The BBC has highlighted a survey undertaken by the Key for School Leaders that reveals that schools in England are struggling to support the 1.1 million pupils with special needs or disabilities (SEND) in mainstream classes. The survey of 1,100 school leaders reveals that delays to assessments, insufficient budgets and local authority cuts to services are hampering the ability for schools to cope.
The choreographer and dancer Aakash Odedra has captured his feelings about his dyslexia in a dance piece called “Murmur” which he performed at the Linbury Studio at the Royal Opera House in London in January 2015. As Judith Mackrell wrote in her review of the dance work in “The Guardian” on January 26 he collaborated with Lewis Major to portray the experience of being dyslexic., “the outstanding moments of this solo come when his dancing combines with digital imagery to portray the alienation his dyslexia caused. Meaning flies in pixelated clouds from a book, his body is shadowed by an aura of light.”
To watch footage of ‘Murmur” go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7AB80ji4NBE
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
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.
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.
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.”
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.’