Personal Growth With Art

My life as a learner was a little bit different from ‘normal’. When I was in 3rd grade, I almost got held back. From a perspective, it looked like I was struggling with school—a special needs student. I was behind on my work, I didn’t understand the material like the rest of the class did, I was intelligently behind for a 3rd grader. Turns out, I had a hearing deficiency called Auditory Processing Disorder (APD). When the heater would go on, students talking in the back of the class, or someone beside me tapping their pencil, I would lose concentration from what I was supposed to be learning.

Being diagnosed with this, I had a constant struggle understanding speech in noisy environments, following directions, and discriminating sound. Leading up to difficulty in spelling, reading, and understanding information presented verbally in the classroom. I went to Billings, MT to have surgery on my ears to hold tubes. This was a device to help increase my attention span for a longer time. I had to wear ear plugs when I went swimming so the water wouldn’t carry them out.

Beside the surgery, I was constantly in pain. I would get 2-3 ear infections a month prior to the surgery. By the time one ear infection healed, another would come. So, I was constantly sick. This was extremely hard on me, I thought I was stupid. When we would have tests, assignments, or anything else that required my undivided attention, a para would take me into another room. Having an IEP, I felt different, I just wanted to stay in my classroom with all my friends. I felt as though I was getting punished for being slow. Every couple of years, they would drive me to another school to professionally test me to see if I was progressing. It would take half a school day, and I would come back to school to all my classmates asking me questions. I felt so different and it took me a very long time to discover that I wasn’t stupid, I just had a dilemma. I was in 7th grade by the time the tubes fell out of my ears. I’ve only had 2 ear infections since then, but with the scar tissue from the surgery the ear infections are very severe and send me to the E.R. I still struggle with this disorder, but it’s doable. Classwork and instructions are still a struggle and probably always will be, but I’ve learned to work with it.

My struggle subject has always been math. Equations and numbers have always above me; I was taking junior math my senior year of high school. In college I failed my 1st math class and had to take it over, making it more frustrating than the 1st time. In high school, I always favored art class. Drawing and painting were my strong suits. I had a pastel-based drawing go to state art for Wyoming; it did not place, but it was a huge compliment for one of my pieces to be criticized by judges from all over Wyoming. Since it went to state art, it was featured at the Worland museum. For my senior project, I had been assigned a ‘surreal’ theme painting. My teacher qualified it to take to state art, but it was past the deadline. Why is it a huge success to be academically proficient at mathematics and science? Why isn’t art or music socially viewed as an academic proficiency an achievement? If artistic people are forced to take years of math and science then why doesn’t proficient math and science students have to take art and music? Art and music classes are viewed as “electives“, meaning they are looked at as an easy A or something to take just to fill your schedule. If you’re “bad” at art and music, then “it’s okay, not everyone has an aptitude for those kinds of things”, but if you are bad at math and science, then “you’re not smart/you’re not trying hard enough/you need a tutor.”

My 5-image learning narrative is focused on: a personal disorder (APD), IEP, learning/personal growth, electives, and aptitude.

Having a personal disorder when I was so young helps me connect with people who also did not have their learning experience easy for them. I had to work twice as hard and that’s okay, because having hard work paid off is so rewarding and satisfying. I’ve had so much personal growth working twice as hard academically. I’ve challenged myself and have overcame obstacles that I thought I’d never conquer. Even though my strong suit subject is not recognized as a proficient or successful talent, it gives me the satisfactory feeling that I’ve accomplished something that I’m actually good at. Math and science are not my aptitude, creativity is my aptitude and that’s why everyone is made different–ordinary is boring!


12 thoughts on “Personal Growth With Art”

  1. That must have been so difficult to grow up feeling so separated from your classmates. You have a lot of great questions about why we do things this way and not that way. It’s good to hear you talking this out. And beautiful art work!! Wow.


  2. WOW! The first thing I saw that caught my eye was your beautiful paintings. They are colorful, beautiful, and convey movement. I’m so glad you shared your story. It makes me so sad that people struggle with different disorders and diseases that interfere with learning, or that other people will bully them for. I think that it’s awesome that you learned to be successful, push through, and become the learner and student you are!



  3. Hello!
    I have never actually heard of APD. It is so interesting to understand your experience growing up. It make me wonder how many other struggling students have gone undiagnosed. I think that you have shown great adversity to overcome your learning curves. What made you decide to go through with Education as your degree? Have you always wanted to work with children that struggle in school because of their learning disabilities?


    1. There are so many students who are not correctly diagnosed. For example, a student with ADD, ADHD, and APD can be waved off by “oh, they’re only 5 they have so much energy” or “oh they are only in 3rd grade, their attention span isn’t very strong yet.” That also makes it hard to identify and diagnose students who do/don’t have it. It was very difficult growing up with APD. Unfortunately there is no cure and no decided cause of it, ear infections was a possibility, and I had a few ear infections a month when I was younger. Without all the complicated research it’s basically a connection to the central nervous system in my brain, and what I hear is sent to my brain to understand, with APD its hard to process what I hear and what my brain thinks I heard. I had/have trouble with following vocal instructions, focusing with distractions (heater running, the tapping of a pencil, basically background noise), long talking conversations, and recognizing that I mumble often. I had some great teachers and some poor ones, the great teachers inspired me to care like they did!


  4. Thank you for sharing your amazing story. I have heard about APD through my previous courses, but I have not had the opportunity to hear about how it can affect a persons life firsthand. I think it is amazing what you have overcome so far. I know i was really tough at times, but it shows that you are strong willed and not willing to give up. I also want to mention how amazing your art work is! I could not stop looking at the detail in your art work. The work is truly breathtaking!


    1. Thank you for your kind words on my artwork, Mindy! 2 of them were senior projects, the others I have done as a hobby after I graduated high school (2014). APD is a very unfortunate disorder to have while being young. But, it also inspired me how much teachers care!


  5. The first thing that I saw was your artwork! It is truly amazing and beautiful! I have hear of APD before, but I have never actually heard someone’s story who had it and what they had to go through. It is really sad to see how differently you and others feel because of always getting pulled out of the room to be tested and how much other students bully you. I think how much you have overcome is awesome especially when you did go through rough times! I think it allows people to see how strong of a person you are. I also really liked how you talked about art and music being electives and how it’s not fair that someone who is good at math and science aren’t required to take art and music courses, but someone who is good at art or music is required to take math and science courses. I don’t think people see it from that perspective so I am glad that you pointed it out in your blog because I agree that it is unfair!


  6. I loved reading your post. I also really enjoyed looking at your art work! I can draw a stick man like a champ, but after that I am not much of an artist. I could never imagine being sick so much at a young age, that must have been really hard. I have never heard of APD before, but I am glad you wrote about it since now I know how hard it can be on a student.


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