48 I CHRONICLESnshow on a network affiliate—well,nthat’s a joke. In May, this occurred at anMiami-Fort Lauderdale network affiliate.nTen thousand Broward Countynstudents, the reporter said, were learningndisabled, poor dears. About thensame time, I found that two days anweek the public library didn’t opennuntil noon. Granted, the kids wouldnbe in school then. But it seemed symptomaticnof the learning illogic—whatnabout the mommies and daddies, afternall?nThat same week, I was told thatnevery school in the county had gottenna Moog synthesizer under a federalngrant. These go for about $2,000napiece. There are more than 100nschools in Broward County. And somenschools got more than one synthesizer.nI know this because our offifce manager’sndaughter brought one of themnhome. “Take it if you want to playnaround with it,” the music teachernsaid. “No one here knows how to playnthe thing.” The kid’s father’ is a computernwhiz. It is costing the government,nor us, $2,000 for the child tonplay with the Moog and present hernelectronic fiddlings at the annual talentnshow. (What happened to cute petntricks? Or acrobatics?)nWhen something is really ludicrousnand bothersome, most healthy peoplenmake jokes of it. It’s not surprising,nthen, that whenever there’s a proofreadingnerror around the office, we allncackle about the proofer being learningndisabled. Someone fails to hearnwhat is being said and asks, “Couldnyou repeat that?” “What, are you hearingndisabled?” is the usual rejoinder.nCan’t live within your income? Obviousnfinancial disability there. Used tonbe called profligacy, or even spendthriftiness.nDrop your coffee cup after a latennight with a storyboard? Must benmotor coordination disabled. Remembernclumsy? Most kids outgrow it. Andntherein also lies a tale. I know a dancenteacher who is so clumsy offstage andnout of the studio that she literally walksninto walls. This is partly because hernearly training taught her to look upnand ahead, which makes it easy to tripnover a button if your mind wanders.nAnd, of course, until she had radialnkeratotomy surgery, she was almostnlegally blind.nThere are untold brilliant scientistsnwho are clumsy, in the everyday sensenof the word. Never mind that they canndissect a newt’s eyelash in the lab.nWhen they walk around doing theirndaily chores, they bump into things.nTheir gait, as long as it gets them wherenthey want to go, is of no concern tonthem.nAnd then, there’s what I call thenStephen Hawking theory. Hawking is,nyou may recall, the most brilliantnphysicist in recent memory. Like Einstein,nhe had problems in school. Butnthat’s only half of it. Hawking’s body isnwasting away. Today, he can movenonly one or two tiny muscles voluntarily.nIt is a disease he’s got, a syndrome.nBut look at what it does, for him andnus. Though I daresay he might disagree,nit blessedly allows him to be ancompletely cerebral being—in a way,nit helps him with his immense contributionsnto human knowledge. Hendoesn’t have to waste his valuable timengiving inane talks to mindless yobbosnat conferences somewhere in Ullululand.nOf course, he misses out onnplaying touch football with his kids.nBut his contributions to science havenbeen such that it matters little to thosenwho come after if he was purple withnblue spots and had a learning disabilitynin French, Urdu, and lute-playing. (Inhave never heard of a lute-playingndisability, but give it time. I myselfnhave a Judith Krantz book-reading disability;nI would give a lot to a goodngrantsman to get me some federalnfunds to overcome it.)nBesides being the foundation of thenabove-mentioned Full EmploymentnAct, learning disabilities are very likelynto be the great homogenizer many ofnus have feared for so long. All menn(and women and children and dogsnand cats and budgerigars) are not creatednequal, at least in the simplistic (readnwrong) sense given forth by the schoolmarmsn(educators) today. Equality is anvery unequal thing. My own brother isnMensa-caliber; I am not. On the othernhand, the public body of my mentalnwork exceeds his by an unknowablenfactor, since he has never publishednanything. He is an auto dealershipnmanager. But we are equal. He’snhappy and so am I. He escaped fromnschool just before learning disabilitiesncame on the scene, so escaping hisnshare of labels. His attention wanderednin math class; he knew more than thennnteacher was teaching for his gradenlevel. He just plain hated history.nNow, he’s my main source on historicalnperspective of modern events; he’sna voracious reader in that field.nAnd he’s a riot. The synapses in hisnbrain flash so fast and so well that hencan see true humor in jut about anythingnand give it voice. He has a fannclub in three states. And Japan.nSo what would have happened tonthe tyke if learning disability had beennaround in his early youth? Probably henwould have been categorized as LDnwith verbal impairment or accused ofnhaving a short attention span. Ornmaybe someone would have writtennsomething like this: “His fine motornmovements for cutting, pasting, writing,nhammering, stringing beads,nworking puzzles and more look immaturenand clumsy. He displays poornability to combine movement and vision.”nThat described my brother at a certainnage to a T. The thing was, he wasnthe only left-handed member of thenfamily. Also, before he could toddlenhe began to speak Chinese, which henpicked up from the laundryman.nToday, Chinese is all forgotten. Andnhe did outgrow the clumsiness, althoughnnot before he embarrassed menfor years.nOne of the relatively harmless primersnfor parents of LD children givesnlaundry lists of “can’t do” things at thenend of each chapter. Here’s one: “Henoften cannot distinguish similarnsounds one from the other, such as bnand t, and v and th, so of course hencannot attach correct pronunciationsnto their symbols and his spelling maynbe dreadful. At times you are bound tonfeel he is the one who hid behind thendoor when they were passing outnbrains because he thought they saidntrains.”nActually, the joke involves rainn(after all, many a young boy would benfirst in line for trains). Yet, how manynof us always hear those similar soundingnletters correctly? If we did, therenwould be no need for the internationalnphonetic alphabet (a as in alpha, b asnin beta, c as in cat, and so on, widelynused by those who dictate and thosenwho transcribe).nAnd another: “Some LD childrennmake astonishingly bizarre attempts atnphonetic spelling on almost alln