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

R u A diSlxic addult

My name is Simon Hodges and I am a dyslexic adult.
I was diagnosed seven years ago at the age of 40 when
I started an education course.
Was it that awe inspiring eureka moment? Well not
‘The square peg trying to fit into the round hole’
All my life ever since I can remember I have always felt and been different from others
as I was growing up and through the stages of my life, as a child, a teenager, an
adolescent and an adult.
The story is an all too familiar one I am afraid, and I am no exception. I am sure that I
could, like many others write a book about my experiences relating directly to the
effects of dyslexia.
Just to throw a bit of flavour into my point, I remember the fairly constant and relentless
comments of ridicule, being called an idiot, stupid or thick amongst others and of
course the older I got new harsher and more descriptive words were learnt and they
were added too.
Another particular instance was at secondary school in an English class (where else)
the teacher had been reading a passage from a chapter in a book that the class was
reading. The reading stopped and I was asked to comment on what had just been read.
Although I had been listening I was now frantically looking at the book trying to find
what had just been read but I of course was looking at pages full of words, some of
which I was familiar with and others which I was not and none of it made any sense.
But of course it wouldn’t, unbeknown to me my reading age was very low, my short
term memory retention was virtually nil and of course my cognitive processing skills of
any kind were nonexistent.
Then came the words “Haven’t you been reading you stupid boy, or are you just
thick?”. Of course the class erupted into laughter including the teacher.
Did it hurt? Yes it did and I can remember that as if it had happened just yesterday.
I have had countless instances like that throughout my life and still do on occasions and
I have to say, that sometimes comments are from those that you would think should
know better.
At an age in your life when the holistic development of characteristics and
personalities are vital, the degeneration and corruption of self esteem, self worth and
confidence that are borne out of instances like that can be and are often immeasurably
The feelings of incompatibility and isolation that often begin to immerge can continue
and have troublesome effects on your life.
I am sure that we can all relate to the above, but let us turn to something a little more
I began this article by stating “was it that awe inspiring eureka moment, well not quite”.
That is true it wasn’t but, what it did was start me on a journey, slow but none the less a
journey of self discovery, a journey that still continues today. A crucial key and part of
that journey has been to align myself with other people that have dyslexia and with
those that really understand the condition and I feel that is important and this is why.
There are many thousands of people out there with dyslexia of varying degrees just like
you and me.
I have found that being able to talk and listen to other
people naturally in a relaxed unforced environment
has had enormous benefit to me.
When you start conversations with other dyslexics
you immediately strike a connection discovering
many of the things that you have done all your life to
disguise and cover up certain skills areas that you
have been lead to believe you are sorely lacking in.
The point is that you are not nor really lacking or deficient but that your learning needs
to be met in a different way.
I have been very fortunate in as much as I have conversations face to face with some
very high profile celebrities and professionals really ‘top draw’ people as well as
ordinary folk just like me, and you know what, the stories and the tales are all just the
The feelings of isolation and awkwardness seem very much to take a back seat and the
realisation of not being thick or stupid very quickly come to the forefront of your
We at the Hampshire Dyslexic Association are looking to start an adult dyslexic group
which need not be formal but just somewhere that like minded dyslexics can perhaps
meet on a regular basis, maybe in a setting that will encourage your confidence to grow
or to help others see that being a dyslexic has hidden treasures and possibly alter the
way you think about yourself for ever.
If you are reading this and you are dyslexic or you know someone who is and think that
this might be of benefit then please do contact us. Simon Hodges
Please contact Simon by email: simonhodge63@tiscali.co.uk or phone: 07919035569