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The Dyslexia Postcard Project

  • I was identified as dyslexic at the age of 45 and my daughter was also diagnosed with Dyslexia at around the same time. In January 2022, I decided to create a series of postcards, that explored the challenges we faced as a family with dyslexia. My ultimate aim for the project was to process how I felt about getting a recent identification as an adult. This was accompanied by wanting to support my daughter at the age of 10, as she faced dyslexia challenges at school and in her personal life. A recent loss of my mother meant we were also witnessing more of my father’s struggles with dyslexia, as he relied on her support to cover his weaknesses. As the project developed, it became apparent that my sister also shared some of the dyslexic traits. I wanted to gain more knowledge on how we have all found coping mechanisms throughout our lives but to also recognise what fantastic, positive skills we have also developed as a result of our dyslexic brains.

  • Each postcard was inspired by something we discovered and shared about the way we learn and have coped in certain situations. The concepts behind the individual artwork and the sharing of them afterwards, was as important to us as a family, as the visual artwork itself. The postcards were connecting us and prompting discussions between us, which normalised our associations with our learning differences. The artwork was my means of utilising my strengths of visual communication and creativity to illustrate each concept.

  • The complete postcard series focuses on the positive and negative aspects of living with dyslexia. I started the year with the ambition of creating a postcard a week. However, I felt inspired by researching, creating and discussing the series, that I continued beyond a series of 52 and ended 2022 with a complete series of 100. The postcards have really helped me process my own understanding of how my brain works, as well as gaining an insight into the lived experience of neurodiversity in others.  During the yearlong project, all of the family have shared our experiences and we no longer feel the need to hide our weaknesses, like they are something to be ashamed of. By recognising the positive strengths as well as the negative challenges we have started to see dyslexia as a family asset and not as a negative problem or disability that we have been raised in society to believe.

  • As a child going through education and facing academic challenges, I found comfort and a strength within art and creative practice. With strong support and encouragement from my family, I continued to follow my strengths in this area and was able to combine my passion of the subject with my enthusiasm to work with young people. I therefore chose a career path, that focussed on my strengths and avoided my weaknesses. For over 20 years I have been an art educator, predominately teaching in mainstream secondary schools across Kent and Sussex, before branching out to working with younger age groups and adults. Teaching art and design across all these age groups, has led me to my privileged position of being a senior lecturer at University of Brighton, training the next generation of art teachers. The knowledge and understanding I have gained through doing this personal project has not only benefitted my family, but had a significant impact on my professional work in education. At the start of the academic year, I share my learning difference with the trainee teachers and find, that many students are then more comfortable to be open and share their own experiences with neurodiversity. A high proportion of art educators are neurodiverse themselves and we are starting to recognise that this can be a huge advantage when we are working with young people. We can share our strengths in creativity, problem solving and visual communication, as well as empathise and understand our students when they are facing academic challenges and help them discover ways to break down personal barriers that need to be worked through, in order to succeed.

  • The creation of the postcard series has provoked important conversations and raised awareness of dyslexia from family and friends around us. There are many preconceived ideas and misconceptions about dyslexia and even though I am an experienced educator myself, I discovered so much more about the complex nature of neurodiversity through this project. The awakening of this insight has left me feeling somewhat ashamed not to have known and better understood my students previously. This desire to raise awareness has given me the impetus to share these postcards with a wider audience. I hope some of what you see communicated through the postcards will resonate with you and help you to better understand neurodiversity in your students.

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