Jeanne Betancourt

4 posts categorized "Dyslexia"

Posted on August 30 2011 | Categories: Art, Drawing and Painting, Dyslexia, printmaking


It is one of the high points of my week. I am in my weekly tap class. We have completed our warm up steps and are doing short combinations. I smile at my mirrored reflection as I note that I am wearing my red Gap T shirt with “Inspi(red)” printed across its front. I have been inspired, I think, as I’ve made my living as a fiction writer with an arts practice on the side.  Writing, drawing, painting. And continuing to tap.  I read the word again and think, so what if I am dyslexic.

I lose my place in the sequence of cramp rolls. Something is wrong with that reflection. Should I be able to read what the T-shirt says when I am looking in a mirror? The letters and word should be reversed. Right? I am not sure. I am dyslexic and have trouble keeping such distinctions straight.  The word, so easily read in the mirror, mocks me, reminding me of all the other times I am not sure what goes from left to right or right to left. Which way is north or south. Reminding me of the times I have been lost driving or walking, how I have trouble remembering how to spell words, do multiplication, learn a language other than the one I absorbed as a child. Mocking me for hearing every word in my head as I silently read.

I am distracted by these thoughts and having trouble with a simple combination of riffs. As we start a new tap sequence I feel for the shoulder seam of my shirt. It confirms that my shirt is on inside out.  I cannot keep tapping. I am not doing a very good job of it any way. I leave the tap line to put my shirt on right side out. When I am back in the line I check myself in the mirror. “Inspir(red)” is now reversed. I regain my composure and complete the class. 

 You might wonder that I can tap dance with dancing’s continual need to keep right foot / left foot functions distinct.  t was a big problem for me when I first started tapping as a six-year-old. Fortunately, my teacher - Miss Irene - noticed I was having trouble and put a ribbon on my right tap shoe.  t helped tremendously.    

In 2010 I added printmaking to my practice of the visual arts. I have been learning to do monotype, linocut, etching, and aquatint. All these processes require that I reverse images.  If the drawing of a person is looking to the left in the etched lines of a copper plate, the person will be looking to the right in the print.   A tree on the right side of the plate will print on the left side of the paper.  Left is right and right is left.   And as if that is not enough of a challenge for a dyslexic, printmaking involves a lot of organized, procedural thinking.  Each technique has a long list of to do’s before you pull your artist’s proof of a print. Aquatint, for example, has several procedural steps involving a rosin box, a heated surface, pages of an old phone book, protective gloves, a tray of chemicals, running water, and the all important timer. For a dyslexic, printmaking presents a lot of challenges. But I love doing it. Why? I’ve wondered. Why do I like it so much when it is so challenging and there are other art processes that are procedurally so much easier and that I already know better?

Recently, going to the print shop to do aquatint on an etched copper plate, I had a light bulb moment.  I love printmaking precisely because I am dyslexic. The printmaking processes with all of their detailed directions, materials, and procedures keep the deficient left side of my brain busily pre-occupied and out of the way leaving my more highly functional creative right side free to function in all its right braininess glory. And leaving me open to be inspired.

To write this blog I had to check that I assigned the correct qualities to the left and right sides of the brain.  I had not.  But now it’s right.  Right?


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Posted on August 08 2011 | Categories: Art, Drawing and Painting, Dyslexia, printmaking


Hallocks Bay.  Etching, drypoint aquatint.   Donated this etching to Oysterponds Historical Society for August 7th. 2011 auction.         

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Posted on June 03 2011 | Categories: Dyslexia, My Name is Brain Brian

Dyslexic tap dances

I took my first tap class when I was six-years-old, the same year I was supposed to learn to read and spell.

I loved my Saturday morning classes in Miss Irene’s studio above a storefront in downtown Rutland, Vermont. When Miss Irene realized I was having trouble following her right foot / left foot directions, she put a red ribbon on my right tap shoe. 

I am convinced that my 12 years of tap classes as a kid and the tap classes I take today help me with my dyslexia. My feet learn what to do and which foot does what. While the beat goes on my brain easily identifies right and left as I learn dance steps and routines. 

Reversing letters and numbers? Still a problem. I need to be very sure that if I have an appointment at 253 Broadway I don’t write down 235 or 352.  

Reading? I still read word by word, hearing  every word in my head. 

But I know my right from my left and I know how to tap dance.




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Posted on October 18 2005 | Categories: Dyslexia

People are often surprised to learn that I am dyslexic. They think that being dyslexic would prevent me from being a successful writer. I believe that being dyslexic has helped me as a writer.

Since learning to read and write was difficult for me growing up, I paid more attention to the world around me. I took clues to what people were thinking and feeling from their speech and body language. Today, as an author, it is easy for me to imagine what it would be like to be in someone else’s shoes. Being able to put yourself in another person’s place and understand how they feel is a key to being a good writer. I also have strong visual memories and can easily imagine the places I’ve been as I describe them for the reader. These skills are more important for me as a storyteller than the skills I don’t have because I am dyslexic – like being a good speller and a speedy reader.

The story in MY NAME IS BRAIN BRIAN follows Brian’s adventures, friendships, and family life before and after he learns that he is dyslexic. By the end of the story he realizes that the mistake he made spelling his name on the board the first day of sixth grade is true. He is a Brain.

Anna, in the Pony Pals, is also dyslexic. In every book I remind my readers about that. She doesn’t like school as much as Pam and Lulu. When they write their ideas for solving Pony Pal Problems, Anna draws hers. Like many dyslexics, she has artistic talent. Anna’s dyslexia is a big part of the plot for two of the Pony Pal books. #2: A PONY FOR KEEPS and #38: PONIES ON PARADE.