Dyslexia and Music

Dyslexic learners constantly meet barriers to learning across the curriculum and may become discouraged very quickly due to lack of initial success in some subject classes.  This can result in subject teachers assuming that these individuals are inattentive or lazy, when they are actually working much harder than their classmates, though with little apparent effect.

Success in musical activity can boost a dyslexic student’s self-esteem and may even encourage re-visiting other learning where performance was previously poor.   Difficulties experienced by people who have dyslexia in music will not be the same in each case, and general characteristics of dyslexia – such as problems affecting reading, writing will impact on learning generally.  Dyslexia may adversely affect specific aspects of music such as:

  • Interpreting musical notation
  • Visual processing of written music
  • Manual dexterity

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Barriers to learning for Dyslexics

We all experience barriers to learning at some time – some as young children learning to read and others as adults trying to pass a driving test.  However, while we might expect adults to be able to deal with the barriers they encounter, some young children may be meeting barriers to success for the first time, and be ill-equipped to resolve the issues they experience.

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“There seems to be a lot more of it about . . . . “

This comment was made by Her Majesty, the Queen, as she presented me with an MBE for services to children with dyslexia.

Far be it from me to contradict the monarch – but I believe that there is not really more dyslexia about – we are just much better at identifying it than we used to be.

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Dyslexia Awareness week blue ribbon

Dyslexia Awareness Week – Scotland – Ellie’s Blue Ribbon

2015 will be the 4th year of the blue ribbon for Dyslexia Awareness.  Wearing a blue ribbon to show dyslexia awareness was the brainchild of Edinburgh teenager Ellie Gordon-Woolgar in 2012 when she was just 12 years old.  Her awareness raising campaign has grown from a personal project leading to the distribution of blue ribbons to Edinburgh schools in 2012 to a national campaign now managed by Dyslexia Scotland.

A former Dyslexia Scotland young ambassador (she had to step down due to imminent exams) Ellie writes:

“In Scotland, dyslexia awareness week is at the start of November – when people are already wearing poppies to remember soldiers.  When I was 12, this made me think about how we wear poppies and pink ribbons to raise awareness of particular issues, and I thought that wearing a ribbon could help raise awareness of dyslexia.  I am dyslexic and have three sisters – one is also dyslexic, one is dyspraxic and my younger sister is dyslexic and dyspraxic – so is my mum.

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Dyslexia Awareness Week Scotland 2015 Events

This year Dyslexia Awareness Week in Scotland runs from 2nd to 8th November. The theme this year is Making Sense of Dyslexia. Events will be launched on Monday 2 November by the Dyslexia Scotland van visiting Falkirk High School at 10 -11.30a.m, then Larbert High School at 12–1.15p.m, onto Wallace High School for 2–3.30p.m and finally visiting Stirling University, Queen’s Court from 4–5.30p.m. Pop on board for information, to see available resources and to chat to staff.

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Creative, Successful, Dyslexic by Margaret Rooke

One of the things that fascinated me while researching my new book Creative, Successful, Dyslexic is what some of the great and the good got up to during their time at school.

World champion racing driver Sir Jackie Stewart OBE faked sickness: “I had more ‘illnesses’ than you can count to try to avoid going into school,” he says.

Photographer David Bailey CBE and chef Ed Baines played truant. “I spent a lot of time on London Underground, visiting almost every station on the map,” Baines told me.

Adventurer Charley Boorman, President of Dyslexia Action, remembers mucking around. “I know a lot of kids who are dyslexic do become the class clown to distract from their weaknesses or to get attention they are not getting in other ways.”

And Harry Potter and Poirot actor Zoë Wanamaker CBE says she daydreamed. “In class I was always somewhere else, looking out of the window,” she says.  “I think the teachers saw me as another creature.”

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A Helicopter View

This year, Dyslexia Week gives us a chance to celebrate some amazing success stories. Debra Charles is one of the many entrepreneurs who have dyslexia. Her time at Newport Girls’ High School was not happy:  ‘People used to say, ‘For goodness’ sake, you’re so thick sometimes’, and I believed it.’ Nevertheless, she had the skills and determination that led to a successful career working with Westinghouse in robotics and with Apple technology.

She is now CEO of her own smartcard technology firm Novacroft. The big breakthrough came in 2002 when she won a contract with Transport for London.  Here her skills have made a tangible difference: ‘In the early days it would take a student 48 days to get a card to travel round London. We have reduced that to 24 hours.’

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“Creative, Successful, Dyslexic” new book by Margaret Rooke

Jessica Kingsley Publishers have produced a book by Margaret Rooke providing inspirational real-life stories of successful people who just happen to have dyslexia. Twenty-three well known people from the arts, sport and business worlds describe the effect of being dyslexic on their lives, from difficulties and challenges at school to leading them to discovering their potential in other areas of life. Darcey Bussell, Sir Richard Branson and Eddie Izzard amongst others, talk openly about the challenges they have faced and overcome and the help and support they needed and received along the way.

Dyslexia Action’s Dyslexia Awareness Week Events 2015

Dyslexia Action are marking DAW this year by sharing useful information on their website, Facebook and Twitter pages to raise awareness. You can see what they share by visiting their website www.dyslexiaaction.org.uk Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/DyslexiaAction  or follow their Twitter feed here https://twitter.com/dyslexiaaction
Dyslexia Awareness Week (DAW) 2015 will be held from October 5-11 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. In Scotland it will be held from November 2-8.
They are also running their No Pens Wednesday on 7th October with The Communication Trust.
The day encourages schools to put down their pens and run a day of speaking and listening activities to develop students’ speech, language and communication skills. To find out more go to http://www.thecommunicationtrust.org.uk/projects/no-pens-day-wednesday/