Living with Dyslexia
About 8 years ago, I was struggling to read an instruction manual in Singapore. Vince Devadason, a remedial reading specialist asked me if I had trouble reading. After an in depth conversation, he conducted a few tests and that was how I was finally identified as an adult living with dyslexia.
When I was a student, I thought everyone struggled with seeing the words on a page. My words and letters loved to dance. They sometimes exchanged positions. Other times, they would disappear completely. There were times, they hopped from left side of the page to right and then suicide down the cliff of words. My inability to control these dancers on print made it difficult to succeed academically. I was bestowed titles in school like "stupid," "lazy," "retarded," and "rebel." After a while, this recording embedded, and I began to wonder if the labels were true. I began to shy away from academics and invested my energies into sports and the arts.
It was no wonder that I became an art major and a professional artist. It was no surprise that being a teacher never made it on my list of career preferences. So, it is ironic that I am now working on my Masters degree in special education. After my official diagnosis with dyslexia (words and letters), dyscalculia (numbers), and cognitive disorder (a fancy term to describe the fact that my intellect is significantly higher than my ability to test academically), I continued to work as a teaching artist in schools around Iowa and nationally without broadcasting my disability. However things changed. In one classroom, I observed that a student was struggling with reading. I asked him if the font size or font might be difficult to read. He said that he felt tired and his eyes hurt when he read. I zipped over to the computer, changed the font to a non-serif font (Arial) and printed the instructions off. He said that he could read it. I thought he would be grateful. Instead, he became irate. "How did you know what to do?"
"Er, it's because I live with dyslexia?"
"Ms. Bappe, I have dyslexia, too. You're the first adult that I know that has this. Why don't adults talk about stuff like this?" I didn't have a good answer. After a long reflection, I decided to come out about my learning disability, and thus I began my journey with VSA, an organization for arts and disabilities. In 2009-10 I was a recipient of the VSA National Teaching Artist Fellowship and had the opportunity to teach at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art. Through VSA and the wonderful people I have met, I have learned to proclaim: "Don't fixate on what I can't do. Celebrate what I can do!" I became a VSA Arts and Inclusion Presenter and had opportunities to teach about creating inclusive classrooms using the arts. I loved working with students like me with learning disabilities, and that led me to go back to school and pursue special education at the University of Iowa.
As a public school educator for the past eight years in Iowa and in Arizona, I speak openly about my own learning challenges and strategies. This year, I will be working with high school students teaching aligned geometry and remedial reading. I look forward to experience the work students will produce in this context. Tessellations and beyond!
***Here is a link to a my story that is going into a presentation about assistive technology and learning disabilities: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oq7aA8T_C1
***Here is a link to the CNN's coverage of the VSA International Festival that I was a part of in 2010. They showed some pictures of my station towards the end of the video. If you look hard, you'll be able to see a poster of my jellyfish on one of the tables.
***Here is a link to a video that shows Christian Boer's new typeface that is friendly for those of us who are print-sensitive.
Beyond the Sea
Ankeny Art Center, Ankeny, Iowa, 2009
2013 Book of Lists, Des Moines Business Records
Cover Art: The Guardian
Kemlyn Tan Bappe
Gold resist & silk dyes on rice paper
What is a Teaching Artist?
Nationally recognized actor, teaching artist and author Eric Booth has developed the following definition of the teaching artist: “A teaching artist (artist –educator) is a practicing professional artist with the complementary skills and sensibilities of an educator, who engages people in learning experiences in, through, and about the arts.” (Association of Teaching Artists, http://www.teachingartists.com/)