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Art and Learning Disabilities

By: Pat Buckley Moss (2001)

Pat Moss

I dread to think where I would have landed up but for my art.

Many of us who are learning disabled (I prefer to call myself "learning different" because I am not disabled) have talent in the arts, whether it be the visual arts, the theater, music, dance or some other art form. "God created all men equal." That is not to say he made all men the same. Some he gave an exceptional ability in mathematics but an inability to think creatively outside of mathematics. Such a person could not write a novel.

To me God gave the ability to create paintings and drawings that carry messages for people but he did not give me the ability to read quickly or spell correctly. I am happy that I was chosen to have talent in the arts. Only a small percentage of people are creative. Most people go through life without contributing original thought to the world. Art is my means of communication and for this reason, I devote great energy to it and in return it brings me success and a feeling of accomplishment.

I am often asked. "My child is good at art, what should I do to help him?" I tell these parents to respect this special talent in their child and to give encouragement by providing good art supplies and a place to work. A table in a corner of a room with good lighting is a start. It will be the first "studio" of the young artist. A place to which he or she can "drop in" in those spare moments that others would fill with watching television. The creative person needs to create when the urge is there and space to do so needs to be readily available.

The Reading Nook

My mother got me into a school where art was highly respected. Instead of being known as the complete dummy, I was now a star. My other work began to improve because I had a new confidence in myself. I never did learn to read fluently and I am still one of the World's worst spellers but I listen to books on tape as I paint and I have someone correct my spelling for me.

I did have one problem at high school. When I arrived, I had this strange style of painting, the begins of the style I have today. The teachers tried to show how the "correct" way to form shapes but I would not change my way of creating images. My stubbornness got me into trouble but it was worth it because it preserved the integrity of my artwork and kept it unique and highly recognizable.

If art had not been my one source of success and therefore very important to me, I would have capitulated to the teachers and from then painted in the "accepted" way. I make this last point because we need to respect the difference that exists in the learning different person and be cautious about trying to change his or her creativity.

Vincent Van Gogh was learning different. His paintings were so radical that no one bought them in his life time. Today his paintings are amongst the prized. He had the courage to go on painting his way, however foolish that might have seemed in terms of earning money. The World is richer because of that determination. If everybody sang with the same voice where would our enjoyment be?

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