ABC Afterschool Specials (1972–1997)
7 user

Backwards: The Riddle of Dyslexia 

13-year-old boy has problems reading, which his teachers attribute to laziness. It is later discovered that he has Dyslexia.


(as Alex Grashoff)


(teleplay), (story)




Episode credited cast:
Miss Tomas
Judy Farrell ...
Barbara Ellsworth
Robby Ellsworth (as Leaf Phoenix)
Stephanie Evans ...
Sharon Anderson
Charles Theodore Bates III
Daniel Davies
Bo Kaprall ...
Walter Ellsworth
(as Shirley Venard-Diercks)
Jack Walsh
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:


13-year-old boy has problems reading, which his teachers attribute to laziness. It is later discovered that he has Dyslexia.

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Release Date:

7 March 1984 (USA)  »

Filming Locations:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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User Reviews

a real gem: one of the first performances of River Phoenix
13 August 2000 | by See all my reviews

I saw this TV-movie when I was in New York a few weeks ago. When I was looking for the Museum of Modern Art, I stumbled upon the Museum of TV and Radio. This museum is just south of MoMA on West 52nd Street and it is worth checking out. It is actually more a library than a museum and you can dig here in there huge archive. After you buy your ticket, you can select up to 4 titles on the computer and you will have 2 hours to watch your selection in their viewing rooms. They have stuff like Battlestar Galactica and Dallas but these old TV-movies as well.

Backwards: The Riddle of Dyslexia (length approx. 60 minutes) is a movie out of the ABC After School Specials series. It is the first performance as far as I know of River Phoenix. In the movie he plays together with his younger brother Joaquin (Leaf) Phoenix. The movie is, as you can guess, meant for children and has been made for educational purposes. The story is about a kid (River) who puzzles his teachers, because in a way he seems to be brilliant, but on the other hand he makes this stupid mistakes when he has to read, write and make tests. He tries to hide his learning problems by acting like a clown in classroom and is almost kicked out of school. It takes a while before his teachers and parents understand the reason for his behaviour: he is dyslexic. Not much of a movie, but this early performance of River Phoenix makes it worth seeing. The part he is playing suits him well and bears the seeds of his later performances in Stand by Me and Running on Empty.

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