Occasionally I have MPs on my site, adults, where it’s noted that they’re illiterate. I always note this information when I find it. If the person is mentally disabled (and they usually are), I note it in the “medical conditions” like this: “John Doe is mentally disabled; he is illiterate and has the capabilities of a ten-year-old” or suchlike.

Sometimes — as in a case I’m writing up now — it’s just noted that the person is illiterate and doesn’t say why. Usually, even if it isn’t said, the person is mentally disabled. (I’m pretty sure that’s the case here. It’s noted that he “may be in need of medical attention” and takes medication, and more tellingly, although this guy is in his 50s, his NamUs page says the “youth and family crimes unit” should be contacted about his case.) But you can’t assume that. Perhaps — especially with elderly people who were born in like the 1920s — they never went to school. Perhaps they have normal intelligence but a severe learning disability such as dyslexia.

In cases where the MP is said to be illiterate but there’s nothing about a mental disability or any medical thing that would cause their illiteracy, I put it in the “details of disappearance.” I wonder if “distinguishing characteristics” might be more appropriate though. Thoughts?

10 thoughts on ““Illiterate”

  1. Lauren December 10, 2016 / 8:10 pm

    Personally, I think it would go best under “distinguishing characteristics” because it is something unique that can help identify them. For what it’s worth, I have seen a native English speaking teenager who was illiterate not because they were mentally disabled but because they and their parent were both transient homeless and the child never went to school.

  2. Jenn December 11, 2016 / 4:22 pm

    Agree with Lauren. There can be socioeconomic or cultural reasons why people leave school or don’t have a consistent education. You can also attend school and because the school is struggling for various reasons, you graduate without really knowing how to functionally read or write. There’s also learning disabilities that people have that go undiagnosed or unprovided for because the parents and/or the school don’t have funds necessary for that kind of support.

  3. Kat December 11, 2016 / 5:57 pm

    I would put it under “dc” because that is exactly what the illiteracy is. A distinguishing characteristic. Unless it somehow attributed directly to the disappearance, I think it would be better served there. And while it is you see many older adults who are not mentally impaired fall into that category (due to inadequate schooling), you’d be surprised at the rates that are up and coming. I’ve heard more than once that kids are passed on from grade to grade at a barely functioning level for bs reasons. It’s not in every educational system, but in a lot of them. And there are those who can fool a lot of people. I worked with a married couple for quite a while more than 15 years ago, I was the night manager where I worked. I could never find one or the other where they were supposed to be, they were always together, usually it was her out of place. Finally after a month or so we realized that she was helping him, reading to him whatever it was HE was supposed to be doing. He could not read. They were high school graduates. I don’t know what happened with it all, I had to pass it to upper management and I left a few months later, but it was very sad. They were trying to earn money through working, and it was a major drawback. I hope they came out ok. Anyway, rant over.

  4. Dawn December 11, 2016 / 8:56 pm

    I think a person can havehave many circumstances other than mental disability that can result in illiteracy. My grandfather and several of his siblings did not know how to read, they grew up in the Ozarks, their father died young and they worked instead of school.

  5. Aja December 12, 2016 / 2:49 am

    My vote is for “distinguishing characteristics”. Several years ago when an illiterate Florida man vanished after winning the lottery, a series of text messages were sent from his cellphone telling family and friends to leave him alone, because he didn’t want to be found. His mother immediately knew that these messages were not from her son, because as she so bluntly put it on a real-life homicide tv show “Shakespeare quit school in 7th grade! He don’t know all them big fancy words!” Turns out that the guy didn’t send the text messages, it was all an elaborate ruse by the woman who had robbed him blind, and was later found dead. Had his mother not informed the public and law enforcement that her son was incapable of such sophisticated communications then it probably would have been accepted that he was alive and well in hiding. His illiteracy was most definitely a distinguishing characteristic.

    • Kat December 12, 2016 / 7:41 am

      I THINK his name was Abraham Shakespeare. I remember this case. He may even have been on Charley for a bit before they found him. Sad circumstances.

  6. 1lanonymous December 12, 2016 / 10:46 pm

    Including this under “Distinguishing Characteristics” seems most appropriate to me.

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