Growing up I always dreaded reading aloud, writing notes or simply finishing a book. Dyslexia is a learning disorder that throughout my life has affected my reading, writing and comprehension skills. I am considered neurodiverse, which means I have a brain function that is not neurotypical. Throughout my life, as I have encountered people with neurodiversity, I have become enamored with their unique perspectives and the way their brains function. In fact, chances are you or somebody you know is neurodivergent. In this series I am attempting to highlight the voices of people who are different from the “normal” as I seek to educate those who are uninformed of these differences. Throughout this work I use a loose interpretation of brain scans to express the way in which I perceive these neurodivergent brains. Each brain scan separately depicts a plethora of possibilities and stark differences, however, when compared side by side they also resemble one another. My work is based on this concept of differences within cohesiveness. In these pieces I do not aim to illustrate anatomy, but rather visually represent my abstract interpretation of neurological differences. Adjoining this work are statements from neurodiverse people to enlighten the viewers and give them a glimpse of neurotypical peoples’ personal experiences and perspectives. While stepping back to view my work, there are distinct organic lines that flow in and around the larger portions of the shapes. In these pieces there are multiple layers that add to the bold initiative patterning. This is accompanied by various color choices, which represents the variety of the neurodiverse. My main focus is to create art where viewers fasten their personal experiences to a piece in such a way that it creates a strong, unique and individual connection with the work. We all see reflections of our experiences and make the artwork do our bidding to fit into these reflections. I hope my work can facilitate the viewer with the opportunity to create new perspectives within these reflections.
Professional’s Point of View
As someone who has worked in schools of all levels and in various positions, I have seen how neuro diverse students can both thrive and struggle in a school setting. Because school is typically a one learning style situation, it can be difficult for neuro diverse students and teachers to feel the typical “success”. Some students struggle with the social aspect of school which can make even attending school difficult. For them, success might look like attending a certain number of classes throughout the day. For other students, the formal “sit in your seat and quietly do work” can be a struggle and they might be successful by using strategies and accessing breaks to help keep them on task. What I have seen most is that while school can be a challenge for neuro diverse students when it is generally one lane, students are able to access interventions and accommodations through individual education programs that allow students to be advocated for in multiple ways. Counselors, teachers, administration, and parents work together to come up with a plan to help these students be successful in the ways that work best for them!
Musings of a Mother
I have 3 children with dyslexia and/or ADHD. Throughout their school career from elementary through college, they have received many “interesting” questions from their teachers on a weekly basis. Here are some of the questions asked and some thoughts those questions provoked in me…
“Can’t you see that you have spelled the same word wrong numerous times in the same paper? Can’t you see the missed punctuation, capitalization, and spacing in this paragraph?”
She is dyslexic. She can’t see her misspellings, punctuation, capitalization or grammar mistakes. Dyslexia is a neurobiological learning disability, which can directly affect her spelling, decoding, reading, comprehension, and writing. She has awesome ideas, but needs someone to proofread her work and point out what she can’t see. That is why some of her accommodations include needing more time to pre-write, write, fix, add, write again, get it checked by proofreaders, fix, write, rewrite and if she’s lucky…finally finish. Whew!!
“Why does she need to have a list of formulas for the test? She should have memorized them like the rest of the class.”
One time my dyslexic daughter spent the first 45 minutes of her test writing down all of the Logic formulas on a paper and then took an additional hour to complete the test, which required her to apply those formulas to pages of problems. Students without learning differences can apply the formulas in their heads to the problems as they are completing them. My daughter’s brain does not allow her to do that…so definitely more time please or give her the formulas please!
“Does she really need extended time? Once she got a “C” without it. He is an amazing student in class when discussing material, answering questions or debating. I don’t understand how he got a “D” on an easy grammar review page?”
It has been so frustrating and disheartening at times to watch my 3 amazingly intelligent dyslexic students, who truly are capable and want to achieve at high levels, struggle when trying to place information from their brain to paper. It is confusing for many teachers to see an extremely intelligent student, who is amazingly verbal in the classroom, not able to transfer those same eloquently spoken words to written form. Some assume the student just didn’t put forth enough effort and because they are so verbally smart, forget that they are dyslexic and need the extended time. As a mom, I see the crazy amount of hours, dedication and perseverance it takes my neurodivergent thinkers to get their “A” and why when they get that grade, it is so important to them.
“If someone wants to take notes for this student, see me after class.”
Most of the time when an instructor announces this at the first class, it has really embarrassed my children and more times than not, no student wanted to stay after class to help another student they didn’t even know yet. This resulted in no notetaker for my dyslexic student. Some teachers have told them that they could tape the class and then listen to it and take notes at home. I do wonder though, how many students have time to go to all their classes during the day and then come home and redo their classes by listening to them again slowly to take notes at night? Where does that leave time to do all of their regular studying, projects, papers and readings?
Despite any struggles my children have endured, I am thankful to all of the instructors who have taught my children. Even though many have not understood dyslexia and have made mistakes because of it, my children have learned to advocate for themselves, explain their learning differences and become stronger people because of it. Because of what they have endured, they have learned to embrace their learning differences, grow to create chances in their lives and develop the strength to grasp on to all future opportunities that cross their paths. Thank you!
Neurodiverse: Autism from a Parent Perspective
I knew when I saw him stimming around when he was about 2 that there was something different about Kris. Doctors always brushed it off though. It came to the point where my pediatrician at the time asked me “do you want him to be autisitics because it sure sounds that way”. I was so confused as to why she said that. I later learned that a lot of people will try to get a diagnosis in order to get benefits. It took me having to leave that practice and go somewhere else to get a diagnosis. As a mom I will admit it was really comforting to hear “No he’s fine” because I didn’t want my child to go through those struggles of a child on the spectrum. If I had not worked with special needs children as a young adult, I would not have noticed anything was different and I wouldn’t know in time what I need to change as a parent. I was told over and over that I was crazy.
When it comes to discipline, there’s no kids alike, they’re like snowflakes. I could neve write a book on how to treat a child with autism. His currency changes. One week he’s into minecraft, one week he’s into road signs and ceiling fans. So when he’s misbehaving we take that obsession away for a short amount because he feels things very sudden. He doesn’t have to have something taken away forever because the short amount of time is enough for him. If I took a toy away for a week he would be so harped on that toy he lost that he would lose sight on why it was taken away to begin with. If it’s an ongoing issue we take that thing away multiple times in a day.
Emotions: at first it was very difficult for us because none of us knew how to understand the fact that he couldn’t understand the concept of emotions. The thing that helped Kris was consistency at home. We didn’t know that his emotions would change so quickly. Meltdowns were bad and in public I as a parent was judged for it because people only judge a book by its cover. Now I understand him better and everyone in the family knows his triggers. We just had to learn “Kris”. He cannot understand time and place and I don’t see him learning that anytime soon. It’s either you can or you can’t with kris; black and white. Having those only two options helps him get comfortable in his own little space. Now the neighbors, his friends, his school understand him. However since the pandemic, that routine got messed up and it took adjusting for him . I always have a backup plan. Because of our family and neighbors and school being on the same page, he has grown so much and is above grade level reading when I was told he wouldn’t ever be able to read to begin with.
One of the greatest memories I have with Kris is Cameron’s senior prom. Kris would never hug anyone and was always standoff-ish. It was Cameon’s prom and for the first time ever, he went in for a hug with Cameron and it took my breath away. One amazing thing about him is that his memory is unbelievable. He will meet somebody and know them by heart for years to come. Even if it was a cashier he met two years ago he will know them. He memorizes bizarre things that no one would think of. For example, the song Royals by Lorde came on the other day, and that song is older so I haven’t heard it in years. I’m driving him home from school when I noticed that Kris knew every word and the last time he had heard that song was over 5 years ago. I’ll play songs that I played once when he was 3 or 4 and he knows it like the back of his hand.
Pay attention to your child. There is no manual on raising children. They’re all different and you just have to think outside the box. No kid should be stuffed inside a mold, so watch what brightens their eyes. Don’t try to make your kid into something they’re not. Follow what brings a spark to their life. You just gotta breathe sometimes because you can’t tell your kid to understand something- you can’t turn it off. But once they understand you can move to the next task. Just pay attention and support. Nobody is the same so don’t force it. All I hope for as a parent is to raise Kris as a loving individual and I know the rest will fall into place.
For most of my life I’ve dealt with anxiety and depression from my own diagnosis as well as my family member’s and I won’t sugar coat it, it’s difficult. For myself I’ve noticed I’m afraid to ask for simple things that I need, speaking out or thinking I’m taking up too much space. From a very young age I’ve had severe anxiety to the point where I have “over thinked ” so much I hyperventilate into a panic attack. Accompanied with the anxiety I battle with depression. It used to be much worse when I was younger, so bad I let the sadness and numbness consume me and I no longer wanted to live. It’s been many years since that happened and many other things that had been equally heart breaking, some examples would be my grandmother who I was very close to and considered her a third parent sadly committed suicide in 2017, months before my high school graduation. My brother also tried to attempt and I have no words for the pain I felt, both for my brother and grandmother. One last example would be going through a very traumatic allergy reaction. I have a deadly allergy to tree nuts and I’ve experienced anaphylactic shock before but this most recent time was the absolute worst. I went to the hospital twice, the first time they did the normal routine and I was fine after some monitoring but it started to come back quick. I quickly started losing the ability to breath and I feared even though I was in a hospital I couldn’t be saved. At that moment I was grateful to be alive and wanted to fight. They gave me more meds which helped a lot but having the trauma of not being able to breathe haunts me everyday. Wearing a mask, walking too much and losing my breath, and having recurring nightmares. It’s terrifying. They kept me for three days, aside from not being able to breathe the part that really stuck was not being able to see my family or partner. Being stuck in a hospital, not being able to move around and only seeing people with masks and ventilators made me feel like I was in an episode of the twilight zone.
By telling you some of my trauma and my experience with daily anxiety and depression I hope you can find solace that you are not alone in whatever you may be going through. I also hope by me opening up it will allow you to tell your story. I still struggle with everything listed and beyond but with years of therapy, a good support system, and yes the right medication in a time of need it gets better. I have a philosophy that everything happens for a reason. I really miss my grandmother but I know she is in a better place and is no longer hurting. I also know in some ways though I don’t understand it, even a severe allergy reaction, but it happened to make me a stronger human and empathetic to others. I still struggle with coming to terms with that and why bad things happen to people but there is always a reason somehow and yes, life is absolutely beautiful with pain and all. It’s just one day at a time and sometimes one second at a time.
Life with Bipolar can be difficult and unpredictable at times. The best way to describe it is like being on a roller coaster. Your emotions run through three stages, manic, middle and depression or sometimes just highs and lows. Sometimes it can be an endless vicious cycle of extreme highs and lows. It’s almost like being on a sugar rush 24/7, one day you’re manic and everything will be in vivid color. You’re full of intense energy and become overly optimistic and believe that you can conquer the world. And the next day you’ll be depressed, everything that can go wrong will go wrong. Like a sugar rush or roller coaster, what goes up must come down, you crash after the manic phase and it puts you in a depression. Once that depression runs its course you go to the middle ground, a state of what is considered to be normal. After a certain period of time you’ll go back into a manic phase and repeat the cycle again and again. Unfortunately, you never know what mood you’ll be in when you wake up and it can throw a wrench into things, but you learn to cope and live with it.
-Some things about my mind + the way I think
-I am very contradictory.I like to be apart of a team but I prefer to do things myself.I am more introverted than people realize.I am highly social and love to talk, but my experience in the world is very much removed from reality mostly.I have an externally oriented mind though. I like to take things with and by others maybe so I can swallow on the main level of speech and interaction to make it more digestible. IDK. But I’m highly visual.In my mind when I understand information if I’m thinking about it I see it.Hello! Probably bored easily. like challenge+ new+high intensity. I am not very detail oriented at all. I’m not good at remembering or even considering certain things.I think of the quality of human exchange as being more important than the function of a business or whatever ← *but that is contradictory
- At least a 45 min break a day to do something I enjoy. (Watch a show, play a video game)
- Listen to music or movies as I work.
- Regular very small breaks. (Usually about 2 minutes every hour)
- Have some time each week where I can have a day or a whole evening to do whatever I like. Usually, high energy activities like staying late with my friends, intense gaming, etc.
- I learned it’s ok to have a little quirk every now and then. I will stand up and spin, spend time stretching. If nobody is in earshot, I will snap my fingers, do a dance step, etc.
- I do use my phone as an effective distraction. If I am doing something for too long, I get burnt out quick or lost in thought. It helps to stop for a second and brows Instagram or send a snapchat for a minute.
Throughout my childhood, I’ve always done well in school, but it was always a struggle for me. In order to achieve the grades I wanted I felt like I had to work twice as hard as those around me. Looking back, I have NEVER been able to pay attention during a lecture. It’s funny because I knew I would zone out as soon as the professor started talking so I would voice record the lecture and stay up until 2 am reteaching myself the material because that’s when I was most focused. It wasn’t until I began my current job that I realized this was a problem. I would have a list of things I needed to get done – and I would know exactly how to accomplish the tasks- but could not bring myself to start it. I spoke to my brother about it and he actually told me that he was diagnosed with ADHD as a child, but the medication didn’t particularly work for him, so he learned to cope on his own. When talking to my doctor, she informed me that many women are underdiagnosed because it is ingrained in our thoughts that manners are the first priority, and that anything outside of that was covered as being “dramatic”- having many females not reach a diagnosis until early adulthood.
I realized that my entire life I would go through stages where I wouldn’t feel present. I mindlessly drove and would forget the last 5 minutes, thinking “woah how did I get here”.
Ever since my diagnosis and the start of my journey with medication, I feel like a new person for the better. I actually feel like I exist if that makes any sense. I’m no longer feeling numb and have more drive than I ever did. It’s still a struggle, I have really bad anxiety and obsessive traits over certain things involving touch. Sometimes if my hair isn’t brushed correctly, or if my skin is a little dry, or even if I’m not wearing the usual clothes I wear, I feel as if I want to literally rip off my skin and hair- like I’m trapped or something. It’s weird and I’m still trying to figure that part out.
Don’t let anyone tell you you’re being dramatic or acting crazy- it’s not worth your time and it only makes you feel crazier. Only YOU can tell yourself how you’re feeling. If you know deep down that there is something up, find a professional that you can trust. You have no idea the amount of possibilities you have with finding self fulfillment until you actually see it for yourself.
Poised and ready to write
Ideas flow from brain to pen.
Excited until the “feedback fight”
Overwhelming frustration then.
Ideas flow from brain to pen
But format and spelling… a mess.
Overwhelming frustration then
Hours of mechanics to address.
But format and spelling… A mess
Blind to my numerous mistakes.
Hours of mechanics to address
The student struggles, grinds and grates
Blind to my numerous mistakes
Excited until the “feedback fight.”
The student struggles, grinds and grates.
Poised and ready to write.
Dysgraphia Disorder is a disorder affecting the ability to efficiently write. The main way having Dysgraphia has affected me, is definitely in the aspect of my hand writing. It makes it challenging to write words that are clear and understandable to other people. One of the ways I took action to correct this was through vision therapy. Through vision therapy I was able to solve some of the hardships by having Dysgraphia. Having Dysgraphia can be hard but having the right resources and support can be really helpful to hopefully combat the disorder.
Friends and family would describe me as bubbly, easy-going and kind-hearted, but few know the full extent of what I go through on a daily basis when coping with anxiety. Anxiety is an obstacle I have been conditioned to overcome since I was eight years old. Over the years, the anxiety which first presented itself as hyperventilation and a general sense of unease dramatically transformed into intense nausea, agoraphobia and disorder eating, all of which occurred with no apparent cause.These symptoms were often accompanied with periods of self-loathing and longing for repair. Time and time again, relationships and friendships would dissolve as I would feel pressured to isolate myself and/or others distancing themselves after growing uncomfortable assisting me at my most vulnerable.
Although my experiences with anxiety have been grueling I have managed to find several instances where anxiety has affected my life in a positive way. As an artist, my tendency to feel deep emotions, overthink and be hyper aware of my surroundings regularly has proven to be a superpower of mine. I overanalyze the concepts I create based on my emotions and I am able to create several works of art off of one idea. My tendency to be hyper aware allows me to notice small details within rendering the texture, color or likeness of a subject.
I have learned to prioritize my own health and comfort rather than sacrificing it to appease the wants and needs of others. Additionally, I have learned to treat others with empathy and compassion because you never know what exactly someone is going through.
“I couldn’t feel my legs.I couldn’t breathe. My hands may have felt like they were at 20%, but my legs were completely and utterly gone, 0% flat. I hit, I pinched, I scraped to the best of my ability and with all the strength I could muster, but to no avail. I felt nothing but a cold echo of what I couldn’t remember, the feeling of my own mobility. Overwhelming thoughts of anguish and depression washed over me as I felt my head writhe in a tight neck-brace, and grief brought me to a release of tears.”
“I was told I had fractured the back of my skull, nearly to the point of being labeled “shattered”, and had suffered several breaks or minor fractures to or along my neck. My brain had withstood a brain bleed spanning nearly the full length from back to front, and I was severely concussed. Memories were a mess of unknown what-ifs, amnesia robbing me of almost everything I had known of myself or experienced in life. The odds of every fully regaining my memories was impossible, and I would be fortunate to recover a quarter of them in the year to come. My sense of smell was nonexistent, taste muddied to nearly nothing, and my vision blurred in and out of focus as if I was inebriated.”
“The strangest and most bizarre change to have happened from this injury was without a doubt the change in personality, from preferences and dislikes all the way to emotional and cognitive function. For roughly 12-18 months following my accident, I was emotionally unstable and sporadic, somewhat unhinged and easy to set off. I found myself extremely emotionally motivated in my decision making and my lifestyle choices, but also found myself having little to no passion for things I had loved previously. I found myself drifting away from art which I had loved my entire life, and focusing more on photography which had just become a curiosity of mine a few weeks prior. Even now I find myself to be remarkably disinterested in art, almost to the point of having disdain for my own artistic skills. My sense of humor was also impacted, though most of my friends saw or see no difference in it. My naturally introverted self has also developed an overwhelmingly extroverted self-defense mechanism when in stressful situations that is entirely unbearable. I most often find myself becoming incredibly socially aggressive in large gatherings where I feel uneasy, and I simply cannot get myself to be quiet or stop running my mouth at all times. I fall back on my own humor and interject it into conversations and spew out endless ideas that nobody asked for almost compulsively, and find it to be utterly exhausting.”
There are moments when the words aren’t enough to explain what you experience. Feelings become that annoying best friend that never leaves your side and can make you laugh and cry within minutes of each other. Trauma came to bring comfort and chaos, but in the end, it’s just a life shifter and shaper. In 2014, that’s when my life changed and PTSD became a reality and a part of my daily routine. What I wish I knew then and what I want others to know now, is that when someone has PTSD, our reactions to the simplest things will hit you hard and fast and you won’t always know how to react and your body goes into an automatic mode. When you see someone react quickly to a situation outside of their normal responses, don’t panic- take a deep breath and ask the person if they need help or what you can do to help them through an episode. Episodes can last from second to hours, and adrenaline also is running high. So if someone says they don’t need help- don’t ever take offense. For so long, many people who have PTSD have learned to ‘cope’ on their own and know what they need and adding another person in at times becomes more overwhelming. Just know, each episode can bring up new things, and we have to work through them and those who want to heal and move through their trauma will. Give grace, love hard and be patient.
Borderline Personality Disorder
Borderline Personality disorder is a personality disorder that affects you everyday emotions. Being Borderline is like constantly living with 3rd degree burns, you are very reactive to every situation. Your brain is always on survival mode, it’s on high alert and ready to decide if you should fight or flight. Your mood is determined by the outcomes of situations and social interactions, which essentially means you’re emotionally unstable. These outcomes are either all bad or all good, there’s no in-between. You struggle with the perceived fear of abandonment. So if there’s even the slightest inclination that someone you care about will abandon you, you go into survival mode ready to do anything in your power to make sure they don’t leave but in reality that person never intended on leaving. Sometimes you cut someone out of your life permanently before they can do it to you. I struggle to be present because most of the time I either live in the past and reply to events that I wish could’ve gone differently or try to predict the future. It puts me on edge and I live with constant shame for every action that I do. I prepare for every situation and outcome making sure I do the right thing or else I’ll feel a deep sense of regret and shame wishing to do it all over again.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disability that mainly affects social interaction, communication, and behavioral characteristics. Despite having Autism, I was able to navigate through behavioral modification techniques. I learned how to control scripting behaviors such as playing movies in my head, being preoccupied with objects, performing repetitive actions, etc. As negative effects, there were communication deficits and repetitive interests, which did not help stimulate my brain and held me back from social interactions with my peers. With my parent’s help, I attended to occupational therapy to deal with sensory integration issues. To help me cope with the negative effects of Autism, I have normal intelligence and a photographic memory, which assists with my short-term and long-term memory. Even though having Autism is somewhat limiting, I have achieved many endeavors including graduating community college with honors. I am a senior at TU and will be earning a special education degree in June 2021. Also, I’m currently a special education volunteer assistant at my church. I viewed Autism not as a disability, but as a different ability.
About the Artist
Rebecca Carter is a student at York College of Pennsylvania, and will be earning a Bachelor of Arts Degree with a major in Fine Art in May of 2021. She has earned minors in Art History, Photography, Visual Communication, and Speech Communication. Her membership in the honor societies of Phi Theta Kappa and Delta Alpha Pi afforded her an opportunity to receive competitive awards such as the All-Maryland Academic Scholarship, as well as the Coca Cola Gold Scholar. In addition to this, she was inducted into the Alpha Chi National Honor Society. She currently has a studio in York, PA, the downtown location for the arts for York College of Pennsylvania. Three of her mixed media pieces were selected into the distinguished Emerging Visions: Undergraduate Juried Show in 2019 at Creative York, York, PA. This series was awarded Best in Show in that exhibition. Recently, Rebecca had her work featured on the cover of The York Review (Vol. 26, 2020) and one of her paintings was selected to hang as a banner design in the WeCo District of downtown York, PA.