Joshua Berman, a former ILD student, recently began studying film at Santa Fe University School of Art and Design. This past year, Josh won the prestigious “Emerging Artist” College Scholarship, funded by Robert Redford. Because of his connection with ILD and his inspiring message, we sat down with Josh both to examine his thoughts on school for students with learning differences and to see if he could pass on any words of wisdom.
Q: Tell me a little bit about your journey. When did you discover you learned differently? What components make up your learning difference? How did you view them as a child/young adult? How do you view them now?
JB: I first realized that I learned in a different way when I was in middle school. I started inventing all of these incredible things; I designed and built things out of my basement, started my own successful computer business, and also published my first book, all when I was in middle school. Yet I would go to school every day and the teachers would make me feel like I was broken. The other students would make me feel as though I was worthless, as though there was something wrong with me. There was this sharp contrast in my life between all these successes I had outside of school and this constant feeling of worthlessness I had inside of school. So as a young kid it was very confusing for me because I didn’t know what to believe: am I incredibly successful, or am I a total failure?
As I grew up, I started to turn these interests into possible career opportunities and build off of these successes. At that point, I was able to reflect upon what I had gone through. I realized it wasn’t me that was broken, but rather the system. After years of questioning, “Does this really matter?” I recognized that yes, it really does matter. It was off of those ideas that I began to build my life. Now, as I grow older, I feel confident and proud of the way I think. ADD and any of the learning differences I possess are not disabilities but rather the elements of what made me who I am today. It’s really less about what specific label and more about being proud of yourself, no matter what your diagnosis. If I didn’t think the way I did, I wouldn’t have been able to create this film. I wouldn’t be talking to you now. I wouldn’t be 2,000 miles away from home, studying film.
Q: When did you start working with ILD and what did that help you to discover?
JB: I started working with ILD at a very unique turning point in my life. All throughout my time in school I knew I struggled, and I always questioned: “How can we fix this? How can I make school work for me?” Year after year I would try to fix school for myself. But I’d fall flat and hear “oh. Well we can’t change the system.”
It was during my time at ILD, towards the end of my time in high school, when I started to realize that everything I was going through wasn’t just about me. It was about a broader issue. I stopped thinking about how I could make the system work for me and started thinking, “now that I’m pretty much done with the system, how can I use my experiences to help other people who are currently going through what I went through for years?” That was with the help of ILD.
Q: How did your interest in film begin and do you think it has anything to do with your own knowledge about the way you learn?
JB: That’s a very good question. I think it’s important to note that when you’re younger, you don’t consciously know “oh! I think in these ways, so I’m going to pursue these certain interests.” But I was drawn to film because I knew on some gut level that it was the way I learned. It clicked. It felt right. I succeeded at it. I see a lot of young kids having things click for them. That’s a beautiful thing. With education, the best thing we can do is explore those areas where it just “clicks.”
Q: Can you tell us about the video? What inspired it? Why did you go this route? How did it feel to win the scholarship to film school?
JB: The video was a real transition for me. For years and years, every time I was struggling, every time I was bullied, I felt like I was alone. The video was a real turning point because I had a chance to start interviewing other people in my life: my friends, my teachers, my co-workers, even some famous people like Temple Grandin and Dr. Ned Hallowell. I realized that there were countless other people who went through the same thing that I did.
That became my hope with the video. For other kids who are now where I was years ago and who are sitting and feeling that “I’m alone. I’m worthless, there is no one else,” to be able to see this video and realize that there are other people like them. They are not alone.
As for the scholarship? It’s amazing to receive this award, but really what it comes down to is being able to spread the word; being able to come here to college where I’ll be able to make more films that can actually influence people’s lives. At the end of the day, that’s really what it’s all about.
To view Josh’s film, click here!