art

Photo of two children's chairs designed by Dane Jensen

Memories of School

Among my earliest memories growing up in Seattle, was as a grade school student, being taken by my teacher to the library. I couldn’t read and must have been holding the rest of the class back.

When we got to the library, another woman met us outside the library and the two women began discussing why we were there. Even though the two of them thought that I either couldn’t hear or couldn’t understand their discussion, I distinctly heard one of them say, “This is a case of mild to moderate retardation”. I pretended not to have heard as they ushered me into the large library room and sat me down amongst a group of children. Several were hydrocephalics, many were mentally and physically challenged. None were “normal” as I thought I was to that point. I don’t remember how many days I spent in that classroom, but the damage was done. From that point on, I vowed to myself never to trust anyone, or to let anyone get to know me, for fear of being “discovered”. It was me against the world. I became elusive, and said very little to anyone until I felt comfortable that my retardation wouldn’t be verbalized or confirmed.

The middle child in a family of five boys, I was basically on my own from the age of three, when my parents, in a last attempt to have a girl, had twin boys. My father was a surgeon, my mother, an only child who ended up with, at one point, four boys under the age of five. So, somewhat understandably, I received no support from my family. I was the big disappointment; always with bad grades, always in trouble for some reason, and unable to retain the facts to win in an argument.

Photo of auditorium seating by Dane Jensen

A War Ends. So does College... with Mixed Emotions

Fast forward to age 21. It’s 1973, and the war in Vietnam just ended. Finally, I knew that I would not be drafted into the army. Staying in school (university), to that point, was only to avoid being sent to the war. I dropped out with mixed emotions; glad to have the agony of school behind me, but knowing that I could do better.

I could barely read, and I graduated from high school by the skin of my teeth. I was fairly talented with right brain activities such as drafting, geometry, art and design, but math was a nightmare and I flunked algebra hands down. To this day, I don’t know my multiplication tables. Sometimes the class clown, I also diverted attention away from me by being a good liar (or so I thought), or I used other somewhat devious techniques. I adopted any means necessary to aid in my survival.

In college, I must have set a record for the most times on academic probation. I just didn’t get it! I knew on some level that I wasn’t stupid, but I just couldn’t seem to operate as others did. There were flashes of brilliance… or at least competence, but then everything would come crashing down! All of this only helped to reinforce my chronically crippled sense of self-confidence and self-esteem.

Black Chair - Dane Jensen Design

Work, Relationships and Teaching Myself to Read

I have worked since the age of 13. I was gone every summer working on a ranch or up in Alaska and I worked my way through high school and college sometimes by holding down two or three jobs to make my way. I had no help from family, student loans, etc. It never occurred to me back then how extraordinary that was for someone so young. It was all I knew and it reinforced my aloofness.

The next ten years of my life were spent as a carpenter and manual laborer, then a general contractor. This fit in with my thought that maybe this was all I was capable of, but my total inability with numbers proved to be insurmountable. I worked very hard to the point of physical ill health. I enjoyed the creative/visual side of my work but not the business side. If I had not had a friend back then who committed suicide, I might very well have done the same myself. The world was a totally unnurturing place to me at that period in my life.

I moved from one romantic relationship to another during those years. I felt I had no choice but to move on as the women in my life began to get to know me. I still couldn’t risk being “discovered”. Believe me, fear of commitment was not the issue! I know I hurt some people, but it was even harder on me! During this time, I taught myself how to read by using a geometric/ relative parts of the whole approach of my own design. It has taken many years, but now I am an avid reader.

Wood Chair designed by Dane F. Jensen

Higher Education and Pivotal Moments

In 1983, at the age of 30, and ten years after I dropped out of school, I re-entered university study with the belief that I deserved better and that I was capable of more. I really don’t know how I mustered up the self-confidence to take on additional schooling! During my first year, I saw a notice about an event on dyslexia at the school. I attended not really thinking it was relevant to me.

A holistic doctor asked for a volunteer and I raised my hand. He proceeded with a demonstration in Applied kinesiology for which I became the subject. Applied Kinesiology is the study of the electrical energy in the body- it’s surpluses and its deficits. As I was instructed to raise my arm, the doctor gently pushed down with 2 fingers after he said, “now hold”. My arm moved very little. Then he wrote an “X” on a blackboard. He said, “concentrate on this”, then “now hold”, and pushed with his 2 fingers. I couldn’t even hold my arm up when he pushed lightly. He tried other symbols, some strengthening, others weakening. He explained that the “X” is a weakening symbol to dyslexics. “They don’t totally understand why” he said, “but if it’s true, you have a severe case of it”, he said to me.

Wooden dining chair designed by Dane F. Jensen

This was a pivotal moment in my life. I realize that Applied Kinesiology is a controversial topic and certainly not a mainstream science based discipline. I would not recommend it to anyone as a definitive diagnostic tool. It did however alert me to the fact that more testing needed to be done. I subsequently underwent testing with a psychologist in Los Angeles, and testing with an educational specialist in Denmark. With a confirmation of learning difficulties, (dyslexia; dyscalculia & ADD were suspected), I went through an entire metamorphosis. It began with emotional upheaval… including lashing out at my parents, the Seattle public schools, and our educational system in general, to reading all I could get my hands on about the subject. Unfortunately, the “wisdom” at that time, (the early 80’s), seemed to be that it is geometrically more and more difficult to “overcome” dyslexia past the fourth grade. I was told by several special education teachers and administrators trained in the area of dyslexia, “you’d better do the best you can with what you have.” I will never settle for this advice.

The effect of having a confirmation of my dyslexia was life changing. Finally, there was a word, a condition, a reason for my frustrating disorientation and lack of self-confidence. I began to forgive myself and give myself permission to venture out into the world and discover who I was and who I could become.

It took me three years to achieve an undergraduate degree from UC Davis in environmental design, a degree I achieved with honors. I also received a fellowship for research I undertook at UC Davis. I worked in San Francisco on Fridays and on the weekends, and studied Danish at UC Berkley two mornings a week in anticipation of graduate work in Denmark the following year. I did subsequently study furniture Design and interior architecture in Denmark at the Royal Academy of Art and Architecture, and at the School of Architecture in Aarhus, Denmark. I then worked for a time there as an architect until my residency permit ran out.

Returning to the US, I could not find work to save myself. I ended up conducting a feasibility study for US Aid on manufacturing furniture in Honduras, C.A. for export to the US under the Caribbean Basin Joint Venture Initiative. US Aid reneged on their agreement with me and I was never paid.

photo of cabinetry designed by Dane F. Jensen

Searching for the Right Fit

I returned to Seattle and still was unable to find work. I moved to Los Angeles to work as a project manager in construction. A year later, I was recruited to study and teach at UCLA in Industrial design. Although difficult, I managed to finance my education in Los Angeles while teaching for a meager salary. I worked on movie sets, took on freelance design work, and built custom furniture in the shop at school. I received my MA in Industrial Design in 1990, and continued to teach in the department for two more years. At this time, UCLA closed its Department of Design. I spent several years looking for and applying for teaching positions without success.

Since that time, I have had several short-term jobs working for a variety of companies for very low wages. None of these utilized my education and / or experience. I have never found gainful employment in any field, perhaps due to the fact that I was too old to enter the job market in my 40’s when I was done with my education.

Another possibility is the chronic unemployment or underemployment dyslexics tend to experience due to various factors too long to go into here. In education I believe, the catch 22 of not having had continuous employment prevented me from procuring teaching jobs. And now in this world of the near totally computer oriented job market, it is as if I am an alien from another world. Due to dyscalculia and my visually oriented thought process, I remain in some ways, in the world of isolation that I created when I was a young boy.

I make my living at present by designing and building furniture, cabinetry, interior remodeling, and other design / build projects. Because of my spouse, Mary with whom I have discovered that total openness is a good and healthy thing, I can ask her and others for help with numbers and business problems and no longer risk being “discovered”.

Photo of Dane F. Jensen

Moving Forward and Making a Difference

I act as an advocate for children with dyslexia, and I’ve served on the board for a school for dyslexic children. I have a certificate in nonprofit management and continuously seek positions with nonprofits. I hope to start a nonprofit in the support of dyslexics and their families. In the mean time, I am researching teaching methodologies for dyslexics, and legal avenues that will necessitate that our educational paradigm include effective special education for dyslexics.

I believe that there are as many ways to take in information as there are people, and until we learn to respect these differences and realize that we can all learn and grow as a result, we will continue to experience foreshortenings of our cultural, intellectual and spiritual possibilities.

Metal leaf/floral design pendant by Dane F. Jensen

At 63, I am a bit resigned, and saddened by my lack of ability to have fit in to the mainstream of society. But I am also proud of my accomplishments. I have made my own way in life, and I continue to attempt to make a difference in the lives of others. I have learned that I must take responsibility for myself, and for my life, and not wallow in what might have been. I also choose and try not to live with negativity or cynicism. Even in the darkest of times, there has always been a glimmer of hope and optimism that has left the door open for new opportunities. Giving up has never really been an option. I believe success and fulfillment are always attainable.

I continue to educate myself by taking classes such as jewelry making, nonprofit management, autobiography writing, and I occasionally assist in teaching a furniture design studio at the University of Washington.

-Dane

Thank you very much Dane, for sharing your story with our community.

You can see more of Dane's functional and beautiful work on his website, http://www.dfjensen.com/

We'd like to invite you to donate to Headstrong Nation to help us to fulfull our mission for the adult dyslexic. DONATE HERE

Like us on Facebook, Follow us on Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, and Instagram. Thanks for your support! - The Headstrong Nation Team

poster - see it another way - Change our perspective of dyslexia from disability to gift

A graphic challenging us to change our perspective on dyslexia - © Patrice Steele

Patrice Steele, Graphic Designer, contacted Headstrong Nation to share her story as a young adult dyslexic. As a child, Patrice had much difficulty in school and couldn't figure out why she struggled in reading, writing and mathematics. In the 10th grade she was held back and needed to take evening classes to make up for lost time. She credits her mother for doing things for her, but acknowledges that both her parents and others close to her did not truly understand her struggles with dyslexia and dyscalculia. Her teachers would tell her parents that she was not paying attention or trying hard enough, and like so many adults with dyslexia, she was a child whose learning issues weren't properly identified and she therefore "Fell through the cracks" and didn't get the assistance and support that she needed. In school, Patrice felt like an "Outsider". She felt her teachers were judgmental and not supportive. They assumed that Patrice didn't want to go to school, that school wasn't for her and her struggles were her problem.

Graphic of peace of a face with words on it  - Serene, tranquil, centered, peace

A graphic about Peace - © Patrice Steele

Patrice had viewed some episodes of the TV shows 20/20 and Nightline which featured other individuals with the issues that she was experiencing, including difficulties with reading and writing, poor memory, difficulty telling time and counting money. She wondered if she too, might have dyslexia, but since she wasn't getting much support at home or in school she felt alone and was scared to bring up the subject. It took Patrice an additional two years to pass the standardized testing needed for her to obtain her high school diploma. She experienced great difficulty and had to re-test many times before passing the ACT and finally obtaining her diploma in 2007.

Despite her struggles with school, Patrice applied to and attended the CBT College for Graphic Design. At CBT, she experienced success in her art courses, receiving A's and B's. She still obtained C's and D's in Math and English, however. Patrice persevered, worked hard, and graduated. She's currently dealing with student loan debt and continues to seek employment, but it has so far been difficult for her to find a job in her chosen field of graphic design.

Patrice recently obtained a formal evaluation to confirm her dyslexia in Fall, 2015 at age 28. Evaluation results indicated that her reading had improved but continues to be low for her age, and that her performance in math is low. Patrice is tired of feeling embarrassed over not reading on a higher level that she feels an adult of her age should be reading. She’s worked to understand basic information, but she still mixes up words and describes her math skills as "horrible". She feels lucky that she has found other ways to obtain higher education, but acknowledges that it wasn't easy to do so and feels that no one should have to struggle like this. She's come this far, but has other challenges ahead of her, and she hopes that she'll have the strength to tackle these challenges and find her true place in life, pursuing her passion as a graphic designer.

A graphic of a man sitting with words - sit, think, be creative

A graphic telling others to be creative - © Patrice Steele

Patrice has created a website of her creative graphic design work here: http://steelepatricegd.wix.com/minimal-designer-por

She's also filmed and uploaded a series of videos to her YouTube channel to describe her experiences of feeling fed up from being "jerked around" by the school system where she felt she was unfairly judged and misunderstood during most of her schooling. She also shares some beautiful examples of her art and design work. Below we’ll share the first of Patrice’s videos on her dyslexia, and you are welcome to view the others at the YouTube channel link above.

My Talk About Dyslexia. Learning to Have No Shame 1

Many thanks to Patrice for sharing her story and beautiful, inspirational art work with us!

We would like to invite you to donate to Headstrong Nation – DONATE HERE. Like us on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter. Thank you very much! The Headstrong Nation Team

Originally published November 23, 2015 on MariauxArt.com

stylized painting of Mariaux Art and dyslexia logo

I loved books, I loved stories and I wanted to read—I just couldn’t read like other kids. I worked so hard to read that I lost the meaning of what I was trying to read. My book larva gnawed away at me while sat there stuck in an easy-reader—even when others had put their books away—I still labored over words.

Normal readers had a cute little bookworm friend that had little round glasses that were too big for its pudgy little face. It had a nerdy, feeble but kind warble in its voice that politely reminded them to, “read more books.” My bookworm was more like botfly larva. It bored into my head the significance of reading and every time I tried to read, it fed off my delicious inadequacies and bore deep into my sub-conscience that, “books aren’t meant for you.” The teachers said my only cure was to, “read more books.” In those days, no one knew I was dyslexic, but they did recognize that I had a different learning style

I was outwardly intelligent, social, and likable. Eventually I was labeled, “unteachable”—” lazy”—” unmotivated.” I struggled with reading in first grade. In second grade it became apparent that I had a learning disability. Third grade, I hit a wall. The school wanted to send me to a mobile home that sat on the school grounds. I’d sit with a teacher and a few severely disabled children. There was no help for me, and the environment was devastating to my self-esteem. My mom took me out of school and homeschooled me. My parents had no money, and no other educational alternative.

My homeschool years were hardly perfect, but they were liberating years for me. I spent a great deal of my time outdoors. We lived on five wooded acres in the rural countryside of Missouri. I was sure I was going to become an artist someday. I painted pictures, wrote short stories and plays. My mom read me book after book—all the classics. When she wasn’t reading, I was listening to the BBC book of the week on the radio. My little brother and I would lay on the floor and listen. I often drew pictures, painted and colored while listening to books. We were ear reading. Our ability to comprehend was phenomenal. I didn’t feel my limitations, I only felt that all was possible in my isolated world of Narnia, The Hiding Place, Lord of The Rings, Great Expectations, Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry—my little brother, and my loving and supportive parents.

Eventually, I was put into a small school in our church. My parents were open to trying other options and they were always hopeful that something would work. My little brother and I were publicly humiliated (my brother was physically disciplined) by our teachers. They didn’t know about our dyslexia and neither did we. We took the licks and just assumed we were the problem. This was a big burden for small backs. Back then humiliation was a tactic used to motivate. The educators in this school simply believed we weren’t trying. Try as we might, we just didn’t fit. We were abruptly taken out of this school and homeschooled again. My mom wasn’t a teacher and never intended to be. She did her very best. She inspired me—helped me keep my chin up. Only now do I understand her full-time dedication.

After taking an independent drivers education course, I decided I wanted to try and go back to school. I wanted to be around my peers—normal kids. I felt like I was missing out on the world. I was curious and very naive. I went into public high school my sophomore year. I struggled and failed. The shame I felt was unbearable, but I kept a poker face and most of my friends never knew my struggles. At first, teachers looked at me to be a nice addition in their classroom. I was very bright, forthcoming and effervescent about my willingness to learn. I sat in the front row and made eye contact. “Teach me—I want to learn.” I let them all down. Worksheets got the better of me as did and timed testing. The daily anxiety was a shock to my senses. One by one, each teacher stopped making eye contact with me. They looked through me, and I knew they had given up on me. While on my way to the place where the “D” word goes, I slid through the cracks and into a horrible gray world that whispered, “you’re nothing. Why even try? You’ll let them all down. You’ll let yourself down. You’re not normal, you’re not kidding anyone.”

Painting by Mary Harnetiaux - War in her Bloody Shoes - Woman

The day I left school for good, I was told by my guidance counselor that, “school wasn’t for everyone.” I believed him. I always took his final words as a warning to stay away. I was an impostor who was trying to steal an education, an education that belonged to the “normal kids.” It was a relief to finally walk away from it all.

I have always carried my ignorance like a bag of stones around my neck, hidden under my clothes, disguised by my outward appearance and layered beneath my god given talents. In school I suffered—horribly. No teacher proved me wrong. No one teacher became my hero or my mentor. My profound and confusing ignorance was never refuted—so it must be true. I presented a problem, and they had no solution. The “experts” didn’t even have a solution.

Even though there wasn’t any help for me back in those days, I still took solace in the possibility of a small identity, a word that kept me from taking it all into my inner-self. That word was, “dyslexia.” It was a word that was merely said to me in passing, but I intuitively latched onto it. Here’s why the word dyslexia was so important to me, it became a “thing” it wasn’t me. It wasn’t my fault. It was this thing and it had a name. Once I had a name, I was able to begin to pull the shame away from myself—I pulled it right out my chest like a ball of unraveling kite string. It was in this way that I attempted to bury my school years and move forward with my life.

I discovered myself, my hidden secret talents that I had always had—sort of like Dorothy and her ruby slippers. I began to focus on my life and not my struggle. I started painting, and through a lot of incredibly hard work, my surroundings filled with large scale abstract paintings. I found my joy and creativity. I didn’t know or care how my work would be perceived. I didn’t ask for permission. I focused on one thing, and that was my art.

My paintings eventually reached a man I had known for years, and it brought him home from his world travels. We got married. We had a little boy. Little did I know that I was going to have to unearth my dyslexia and my painful school years all over again—only this time through my son’s educational experiences.

Thirty-four years after hitting my own academic wall, I found myself advocating for my son. There I was, sitting in a blue plastic child-sized chair in front of two educators who were were trying to decide if they believed dyslexia even existed. As they sputtered and groped to use any word other than dyslexia, a curious thing happened—I began to disappear. First I couldn’t see my hands, then I watched my lap go up in a thin veil of vapor. I believe for a moment that I was only a pair of blinking eyes. No one noticed, but I almost disappeared into that place where the “D” word goes—that place that exists in all teacher’s lounges—that secret place all “unknowns” and “unteachables” go. I went into the dark locker of library-silent oblivion and neglect. Luckily for me, I had done my homework. I had a great deal of science, evidence and over thirty years of research to back my position. I also carried with me, a formal dyslexia diagnosis. Almost as quickly as I had disappeared, I returned to my tiny seat in front of two very serious educators who seemed oddly threatened that I might know something that they did not.

Red-faced and flustered, they spoke without relevance, “look at you! You’re fine! You had an LD and turned out okay! What are you worried about?” Unfiltered myths and misinformation came flowing out of their mouths, “we don’t hear that word nowadays, they diagnose better now.” I realized they only knew dyslexia to be a term they shouldn’t use, but they didn’t know what it was. They would never admit that. You see, by admitting that they didn’t know something, they would inevitably disappear into a thin veil of vapor starting with their fingertips until nothing would be left but their blinking eyes. If they admitted they didn’t know something, they would lose their power. They would never want to be in that vulnerable position—because truth be told, losing one’s power is painful. It’s damning. It’s demeaning. It’s dark. They wouldn’t like this.

Not long into my son’s fourth grade year, there came this soft suggestion, “maybe this school isn’t the right fit for your child.” They were right, it wasn’t. We pursued other possibilities.

I didn’t know quite what to do, but promised myself that my child’s dyslexia story would not be mine. I promised myself that his story wouldn’t have unnecessary sadness, or soul crushing adversity when it came to his education. I promised to find the teachers who knew that dyslexia is real—who would see him—and teach him.

One cold January morning, I lead my son up to a new pair of double doors. He anxiously opened one and hesitated in the doorway. Then, I watched him bravely step over a threshold and into a story of his own.

Read Mary’s personal blog and view her beautiful and inspiring art at MariauxArt.com.

Headstrong Nation Mission Statement - Headstrong Nation is a movement dedicated to a radical new approach to dyslexia. We empower adult dyslexics to own their dyslexia, to understand it, and to develop new ways of learning and working based on their individual profiles.

We would like to invite you to join us as a member, as we need your support to help us to fulfill our mission for the adult dyslexic. Please consider donating to Headstrong Nation HERE: https://www.razoo.com/us/story/Headstrong-Nation. Please like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Pinterest and visit our YouTube Channel. Thank you very much! - The Headstrong Nation Team

Photo of Artist Mary Radcliff-Harnetiaux

Mary Radcliff-Harnetiaux, Artist, www.mariauxart.com

Mary Radcliff-Harnetiaux is a Saint Louis, Missouri Artist who creates large-scale abstract paintings in acrylic on wood. Her work is ornate and full of life and movements. Mary is an artist who likes to tell stories, and many of her paintings are inspired by poetry, literature or iconic figures. Each painting has an original handcrafted frame which is built by Mary's dad, Michael Radcliff. Mary agreed to share her story, her work and experiences as an adult dyslexic with Headstrong Nation.

Painting by Mary Harnetiaux

"Four & Twenty" - Acrylic on Wood - By Mary Radcliff- Harnetiaux

Photo by Robert Bullivant/Bullivant Gallery www.bullivantgallery.com


Dyslexia as a child

I struggled in school. I never received support as a student nor was I understood by my teachers. I was unable to connect to my work, which made me feel helpless and isolated. I was viewed as lazy and unmotivated. When I look back at my educational journey, I remember all the things my parents had to do in order to protect me, and I'm incredibly grateful they never gave up on me.

Painting by Mary Harnetiaux

“The Kaleidoscope” – By Mary Radcliff-Harnetiaux


Discovering Art and the Creative Process

I discovered I was an artist when I was six years old. I won a coloring contest in my community and that smidgen of recognition felt so right and reaffirming that I gave myself the title, “artist.” At the start, my creative process with painting served to pacify my feelings of inadequacy in other areas. I always looked to tell a story and the stories in my heart inspired me the most. During a typical school day, or later in life while working at my job, I would see the painting I wanted to paint in my head and I would come home and try to capture it. I intuitively knew that I had this other “thing” that I was really good at. I’d dive into my paints and I would find myself.

Painting by Mary Harnetiaux

“Eve” – Acrylic on Wood - By Mary Radcliff-Harnetiaux

Photo by Robert Bullivant/Bullivant Gallery www.bullivantgallery.com


What My Dyslexia Looks Like

I forget passwords all the time and find myself locked out of accounts—very frustrating. When I put things away, I can’t find them. I stack things neatly and within sight. I get rid of clutter. I have large glass apothecary jars that I keep pencils and crayons and paint brushes in. I would say that my days of working in retail actually helped me learn how to “display” items in an “artistic” way around my house—no one would know that I have problems with organization.

Paperwork/forms in doctor’s offices (or anywhere) is very hard for me to fill out. I have trouble staying on the right line and I always have to draw arrows indicating that I reversed lines. My dyslexia also reveals itself at times through my speech. People who know me well will attest to hearing me say on occasion, "I can't get my words out." If you have ever seen me in a yoga class or witnessed me dance, "The Electric Slide," during a wedding reception—you’ll notice that I have profound left and right issues. I work around these problems directly, without apology, and through humor.

Painting by Mary Harnetiaux

“Unexpected Journey” – Acrylic on Wood – By Mary Radcliff-Harnetiaux

Photo by Robert Bullivant/Bullivant Gallery www.bullivantgallery.com


Tools Which Help Me to Be my Personal Best

GPS is my closest friend. Voice to text is also a close companion. Spellcheck is my secret weapon. I ear read like a fiend. I have a voracious appetite for books and information. Ear reading is by far the most important tool in my life. People ask me if I miss the feeling of a book in my hand—like I’m missing out on something. I’m just fine with my Learning Ally or Audible apps, and tech. I wonder if a typical reader can paint their bathroom while eye reading? You see, my reading experience is pretty 3D. For instance, I planted all of my tulip bulbs while ear reading the novel, “The Signature of all Things.” I completed my most recent painting as I listened to, Neil Gaiman, narrate his own book, “The Ocean at the End of the Lane.” I would never view my ear reading experience as lacking in any way. These tools help me live a better quality of life as they help me accomplish more than I ever thought possible.

Success and How I own my dyslexia

To me, success as a dyslexic adult is understanding how I work—how I tick—knowing my areas of weakness and strength. My success is not about success in other people’s eyes. I've spent years battling that internal dialogue that constantly tells me I can’t do something, that I’m not good at anything, or that I shouldn't be a part of something important. Success is learning to control that negative narrative. It is being brave and curious enough to do that thing that fills me with a sense of accomplishment and purpose. It’s writing without worrying about the red line that highlights my errors. It’s painting that story inside of me without asking anyone for permission. To me, success is understanding that struggle and failure are a learning curve and that the bigger picture is owning it all while honoring my true nature in the process.

“Your road may be a jagged uphill trek, but you have heart, brains, and courage. If you look closely, you'll realize your purpose in life has been with you all along—sort of like Dorothy and her ruby slippers.”


Words for the Young Adult Dyslexic

Understanding your limitations is a form of intelligence, it's not a weakness. Own your personal story—even if it's not a success story right now. Believe it or not, your failure story is a blueprint for your success story to follow. Own it all. Find your joy and creativity. Don't allow others to fill in the blanks of what they think you are capable of. Fill every blank with your own personal narrative. You are no longer that voiceless, powerless child in the classroom. You are supposed to be here, and your perspective is wanted and valued. As long as you're trapped in a place of silence and shame, you are missed. Surround yourself with other adult dyslexics whom you feel are positive mentors. Never give up.

“Your road may be a jagged uphill trek, but you have heart, brains, and courage. If you look closely, you'll realize your purpose in life has been with you all along—sort of like Dorothy and her ruby slippers.”

You may visit Mary's website at http://mariauxart.com/ to enjoy her beautifully intricate artwork and read her personal blog.

Headstrong Nation is a movement dedicated to a radical new approach to dyslexia. We empower adult dyslexics to own their dyslexia, to understand it, and to develop new ways of learning and working based on their individual profiles.

We would like to invite you to help us to fulfill our mission for the adult dyslexic through a tax-deductible donation to Headstrong Nation. Please consider donating through our RAZOO PAGE HERE: https://www.razoo.com/us/story/Headstrong-Nation. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Thank you very much! - The Headstrong Nation Team

Jim McCarthy realized that his true passion was found in creating art. He’s a self-taught artist, and is currently pursuing a degree in art at Crawford College of Art and Design in Cork, Ireland. Jim agreed to collaborate on an interview for Headstrong Nation and the following are responses to questions about his life, both past and present, as a creative dyslexic man on a mission to spread awareness and change how dyslexia is viewed by the public.

photo of artist Jim McCarthy with paintings

(Artist Jim McCarthy in his studio - Copyright, Jimmy McCarthy - artistjimmccarthy.wordpress.com)

Early Years.

My early years in school were very challenging and not a very pleasant experience. Corporal punishment was very prevalent, and I often found myself on the receiving end. I don’t think dyslexia or other SpLDs were fully understood. There wasn’t any specific help given to a person with dyslexia at that time. I enjoyed certain aspects of school, but always wanted to leave and find a job as early as possible. I left school at the age of 14/15 and then worked in construction for over 30 years as a carpenter/joiner.

Jim McCarthy's sculpture entitled fighting with words- Sculpted image of man cut out of pages in a book arms raised in fighting stance Portrait of a grieving mother wearing veil, dust covered painting of antique Morris automobile entitled "Redundant Morris" by Jim Mccarthy

(From left: Fighting With Words - Medium: Paper Sculpture, Grieving Mother - Oil on Canvas 40cm x 40cm, and Redundant Morris - Oil on Linen 240mm x 300mm - artistjimmccarthy.wordpress.com)

Self Evaluation and Higher Education.

In 2012 due to a major recession in Ireland, I found myself out of work for the first time. I applied for jobs in everything I could, but never had any luck in securing long-term work as the lowest qualification for work in factories was a degree. Looking at my skills, I decided that the best path to get a degree would be in the arts. I have always had a passion for art. In order to achieve my goal of getting accepted into art college. I first had to attend a college of further education due to my leaving school so young. I found I was strong in the practical subjects, but found the academic subjects to be a serious challenge for me.

Inspiration and Information.

After about two months, I attended a lecture and viewed a documentary about the artist Robert Rauschenberg. Rauschenberg spoke openly about his dyslexia. I could relate to everything he had to say. After this lecture I went and spoke to staff at the disability support service, who sent me for an educational psychology assessment. The assessment confirmed that I had specific learning disabilities that significantly affected my ability to access the college curriculum. The psychologist congratulated me, stating my IQ was well above average and this was probably the reason why I wasn’t identified earlier.

Painting entitled The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

(The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari - (What do you see?) - Oil on Canvas 200mm Diameter - artistjimmccarthy.wordpress.com )

The Truth Can Set You Free. The Education System Let Me Down.

Truthfully, I suppose I always knew I was different and suspected I had dyslexia. When I got the results, I found the information freeing and liberating. It was like my past life made sense and everything fitted together. In addition to feeling liberated by understanding my dyslexia, I also felt angry and betrayed by the education system because it had not acknowledged that picture thinking people learn differently than linear thinking people. I had only wished that all of my old teachers were there to witness the results. After figuring out how I learned, I used this information to study my academic subjects. At the end of my time at this college, I had achieved top grades and was later accepted as a 2nd year direct entry student into a Fine Art Degree course at Crawford College of Art and Design.

Daily Challenges and The Need for Public Awareness of Dyslexia.


As an adult with dyslexia, I have found that there are still major challenges for me. I have found that society and education systems are designed specifically for the linear thinker. I believe it is essential for the public to be educated about dyslexia as this would help to alleviate any misconceptions. Dyslexia is not just about reading or writing. Dyslexic people tend to have a different perspective of the world. They have a gift of viewing problems from multiple angles. I find I can visualize the end product and most of the time, foresee any problems that might occur, even before any work has begun.

Tools I Use.

I use certain tools to help me work more efficiently. I use Dragon Dictate, Read and Write Gold and a LiveScribe Pen . I would recommend any of these to help dyslexics. Because I am a visual learner, I also use documentaries to learn the information I need.

Hand cut image of a distorted fountain entitled Distorted Fountain by artist Jim Mccarthy

Distorted Fountain - Hand Cut Image - artistjimmccarthy.wordpress.com

Art as a Constant and a Solace.

Art has always been a constant part of my life, and no matter what life had to throw at me, it has been my solace. My earliest memories of doing art are when I lived with my grandparents, sitting at their kitchen table drawing what I saw in books or around me. Later while going to school I would get disciplined by teachers for drawing on my copybooks or school books.

Frustration - Holism Art painting of man covering his ears screaming out in frustration by Artist Jim McCarthy

(Frustration - Oil on Canvas 405 x 557 - artistjimmccarthy.wordpress.com)

Holism Art and Concepts as Related to Dyslexia.

“Holism Art” is a name I came up with for my art. People with dyslexia think and view the world holistically and are primarily picture thinkers. Rather than using self-talk (words, sentences, or internal dialogue), they specialize in mental or sensory imagery. This method of thinking is subliminal. Since dyslexic people think in pictures or imagery, they tend to use global logic and reasoning strategies. looking at the big picture to understand the world around them. Thinking primarily with images, dyslexic people also tend to develop very strong imaginations. They use a picture or feeling based reasoning process to solve problems rather than a verbal one. If they are at first confused (or intrigued), they will mentally move around an object and look at it from different viewpoints or angles. From this thought process, they develop many unique abilities and talents. For this reason and others, I believe ‘Holism Art’ is the appropriate name for my art.

Painting of English Market - Cork Painting of Paul Street by Artist Jim McCarthy

(From left: Margadh Bearla, Sraid an Phrionsa, Corcaigh 2011 (English Market, Princes St., Cork) - Oil on Canvas 20" x 24", and Sraid Pholl, Corcaigh 2011 (Paul Street, Cork) - Oil on Canvas 20" x 24"- artistjimmccarthy.wordpress.com

The Power of Art and Success as an Artist.

Art is more than something on a wall or a sculpture, it has the power to change things and bring joy. Art can also start a discussion and educate. If you can gain some material wealth, experience job satisfaction and also help to change a person's outlook on life or help highlight an injustice, what more can you ask for of life? When I conceive an idea for a piece I never consider whether it will be successful or not. My first protocol is the concept and if it’s relevant to me. The second is how relevant it is to the world in which I live. Thirdly, do I have an emotional contact with the piece?

Of course it would be a dream come true to be a successful artist and to have a steady income to support my family. I have had a certain amount of success in which I have sold my art and have received commissions. I've also had my work in group exhibitions in Ireland and Brittany in France and have pieces in private and corporate collections in Ireland, England, Germany, Estonia, Lithuania, New Zealand and United States. All of this has been achieved with no formal education in the arts.

Some of my art is inspired by my own life experiences. By using myself, I hope not to offend others. Many dyslexics can relate to this work and its emotional content. Through my work I have highlighted the injustices and discrimination against dyslexics and have been successful in creating discussion to challenge misconceptions.

After setting up my website earlier this year, I received thousands of views and much feedback from dyslexics, parents, families and friends of dyslexics from around the world. Some of my work has been used for educational purposes and through this work I have spoken to teenagers who dropped out of school early and are now going to return to college. If I had been told in 2011, while still working in construction, that I would find myself out of work, that I would return to college to pursue a degree, and that my art would help in some small way to change the perception of dyslexia, I would never have believed this.
What the future looks like.

Painting of Craftsman's Tools on table entitled "The Craftsman's Tools" by artist Jim McCarthy
(The Craftsman's Tools - Acrylic on MDF 455mm x 400mm - artistjimmccarthy.wordpress.com)

It is quite hard for me to think of the future, as like many dyslexics I have a problem with the concept of time. Since 2012, I have found myself back in the alien world of academia, where each day brings new challenges. I hope to achieve my goal of getting a degree, but where this will lead, I’m unsure! I really hope that along the way some doors will open for me and I might get that lucky break of becoming a successful artist. If not, I hope to secure a permanent job and continue making art as I have done previously. No matter what the outcome, I will continue to promote the positives of dyslexia through my art.

I believe it is very important for anyone who may be having problems or falling behind in school to get an educational psychology assessment. Because I really do believe dyslexia is a learning difference. Getting assessed for dyslexia has opened up a new world to me. Understanding and acknowledging my dyslexia and why I have to work so hard to achieve, has given me a better understanding of myself.

I think dyslexic people will always have to work harder to achieve in the linear world. However, with advancing technology and the help of science this may become an easier process in the future. Science, with the help of MRI scans, has proven that the dyslexic brain is different and is wired differently. Dyslexia is an invisible disability which needs to be understood completely, and until this occurs discrimination will continue against a portion of the population. Society needs holistic viewing people to enhance the world and help in the future of our society.

Jim McCarthy, September, 2015

Jim created a video entitled -This Apple Doesn’t Fall Too Far From The Tree - (SpLDs and what can happen), illustrating what can occur if Specific Learning Disabilities (Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Dyscalculia, Dyspraxia/DCD, ADHD, 2e-Twice Exceptional) are not identified early and whose needs are not met.

You can view Jim's uniquely personal and meaningful artwork and read his blog HERE.

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"I am not broken. I am not damaged. I am not stupid." Watch Dyslexic Advantage's inspiring webinar with award-winning dyslexic artist Madalyne Hymas.

Learn more about Madalyne recent exhibition on dyslexia, now on view at The Smithsonian's Ripley Center. Learn more here.

Madalyne Hymas

Dyslexic Advantage will be chatting with Madalyne Hymas this Wednesday from 5:30 PM to 6:30 PM PST. Sign up to learn more about this inspiring young woman and her powerful perspective as a dyslexic artist. Register for free here!

Close up of exhibition

Congratulations to Madalyne Marie Hymas, an innovative dyslexic artist who won an Award of Excellence for her entry in this year's National Juried Exhibition for Emerging Artists with Disabilities, Ages 16-25. Madalyne's bold exploration into what it means to be dyslexic can be seen at the Smithsonian Institution's S. Dillon Ripley Center through January 5th, 2014.

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