Drama And Dyslexia

To an extent, all children engage in speech, movement and drama activities. This happens particularly when they are younger, since these are features of the primary school programme. The activities are designed to be fun and motivating in an effort to unlock the creative spirit, and indeed, music, art and drama combine to balance the curriculum in the early years.
Even at this stage, perceptive teachers may recognize natural talent, but may wonder why some may not make the expected progress.
Drama has long been recognised as an important part of the curriculum, providing as it does, the opportunity to express feelings of anger, sadness  and frustration in a controlled situation. Although it may, and often does, provide a platform for performance, this is not its main or primary purpose. Drama lessons give children the opportunity to explore themes, to work in a group, to flirt with leadership and to raise self-esteem.
The importance of self-esteem for learning and for life cannot be over estimated. The lack of it can form a barrier, which prevents an individual from achieving his or her potential. Sadly, this applies to many who have specific learning difficulties, because they feel they are not quite good enough. It is easy to see how dyslexic children may have difficulties when it comes to drama. Lack of confidence is probably the most acute problem, but then there are the other characteristics of dyslexia. These include: 
Lack of fluency and speed in reading
Inability to use context in reading
Hesitancy and losing place in reading
Failure to recognise simple words
Low level of comprehension
Poor organisation and time keeping

If one equates drama with performance only, one can see that these difficulties would stand in the way of potential achievement, and you might think that it was not a good area for dyslexic students to be in. However, it is worth remembering that a number of our more successful actors and actresses are dyslexic and are becoming more willing to share with others how they overcame their problems. Susan Hampshire is a good example, and until the publication of her autobiography “Susan’s Story” few would have been aware of her struggle with dyslexia. Undiagnosed until adulthood, she then became a prominent campaigner in the UK. Her book on dyslexia, “Every Letter Counts” was highly acclaimed and in 1995 she was appointed an OBE in connection with that work.

‘Specific learning difficulties are more prevalent amongst people who are good at visual or performance based skills’ This is a very positive statement, and suggests that Drama may be an excellent route for those with dyslexia.
It is interesting to note that the Central School of Speech and Drama has a long history of welcoming students with a range of disabilities and invites dyslexic students to contact them early so that they can work together to develop a plan to meet the student’s study needs right from the start.
The DSS (Disability and Dyslexia Service) is part of Student Support Services. The Student Union has had an elected DSS officer in post since 2007 so that any issues or difficulties can be discussed in order that accessibility and awareness can be improved. DSS services include:

  • Free dyslexia screening
  • Dyslexia diagnostic appointments
  • 1-1 specific study skills support
  • 1-1 enabling and assistive technology training
  • mentoring
  • note-taking.

With this sort of support in place, it is little wonder that so many of our talented, dyslexic young people find fulfilment in the study of Drama. They may not all become stars, but they will have grown in confidence and will find it easier to cope with the challenges that they meet in life.

Edwina Cole.

Further Information:

‘Dyslexia and Drama’ by Helen Eadon (A BDA/Fulton publication).

“Susan’s Story’ by Susan Hampshire.

“Every Letter Counts…..Winning in Life despite Dyslexia” by Susan Hampshire.

Central School of Speech and Drama.

presented a documentary about  her dyslexia

Winner of Strictly Come Dancing and actress Kara Tointon 
on BBC 3 as part of the series ‘Don’t call me stupid’.During the programme Kara speaks about her ambition to read a book from cover to cover and states that she has a reading age of twelve.She explores the impact dyslexia has on her day to day life in relation to her career and organisational skills.
Kara visits a school for dyslexic pupils and finds out how multi sensory teaching can help. She is shown a method to help her learn her lines using colours, sounds, buzzwords and physical movement to trigger memory.   

A large coloured diary helps her to organise her time. Coloured lenses help Kara to see print more clearly. She reports ‘The filter calms the page down in my eyes. The black writing stands out. I can read more quickly, confidently and calmly that at any time in my life.’
A recording of this interesting and useful programme is available to borrow from the HDA library or see the programme in four parts on YouTube. Search the web for Kara Tointon. Don’t call me stupid. YouTube.












On the website for the Central School of Speech and Drama (part of the University of London) it states