Neuro Divergent

This exhibition focuses on four different learning disabilities: dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD, and reading disorders, each accompanied by its own narrative. The participants first learn about a particular person’s struggles with a particular learning disability or disorder, then learn who that person is and the accomplishments they’ve made in their field.

Practice Area


The Challenge

There were several challenges with this project both logistically and conceptually. The first was figuring out how to accurately convey what it feels like to have different learning disabilities and disorders to neurotypical people. The second challenge was figuring out how to create this project in a sensitive way that allowed participants to see that these were abilities rather than disabilities. Learning disabilities aren’t disabilities at all, they are just a different way of thinking. The third challenge was more logistical. This project was created during the height of the covid19 pandemic when classes were fully online and resulting in limited access to facilities, studios, and gallery spaces.

Project Vision

The goal of this exhibition was to show how design can promote empathy through the lens of learning disabilities while also empowering those with learning disabilities and illuminating how they feel. To do this, simulations were created that mimic what it feels like to have a different learning disability or disorder and how to incorporate each unique learning method specific to that disability. The desire was to challenge participants to do a typical task but prohibited them from employing a conventional solution.

Interactive Screen that starts the experience. Participants would select which learning disability or disorder they would like to learn more about.

Ana Tobin/Dan Meyers

Feel what it feels like to have Dyslexia. Participants slide the panels to read a paragraph of text about Dyslexia backwards to simulate how dyslexics must shift their perception.

Ana Tobin/Dan Meyers

Feel what it feels like to have a reading disorder. Participants use context clues in the text to replace layered words to simulate reading difficulties.

Ana Tobin/Dan Meyers

Feel what it feels like to have ADHD. Participants play a matching game with audio instructions that are obscured by other sounds to simulate distractions.

Ana Tobin/Dan Meyers

Design + Execution

The project began with concept and research. Most of the project was informed by the experiences of forty different people living with these disabilities and disorders. Mixed modalities (digital and tactile) were used to reflect the concept that everyone learns in different ways. The goal was to make sure to make everything was accessible as possible.

After experiencing what it feels like to have a learning disability participants use a common learning method used by someone with that learning disability. This ADHD tactic organizes mind maps.

Ana Tobin/Dan Meyers

Feel what it feels like to have Dyspraxia. Participants must write their name in string with their non dominate hand to simulate fine motor coordination issues.

Ana Tobin/Dan Meyers

Participants discover the gifts associated with each of the different learning disabilities or disorders.

Ana Tobin/Dan Meyers

Project Details
To realize a project as pertinent as this within this category the judges felt was a great subject matter and well executed.
Juror 1
It is rare that we see interactive student projects that are as complete and successful as this one. We really liked that this project’s use of technology enabled users to experience the world through the different lenses of a neurodivergent brain, in service of creating increased self-awareness and empathy in the user.
Juror 2
Design Team

Ana Tobin


Jennifer Cole Phillips, Ellen Lupton, Bobby Joe Smith III, Abraham Burickson (MICA professors)
MICA GD MFA 2021 classmates
Survey respondents

Photo Credits

Ana Tobin
Dan Meyers

Open Date

April 2021