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Volume 2 • #1 • September 2002


I guess a little old lady with white curly hair and a pointy nose cheerfully standing barefoot in an airport security check point doesn’t fit the profile of a terrorist too well, because when I slipped out of my shoes at the Lufthansa gate on my way to Munich recently I was sent through quickly and courteously, with only a couple of surreptitious grins from the guards when they glanced at my pink toes.

And I got to thinking that if I were trying to pick inconspicuous terrorists, that is just the kind of person I would look for. And then I got to thinking again that it wouldn’t work because any healthy woman old enough to be white-haired has also lived long enough to be smart enough and sensible enough not to be recruitable for missions to kill other perfectly nice people.

The flight was to attend an international conference on dyslexia in Munich, held by the Rodin Remediation Academy. The Rodin conferences are always interesting medical ones, with speakers and attendees from all over the world. So the place is swarming with neurologists, neuropsychologists, neurolinguists, and neuro—every thing else you can think of. True, there was a sprinkling of speakers who did things like comparing the role of suffixes in English to the radical in a Chinese ideograph, or showing how the visual cortex in a blind person compares with that of a seeing person, but by and large, when they talked specifically about dyslexia, they all sang the same tune:

The dyslectic reader does not use the left angular gyrus when he is reading and the normal reader does. Hullo.

Never have I seen as many graphs and network diagrams and brain-scan photos of the left hemisphere, all with the left angular gyrus marked to show it wasn’t active. I never thought I could see too many left brains, but I did. Several researchers even showed how plastic the brain can be and how neural networks can be activated with certain manipulations.

But nobody in the whole place had thought to try activating that angular gyrus.

Teaching tip:

Those of you who have read Disarming Dyslexia will know my favorite trick for showing a student how important punctuation can be. I tell him that with a simple change of one punctuation mark I can turn him into a cannibal. Then I write:

“ What are we having for supper tonight, Mother?”

I dramatically erase the comma after “tonight” and substitute a question mark.

I just heard a couple of doozies for adults that I can’t resist sharing.

Call me, Ishmael.

Damn! The torpedoes! Full speed ahead!



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