- Me: Time for homework!
- Boy: Not yet.
- Me: There are two cookies on the table next to your homework.
- Boy: Can I have the cookies?
- Me: At the table. With homework.
- Boy: Look at this.
- Me: So are you going to eat these cookies?
- Boy: Yes.
- Me: Because they’re just sitting here. I might decide to eat one.
- Boy: No!
- Me: Then come to the table.
- Boy: In a minute.
- Me: (eating one of the cookies) Mmm. This is a good cookie.
- Boy: What are you doing?!
- Me: Eating a cookie. It was just sitting here.
- Boy: (pause) That’s ok. I can share my cookies with you.
First, I don’t know who Tom Scocca is, nor at this point will it help me to know.
The personal and moving excerpt from Patricia Gilman’s memoir I wrote about last week is, according to Scocca in his Slate column, a sensationalistic ploy by Tina Brown to terrorize parents of bright children in the pages of “Tina Brown’s Newsweek.”
The Newsweek piece is a sneaky selection, because it has been put together to minimize the apparently quite real and serious problems that Benjamin exhibited (and that the full memoir seems to deal with), in favor of dwelling on the frightening paradox of his precociousness.
The number of lazy, uninformed fallacies Scocca employs in his piece is shocking. I took my own cheap shots at his piece in the comments:
It is striking that you seem willing to declare yourself an expert on hyperlexia from reading some articles on the internet, seeing as how most pediatricians know little about it themselves.
But then I note you also consider yourself an expert on how Gilman’s son’s quirks presented themselves by reading a paragraph review of the book in Publisher’s Weekly.
And also qualified to assert that a clinical term used by speech and language pathologists (context-appropriate delayed echolalia) is a bemusing fiction.
Nothing in the Newsweek excerpt read to me as sensationalized or alarmist. Most of your piece reads to me as both.
I am the father of a hyperlexic son. Gilman’s story so far seems extremely familiar.
What excites me about her book reaching a national audience is the potential for hyperlexia to be better understood, and for yes, more parents to recognize that the precociousness of which they are so proud could be a sign of challenges ahead. Yes, it seems like a paradox, that a smart, reading kid could be experiencing language delays. But Gilman’s son (and ours) have to live with that paradox every day of their lives.
Further reading on the internet about hyperlexia could have also told you that early speech and language intervention can have a huge, positive impact with hyperlexic kids.
Many public school districts will perform free assessments of children starting at the age of three, and can offer free preschool classes aimed at helping children with language challenges.
In addition to advanced reading, early signs of hyperlexia can include the reversal of pronouns (I vs. you), a delay in asking the questions most two-year-olds ask, and yes, repetition of stories, songs, and snippets of dialogue from videos (i.e. delayed echolalia).
This is not an epidemic, but it’s no joke. With luck some parents of these kids will take something positive from this excerpt or Gilman’s memoir and get help, instead of using your snide dismissals as a further excuse to remain in their “my kid is too smart, it’s the school that’s to blame” cocoon.
Which seems at the heart what Gilman’s getting at. Getting over ourselves as parents.
For example, I always pictured myself as being above needing to respond to any assclown with a blog who wrote something that felt like an attack on my kid.
Looks like I’ll need to keep working on that.
Stopped by an estate sale yesterday, which meant 24 hours of clogging people’s Instagram feeds with stuff I found there.
Here I can keep it to a single post.