Artist Statement | EJ Lee's Artwork | United States | Dyslexia

Dyslexia Artwork

Artist Statement

 

Glancing at the top page reads "Report of Psychological Evaluation" in big black letters. An ominous feeling in the pit of my stomach imitating a thunderstorm is on the rise. The heading continues to cite my name, age, birthdate, dates of the evaluation, psychologist's name, and unfamiliar acronyms. Following the words as they describe me for my last eighteen years.

 

Intelligence is a complex 

 

Some are off the charts brilliant, some are average, and others are below the standard of society. People live their entire lives obsessed with their IQ scores because humankind accepts this as a universal standard of intelligence. 

Not everyone's IQ can be measured as it does not conclude someone's motivation, creativity, curiosity, innovation and kindness are all critical components of character traits that are admired and desired. 

 

Unfortunately, people like myself who have dyslexia, have a different method to measure our intellect as we must sit and talk with a psychologist for hours for them to determine how our brain works. This system consumed twenty-one hours of my life thus far, repeating the same test every year doing puzzles, a complete biographical timeline and questionnaires all to be summed up into thirteen pages. These pages are strapped to my ankle like a ball in a chain forever.

 

The Evaluation for some

 

Looking at my evaluation, my name is written on the top of the page, dismissing any doubt. Reaching out to grasp the pages feeling the significant weight that it holds over me. 

 

At first glance, the text blurs together, unrecognizable, but as you get closer to the text, words reed into a different language. The tone of the paper is distant and disconnected. Descriptions of my life begin to map out every milestone. 

 

Since the age of seven, my life has been a roller-coaster from changing school every two-three years, being bullied for being different, to finding salvation within myself leading into proactive accountability to rise above all odds. 

Growing up was not easy.

 

Especially before the No Child Left Behind Act, children with dyslexia are often overlooked, as many teachers did not know how to teach them. Even now, many teachers in public schools are not equipped to recognize when students are struggling. 

 

I often imagine what my life would look like if I weren't dyslexic, how different it would be.

 

The ramification of a diagnoses

 

I was diagnosed to be dyslexic at the age of seven near the end of the first-grade year. I barely remember anything that I learn that year; I

hardly learned anything substantial. My teacher never showed that they cared even after I told them that I was dyslexic. Looking back, I feel that my teacher never understood what I was trying to say to her; instead, my teacher brushed me aside, not even thinking twice of the ramification that she caused. 

 

Remembering when my mother told me that I needed to change schools because the public school I was currently attending refused to help me. She continues to explain that I would not get the proper guidance unless I were behind four grade levels. As any rational person would think it was unacceptable. 

 

Over the next five years, I attended two different schools still skating by, making little to no progress. Glancing back at the evaluation form, it does not show the hardship and suffering that I endured trying to get an education that everyone has a right too. Reading the form, seeing my life written with little to no emotion. Remembering how I cried every day because I did not want to go to school. Kids would call me dumb and stupid because they could not understand how someone like myself existed. Ostracized by my peers, I never felt so alone yet surrounded by so many people.

 

Before transferring to another school, I never met anyone else with dyslexia. Before I knew it, I was attending a school in a different state in the middle of nowhere. Once more, I needed to update my evaluation, six more hours of my life to prove that I needed all the help I could get. This school, on my evaluation form, should get more credit to my success. My time there is summed up into one paragraph, but the effect will last a lifetime. The three years I attended this school was painful but necessary. 

 

Learning, Learning, Learning

 

Imagine yourself at age twelve, but you only can read at a third-grade reading level. I was so far behind it did not seem possible to catch up to where I was supposed to be.

 

At this school, I learned to test and encourage myself to learn and grow. They broke down the words into phonics in my first year. I was encouraged to read and test my comprehension daily. Math was the only other class that wasn't reading. 

Later I was introduced to science and writing. In my last year, I took a history class and proceeded to complete high school level classes, as I was technically a freshman. After attending this school, I gained six grade levels within three years, ready to transfer once more as a sophomore entering as a high school student.

 

Once again, turning the page, unable to resist the temptation of reading just a little more. Despite the paper feeling light to the touch, the information generates the feeling of a lead weight. The popcorn of acronyms begins to intensify as the biographical section comes to an end. Test results are the next section of evolution. The psychologist also examines my personality in detailed written notes. The movie "Stranger Than Fiction" comes to mind as a "big brother" feeling psychoanalyzed. 

 

High school was no different as I was still surrounded by my fellow peers, all in a similar boat trying to survive. Three years pass once more, sitting in a small room with a different psychologist recounting my life. Explaining my story, completing puzzles hopefully for the last time. Graduation is around the corner, and I feel different. Six years ago, I was at the bottom of my class. Now, I am at the top of my class, graduating with high honours, a straight-A student accepted into college. I'm on top of the world. It's incredible what can happen in six years.

 

More popcorn it's endless.

 

Flipping to the next page, the lead weight transitions into a dumbbell. Dancing numbers mimicking the illuminating refraction off the glass of water. The numbers seem random at first glance, as there appears to be no pattern to correlate it. The acronym popcorn begins to explode with every other word with no end in sight. Words begin to merge and brake down. The written text transitions into gibberish. I recognize my name in a sea of unrecognizable babble. A pain of needle pricks starts to add pressure onto my chest.

The dancing numbers suddenly vibrate as the insanity of the acronym starts to multiply. The splattered numbers represent what is inside my mind. A roadmap filled with blockade and detours continually shifting in my head. Breathing becomes difficult as it feels someone has placed a cinder block on my chest. The acronyms start to plateau nearing the end. The text becomes legible once more.

 

Power in paper

 

Jolting up, I close my eyes and rest my hand against my forehead. I was looking up at the window at the peaceful, beautiful day. My brain starts to hurt and becomes numb. Mentally taking a step back from the stack of paper, I push it across the table, unable to finish. My brain is about to explode with the new information that I am still processing. 

 

My name is attached to this document as it's littered throughout the evaluation. My academic life is detailed out for anyone to read at my school. Realizing this document defines me as a person. Like a ball and chain strapped to my ankle forever, defining my intelligence.

I am incapable of escaping this documentation process only to be confirmed as someone with average intellect. The education system only documents one's ability in English and mathematical skills as deems more critical in our growing society. The problem is that people like myself rely on other forms of intelligence to compensate. Forever in our back pocket, our evaluations sit there until it becomes irrelevant. 

 

The evaluation form that I hold today was completed when I was eighteen years old, still ringing true, pointing out my flaws, and exposing my weaknesses to anyone willing to read. After all of this time, I often wonder these thirteen pages still define my intelligence? 

Having risen above my challenges and surpassing anyone's expectations, who holds the key to the ball chained to my ankle? It is debilitating having a physical reminder of my limitations after I have accomplished so much. 

 

I am continually struggling, as I continue to fight battles even into adulthood. Graduating from college is the greatest accomplishment thus far. Imagining my next graduation is next year is unbelievable. No one knows where your life will take you, but one day my evaluation form will wither away into oblivion as I strive every day not to let it define me.

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EJ Lee Artwork