Lame Film About Dyslexia

Kirk Douglas movie about dyslexia
A 1992 movie about dyslexia

The Secret (1992) is a made-for-television film about dyslexia. As it is still being aired, a word of warning to parents of young children is in order.

The premise of the film is that both a boy and his grandfather are unable to read because of a condition called “dyslexia.”

After the film drags on for more than half its 120-minute length (including commercials), telling how this terrible condition has blighted the grandfather’s life and threatens to do the same to the grandson, viewers receive an astonishing revelation. Dyslexia is treatable.

The specialist who tests Mike (for a fee of $1,200) tells him that the grandson can learn to read—if he is taught to “sound out letters.”

“Dyslexia” that can be cured by teaching a fourth-grader the sound values of the letters is a “dyslexia” that should never have been permitted to develop.

Children taught “to sound out letters” from the beginning are not likely to develop symptoms of dyslexia.

One of several preposterous plot devices used to illustrate the grandfather’s efforts to conceal his inability to read concerns the story of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.”

When his son was small, the character played by Kirk Douglas made up a story to go with the pictures, calling Goldilocks “Blondie” and altering other aspects of the traditional tale. The anecdote is meant to be gently amusing, but all I could do was wonder how anyone born into an English-speaking culture during the past 200 years could have grown up without having had the story of Goldilocks read or told to him at some point in his childhood.

At least two morals emerge from this film:

1. Children should be taught the sound/symbol relationships in the first grade, instead of having the information withheld until they develop reading problems.

2. Parents who don’t read to their children at home are missing an opportunity to prepare them for reading success in school.

If you haven’t yet watched The Secret with Kirk Douglas and Bruce Boxleitner, don’t bother. If you do see it, don’t fall for the pseudo-science and sentiment.

NOTE: There are some positive aspects of the film. See the addendum to this review: Dyslexia Movie Revisited