Dyslexic S'pore boy, 10, paints bigger picture of Irlen syndrome
Jarett Tay was diagnosed with a perception processing disorder at age seven
In kindergarten, Jarett Tay noticed that words and letters printed in his lesson books were "floating" off the page.
Sometimes, they appeared to shake from left to right and jumble up.Thinking the boy was lying, his classmates and teachers labelled him "slow", "lazy" and "a dreamer".
But his mother, Madam Angela Tan, a 42-year-old IT consultant, was convinced he was telling the truth as she had observed how he "switched off" when reading books and looking at white paper.
In 2015, when he was seven years old, Jarett, now 10, was diagnosed with dyslexia and Irlen syndrome, a visual processing disorder, at the Irlen Dyslexia Clinic.
Irlen syndrome is caused by a problem with the brain's ability to process visual information. There are currently over 4,000 people diagnosed with it in Singapore.
Madam Tan told The New Paper: "When we heard the diagnosis, we cried together. It wasn't because of sadness but because there was hope.
"Finally, this might be the missing puzzle piece to helping him cope. Now we know what to do."
That day, he was prescribed with Irlen lenses that helped eliminate visual distortion.
However, Jarett - a student in a mainstream school - still faces learning difficulties and requires tuition for English and Chinese, during which his tutors draw mind maps to help him better visualise concepts.
He also struggles to complete maths problems and stays up till 10pm daily to finish the work.
In an unexpected twist, while undergoing screenings for Irlen syndrome with her son, Madam Tan was diagnosed with mild Irlen syndrome.
According to her, she has seen a fluorescent glow around words in books since she was young but assumed it was normal.
In 2012, Jarett found an outlet to channel his creativity and began exploring his interest in art.
He told TNP: "I feel calmer when I am drawing. I am so stressed from homework but art makes me feel happier."
Madam Tan said she was shocked that her son could draw for hours, especially as he could read for only a maximum of 30 minutes in one sitting.
Today, Jarett raises awareness for his condition through art platform Universe Arts, which he co-founded in 2011 with Madam Tan. It aims to encourage art as a form of expression for kids with special needs.
He said: "I want to inspire others through my story so that other children will not be misunderstood and can fulfil their potential in life. I want to tell them to believe in themselves and their hopes and dreams."
Last month, he was appointed an Irlen Ambassador by the Irlen Institute, which has helped people with Irlen syndrome worldwide through its comprehensive diagnostic process and innovative technology.
Later this month, he will also be attending the Awladna International Arts Forum for the Gifted in Cairo, Egypt, where his artwork Colourful Houses will be displayed. He is the first Singaporean invited to the annual event.
Inspired by the architecture of European houses, Jarett used acrylic paint on canvas to create the piece.
He said: "I am so excited as I am the only one representing Singapore. It feels special as I have made my mum proud."
Jarett hopes to study visual arts at the School of the Arts Singapore after his PSLE and have his paintings displayed at the Natural History Museum, London, in the future.
A huge admirer of Dutch post-impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh, he also hopes to own one of his idol's paintings some day.
He said: "I am going to first get fame, sell some of my art and save up to buy The Starry Night."