He’s Not Nuts; He’s Dyslexic

I know a little girl who has been rather stubborn all her life. A great kid otherwise, but when she didn’t want to do something, that was it. She wasn’t gonna do it. Since she was a second child dealing with a very competent older sibling and a rather strong-minded family, everyone accepted this as her way of coping.

Until she got to school. There, after a whole lot of troubles and worries and tests, her secret was finally discovered. She is dyslexic. All the refusals were a coping mechanism. When she said, “I don’t wanna,” it actually meant, “I can’t.” Her reading is getting better now, but I suspect she will remain a rather strong-minded person for the rest of her life.

So when we watch Donald Trump standing on the speaker’s podium, and suddenly he says something absolutely nutso, perhaps we should look twice. Is all his bluster and off-the-cuff, off-the-wall commentary a coping mechanism?

Coping Mechanism = Lie?

There are two types of coping mechanisms. The first one is used to deal with the disability. In the old days before children’s eyes were tested regularly, kids who couldn’t see did things like coming to class early and memorizing what was on the blackboard. I’m mildly colourblind, and I would make sure my mother bought me pencil crayons with the colours written on them, so I wouldn’t colour my skies purple. I coped.

But the other type of coping mechanism is used to hide the fact that the person has the disability. One of the worst side effects of child sexual abuse is the enforced secrecy. The abuse may stop, but the secrecy continues. Every time the teacher talks about “no-touch zones” and all that stop-sexual-abuse stuff, that child is reminded that he or she must lie to everyone. An incredibly damaging coping mechanism. That child is forced to go through life with a warped idea of what “truth” means.

Oh, sure. We all tell little white lies. They are the grease that allows different human beings to live in close proximity without abrading each other. “No, dear, that dress does not make you look fat,” and “Jim is a marvellous driver,” come to mind. But we are talking here about a person who has to perpetuate a huge lie every day of his or her life. And this leads to a completely different concept of truth.

It’s possible that most of Donald Trump’s aberrant behaviour stems from his reading problem. I use the word “dyslexic” in the title because it’s a convenient handle. I’m not as egotistical as the American medical community. I’m not going to diagnose him from what I’ve seen on television. But the evidence certainly points to some sort of reading disability. He says he doesn’t read. He admits he gets his current events from television news programs. Video evidence suggests that he can actually decode words on a page, but not in the total comprehension sense that most of us can achieve. He seems to pick out certain words, then make guesses as to what it the whole page means.

How does an Advisor Advise?

The standard format for an advisor to follow is to put a document on the President’s desk. Once the President has read the document, the two meet to discuss the issue. The President can ask questions about the parts he didn’t understand. When the President can’t actually read any of it, the advisory session isn’t going too far. Besides – and this is more important – these advisors are usually smart people. One of them might find out the Big Truth; Donald can’t read. The upshot? Trump doesn’t ask for briefings. Besides the fact that a briefing by an expert might disagree with his simplistic concepts of what’s happening in the world.


Put this information into the context of a political speech. There he is, out in front of thousands of screaming fans and a bunch of TV cameras, trying to make a speech, trying to concentrate on his performance, on his message. Imagine the words jumping around and blurring in the teleprompter. You and I can glance at a page of notes, look up at our audience, and speak. We can read aloud smoothly at a normal pace. He has to look down and use all his brainpower to figure out what he’s seeing. Then he has to look up, put himself back into “speech” mode, and talk. Is it any wonder he often drops it all and goes back to what he does best: rabble rousing, denouncing, and lying?

Distraction, Distraction

Because all the obnoxious insults, the bullying and the braggadocio have one effect; they distract everyone from learning Trump’s Big Secret. We see it over and over again in the classroom. A child with a problem will do almost anything, accept almost any punishment, as long as it distracts people from finding out what the real problem is. We see it from kids with learning disabilities and kids with abuse problems: sexual, physical, and psychological. And from what I gather, Donald was a kid with a learning disability who had to hide it to keep from being abused. No wonder he’s such a piece of work.

Where to Go from Here

What do we do about this information? None of it excuses his behaviour. An opinion reeled off as a coping behaviour shouldn’t become American Government policy. He’s the President of the United States, and he’s responsible for what he does in that job. If he’s screwing it up for any reason, then he shouldn’t be the President, should he?

But at least it gives us a handle on what’s happening. Knowledge eases fear. We can stop all our unproductive fear and anger and get on to some productive coping skills of our own.

And look at it in the historical context. The Left Wing in American politics made a big deal about how progressive they were, electing a black president. They touted a woman as the next logical step towards political nirvana. The Republicans have gone one better. They have elected a learning disabled person. How progressive can you get?


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