Musuems and Laerning Disadilitys

This week we read An Anthropologist on Mars by Oliver Sacks.  In the book Sacks looks at seven different cases of people who are not “normal.” Each person written about has something that, as a society, people might find off or that shows quite clearly how little we understand about the brain.  One man lost the ability to see color after a car accident; a well-respected doctor has a severe case of Tourette’s, and a woman with Aspersers who thinks in pictures.

While reading I could help but think about dyslexia a learning disability that presents in several different ways, some of them are difficulties with: word recognition, decoding, spelling, reading, and reading comprehension.[1]  Often people who are dyslexic will swap letters such a b’s for d’s or put the a before the e and a word that has a ea in it.  (The title of this post is an example of how letters could be confused by someone who is dyslexic as is the accompanying image.)  All or some of these may or may not be present in someone who is dyslexic.  Because dyslexia causes comprehension issues both visually and auditory a person who is dyslexic can have a very difficult time learning.  This difficulty in learning can create an unfortunate educational experience for students who are thought to be stupid, careless, or lazy.  In a world that relies so heavily on reading and comprehension how would a museum explore dyslexia?

New Zealand answers this question in an interesting way.  Dyslexia Discovery is an outdoor exhibit in Christchurch that aims to provide “knowledge, inspiration and encouragement for all dyslexics by showcasing the artistic, engineering, creative and business achievements of four leading picture thinkers.” [2]  The four people showcased are Richard Taylor, John Britten, Ronald Davis, and Mackenzie Thorpe.  Each person is dyslexic and is very successful.  Each person has a sculpture that represents some aspect of the persons life and that people can touch and climb on if they wish.  I think it is important to show people who are currently active and well regard in their field and also dyslexic as the general public still does not understand what dyslexia is or that those who are dyslexic are just as intelligent as those who are not.  I do wish that the featured individuals were a more diverse group of people and not four men born within roughly ten years of each other.  The four men are from different parts of the world, which I do think brings a more inclusive look at dyslexia.

I was really excited to find this exhibit because when we talk about disabilities and differences it seems that learning disabilities are often overlooked.  This is perhaps because some, such as dyslexia, can be hidden and are referred to as hidden disabilities.  As Sacks writes in his book those who are different are not less than and in many cases can bring a new perspective to the world.  I hope that more museums will talk about learning disabilities and take them into consideration when creating new exhibits.



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