A New Brunswick jewelry designer, who grew up unable to speak or understand written words for most of her childhood, is now starting a conversation through art about her struggle with dyslexia.
Kathryn Cronin grew up feeling broken and lost every time she picked up a book. She said the words on the page felt like a maze for her mind.
“I was completely illiterate until I was about 14. I went through all of elementary school not being able to read or write and I hid it,” she said.
Kathryn was born with a severe form of dyslexia and a speech impediment that often isolated her from kids her own age.
“I was always alone as a kid because you know people wouldn’t understand me.”
So she said she turned to her creativity for comfort.
“I felt like I could always express myself better when I was making things,” said Kathryn.
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Today at 24, she’s started a conversation though her art. The jewelry designer has launched a line of handmade jewelry she calls “Dyslexacon.”
She’s hoping to raise awareness about what she calls an invisible disability that should carry no shame.
“Just because you have difficulty learning in a conventional way, doesn’t mean you aren’t a bright child.”
After undergoing years of one-on-one reading and speech therapy, Kathryn finally found her voice.
The written words, once a mystery to her as a child, she now incorporates into her pieces hidden beneath mazes she forms out of metal and wood.
“The mazes are all about feeling lost,” said Kathryn.
Tiny, almost illegible passages from books like Alice in Wonderland and Narnia are hidden within her works. She uses passages from books she said that were read to her as a child by her mother, since she was unable to read them herself.
“The pieces they physically block out the words but also the words are written in minuscule handwriting so already you are starting out with a barrier.”
Ainsley Congdon with the Learning Disabilities Association said that one in 10 children in the province has a learning disability and most often it’s a form of dyslexia. But Congdon syas it should not be seen not as a weakness.
“Some of the most creative people in various industries have learning disabilities. so, Richard Branson the CEO of vVrgin has dyslexia. Steve Jobs had dyslexia and Albert Einstein,” said Congdon.
She says Kathryn’s goal to celebrate those gifts is a gift in itself.
“I’ve taken everything in my childhood that was a struggle and i have used to it build myself up and make myself stronger,” said Kathryn, who said she now wears her disability as a strength and a badge of honour.