Donald Trump is famous at this point for his rambling, topic jumping, convoluted remarks. He’s well known for his over use of the same few words to describe every person and every situation.
Everything from Obamacare to China’s trade policy is a “disaster.” Meanwhile, his inauguration crowd, his conversation with China’s President, and his respect for women are all “tremendous.”
It’s been theorized that Trump is demonstrating an expressive language disorder. He often misuses words or avoids specific noun and verb labels completely. His unscripted speeches jump from one topic to another as each idea goes through his head, as if he is unable to identify which thoughts are key to his point.
Now we are hearing from actor/comedian Taran Killam, who appeared with Trump on Saturday Night Live in 2015. The actor, who is now appearing on Broadway in “Hamilton,” explained that spending time with the Donald was far from pleasant. He said:
“He was … everything you see. What you see is what you get with him, really. I mean, there was no big reveal. He struggled to read at the table read, which did not give many of us great confidence. Didn’t get the jokes, really. He’s just a man who seems to be powered by bluster.”
Research has shown a clear connection between weakness in reading comprehension and disorders of oral language. When a child or adult struggles to find the specific words needed to express an idea, he often also has a hard time identifying the key point in what he reads. People who struggle to express themselves orally because they trail off into tangents, or because they include too much or too little detail, often have a hard time reading a passage and figuring out what the point is exactly. They struggle to sort through all of the information to focus on the main idea.
Reading skills and oral language are closely related. Disabilities that affect one nearly always affect the other, according to the American Speech/Language Hearing Association (ASHA).
Taran Killam expresses the view of one professional who worked with Trump. But his observations closely match those of professionals in the field of language and cognition who have listened to the man speak.
What’s important here isn’t that Donald Trump is a struggling reader. It isn’t even that he is relatively humorless.
What is important is that there is increasing evidence that the President of the United States struggles to understand language. He seems to be unable to focus on the most important parts of what he hears or reads. He seems to be unable to identify the key points in what he is saying or writing.
This appears to be a man who fails to recognize nuance. Can that be useful in dealing with China? He doesn’t appear to grasp how one idea leads to the next. This is scary given his ability to lob missiles.
This retired and no longer licensed speech/language pathologist has very grave concerns about the communication skills of the Commander in Chief. I am not at all surprised by the almost complete absence of press conferences or unscripted appearances.
I believe that Donald Trump’s handlers are fully aware of his considerable limitations and that they try to keep him under wraps.
As a professional who has worked in the field of language disorders since 1984, I have very serious concerns about Trump’s ability to grasp the main points of what is presented to him by his inner circle. This is a very dangerous scenario.