ABC Afterschool Specials (1972–1997)
8 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.


Alexander Grasshoff (as Alex Grashoff)


Arthur Heinemann (teleplay by), Franklin Thompson (story by)




Episode cast overview:
Madge Sinclair ... Miss Tomas
River Phoenix ... Brian Ellsworth
Judy Farrell Judy Farrell ... Barbara Ellsworth
Joaquin Phoenix ... Robby Ellsworth (as Leaf Phoenix)
Stephanie Evans Stephanie Evans ... Kim
Sharon Anderson Sharon Anderson
Charles Theodore Bates III Charles Theodore Bates III
Daniel Davies Daniel Davies
Bo Kaprall Bo Kaprall ... Walter Ellsworth
Peter Moore
Shirley Venard ... (as Shirley Venard-Diercks)
Jack Walsh Jack Walsh


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

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis







Release Date:

7 March 1984 (USA) See more »

Filming Locations:

Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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User Reviews

a young actor who did a great job
3 September 2003 | by dtucker86See all my reviews

All right I admit, I really loved those so-called "cheesy" after School specials that ABC made back in the late 70's and the early 80's. That should give you an idea of both how old I am and how out of whack I am. But there are a few of these specials that stick out in my mind. One was The Drug Knot, the one that David Toma was in, and the other was this one where young River Phoenix made one of his first appearances. I remember thinking to myself that this kid sure has a funny name. But I remember it particularly because he did such a dynamite acting job! I couldn't believe that a thirteen year old could act the way he did. I remember one scene in particular where the boy breaks down and cries in frustration because he can't read. It really tore my heart. River Phoenix was an amazing young actor who unfortunately became another Hollywood case of too much and too soon. Everyone was saying that he would become the next James Dean, but sadly, like the Elton John song says, "your candle burned out long before your legend ever did". Its a shame because he was so gifted and talented and you had to only wonder what might have been.

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