edison that leave school discouraged that they aren’t “smart” enough. We may never know the contributions they could have made because they just think they are “dumb.” It’s important to identify these kids, teach them in a way they learn best, and help them to understand that they aren’t stupid, they just learn differently. They are dyslexic.