In my profession I don’t get called on to make medical pronouncements often. I’ve sent plenty of clients to doctors. But it’s rare that I make the diagnosis myself. First of all, I’m not qualified as a doctor. Second of all, I have enough trouble deciding whether a cold is really a cold or the onset of the flu. So, I leave the diagnoses to professionals.
But Bill’s case was different.
Bill came to my office in the spring of 2009. He was well-dressed, well-groomed and had a pleasant, outgoing personality. To all appearances, Bill was no different than you or I. But Bill had a nervous disposition that became more pronounced whenever he read or took notes. And as time went on, I began to suspect that something more was at play in his life.
After our first meeting I decided that Bill’s nervousness was due to the fact that his reading skills were sub par. He stopped me several times in the middle of a conversation to ask the spelling of simple words like “would” or “left.” Then, during our second meeting, I asked him the question that had been on mind my mind since we met. “Have you had difficulty reading and writing your whole life?”
Bill set down his pen. He was clearly ashamed of what he deemed a lifelong defect. “I’ll tell you the truth,” he said slowly, his head hanging down in shame. “I’ve been illiterate my whole life. I should have told you but I…”
Bill cut his sentence short. He stood up as if to leave and I took his arm firmly. “Wait,” I said, guiding him back to the chair. “Let me try a little something before you go.”
Bill sat down reluctantly, more nervous than I’d ever seen him. He watched as I pulled a book from my extensive library and set it down in his lap. “Here,” I said calmly. “Read the letters as you see them in the first sentence… and read them exactly as you see them.”
Bill fidgeted in his chair, squinting at the text like a backyard mole, and began to read out loud. “I…N…S… A…. S…N…A…K…”
I stopped him right there.
“Bill?” I smiled from across the desk. “I don’t think you’re illiterate. I think you’re dyslexic!”
“Dyslexic?” He thought for a moment without speaking.
“Yep!” I smiled. “That first sentence says ‘In Kansas many people who believe they’re illiterate actually suffer from a condition known as dyslexia.’ To you, the letters appeared in reverse! How long have you had this condition?”
Bill thought about it and confessed. “All my life.”
“Did you know you can get help?” I asked. “Did you know there are state resources that will help you get the assistance you need so you can read like everyone else?”
Bill swooned in his chair. “I had no idea, Mr. Riedmiller.” He sat there, almost stunned, for a minute or more. Then a smile broadened across his face. “You mean I’m not illiterate after all?” His smile widened. “And I might be able to read like everyone else some day?”
“It sure looks like it!” I smiled, pulling a business card from my jacket as we walked to the office door. “Here’s the number of a clinic in town that works with dyslexic people. I want you to give them a call and make an appointment. I think they just might be able to help you.”
Because of his medical condition Bill won his case. Two years later I saw him outside my office and his face lit up like a shined apple. “You’ll never guess what happened!” he said, unable to contain his excitement. “I kept going to that clinic you recommended and I can read again! How can I ever repay you?”
“Don’t worry,” I smiled. “ You just did.”
Bill’s case isn’t unique. There are many people in Kansas who think they’re illiterate but are actually suffering from dyslexia. There are many more who keep things from their lawyer thinking such facts are insignificant or embarrassing. I can’t stress enough the importance of telling your lawyer everything. With Bill, I was able to diagnose the condition and use that information to bring about a favorable judgment. But lawyers aren’t physicians. If you have a medical condition, tell your lawyer. The information might just make the difference on the outcome of your case. Remember: your lawyer is only as effective as the information if you provide. Chances are your condition is no more unique than Bill’s!
If you have a legal issue or any other problem you’d like to discuss in confidence, give me a call today.
It’s my job to make sure you’re informed.