I am a high functioning dyslexic but that has never stopped my love of music, my passion to be the best musician I can be, and my excitement for teaching my students. I wasn’t diagnosed with dyslexia until the age of 20 and since then I’ve had a real interest in finding out exactly what makes learning easier and more approachable for those with special learning difficulties.
I’ve compiled a few of my top tips when starting to teach students with dyslexia; however remember that all dyslexics are different so these are just a starting point!
- Keep things structured – dyslexic students like to know which order they need to tackle tasks so simply knowing that the lesson starts with scales is a big help.
- Keep things colourful and avoid using teaching aids full of text – reading lots is uncomfortable for those with dyslexia and it’s most likely not going to be the most effective way for us to learn.
- Get your students to repeat what you’ve said – it’s a great way for you to test their knowledge whilst allowing them to cement their learning further; most dyslexics have a short term memory!
- Help with organisation – this is something that most dyslexics struggle with so giving friendly reminders and writing down what they need to practise is always helpful. Also, writing down what music and equipment they will need for their next lesson is great for their reference between lessons.
- Be flexible, patient, and don’t strongly impose your ideas – sometimes student just won’t understand what you’re trying to say so be flexible and creative with how you approach difficult tasks.
- Use over-learning – Recap, recap, recap! Go over everything again and again, it’s the only way I’m afraid.
- Give your students plenty of time – dyslexic students can take much longer to complete tasks so be patient it doesn’t mean they’re not understanding.
- Use posters – encourage students to write hard to remember words/rhythms/key signature/etc. onto coloured paper and hang them all their walls at home. This will reinforce their learning in the home setting.
- Point out patterns – both in rhythm and melody, this is called chunking.
- Try using coloured paper or enlarged print – some dyslexics (like me) suffer with Visual Stress Syndrome which means that black on white is painful and more difficult to read. Therefore, experimenting with the size, font and colour of paper can help many of your students who suffer with this. If you want to find out more about visual stress then please click here.
I hope my top 10 tips have given you something to think about and please feel free to contact me or take a look on the British Dyslexia Association website for any more information.