Grieving “The Greatest” and other thoughts…

I was watching testimonials and videos of Mohammad Ali’s life of triumphs, convictions and sheer courage;living with a progressive disease resulting from his years of fighting, I mourn his death and send prayers to his family and friends.

I was surprised to learn he suffered from dyslexia and learned that he used rhyme when he spoke because it was easier for him. He was compensating for what he lacked. When he attended public school they did not offer special education back then. The only choice the teachers had back then was to help as much as they can and pass them through each grade until graduation.

This is so very sad. I am a victim of having some type of learning difficulties and I know if there was special education when I attended school, my life of struggling through each grade would have ended in a much better result for me. I learned how to compensate. In the business world I paid a lot of attention to my superiors who corrected my writing and spelling and I learned from them. This is how I overcame my deficiencies, along with suffering great embarrassment along the way. Thankfully they all were kind, patient and very much appreciated the skills I did have as an efficient, responsible employee.

My brother-in-law experienced similar difficulties in his school years as well. However, his problems were all emotional/mental. In his case as well, special education wasn’t available for him either. I wonder how different his life would be if he was born now.

He is diagnosed to have paranoid schizophrenia. I watched him grow up from the age of five. He would sit in front of the TV moving his arms in a fashion you would see in a young boy of today who is autistic; slowly back and forth, sideways and locking his fingers together. I didn’t understand what the gesture meant but knew it wasn’t normal. He had difficulty with socialization and was constantly bullied at school because he appeared different.

He is very intelligent and loves fishing, building models and fascinated with war history. When he was living at home with his mom and dad you would always find him in the garage working on a project. He loves animals and fed stray cats at times.

Because of the lack of knowledge of diagnosing him correctly as a child, he graduated from high school and slowly began exhibited mental symptoms. He was cared for by the neighborhood mental health program with group therapy, social activities and day programs to keep him occupied. He eventually began working in a controlled setting for which proved to be working positively for him until it was closed down.

Presently he lives in a boarding home in a small town near us. He is getting great services from the mental health program. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the supervision he needs and will panhandle for money and cigarettes and exhibit other behaviors that are unacceptable in society but he doesn’t have the social skills to understand.

I started this post praising the life of Mohamed Ali but the fact that he lived with dyslexia and needed to compensate for years to hide his problem, reminded me of my life and how I was able too compensate and learn through my errors. However, for my brother-in-law, he is part of an era where he was unable to get the appropriate help he needed and possibly misdiagnosed because of the lack of knowledge 40 years ago.


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