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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
Dr. Schwartz's Weblog

I Thought I was Dumb: The Story of Ben Kilham, Bear Expert

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Mar 8th 2008

 National Geographic is running n fascinating story about another "gorilla man." This man, Ben Kilham, is very successful at rescuing, studying, raising and living with wild bears. He has become the foremost expert on the black bear. Yet, this man, who is married and has children, could not achieve in school because of his reading difficulty. You see, Ben Kilham has a serious case of dyslexia. He does not read now, did not read during his childhood and, as a result, could not achieve in school. He was convinced he was stupid. Yet, it turns out that he scores in the genius range on I.Q. The tests used to measure his intelligence used other than reading methods to measure intelligence. As he himself has stated, success in school depends on reading and those who cannot read are in deep trouble. Yet, he is incredibly successful.

Sound familiar?

Did you grow up believing you are dumb?

Do you remember when teachers had everyone read out loud in class?

Do you remember when classmates made fun of you when you failed to read correctly?

Do you remember feeling stupid and horribly self conscious?

We now know that learning difficulties such as ADHD and Dyslexia contribute to poor performance in school and feelings of inadequacy and depression.

Why depression?

The reason depression results from having learning problems is due to the failure to perform at the level that is expected and hoped for. It is this gap that causes feelings of self doubt and depression or self hatred.

The story of the man who lives among bears is a good example of the human capacity to over-come all types of disabilites and problems by learning to compensate for their limitations. In fact, the capacity to learn compensatory behaviors is the basis of many types of treatment designed to help people learn how to cope with ADHD and reading difficulties so that they can be successful in life.

If you or someone you know has a learning disability then yu should seek help, including help for reducing depression and building self esteem. If you have a child with these difficulties do not be dismayed because there is a lot of help available.

Your comments are welcome

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at for details.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

wrong - a friend - Sep 27th 2008
You might want to fact check your first paragraph. Much of your info on Kilham is wrong. He is incredibly smart, no doubt, but some of the info you posted about is wrong and needs to be changed. I don't not at this time wish to comment on what info it wrong. I do not mean to offend you by this post.

yeah me and my dad have dyslexia - quesera - Mar 10th 2008
depression and maybe adhd or add he became a contractor brought up 9 kids and tried like hell to read I shared a book with him when I was young called I married adventure I know I overcame dyslexia by reading 24 7 eveything and anything although I still tend to switch numbers around.when my dad ran for politics calling voters was a real chore half the numbers I dialed were wrong.... My dad used any resource he could my mom and sister wrote his contracts by verbal instruction. He had a basic concept of carpentry math, but he always lost everything like me he cannot hold onto a piece of paper he used to say his body sucks it in todays school I would have been put on ritalin or depakote I dont' remember what grade he made it through but he is amazing in his ability to remember details especially when he is hyperfocusing on his favorite hobbies, antiques, collectibles and junque. Ilearned to deal with add for the most part although it frustrates the hell out of me when I can't focus or finish and then again I can hyperfocus when I am engaged just like my Dear old Dad Depression though thats where I fail he is really depressed now of course won't believe it....but hey he's over 70 and retired love him for who he is...........thanks for the article, Que

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