Welcome to our new project, an online Art Gallery. Our aim is to inspire and to empower audiences, as they view the wide-ranging possibilities of creative expression. The arts play an important role in the progression of disability identity.  Research has shown that the positive role of the arts and arts-based teaching and learning, enhances self-esteem and builds self-confidence on an individual level for each artist. (Rooney, 2004)  Participating in the arts is a helpful way of coping with the negative aspects of living with a disability and the stigma associated with disabilities.

Historically, one who is cast most of his life with an invisible disability has always been cast lower than others, pitied, or accomplished less than their peers. In order to equal the playing field, we believe in the power of art. It is critical to provide opportunities to excel, to give confidence, to overshadow the disability.

Rooney, R. (2004). Arts-based teaching and learning: Review of the literature. Washington, D.C.: VSA arts.

 

Zahavit Paz, Artist Statement
When we use the term “disability,” many people think about the obvious, including mobility impairments and sensory disabilities, such as blindness. However, disabilities also include a number of other conditions that typically are invisible to others.  Learning disabilities such as dyslexia, ADHD, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia fall under the “invisible” disabilities category.  My art is my expression of the painful journey with my invisible learning disabilities, ADHD and Dyslexia.

I have a continuous internal struggle with how much I like to reveal about myself.  I begin with thousands of thoughts and finally, by abstraction, I get to the point I want to make.  Continually, I am searching for myself -expression and the emotional exchange I experience surviving daily.

We need to become strong self-advocates to get necessary accommodations.  This journey often brings experiencing difficulties along the way.  These are hard times that can injure and negatively shape our self-image and self-confidence.  How people see and react to you are daily challenges that become your obstacles. They stop us from stepping forward; the prejudice, discrimination, and stigma become too painful. My art expresses the struggle that stops us from receiving accommodations in educational institutions and employment.

I express my conflict by choosing abandoned materials and recycled materials rather than natural man-made items.  Discarded materials give me an opportunity to exam the process of reconstructing, as it expresses my own life experience as a disabled person with LD and ADHD. I have to continually reconstruct my life to fit in with the rest of the world.

 

About the Artist: Zahavit Paz created an art installation entitled  “Are We Dumb?”

It was a culmination of a life long journey. This installation was about her life, struggling with her own learning disability and ADHD; this show is her art statement about that struggle.  “Are We Dumb?” was her response to how our educational institutions and society in general, deal with those who have learning disabilities. Dyslexia is an invisible disability to others and is often undiagnosed. People with learning disabilities can feel like an outsider and so, Paz chose to work with abandoned and discarded materials found on the streets of New York.  This discovery connected the materials as being already “disabled” and a challenge to work with.

In  2017, Zahavit Paz created a mixed media piece awareness Initiative to bring attention to invisible disabilities.

“If you can’t see my disability it doesn’t mean I don’t have one.”

Mixed Media: Material- glass wires rotating symbolizing the need for awareness of the high percentage of people with invisible disabilities.

Dyslexia alone affects 1 out of 5 people.  It crosses racial, ethnic, and socio-economic lines, and with proper instruction and accommodations, it can be remediated. Dyslexia is the most common reading disability—20% of the population is struggling with this hidden disability, and many remain undiagnosed, untreated, and struggling with the impact of their dyslexia.

Dyslexia has a high co-morbidity with attention-deficit hyperactivity, ADHD, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, OCD (Journal of Abnormal Psychology, Vol. 110 (1), Feb 2001, 157-172.)

A student who has a learning disability tends to experience high levels of frustration and poor performance in school, but assumes that he or she is just low in ability. (Licht, 1983)

It’s a tough decision for people with an “invisible” disability to disclose their disabilities to receive accommodations they may need in school or at work.

The decision about whether to disclose your disability may weigh heavily on an individual. They will have to face potential prejudice or negative evaluations from others socially. The likelihood of finding employment may be affected if it becomes too challenging for them. In addition to dealing with the potential stigma associated with having a disability, persons with invisible disabilities risk the additional stigma of being viewed as someone who is falsely seeking personal gain.

2017- Mixed Media Installation-the focus of this piece is to bring awareness to the high percentage of people in prison with an invisible disability.

America has struggled with mass incarceration and an unfortunate over criminalization of people identified with learning disabilities.  In general, it is widely known that the failure of caring for people with invisible disability since the era of deinstitutionalization has resulted in increased numbers of disabled people who end up in our prison system.  This is especially prevalent in lower income families.  Cognitive disabilities, intellectual disabilities, and learning disabilities are among the most common in our prison system.

https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/criminal-justice/reports/2016/07/18/141447/disabled-behind-bars/

Research has reported that the process of being diagnosed with a learning disability often involves collecting multiple conflicting diagnoses over a long period of time (Higgins, Raskind, Goldberg, & Herman, 2002). Making matters more complicated, the clinical criteria for some conditions might change over time. Early diagnosis and receiving the appropriate accommodations help set the stage for success.  When the school community is a part of the process, supports can be put in place.  As students grow and develop, self-awareness and acceptance are critical in moving forward.  Awareness by the community can help put much needed accommodations and modifications in place.  On-going support needs to continue and reflect the person’s needs and progress. Recognizing each other’s gifts and celebrating our strengths are the most important steps in what can be a very challenging journey.  We believe that various forms of art therapies must be made available to all, especially for those with invisible disabilities.  Look to the arts as a place to safely create and express your fears, thoughts, opinions, and joys.

 

Bibliography

Higgins, E. L., Raskind, M. H., Goldberg, R. J., & Herman, K. L. (2002). Stages of acceptance of a learning disability: The impact of labeling. Learning Disability Quarterly, 25, 3-18

Licht, B. G. (1983).  “Cognitive-motivational factors that contribute to the achievement of learning-disabled children.” Journal of Learning Disabilities, 16, 483-490

Rooney, R. (2004). Arts-based teaching and learning: Review of literature. Washington, D.C.: VSA arts

“A comparison of the cognitive deficits in reading disability and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.”

Willcutt, Erik G.; Pennington, Bruce F.; Boada, Richard; Ogline, Jamie S.; Tunick, Rachel A.; Chhabildas, Nomita A.; Olson, Richard K.

Journal of Abnormal Psychology, Vol 110(1), Feb 2001, 157-172 http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0021-843X.110.1.157

http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/2001-17627-017